Mordaunt and Truss vie for votes as Tory MPs vote in final ballot before run-off

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Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA)
Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA)

Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt are battling it out to secure a place in the run-off to be the next prime minister, with Tory MPs voting for the final time as the bitter Westminster stage of the leadership contest draws to a close.

Frontrunner Rishi Sunak appears certain to achieve the votes required from Conservative MPs to guarantee his name will be on the ballot that goes to Tory members over the summer.

But Foreign Secretary Ms Truss and trade minister Ms Mordaunt are scrambling to secure votes in the contest for the second spot on the ballot on another significant day in Westminster, as Boris Johnson rounded off his final Prime Minister’s Questions by hailing the successes of his time in office.

Ms Mordaunt was calling wavering MPs from early on Wednesday morning and highlighted her economic plan as inflation hit a fresh 40-year high.

(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics) (PA Graphics)

Ms Truss insisted that she was the “only person who can deliver the change” the UK needs which is in “line with true Conservative principles”.

Recent comments from the campaign by Tory leadership candidates dominated the exchanges at Mr Johnson’s final PMQs, with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer throwing up some of the criticisms levelled at their own Government by those vying to enter Number 10.

Though Mr Johnson sought to shrug off those attacks, he did pause to offer some advice to his eventual successor: “Number one, stay close to the Americans, stick up for the Ukrainians, stick up for freedom and democracy everywhere.

“Focus on the road ahead, but always remember to check the rear-view mirror.”

Foreign Secretary Ms Truss is hoping to win enough new backers on Wednesday to overtake Ms Mordaunt, after she picked up 15 votes to command the support of 86 Tory MPs on Tuesday.

Ms Mordaunt increased her share by 10 to sit on 92, while Mr Sunak gained an extra three votes to put him on 118, just shy of the number effectively guaranteeing him entry to the final phase.

Kemi Badenoch was eliminated from the race and the 59 votes she had are now up for grabs, with Ms Truss hopeful of picking up enough to leapfrog Ms Mordaunt – who has finished second in every round so far – to secure her place on the ballot.

But a source in the Mordaunt campaign said she was appealing to supporters of Ms Badenoch and the previously eliminated Tom Tugendhat who liked the idea of clean break from the Johnson era.

Penny Mordaunt has finished second in each round of voting but faces a fight to hold on to that spot (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Penny Mordaunt has finished second in each round of voting but faces a fight to hold on to that spot (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

Former Cabinet minister Damian Green, who had backed Mr Tugendhat, said he was supporting Ms Mordaunt.

Although Ms Mordaunt has been a minister, she was not in Mr Johnson’s Cabinet – unlike Mr Sunak, who quit as chancellor earlier in July, and Ms Truss, who remains the Foreign Secretary.

“As the only one not in Johnson’s Cabinet, Penny is the sole MP left in the race who offers a genuine fresh start,” he said.

Ms Mordaunt also highlighted her plan to address the cost-of-living crisis as inflation hit a fresh 40-year high, with Office for National Statistics figures showing the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) running at 9.4% in June.

She said: “We need to act now, and not sit on our hands by proclaiming we have done enough, during the height of this crisis, and come this autumn, to help people pay their bills.”

Ms Mordaunt also promised a plan for a major overhaul of the credit rating system to help renters get a mortgage and a place on the housing ladder.

Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)
Foreign Secretary Liz Truss (Victoria Jones/PA) (PA Wire)

Ms Truss used a Daily Telegraph column to hint at jobs for her defeated rivals, promising a “government of all the talents” if she becomes prime minister.

The surge in support for Ms Truss has raised eyebrows in the Mordaunt camp because Mr Tugendhat’s votes had been expected to be split between the trade minister and Mr Sunak.

There have been widespread allegations of dirty tricks orchestrated by allies of Mr Sunak, with claims the former chancellor’s supporters had been encouraged to vote tactically to ensure a run-off with Ms Truss rather than Ms Mordaunt.

Former Cabinet minister David Davis, who backs Ms Mordaunt, said “he wants to fight Liz, because she’s the person who will lose the debate with him”, adding that it was the “dirtiest campaign I’ve ever seen”.

Mr Sunak used the final day of the Westminster leg of the leadership race to set out plans for the UK to produce all the energy it uses by 2045 at the latest.

The plan would spare consumers from the volatility of global market fluctuations caused by crises such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Rishi Sunak has topped every round of voting (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak has topped every round of voting (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

But he would scrap a plan to ease the ban on new onshore wind farms in England, instead focusing on offshore turbines.

“As energy bills skyrocket in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it has never been more important that our country achieves energy sovereignty, so that we’re no longer reliant on the volatility of the global energy supply,” Mr Sunak said.

“That’s why as prime minister I would introduce an ambitious new plan to make the UK energy independent, investing in vital new technologies. “

Before the final round of voting begins, Mr Johnson will face one last session of Prime Minister’s Questions in the Commons.

The result of the vote to determine the shortlist of two candidates to replace him will be announced at 4pm.

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