Britain’s international development secretary Rory Stewart is the latest figure to drop out of the race to become the country’s next prime minister, receiving just 27 votes in the third secret ballot of the Conservative Party’s MPs.
Boris Johnson maintains his comfortable lead at the top of the pack, having received the support of 143 Tory parliamentarians, 89 more than his nearest rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who received 54 votes from among the 313 voting MPs.
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Michael Gove, a former education secretary, came third with 51 votes. Home Secretary Sajid Javid continues through to the next ballot – to be held at 10am local time (09:00 GMT) on Thursday – with the support of 38 MPs.
Whoever wins the competition to become the leader of the Conservatives, the party currently in power, will become the next prime minister of Britain by default.
Stewart was a social media hit during his campaign, frequently taking to Twitter to invite members of the public to come and talk to him. One such video was, however, widely pilloried for having him pretend to hold the camera, as if it were a phone selfie.
He was the only one of the 10 candidates who were originally part of the race to offer a drastically different vision of how to conduct Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union, maintaining that it would simply not be possible to renegotiate a deal with the 27 EU members before reaching the October 31 deadline.
Stewart performed well in the first televised debate, challenging the other contenders to offer concrete proposals beyond the bluster which has dominated much of the discourse, and near-doubled his support between the first and second votes. He did, however, lose the support of 10 MPs before the third ballot.
Prime Minister Theresa May early this month formally stepped down as party leader after her authority to govern collapsed following several failed attempts to win Parliament’s approval for a negotiated deal to leave the EU.
The MPs’ secret votes will continue this week until the candidates are whittled down to just two, when the choice of who will lead the country of some 65 million people will be put to the 160,000 members of the Conservative Party.