Former British Finance Minister Rishi Sunak on Monday extended his advantage in the race to succeed the prime minister Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss closed the gap in her bid to get between the two finalists.
After Johnson’s dramatic resignation on July 7 as leader of the Conservative Party, which will make him leave the head of government as soon as the formation finds him a successor, the long internal race to replace him began last week.
Initially, the 358 conservative deputies vote in successive rounds of elimination until two finalist candidates are designated on July 21.
In a second time, the nearly 200,000 members of the Conservative Party will choose between these two by postal vote during the summer, to designate the winner on September 5.
In the third round of voting by Conservative MPs, held on Monday, Sunak won 115 votes, ahead of International Trade Secretary Penny Mordaunt with 82 and Truss with 71 (7 more than in the second round).
Former Equality Minister Kemi Badenoch came in fourth with 58 votes and Foreign Affairs parliamentary committee chairman Tom Tugendhat was eliminated with 31 votes.
After two television debates organized over the weekend between these five candidates, Sunak and Truss had decided not to participate in the third, scheduled for Tuesday night by the Sky News channel, which was forced to cancel it.
The prospect of a third debate made British Conservatives fear that too many disagreements among themselves would be exposed, the channel considered.
After appearing unconvincing in the first debate on Friday, Truss frontally attacked Sunak, a former colleague within the government whom he accused of having dragged the country into a “recession” by raising taxes and social charges.
Johnson votes confidence in his government
Sunak and Truss are throwing daggers at each other from the start of the campaign.
The latter seeks to gain ground since in the first three votes it has been relegated to third place, behind Mordaunt and Sunak, who secured his ticket to the final on Monday.
The minister is the favorite of the Johnson camp, which is convinced that Sunak waited for the right moment for months before announcing his resignation on July 4, which precipitated the frond that ended up forcing the prime minister to resign.
This version has been denied by supporters of Sunak.
But according to The Times newspaper, Johnson would be urging the eliminated candidates to give their support to “anyone except Rishi”, whom he accuses of treason for having precipitated with his resignation that of another 60 members of the government and ultimately the fall of the conservative leader.
Ending his legendary ability to survive political crises, Johnson was forced to resign as he lost party support due to multiple scandals surrounding him and damaging the electoral prospects of the Conservatives in the planned 2024 legislative elections.
Paradoxically, the deputies had to vote in parliament their support for the Johnson government, which on Monday presented a motion of confidence in itself. The Conservatives, including the rebels, could not reject it lest they be plunged into potentially disastrous early elections for the party at this time.
“I think this is one of the most dynamic governments of modern times, not only for overcoming adversity on a scale we haven’t seen in centuries, but for delivering through adversity”the prime minister said during the debate, defending his performance during the pandemic.
The executive activated this motion of confidence for technical reasons, in response to an attempted motion of censure by the Labor opposition, for whom it is “intolerable” that Johnson remain in office until September.