Published: Fri, June 14, 2019

Conservative leadership: 10 rivals face first ballot of Tory MPs

Conservative leadership: 10 rivals face first ballot of Tory MPs

The Health Secretary won 20 votes from fellow Conservative MPs in the first ballot for the party leader - just two more than the minimum required to prevent him being eliminated.

With Johnson holding a commanding lead, it remains to be seen if those opposed to Johnson becoming the next prime minister will rally around an "anti-Boris" candidates, and if that will be a more moderate pro-Brexit candidate, or someone who voted to remain in the 2016.

And International Development Secretary Rory Stewart, the seventh-placed candidate, told the BBC's Politics Live he was "completely over the moon" to have got through the first vote.

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt and former House of Commons leader Andrea Leadsom are considered Johnson's closest challengers.

Rivals to be Britain's next prime minister are holding private talks over joining forces in an attempt to stop the pro-Brexit favourite, Boris Johnson, running away with the contest, people familiar with the matter said.

"Thank you to my friends and colleagues in the Conservative and Unionist Party for your support", Johnson said in a Twitter post.

Betting markets give Johnson, who has a long record of scandals and gaffes, a 70% probability of winning the top job.

One Westminster insider said: "I doubt whether we will get to the last scheduled ballot on Thursday". There had been speculation that the contest could be accelerated due to Johnson's strong lead but there was no immediate sign of rivals bowing out of the race.

The fourth-placed candidate, former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab, said he was "proud and honoured" and he had a "good base to build on".

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar warned midweek against thinking a better accord can be pulled off, saying it would be "a awful political miscalculation, and "really misunderstands how the European Union works".

"Answer us. I've been asking Boris for a week".

Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt also said he was "delighted" to have come second, adding: "This serious moment calls for a serious leader".

Johnson, as quoted by news agency AFP, ahead of his official campaign launch, said, "After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the European Union on October 31".

Johnson, whose unconventional style has helped him shrug off a series of scandals in the past, has won over much of his party by arguing that only he can rescue the Conservatives by delivering Brexit.

All the Conservative contenders say if they emerge as the victor, they will renegotiate the contentious Brexit withdrawal agreement Theresa May struck with Brussels last November after two years of ill-tempered haggling.

Hancock and Stewart are against leaving on no-deal terms in any eventuality.

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