Tory MPs to begin voting in leadership election as ‘dirty tricks’ row erupts

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The eight Tory MPs battling to become PM  (UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Images)
The eight Tory MPs battling to become PM (UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Images)

Eight MPs battling to succeed Boris Johnson are preparing to face the first ballot of MPs on Wednesday.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss were among those to make it through having secured the backing of more than 20 MPs.

Others to make the cut were Penny Mordaunt, Nadhim Zahawi, Jeremy Hunt, Tom Tugenhat, Suella Braverman and Kemi Badenoch.

Sajid Javid pulled out of the race moments before Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 committee which is running the election, announced those who will progress to the first round of voting.

Backbencher Rehman Chishti also withdrew ahead of the announcement following Grant Shapps earlier in the day.

The candidates took part in 12-minute hustings in front of Tory MPs on Tuesday evening. A second ballot will take place on Thursday with the candidates this time needing the support of 30 MPs to stay in the race.

Meanwhile Nadine Dorries has accused Rishi Sunak’s team of pulling “dirty tricks” after he and Jeremy Hunt made it into the first ballot of MPs in the Tory leadership contest.

Nadine Dorries is accusing Rishi Sunak’s team of a political plot using ‘dark arts’ (Getty Images)
Nadine Dorries is accusing Rishi Sunak’s team of a political plot using ‘dark arts’ (Getty Images)

The Culture Secretary, who is a Boris Johnson loyalist and now backing Foreign Secretary Liz Truss to be the next prime minister, tweeted: “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 was responding to a tweet which claimed that former education secretary Gavin Williamson, who is supporting the former chancellor, had organised the syphoning off of some votes to let Mr Hunt pass the hurdle.

Mr Hunt vehemently denied the claims.

A Hunt campaign source told the Standard: “This is categorically untrue and we hope all candidates and supporters will campaign on their own merits rather than attempting to smear opponents - just as Jeremy has done throughout his political career.”

Rishi Sunak speaking at the launch of his campaign to be Conservative Party leader and prime minister (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak speaking at the launch of his campaign to be Conservative Party leader and prime minister (Stefan Rousseau/PA) (PA Wire)

The candidates remaining have been trying to line up big-hitters from government to back them.

Ms Truss gained the endorsement of prominent Boris Johnson loyalists Ms Dorries, Jacob Rees-Mogg and James Cleverly, in what was seen as a concerted move to prevent Mr Sunak entering No 10.

Many supporters of the Prime Minister remain furious with Mr Sunak for the role he played in bringing him down, with his decision last week to quit helping to trigger a further slew of resignations.

The Foreign Secretary’s campaign also received a potential fillip with the announcement by Home Secretary Priti Patel, a fellow right winger, that she would not be standing, giving Ms Truss a clearer run.

Other developments in another hectic day in Westminster included:

- Labour angrily accusing the Government of “running scared” after it refused to allow parliamentary time for a Commons vote of no confidence in Mr Johnson and his administration.

- Former equalities minister Ms Badenoch launching her bid, vowing not to enter a tax cut “bidding war” and arguing others had been trying to “have your cake and eat it”.

Secretary Liz Truss arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday (Getty Images)
Secretary Liz Truss arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday (Getty Images)

- Mr Tugendhat, the chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee promising to slash fuel duty by 10p as he kicked off his campaign, dismissing rivals’ criticism over his lack of ministerial experience.

- Mr Zahawi, the Chancellor, brushing off a rebuke from Bank of England governor Andrew Bailey for setting out tax proposals during the campaign, saying he was setting out his stall to be prime minister and his plans were “fully costed”.

In an increasingly bitter war of words allies of Mr Johnson have rounded on Mr Sunak, branding him a “high tax chancellor” who had failed to spot the waring signs that inflation was on the rise.

Launching his campaign, Mr Sunak insisted it was a matter of “when not if” he started cutting taxes but that he would not do so until inflation was under control.

Backed by Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab, he said it was “not credible to promise lots more spending and lower taxes”, in a swipe at rivals who have proposed multibillion-pound tax cuts immediately.

“We need a return to traditional Conservative economic values and that means honesty and responsibility, not fairytales,” he said.

Mr Zahawi criticised his predecessor’s hesitancy, insisting it is not a “fairytale” to cut taxes to ease the cost-of-living crisis.

The current Chancellor also used an appearance before Conservative MPs to declare his strong support for the family - something he said had gone out of fashion.

“Family has become a taboo word in Westminster, and this has to change. Children thrive when they grow up in happy and healthy home environments, and we shouldn’t be shy about recognising that,” he said.

Under the rules set out by Sir Graham, candidates who fail to get 30 votes in the first ballot will be eliminated, with a second vote expected on Thursday.

The process is then likely to continue into next week, with candidate with the lowest vote dropping out, until the list of candidates is whittled down to just two.

They will have the summer recess to win the support of the Tory membership, which will ultimately chose the next prime minister, with the final result due on September 5.

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