Then there were six: Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi out of race to replace Boris Johnson

EuroActiv Politico News

The race to replace Boris Johnson tightened Wednesday after the first round of voting in the U.K. Conservatives’ leadership contest left just six candidates standing.

Sunak’s replacement as Chancellor Nadhim Zahawi and the former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt failed to gather sufficient support from MPs and are eliminated from the process, as Tory MPs started whittling down candidates vying to become U.K. prime minster.

Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak won the highest number of votes among MPs with 88, just ahead of Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt on 67. Mordaunt became the bookmakers’ favorite to win the contest Wednesday, following a YouGov poll that indicates she holds a convincing lead as the preferred candidate of Tory members, who will pick from the final two chosen by MPs.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (on 50 votes), former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch (on 40), foreign affairs committee Chairman Tom Tugendhat (on 37) and Attorney General Suella Braverman (on 32) join Sunak and Mordaunt in the next round of voting by MPs, which takes place Thursday.

MPs will continue to vote on the candidates next week, until only two are left standing. That duo will then battle for the votes of approximately 200,000 Conservative Party members before the official result is declared September 5.

Sunak’s Cabinet experience and relative public popularity has seen him become the favored choice of many Tory MPs, while the backing of key Brexiteer Johnson lieutenants Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries proved key in ensuring Truss made it through to the next round of voting.

Wildcard candidates Badenoch and Tugendhat — who has never held ministerial office — both boast the backing of important factions of the Tory party, with Badenoch holding the support of much of its most pro-Brexit grassroots and Tugendhat enjoying the support of many “one nation,” or centrist, Tory MPs. Badenoch also earned the coveted endorsement of Brexiteer Cabinet veteran Michael Gove.

A surprise entrant into the race, Braverman has steadily picked up support among hardcore Brexiteer MPs with a right-wing policy agenda and a threat to pull Britain out of the European Convention on Human Rights.