An increasingly bitter race to replace Britain’s Prime Minister Johnson is narrowing to four

An increasingly bitter race to replace Britain’s Prime Minister Johnson is narrowing to four

  • Sunak holds on by leading in the third round of elections
  • Tom Tugendhat was eliminated from the race to replace Johnson
  • Concerns that the race could divide the party

LONDON, July 18 (Reuters) – Former British Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak clung to the lead in the battle to become Britain’s next prime minister on Monday when another hopeful was ousted, leaving four candidates in an increasingly bitter race to replace him. Boris Johnson.

Sunak received 115 votes in the third ballot among conservative lawmakers on Monday, ahead of former Secretary of Defense Penny Mordaunt at 82 and Secretary of State Liz Truss at 71.

Since Johnson said he would retire earlier this month after his scandal-ridden administration lost the support of many in his ruling Conservative party, the race to replace him has taken an ugly turn with several candidates turning their fire on front-runner Sunak.

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He has faced criticism of everything from the government record to the wealth of his wife of those struggling to reach a showdown between the last two candidates, with Secretary of State Truss and Mordaunt, currently a junior trade minister, his most likely opponents.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier and Johnson critic who has never had a role in the government, was eliminated from the leadership contest on Monday, after securing the fewest votes with 31.

Former Minister for Gender Equality Kemi Badenoch was number four on the ballot with 58 votes.

The ruling Conservative Party’s 358 lawmakers will reduce the field to the last two this week, eliminating the candidate with the fewest votes each time. The results of the next ballot are due at 1400 GMT on Tuesday.

A new prime minister will then be announced on September 5, after the Conservatives’ 200,000 members cast their ballots during the summer.

POWERFUL DEBATE

The race has been focused on promises, or non-promises, of cutting taxes, at a time when the UK economy is characterized by spiral inflation, high debt and low growth that have given people the tightest grip on the economy for decades.

Truss has also been criticized for saying she wanted to change the Bank of England’s mandate. read more

In a televised debate on Sunday, candidates attacked each other over their posts, and Truss and Sunak withdrew from a planned third debate on Tuesday, amid concerns among conservatives about candidates attacking their party colleagues. read more

“The nature of the Conservative Party is to have a strong debate and then unite when a new leader is elected. I have no doubt that the same thing will happen on this occasion,” former Conservative Prime Minister David Jones told Reuters.

Sunak extended the lead over Mordaunt, who lost support and registered one vote less than she had in round two.

Bookmaker Ladbrokes said on Monday that Truss, who got seven more votes in round three than she had in round two, was now the second favorite, ahead of Mordaunt, but behind Sunak.

Truss’s campaign tried to support their argument for lower taxes by quoting a report from The Center for Economic and Business Research, a think tank in the private sector, which shows that there was more room for maneuver from higher tax revenues.

But a top Bank of England official, Michael Saunders, pushed back on her proposal that the government should set a “clear direction” for monetary policy, saying the basis for Britain’s framework was best left untouched. read more

“The government is very clearly not deciding the direction of monetary policy,” Saunders, one of nine members of the monetary policy committee, said at a Resolution Foundation event in London.

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Reporting by Elizabeth Piper, Kylie MacLellan, Alistair Smout, David Milliken and Andy Bruce, editing by Hugh Lawson, William James and Toby Chopra

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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