Analysis: Liz Truss well-placed for sprint to finishing line to make shortlist to be UK’s next Prime Minister

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Liz Truss gains momentum to make shortlist of two  - most likely with Rishi Sunak - to be next PM  (PA Media)
Liz Truss gains momentum to make shortlist of two - most likely with Rishi Sunak - to be next PM (PA Media)

Liz Truss may have left it late.

But the Foreign Secretary appears now to be well-placed for a sprint to the finishing line to make it to the shortlist for Britain’s next Prime Minister.

In a helter-skelter leadership race, she goes into the final round on Wednesday with the most momentum.

Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak had been on a roll in the last round.

The early momentum had been with ex-International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt.

And former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch had threatened to pull off a surprise success to get to the last two, to be put to Tory party members over the summer in a postal ballot, but crashed out on Tuesday.

Ms Truss gained 15 votes to be on 86, just behind Ms Mordaunt, up ten to 92.

It would almost certainly have been 93 if one of her supporters, Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, had not had the Tory whip removed for failing to back the Government in a confidence vote on Tuesday night, which he says was due to “unprecedented disruption” to his return home from Moldova.

Mr Sunak gained three votes to 118 and Ms Badenoch came in last with 59, up one.

The latest round is believed to have been most affected by how the 31 votes of supporters of soldier turned MP Tom Tugendhat, who went out in the third round, were split between the other candidates.

Most of them were expected to go to Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt.

The headline figures suggested they did not, as together their totals went up by 13.

Some “churn” - with MPs switching between candidates - is believed to be affecting the results.

However, Ms Truss’ surge immediately sparked speculation at Westminster that Mr Sunak’s team had lent her campaign some support.

There is no evidence to show this is true.

But some backers of Mr Sunak believe Ms Truss would be an easier adversary to beat, as she has clearly-defined, strongly-held views, while Ms Mordaunt is more of an unknown opponent who may find it easier to gain traction as the candidate of change.

With the ballots being secret, and MPs not always voting the way that they say they will, are or have done, the full truth of the election is likely to never be known.

The final two contenders are now expected to be largely decided by how Right winger Ms Badenoch’s support splits.

The bulk of it was expected by many MPs to go to Ms Truss, which could push her over the line given how close she now is to Ms Mordaunt.

Mr Sunak is all but there, as any MP who gets 119 votes is on the shortlist. But you are only there when you are there.

As for Ms Mordaunt, she now faces a huge battle to stop Ms Truss pipping her at the post.

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