Conservative leadership race: Eight MPs left in contest after day of high-profile casualties - and face first ballot in hours

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The first round of voting in the Conservative leadership race will take place today - and Tory MPs will be able to choose from eight contenders.

Those vying to become the party's new leader, and the next prime minister, will need to secure at least 30 votes in order to advance to the next stage.

Today's ballot is expected to take place between 1.30pm and 3.30pm, with the result set to be announced at 5pm.

The candidate with the lowest number of votes will drop out and further ballots will take place in the coming days.

Politics Hub: Dorries accuses Sunak's team of 'dirty tricks' and 'dark arts'

The leadership hopefuls still in the running are:

• Kemi Badenoch
• Suella Braverman
• Jeremy Hunt
• Penny Mordaunt
• Rishi Sunak
• Liz Truss
• Tom Tugendhat
• Nadhim Zahawi

Yesterday saw three candidates pull out of the race, with some high-profile casualties as the race intensifies.

Former health secretary Sajid Javid withdrew because he did not have enough nominations to make the first ballot - days after kicking off the avalanche of resignations that pushed Boris Johnson out.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps quit the race earlier in the day, and backbencher Rehman Chishti bowed out after no one publicly backed him.

Home Secretary Priti Patel also revealed she would not be standing, giving Ms Truss a clearer run on the right of the party.

Ballots will take place until just two contenders remain. Both victors will then have the summer to win the support of the Tory grassroots, with 160,000 party members choosing which person they would prefer to be leader in a postal ballot.

A new leader will be announced on 5 September.

Read more:
Who are the contenders to be the next prime minister?
How many backers does each candidate have so far?
The tax cut and spending pledges by leadership hopefuls

Remaining hopefuls grilled in hustings

Just an hour after it was confirmed who will appear on the first ballot, the eight MPs left standing were grilled by their colleagues in two sets of hustings.

MPs were heard banging on desks at the hustings for Ms Mordaunt, Mr Tugendhat and Ms Truss - but Mr Sunak only received polite applause.

Ms Braverman looked nervous and Mr Zahawi appeared angry, Sky News' chief political correspondent Jon Craig said from the corridor outside Committee Room 11.

Another hustings is due to take place this morning.

Ms Truss gained the endorsement of prominent Johnson loyalists Jacob Rees-Mogg, Nadine Dorries and James Cleverly, in what was seen as a concerted move to prevent Mr Sunak from entering No 10 after his resignation prompted Mr Johnson's downfall.

'Dirty tricks and dark arts'

Despite candidates insisting they want to run a clean campaign, the shenanigans started almost straight away.

Ms Dorries accused Mr Sunak's team of "dirty tricks" after claims one of his supporters - ex-chief whip Gavin Williamson - had been trying to "siphon off" votes for Mr Hunt so he would make it to the final run-off with Mr Sunak.

"This is dirty tricks/a stitch up/dark arts. Take your pick. Team Rishi want the candidate they know they can definitely beat in the final two and that is Jeremy Hunt," she tweeted.

Mr Hunt denied the claim, with a source from his team saying that was "categorically untrue" and called for candidates to not "smear opponents".

Mr Sunak's supporters also rejected the accusation, saying: "It's a dirty story being spread by anti-Rishi people."

Tax cuts galore

Candidates have focused on cutting taxes, with Mr Tugendhat promising to slash fuel duty by 10p a litre and Mr Sunak promising to "get the tax burden down".

However, Ms Badenoch refused to enter into a tax cut "bidding war" against the other candidates.

Former soldier Mr Tugendhat sought to build on his defence credentials as he committed to spending 3% of GDP on defence as part of a 10-year economic plan.

Mr Johnson's allies accused Mr Sunak of being a "high tax chancellor" but he denied this - insisting it was a matter of "when not if" he started cutting taxes.

Mr Sunak has declared in The Daily Telegraph that he would run the economy like Margaret Thatcher, telling the newspaper: "You have to earn what you spend."

The former chancellor added: "We will cut taxes and we will do it responsibly. That's my economic approach. I would describe it as common sense Thatcherism. I believe that's what she would have done."

On the other side of the Commons, Labour MPs were left fuming after the government refused to allow its motion of no confidence in the government and Mr Johnson.

The government said it was unnecessary as Mr Johnson is already going and the leadership race has begun.

Sky News is hosting a live TV debate with the contenders vying to be the next leader of the Conservative Party and therefore prime minister, and you could be in the virtual audience.

The debate will take place on Monday 18 July hosted by Sky News presenter Kay Burley.

If you would like to be a member of the virtual audience and be in with a chance of asking a question, please email NewsDebates@sky.uk.

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