Boost for Truss as poll finds Tory members turning away from Mordaunt

Boost for Liz Truss as poll finds Tory members turning away from Penny Mordaunt – and they could BOTH beat Rishi Sunak in head-to-head stage

  • Liz Truss has been boosted by poll finding that Tory members would now favour her over Penny Mordaunt
  • The pair are battling to be in the final two candidates who will go forward to a run-off ballot of party activists 
  • The YouGov research suggests that either could beat frontrunner Rishi Sunak in the head-to-head phase 

Liz Truss was boosted today as a poll found Tory members turning away from rival Penny Mordaunt – and both could beat Rishi Sunak in a head-to-head.

YouGov research suggested that the trade minister has fallen back after sparking an initial wave of enthusiasm among activists. The Foreign Secretary now has a 48 per cent to 42 per cent advantage when put up against Ms Mordaunt.

And either Ms Truss or Ms Mordaunt would start a run-off campaign from a good position, as the survey indicated they would comfortably defeat the former Chancellor.

The findings emerged as the two ministers and Kemi Badenoch battle to stay in the contest, with MPs whittling down the field in a series of votes. The final pair being put to members will become clear after the fifth round of ballots tomorrow.  

Tory leadership contest – round three result

Rishi Sunak: 115 votes

Penny Mordaunt: 82 votes

Liz Truss: 71 votes

Kemi Badenoch: 58 votes

Tom Tugendhat: 31 votes – eliminated

The race is becoming more deeply mired in dirty tricks allegations, with Boris Johnson accused of intervening directly in the battle to choose his successor. 

The PM this morning took revenge on Tobias Ellwood, one of his loudest Tory critics, for failing to support his Government in last night’s Commons confidence vote.

The defence committee chair was stripped of the party whip after travelling to Moldova to meet its presidents in what the Tories say was an unsanctioned trip. 

The punishment means that the Bournemouth East MP, a supporter of Ms Mordaunt, cannot vote in today’s fourth round of voting in the leadership campaign. 

It sparked sparking suggestions that Mr Johnson was trying to help his preferred successor, Liz Truss, who is languishing in third behind Mordaunt and ex-chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose resignation help sparked the end of Mr Johnson’s administration.

Ms Truss is mounting an all-out bid to overhaul Ms Mordaunt as the four remaining hopefuls gear up for another crucial knock-out vote this afternoon.

She was handed a boost by a new YouGov poll which suggested that she would win the leadership if she makes the final two and it goes to a vote of members.  

Conservative MPs will whittle the numbers down to three this afternoon, with Rishi Sunak seemingly guaranteed a spot in the final run-off ballot of party members – but the race for second place still too close to call.

Some Truss supporters are worried that Mr Sunak will ‘lend’ backers to Ms Mordaunt to knock the foreign secretary out and allow him to face the international trade minister in the final two. 

Kemi Badenoch will be favourite for ejection today, but is still in touch after racking up an extra nine backers to reach 58.

YouGov research suggested that the trade minister has fallen back after sparking an initial wave of enthusiasm among activists. The Foreign Secretary now has a 48 per cent to 42 per cent advantage when put up against Ms Mordaunt

Either Ms Truss or Ms Mordaunt would start a run-off campaign from a good position, as the survey indicated they would comfortably defeat the former Chancellor

But the move is likely to be seen as driven purely by the PM’s desire to get back at a backbencher who has made little secret of his loathing for him.

Ms Truss was handed a boost by a new YouGov poll which suggested that she would win the leadership if she makes the final two and it goes to a vote of members


Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are still in the leadership battle as it enters the final stages before going to a ballot of Tory members  

Kemi Badenoch could be the kingmaker that selects the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom after gaining votes on the third ballot of the Tory leadership race on Monday night

HOW THE TORY LEADERSHIP RACE WILL PLAY OUT

Today – A fourth ballot will be held to whittle the numbers down to three.

Wednesday: Assuming no-one drops out, a fifth ballot will decide the final pair, ending the parliamentary phase of the contest.

21st July – MPs will head away from Westminster for their summer break.

Late July and August – CCHQ will assume responsibility for leadership election and will send out ballot papers to around 200,000 Conservative Party members. The Tory grassroots will be asked to decide between the final two candidates, with hustings events to be held across the UK.

5th September –  The result of the membership ballot is announced, with the candidate receiving more than 50 per cent of the vote being declared the new Tory leader and Boris Johnson’s replacement as Prime Minister.

6th September – The new Tory leader is likely to be formally appointed as PM during a visit to the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

7th September – The new PM is set to be quizzed in the House of Commons in their first ever Prime Minister’s Questions.

After a slow start, Ms Truss is hoping to build on her momentum from last night’s vote when she added another seven supporters to take her tally to 71. 

Although she is still short of Ms Mordaunt’s numbers, the trade minister’s early surge appears to be stalling as she dropped a vote to 82. 

Ms Truss has been wooing supporters of former soldier Tom Tugendhat, who came bottom and was eliminated last night, by vowing to boost defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP by 2030. 

‘We live in an increasingly dangerous world where the threat level is higher than a decade ago, and we need a stronger deterrent to face down those threats and ensure Britain leads on the global stage,’ she said.

Long-term PM critic finally crosses the line

Of all of Boris Johnson’s critics within the Conservative Party , Tobias Ellwood is one of the least subtle.

The 55-year-old former British Army officer has made no secret of his distain for the leader who booted him out of his ministerial post upon taking office.

He was one of the first MPs to announce he had submitted a letter of no confidence in Mr Johnson’s leadership.

And he has consistently called on the PM to resign in recent months. 

The Bournemouth East MP has also been accused of helping, behind the scenes, to lead the rebellion that forced the PM to announce his resignation.

Mr Ellwood is a former Army captain who made headlines in 2017 when he went to the aid of PC Keith Palmer who had been fatally stabbed by terrorist Khalid Masood outside the Palace of Westminster.

He was veterans minister at the Ministry of Defence under Theresa May but returned to the backbenches to lead the defence committee after Mr Johnson took office. 

He had been considered a possible candidate for the leadership after Mr Johnson announced he was quitting. But he blotted his copybook last month when he said that it was a ‘no brainer’ to rethink leaving the EU’s single market.

In a BBC interview he argued the country should opt for a softer Brexit, even if it means accepting the free movement of people.

He also criticised the Government’s plan to send failed migrants to Rwanda and called for a tougher response towards China and Russia.

‘Ultimately that requires more resources. My number one priority is keeping this country safe and people can trust me to do that.’

But her rivals are also courting Mr Tugendhat, with Ms Mordaunt tweeting that she had ‘admired’ him for years and Ms Badenoch saying he would be an ‘asset’ to any future Conservative government.

Leaving home this morning, Ms Badenoch said it is still ‘all to play for’. 

Mr Sunak’s team had feared he would not add much to his tally, but in the event they were jubilant as he increased his score from 101 to 115.

Anything over 120 guarantees a place in the final two, as there are 358 Conservative MPs in total. 

Ms Mordaunt’s campaign was hit by the loss of Mr Ellwood’s vote this morning.  

The move by the PM is likely to be seen as driven purely by his desire to get back at a backbencher who has made little secret of his loathing for him. 

Mr Ellwood was one of the first Tory MPs to demand he resign over the Partygate scandal.

The former soldier is chairman of the Defence Committee and was in Moldova.

In a statement Mr Ellwood said he is ‘very sorry’ to lose the Tory whip but argued he was unable to return from a meeting with the country’s president in Chisinau due to ‘unprecedented disruption’. 

But a Tory source said he had been warned before leaving that he would not be paired, adding: ‘Other Conservative MPs cancelled foreign trips, left poorly relatives and one MP’s mother died on the morning of the vote and still attended and voted.’ 

The 55-year-old father of two was one of 12 Tories who abstained in the confidence vote last night, which Mr Johnson comfortably won 349 to 238, thanks to his huge majority.

This morning he appeared to indicate his support for Penny Mordaunt in the Tory leadership race, retweeting her campaign video. 

Stripping him of the whip means he can no longer vote, while former whip Chris Pincher, who had the whip suspended over allegations of groping, is still able to.

Mr Johnson’s team is believed to be tacitly backing rival Liz Truss, with several ministers coming out in support including Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg. 

But Culture Secretary Ms Dorries said it was ‘frankly utterly ridiculous’ to suggest this was the PM’s motive.

Ministers and backbenchers with valid reasons to be away from Parliament when there are votes are usually paired with people in similar positions in opposition parties, in order to keep the balance of the voting groups fair.

The process is discretionary and sometimes does not apply for major votes like a confidence vote.

It is understood the other 11 absentees were paired.

Mr Ellwood is a Remainer and long-term critic of the PM who has long called for him to be replaced as Tory leader, though he did not run in the leadership contest to replace Mr Johnson.

Mr Ellwood is a former Army captain who made headlines in 2017 when he went to the aid of PC Keith Palmer who had been fatally stabbed by terrorist Khalid Masood outside the Palace of Westminster.

He was veterans minister at the Ministry of Defence under Theresa May but returned to the backbenches to lead the defence committee after Mr Johnson took office. 

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain said: ‘It is telling that Boris Johnson acted swiftly to punish Tobias Ellwood this time, but dragged his feet for days when it came to suspending the whip from his loyal supporter Chris Pincher.

‘This petty act shows there is no room in the Conservatives any more for those who refuse to prop up Johnson.

‘The Conservative leadership candidates should condemn this move and make clear they will restore the whip to Tobias Ellwood. 

‘Anything less would show they are all just as bad as Johnson and will continue his failed record on sleaze, the NHS and cost of living.’

Mr Sunak has been trying to beef up his support on the Tory right today, promising harsher sentences for criminals who refuse to attend court for their sentencing hearings and a crackdown on grooming gangs.

He has also been boosted by an endorsement from former leader Lord Hague, who praised him as an ‘exceptional individual’ who can be trusted at ‘one of the hardest times to be prime minister in our lifetimes: certainly since 1979, possibly since 1945’. 

However, one recently-departed former Cabinet minister told MailOnline they were concerned about a ‘Jeremy Corbyn situation’ where the candidate overwhelmingly backed by MPs – likely to be Mr Sunak – was not elected by party members.

‘Jeremy Hunt performed well in the hustings, better than Boris Johnson. But he didn’t win,’ the MP said. ‘It is a very difficult position to be in. We don’t know which way it is going to pan out.’ 

After the latest installment of drama last night, the candidates and their allies tried to put the best gloss on their performances. 

A spokesman for the Truss campaign said: ‘Liz is the candidate to lead a bold new economic approach, cut taxes, deliver on the benefits of Brexit, unite the Party and win a General Election.

‘Tom Tugendhat ran a campaign that he can be very proud of and he has shown the depth of quality in the Conservative Party.

‘Now is the time to get behind the best candidate to deliver the economic change we need.’

Former Tory leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith, who is backing Ms Truss, insisted she had ‘gone forward’ while Ms Mordaunt’s campaign had ‘stalled and gone backwards’.

However, Ms Mordaunt said her ‘vote is steady’. ‘My vote is steady and I’m grateful to my colleagues for all their support and thrilled to be in second place once more. MPs know that I’m a strong candidate, running a truly clean campaign and putting forward a positive vision for the party and our country.

‘Tom Tugendhat MP is a friend and colleague who I’ve admired for years, I know that we are both committed to a clean start for our party and I believe he is one of the strongest assets the Conservative green benches. It was an honour to stand alongside him in this contest.’

Ms Badenoch’s biggest backer Michael Gove swiped earlier that supporters of some of the leading names were experiencing ‘buyer’s remorse’.

And his candidate said: ‘It’s all to play for. Continued momentum, closing the gap, I am the only change candidate left in the race. I’m in it to win.’ 

A Sunak spokeswoman said he was ‘the candidate with the clearest plan to restore trust, rebuild the economy, reunite the country and because he is best placed to beat Labour at the next election’. 

Mr Tugendhat said: ‘I want to thank my team, colleagues and, most of all, the British people for their support. I have been overwhelmed by the response we have received across the country. People are ready for a clean start and our party must deliver on it and put trust back into politics. 

‘I wish the remaining candidates well and look forward to continuing to serve the British people and fully supporting the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.’ 

The intense intrigue at Westminster came after it emerged that the candidates have endured their final TV debate in this phase. 

Sky News cancelled the showdown that had been planned for tonight after both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss pulled out, with sources saying they wanted to limit infighting.

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