Lawmakers from the ruling Conservative Party held their second round of voting on Thursday, eliminating Suella Braverman in the contest to replace the outgoing prime minister.
The race to succeed Boris Johnson as the leader of the Conservative Party in Britain — and therefore, as UK prime minister — has tightened further following a second round of voting among Tory members of parliament on Thursday.
The initial field of eight contenders — determined after with each of them was able to secure the support of 30 Conservative MPs — was narrowed down to six in the first round on Wednesday.
The second round saw former treasury chief Rishi Sunak increase his lead from 88 votes to 101; with trade minister Penny Mordaunt still in second place, also increasing her vote from 67 to 83.
Foreign minister Liz Truss secured 64 votes, up from 50; former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch received 49 votes, up from 40; and ex-soldier Tom Tugendhat has also qualified, although his total fell from 37 votes to 32.
Attorney General for England and Wales Suella Braverman was eliminated from the race on Thursday, after her vote fell from 32 to 27.
Former foreign minister Jeremy Hunt (18 votes in Wednesday's first round), and the minister responsible for COVID vaccine roll-out Nadhim Zahawi (25 votes) both dropped out of the race after not being able to secure enough support from their parliamentary colleagues.
So what happens next?
Further rounds of voting among MPs are scheduled through into next week. The final two contenders will face a runoff vote by about 180,000 Conservative Party members across the country.
The aim is to have a successor to Boris Johnson in place by 5 September.
Few of the contenders have a high public profile. Although former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak was an early bookies' favorite, his ability to last the race has been called into question.
An opinion poll carried out by YouGov asked hundreds of Conservative Party members who their number one choice would be for prime minister, and in every scenario Penny Mordaunt came out on top.
The poll also suggested that presumed favourite candidate Rishi Sunak might be unable to beat any of the contenders still left in the race to be Conservative Party leader.
Penny Mordaunt, a trade minister since 2021 and an ex-defence minister, launched her campaign with a video saying "our leadership has to change".
A staunch supporter of Brexit, has been in the forefront of the British government's drive to strike post-Brexit trade deals with other countries beyond the EU.
Mordaunt's sudden rise has quickly brought more scrutiny. On Thursday former Brexit negotiator Lord David Frost, an ally of Truss, said his former deputy in EU talks could not be trusted to maintain the firm stance that his eurosceptic wing of the party favours.
"She wouldn’t always deliver tough messages to the European Union when that was necessary," he said in a TV interview.