Conservative MPs to choose final two leadership candidates
Tory MPs will today whittle down the four remaining leadership contenders to the final two before handing the choice over to the party's members.
International Development Rory Stewart became the latest Conservative hopeful to be eliminated from the race on Wednesday, meaning frontrunner Boris Johnson will square off against Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove or Sajid Javid in the final run-off.
The four will now face a further ballot of MPs this morning, with one being knocked out when the results are announced at around 1pm.
Another ballot will then take place later this afternoon, revealing which two candidates will face off against each other in a bid to win over the wider party membership and seize the Tory crown
The ballots come as The Daily Telegraph reports that supporters of Johnson - the current frontrunner after racking up the support of 143 MPs on Wednesday - want to ensure that longstanding rival Gove is "humiliated" before the final vote.
The Environment Secretary bagged 51 MP backers in Wednesday's third ballot, just shy of the 54 garnered by second-placed Hunt. Sajid Javid scooped up the support of 38 MPs.
Johnson's 2016 leadership campaign was spectacularly killed off after Gove withdrew his support and launched his own doomed bid for the top job, and one Johnson supporter told the paper there was a “visceral hatred” of the Environment Secretary among his allies.
According the Telegraph, Johnson's camp wants to ensure that Gove is eliminated in the morning ballot by "lending" votes to Javid so that he makes it through to the three-way fight.
The elimination of Stewart, who won the support of 27 MPs at the third ballot, has meanwhile triggered a race to hoover up his backers.
Asked by ITV's Robert Peston whether he was most aligned with the Gove camp, Stewart said: "You sound exactly like his team, I've been getting texts like you can't believe making exactly those arguments."
And The Times reports that Javid is already eyeing a job as Chancellor in a Boris Johnson government
Citing sources in the Javid camp, the paper says the Home Secretary believes he has a stronger chance of serving as Johnson's right-hand man if he stays in the race.
Bur Javid told Sky News on Wednesday: “I’m not pulling out, I’m going to carry on going as long as I have the support of my colleagues. I’m not thinking about getting knocked out, I’m thinking about winning.”