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Would-be PMs frantically lobby Tory MPs as they brace for first vote

Tory hopefuls face moment of truth: Would-be PMs frantically lobby MPs as they brace for first vote on new leader TODAY – with Boris Johnson in pole position after hard stance on Brexit

  • The first round of the Tory leadership contest is taking place this morning
  • MPs are voting with result due at 1pm and potentially half the hopefuls 
  • Boris Johnson is the front runner in the battle to take over from Theresa May 

Tory hopefuls are frantically lobbying MPs today with just hours to go until voting begins to decide the next PM.

Half the 10 candidates could be wiped out at a single stroke in the first round of the contest – as they need at least 17 backers to continue.

Boris Johnson cemented his status as the front runner to replace Theresa May yesterday after emerging from his bunker to launch his campaign. 

He warned of ‘mortal retribution’ from the public unless the government delivers Brexit – although he was left blustering by questions over whether he used cocaine in the past. 

At a hustings last night, Mr Johnson also refused to rule out suspending Parliament to force No Deal by the end of October, merely saying he was ‘not attracted’ to the idea.

Boris Johnson cemented his status as the front runner to replace Theresa May yesterday after emerging from his bunker to launch his campaign (pictured)

Ten MPs are on the ballot as Tory MPs prepare to vote on who will be their next leader 

But rivals have stepped up their attacks on the former foreign secretary, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid branding him one of the ‘same old school ties’ and urging Conservatives to choose a less divisive candidate. 

Leadership hopefuls need at least 17 votes in the secret ballot to go through to the second round, with anyone below the threshold automatically eliminated.

But even if all the candidates meet the target, the one with the lowest number of votes overall will still have to exit the race.

How will the Tory leader battle play out? 

TODAY 

This will be another critical day, as the first ballot takes place between 10am and noon. The result is due to be announced at 1pm.

Anyone with fewer than 16 votes will be automatically eliminated, and at least one will be ejected. 

THURSDAY, JUNE 19 

Further rounds of voting will take place during June until there are just two candidates left by this point.

They will then go to a run-off ballot of the 160,000 Tory members.

WEEK OF JULY 22 

The winner is due to be declared this week.

They will take over from Mrs May as PM shortly afterwards – probably in time to take a session of PMQs before the Commons breaks up for its summer recess. 

Mr Johnson launched his bid with a warning to MPs that they will ‘reap the whirlwind’ if they try to thwart Brexit – and said it was essential that Britain was out of the EU by the end of October.

But Mr Javid dismissed the former foreign secretary as ‘yesterday’s news’, saying the party needed to show it had changed.

Former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom insisted she was ‘very optimistic’ about the ballot, and said she thought that she had the support to get through Thursday’s vote – despite a relatively low number of public endorsements.

She told ITV’s Peston: ‘There’s a whole range of colleagues who for one reason or another don’t want to declare for one candidate or another and I’m very optimistic about tomorrow.

‘But tomorrow’s a big day, and we’ll see some real facts tomorrow – before then it’s all just speculation.’

Former chief whip Mark Harper, ex-work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart may also struggle to get over the line on Thursday.

But Mr Harper said: ‘I’m confident about getting through tomorrow based on the feedback that I’ve had from my colleagues, from my campaign launch yesterday and the various hustings that we’ve had.’

Meanwhile, Labour vowed to keep fighting against No Deal Brexit after the latest cross-party attempt by MPs to take control of Commons business failed.

The cross-party motion, which would have enabled MPs to take control of the business of the House on June 25, was defeated by 309 to 298 – a majority of 11.

Ten Tories – including Ken Clarke, Sir Oliver Letwin, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve – supported the motion, but eight Labour MPs voted against.

However, eight Labour MPs defied Jeremy Corbyn to back the government – and two more abstained. 

Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said it would have acted as a ‘safety valve’ enabling Parliament to pass legislation preventing the next prime minister from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal.

The ballot today is due to take place between 10am and 12pm, with the result due to be announced at 1pm.

At his own launch last night (pictured), Home Secretary Sajid Javid branded Mr Johnson one of the ‘same old school ties’ and urged Conservatives to choose a less divisive candidate

 

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