Three candidates remain in race to replace Johnson

Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss are all closing in on the chance to become Britain’s prime minister

Conservative MPs wrapped up a fourth round of voting in the party’s leadership contest on Tuesday. Former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch was eliminated, and former Chancellor Rishi Sunak is leading the race to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, with Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss following.

The fourth ballot saw Sunak secure 118 votes, one away from automatic inclusion on the final head-to-head contest for leadership of the Tory Party. Mordaunt picked up 92 votes, and Truss 86. With 59 votes, Badenoch scored lowest and was therefore dismissed from the contest.

The party’s 357 MPs will hold a final ballot on Wednesday, after which its 150,000 or so members nationwide will take part in a postal vote to choose a final winner. The victor will take over as leader of the Conservative Party and become prime minister of the UK in September, as Johnson won a confidence vote on Monday ensuring that he will remain in office until then.

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Badenoch was an ardent Brexiteer, and emerged as a vocal critic of “woke” culture. During her campaign, she referred to her opponents as members of the “liberal wing of the Conservative Party.”

Leading these opponents is Sunak, who has positioned himself as a voice of fiscal prudence and the only candidate not promising tax cuts. Mordaunt and Truss have both promised to lower taxes, and both have been singled out for criticism by the party’s grassroots members: Truss for her opposition to the 2016 vote to leave the European Union and Mordaunt for her “woke” views, including her since-retracted insistence that “trans women are women.”

All three candidates support arming Ukraine, with Truss emerging in recent months as one of the loudest anti-Russia voices in Europe. The foreign secretary promised in a recent newspaper op-ed to inflict “real pain on Putin and the Kremlin” if elected, and declared on Tuesday morning that she would hike the UK’s defense spending to 3% of GDP, far beyond the 2% demanded by NATO.

Mordaunt, who served briefly as defense secretary in 2019, said last week that while she would raise military spending, she would refrain from “plucking figures out of the air” during the leadership contest.

Despite enjoying the support of more Tory MPs than his rivals, a YouGov poll released on Tuesday shows Sunak losing a final vote against Mordaunt, Truss, and Badenoch, the latter of whom had not been eliminated at the time of the poll. Ladbrokes, the UK’s largest bookmaker, currently rates Truss as favorite to win the overall contest.

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