Race to replace UK PM tightens, as another hopeful is knocked out

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By Euronews  with Reuters
Conservative party leadership contenders Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak before the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party
Conservative party leadership contenders Penny Mordaunt and Rishi Sunak before the live television debate for the candidates for leadership of the Conservative party   -   Copyright  Victoria Jones / PA via AP

The UK's former finance minister has come out on top in the race to become Britain's next prime minister, as another hopeful was knocked out on Tuesday.

Rishi Sunak topped the fourth vote by MPs to determine who should be the next Tory leader, after former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch came last and was eliminated from the contest.

Liz Truss narrowed the gap with her main rival, Penny Mordaunt, in their battle to enter the run-off stage, receiving 86 votes compared to Mordaunt's 92.

Three candidates now remain in the increasingly tense contest to replace Boris Johnson. They will go to another round of voting on Wednesday to decide who will make the final two.

Voting will then be opened to the Conservative Party's 160,000 members to choose who will replace Johnson as the next prime minister of the UK on 5 September.

In the third round of voting on Monday, which Sunak also led, backbencher and former solider Tom Tugendhat was eliminated as he had the least number of votes at 31. Former defence minister Penny Mordaunt was on 82 and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss 71.

Supporters of Tugendhat, who has never had a role in government, then allocated their votes to the remaining three in Tuesday's voting.

The results suggest that it is still difficult to tell who will face one another in the final round. Sunak picked up three of Tugendhat's floating votes, Truss got 15 and Mordaunt 10.

The governing Conservative Party's 358 lawmakers will cut the candidates down to the final two this week, eliminating those with the fewest votes each time.

The results of the next ballot are due on Wednesday.

A new prime minister will then be announced on 5 September, after the Conservative Party's members cast postal ballots over the summer.

Since Johnson promised to resign earlier this month after being plagued by scandals, the race to replace him has taken an ugly turn with several contenders lashing out at the frontrunner Sunak.

He has faced criticism on several things, such as his record in government to the wealth of his wife, by those vying to make it to a run-off between the final two candidates.

His most likely challengers are foreign secretary Truss and Mordaunt, currently a junior trade minister.

They clashed on British TV on Sunday over their economic policies, with Truss making personal attacks on what she called Sunak's privileged background.

The race has become focused on pledges, or non-pledges, to cut taxes, at a time when Britain's economy is beset with spiralling inflation, high debt and low growth that have left people with the tightest squeeze on their finances in decades.

A Sky News debate scheduled for Tuesday was cancelled after Mr Sunak and Ms Truss declined to take part, and amid concern among senior Tories that angry arguments in public could damage the party.