Truss gains on Mordaunt as Tugenhadt departs
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss gained ground on Tory leadership rival Penny Mordaunt tonight as backbencher Tom Tugendhat became the latest candidate to be eliminated.
Ms Truss appeared to pick up votes from supporters of Attorney General Suella Braverman who fell by the wayside earlier in the contest.
However, while Ms Truss’s support is up from 64 to 71, she remains some way short of Ms Mordaunt who dropped a vote to 82 but still holds on to second place behind Rishi Sunak who saw his grip on the lead leap from 101 to 115.
Kemi Badenoch is still in the hunt after gaining nine endorsements to take her tally to 58.
Mr Tugendhat was been knocked in today’s voting out after coming bottom with 30.
There will be a fourth round of voting on Tuesday and Mr Sunak’s supporters were confident that he now has momentum behind his campaign.
One of his campaign managers said: “He is the candidate with the clearest plan to restore trust, rebuild the economy, reunite the country and because he is best placed to beat Labour at the next election.”
The latest votes emerged before the Government won a confidence vote by 349 votes to 238 in the House of Commons.
The Prime Minister, who is set to leave office on 6 September, is now expected to continue in his role for the next seven weeks until the new leader is chosen to replace him.
Earlier, Sky News cancelled the planned third and final TV debate due to be shown tomorrow evening after Mr Sunak and Ms Truss withdrew amid concern that the two earlier insult-packed broadcasts were damaging to the candidates and the party.
“Two of the three candidates currently leading in the MPs’ ballots – Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss – have confirmed to Sky News that they do not want to take part,” said Sky in a statement.
“Conservative MPs are said to be concerned about the damage the debates are doing to the image of the Conservative party, exposing disagreements and splits within the party. Both are very welcome to take part in future Sky News televised debates.”
Angela Rayner Labour’s deputy leader, said: “The country deserves better than Tory candidates hiding from scrutiny simply because their first two performances have shown they would be a danger to the economy and the future of the UK.
“This Conservative ‘leadership’ contest is so embarrassing they’ve cancelled the debate – so you can’t see them fighting like rats in a sack.”
A spokesperson for Penny Mordaunt, the international trade minister and a target of many attacks in the first two debates, said: “It’s a shame some colleagues cannot find a way to debate one another in a civil way.”
Sunak has found himself the target of the other candidates for his role in Boris Johnson’s government and insistence that tax cuts must wait for inflation to be lowered. Truss is said to be struggling to make headway among viewers.
Backbencher Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badeonch, a former levelling up minister also remain in the contest with Tugendhat the most likely to fall a the next stage.
Sunak appears to be a safe bet to make the final two, leaving Truss and Mordaunt to fight it out for the second spot.
Mordaunt is facing an attack from her own boss in the international trade department who has accused her of neglecting her ministerial job in order to focus on her prime ministerial ambitions.
Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the international trade secretary, said other staff had “picked up the pieces” when Mordaunt was not available.