Conservative leadership analysis: Who is the real winner from second vote - Penny, Rishi or Liz?

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A bookmaking company offers odds on the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister on College Green, Westminster (PA)
A bookmaking company offers odds on the next leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister on College Green, Westminster (PA)

Like a 1,500 metre runner, Penny Mordaunt closed in on Tory race leader Rishi Sunak on the second lap to get within striking distance.

Crucially, she kept her early ”March of Mordaunt” momentum going in the contest to succeed Boris Johnson, also stretching her lead over Liz Truss.

Ex-Chancellor Mr Sunak boosted his support from MPs to 101, gaining the backing of 13 more of his colleagues in his bid to be the next Prime Minister, due to be announced on September 5.

But he could be forgiven a backwards glance over his shoulder and may be wondering if he has enough momentum to drive him over the line in first or second place.

The finishing line is around 120 votes from Tory MPs, enough to get a place on the shortlist of two candidates to be put to party members in a postal vote over the summer.

Former International Development Secretary Ms Mordaunt saw her backing rise by 16 to 83.

The five Tories still in the race: Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat and Liz Truss (ES Composite)
The five Tories still in the race: Kemi Badenoch, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Tom Tugendhat and Liz Truss (ES Composite)

Foreign Secretary Ms Truss was up 14 to 64, but now lagging noticeably behind in the field.

The battle between the three frontrunners, though, still looks very tight and could be dramatically changed by showdown TV debates on ITV on Sunday, Sky on Monday, and possibly the first on Channel 4 on Friday.

Soldier turned MP Tom Tugendhat’s team hope he can emulate Nick Clegg’s performance in the 2010 election and get lift-off in his campaign from the TV debates.

However, he went backwards in the second round, gaining 32 votes, down five, so he looks most likely to crash out next.

Mr Sunak may well pick up some of his backing, pushing him towards the 120 line.

But it is not clear it will be enough to get him over it as some of Mr Tugendhat’s supporters want to decisively move on from the Boris Johnson era and are looking for a new face at the top of Government.

So, he may have to rely on picking up a few votes from other contenders, if he is to make it to the last two.

Ms Truss may well gain many of Attorney General Suella Braverman’s supporters, after she was the candidate knocked out in the second round.

Howevever, former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch is emerging as a growing threat to Ms Truss, the establishment candidate of the Tory Right.

Ms Badenoch, who even some fellow MPs admit to knowing very little about, gained nine votes to reach 49, and she could benefit from Ms Braverman’s demise in the contest.

Her star could soar, or crash down to earth, during the TV showdowns, which could impact on whether Ms Truss can gain the 56 or so votes needed to reach the run-off.

Grabbing so many more votes looks a challenge, given the scale of the gap at the moment, but she certainly appears more likely to garner more backing than Mr Sunak in coming rounds.

The contenders will be desperately seeking to boost their campaigns over the weekend, with the third round of voting taking place on Monday, between 5pm to 7pm, with the result due at 8pm.

The fourth round is scheduled for Tuesday, with voting between noon and 2pm, and the result at 3pm.

The fifth and final round, if necessary, is planned for Wednesday, with voting between 1pm and 3pm, with the result at 4pm.

Shortly afterwards, MPs will head off to their constituencies for the summer recess, after months of extraordinary political turmoil.

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