Conservative leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss during Britain’s Next Prime Minister: The ITV Debate at Riverside Studios on July 17, 2022 in London, England.
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LONDON — Liz Truss will face Rishi Sunak in the final round of a closely fought race to succeed Boris Johnson as U.K. prime minister.
Penny Mordaunt crashed out of the race Wednesday after receiving the least support in a fifth round of voting among Conservative members of Parliament.
Former Finance Minister Sunak maintained his lead, winning 137 votes, while Foreign Secretary Truss came in second with 113 votes. International Trade Minister Mordaunt slipped to the bottom of the runoff with 105 votes. There were two spoiled ballots.
Truss and Sunak will now go head-to-head to be named leader of the U.K.’s Conservative Party and therefore prime minister.
The results of the final vote, which falls to Conservative Party members, are set to be announced by Sept. 5 at the latest, with Johnson expected to remain in place as caretaker prime minister until then.
What happens next?
Wednesday’s is the latest vote in a close contest to succeed Johnson, who stepped down as Conservative Party leader on July 7 following a string of scandals and mass resignations from within his own Cabinet.
Eight candidates made it through to the first round of voting on July 12, with the number gradually whittled down by Conservative lawmakers over five stages.
In a prior vote Tuesday — the contest’s fourth — Kemi Badenoch, a former minister for local government and then for women and equalities, was eliminated after receiving 59 votes. Sunak received 118 votes, followed by Mordaunt with 92 and Truss with 86.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is vying to become Britain’s next Prime Minister.
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The final say will now fall to Conservative Party members — of which there are an estimated 200,000, or 0.3, of the British population — who will vote for their favorite candidate.
Over the coming weeks, the two contenders will embark on a series of campaign events around the country, where they will be questioned by voters about their policies.
Conservative Party members will then pick the winner in a postal vote, with the successful candidate automatically becoming prime minister.
Too close to call
Sunak, who steered Britain’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic, has until now emerged as the favorite to win Britain’s top job. But little is assured in the fast-moving world of British politics.
In a Tuesday YouGov poll of Conservative Party members, Sunak was seen losing to both Mordaunt and Truss in the final two-way round of votes. At that point, Truss looked set to beat Sunak by 54 to 35, while Mordaunt was on course to defeat him by 51 to 37.
Sunak has been steadfast in his opposition to tax cuts, arguing instead that bringing down escalating inflation is Britain’s top priority. However, he has faced criticism for a number of failings under Johnson’s leadership, including breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules.
Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak leaves the 11 Downing Street, in London, on March 23, 2022.
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Still, Truss has not been without her share of pushback, including proposals to change the Bank of England’s mandate and introducing a series of tax cuts.
A separate YouGov poll Wednesday showed that more than half (52%) of Conservative Party members consider personality the top trait they see when electing a new leader. Just under a third (32%) cite conventional conservative policies, while less than 1 in 5 (19%) reference delivering Brexit.
It comes as the U.K.’s Labour Party is seen beating the Conservative Party in a general election, according to a recent survey.
Britain is due to hold its next general election by January 2025 at the latest, but the incoming prime minister could choose to call a vote before then.