Sunak and Truss will go head-to-head to become PM after Mordaunt eliminated from Tory race

20 July 2022, 16:02 | Updated: 20 October 2022, 13:49

It's Sunak v Truss for the keys to No10
It's Sunak v Truss for the keys to No10. Picture: Getty

By Will Taylor

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss will battle it out to become Britain's next Prime Minister after Penny Mordaunt was eliminated from the Tory leadership race.

Former chancellor Mr Sunak, whose resignation preceded an avalanche of departures from Government that brought down Boris Johnson, will battle with foreign secretary Liz Truss, a long-time ally of the PM's.

After a series of votes between the Conservative party's MPs, they will now campaign to win the vote of the party's members later this year.

Mr Sunak had the most votes with 137, and Ms Truss received 113. Penny Mordaunt won 105 MPs over to her campaign.

But the former chancellor, having been in the lead for the campaign, will have to convince his party's members he has what it takes to be their new leader and Prime Minister.

Recent polling suggested he would lose to both Ms Truss and Ms Mordaunt. The contest has raised concerns in the Tory party of "blue on blue attacks" as candidates took verbal chunks out of each other.

The winner will be chosen by September 5.

Mr Sunak said: "I'm really excited about the future of Conservative government in this country because of that, and I know that if I'm successful, I will try and build a team that draws on all the talents and strengths in our party, cause that's what Britain deserves."

He dodged a question on whether he would invite Liz Truss into his Cabinet should he win the race for No10.

"The question for our members is who is the best possible person to beat Keir Starmer in the next election. And it's clear that I'm the only candidate who can do that," he said.

"Now people have heard from me a positive vision about what we can do.

"I'll tackle our problems with honesty and responsibility. I'll make sure that we support people, I'll make sure that we grow our economy and take advantage of the freedoms that Brexit gives us."

Ms Truss said after the vote: "I would like to thank each and every one of my colleagues who have supported me throughout this stage of this contest. I would also like to pay tribute to every candidate who stood for the leadership. Each of them has contributed enormously to the Conservative Party and to public life.

"I am excited to now take to the country to make the case to the Conservative Party about my bold new economic plan that will cut taxes, grow our economy and unleash the potential of everyone in our United Kingdom.

"As Prime Minister I would hit the ground running from day one, unite the Party and govern in line with Conservative values.

"I am incredibly proud to be a part of the Conservative and Unionist Party and am excited to spend the next few weeks proving to all of our brilliant members exactly why I am the right person to lead it, and our great nation."

Meanwhile, Penny Mordaunt tweeted: "Thanks to everyone for all your hard work. We go forward together."

Speaking to LBC's Iain Dale on Wednesday, former Brexit minister Lord Frost said he believed it was the "right result".

"We've got now the chance of a genuine argument between the two sides and a good argument about different Conservative philosophies to take the country forward," he said.

"I think that's a good thing and having that argument is going to be good for us."

When asked about his comments about Ms Mordaunt throughout the race, Lord Frost explained: "I thought very carefully about whether to say what I said and whether to say it in the way that I said it.

"I thought the campaign was so short and there was so little time for reflection that it was important that people heard about my experience.

"I have not attacked Penny personally but I have said 'I don't think you did a particularly good job as a minister' and I stand by that.

"It feels like I'm not the only person to have said that and I think it's important that MPs know that.

"Whether it helps them make a decision or not, who knows, I think getting facts out there can only help."

Read more: 'Hasta la vista, baby': Boris leaves final PMQs to tears, cheers and jeers

Lord Frost backs criticism of Penny Mordaunt

The result followed a fiery final PMQs with Boris Johnson, who branded Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as a "human bollard" as he claimed he was useless.

Sir Keir had joked that the public's opportunity to hear from the candidates during televised debates had been disastrous, with Mr Sunak and Ms Truss deciding to pull out of a Sky News debate that was slated for Tuesday. A new debate between Ms Truss and Mr Sunak has been scheduled for August 4.

Mr Johnson said the Tory candidates would "wipe the floor" with Sir Keir, likening them to "some household detergent" - though Mr Sunak was noticeably absent from Mr Johnson's farewell.

The Prime Minister is due to stay in role until a winner between Mr Sunak and Ms Truss is chosen to replace him, having previously pledged to remain in post until September at the latest.

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