Kemi Badenoch has been knocked out of the Conservative leadership race, creating a tense battle between Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt over who will go head to head with Rishi Sunak to become Britain’s next prime minister.
Sunak, former chancellor, came top again in the fourth round of voting by Tory MPs at Westminster with 118, followed by Mordaunt with 92 and Truss with 86.
Badenoch was eliminated with 59 votes. There will now be a battle to secure the support of her backers as the contest moves into the final knockout round on Wednesday.
Sunak now looks certain to make it to the two-person shortlist, which will be presented to more than 150,000 Tory activists. Ballot papers will be sent out in early August and the result will be announced on September 5.
But he is by no means certain of winning the head-to-head battle. Many Conservative activists dislike Sunak’s record as a tax-raising chancellor and see him as disloyal to outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson.
A YouGov poll for the Times found that Sunak would lose convincingly to rivals in a ballot of party members, but his backers believe his relative popularity with ordinary voters could swing the vote his way.