Boris Johnson secured a comfortable lead in the Conservative leadership race’s first round of voting, as three candidates — Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper — were forced to withdraw.
The former foreign secretary, who is pledging to renegotiate Theresa May’s Brexit deal and to leave the EU with no deal on October 31 if unsuccessful, took 114 votes in the secret ballot of 313 Conservative MPs, well ahead of his nearest rivals Jeremy Hunt with 43 and Michael Gove with 37.
The last-placed candidate and those who received less than 17 votes in this round are automatically eliminated. Leadsom, McVey and Harper failed to reach the threshold, with 11, 9 and 10 votes respectively. The remaining candidates will now be seeking fresh endorsements from them and their supporters.
The next round of voting will be held on Tuesday next week, at which stage candidates with fewer than 33 votes will be eliminated. Further rounds of voting will be held with the last-placed candidate eliminated, until only two remain to face a ballot of approximately 160,000 Conservative Party members, with the winner announced in the week commencing July 22.
The results were: Boris Johnson with 114 votes; Jeremy Hunt 43; Michael Gove 37; Dominic Raab 27; Sajid Javid 23; Matt Hancock 20; Rory Stewart 19.
Johnson tweeted: “I am delighted to win the first ballot, but we have a long way to go.”
Stewart, the international development secretary, who had been expected by many to drop out at this stage, said: “We can win this. Realism, action, unity, trust.”
McVey said she would speak to the remaining candidates and “see who is best placed to deliver” on her agenda of “a clean break from the EU.”