UK: Johnson in pole position after first round of leadership vote

Boris Johnson is in the driving seat in the race for the leadership of Britain’s Conservative Party after three candidates crashed out in the first round of voting to replace outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May.

The former foreign secretary was the clear favourite among the party’s 313 MPs, storming ahead with 114 votes, 71 ahead of his nearest rival, Jeremy Hunt.

Leadership hopefuls needed at least 17 votes in Thursday’s secret ballot to go through to the second round, with anyone below that threshold automatically eliminated.

Esther McVey, a former television presenter who came under fire on Wednesday for ill-informed comments about foreign aid, scored the lowest in the first round of ballots, securing the support of just nine MPs.

Mark Harper, the former immigration minister who resigned after finding out his cleaner was not legally allowed to work in the UK, followed McVey out of the race, garnering just 10 votes.

Andrea Leadsom, who came second to May in the 2016 leadership election, also saw her candidacy come to an end after winning 11 votes.

Who continues in the race

Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt came second in the race, and is, at this stage, Johnson’s main rival for the top job. He won 43 votes.

Michael Gove, whose leadership ambitions were nearly scuppered at the weekend following allegations of hypocrisy over cocaine use revelations, came in third with 37 votes.

Arch “no-deal” Brexiteer Dominic Raab secured 23 votes.

Sajid Javid, who as home secretary has enforced immigration rules that would not have let his father enter the country, got the support of 23 MPs.

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has been criticised for putting around 20 NHS contracts out to tender after promising “no privatisation on my watch”, got 20 votes.

And Rory Stewart, the multi-lingual former Iraq coalition official who launched his campaign in a circus tent, is still in the race, having squeezed over the threshold with 19 votes.

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