Boris and Hunt to fight for Tory leadership as Gove is knocked out of race

Gove has been knocked out of the Tory leadership race, leaving just Boris and Hunt battling it out for the top job.

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove survived the fourth round of votes on Thursday afternoon, however Gove was knocked out in this evening’s fifth.

Johnson topped the list once again after he was backed by 160 Tory MPs – over half of the 313 who voted.

Hunt knocked down Gove from second place with 77 votes – just two more than Gove’s 75.

The two remaining Tory hopefuls will now battle for the keys to No 10.

Earlier today, Tory MPs were urged not to turn the contest to become the next prime minister into a ‘personal psychodrama’ involving clear frontrunner Mr Johnson and Michael Gove, who finished second in the penultimate round of voting.

Supporters of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt – who finished third in the fourth voting round – said Conservative MPs should not allow the final contest to involve bitter rivals Mr Gove and Mr Johnson.

Just two votes separated Mr Gove, on 61, and Mr Hunt, on 59, in the fourth ballot – the first time the Environment Secretary had come second.

Earlier, as Tory MPs voted for the fifth and final time to select the two candidates who will be on the final ballot paper sent to Conservative members, International Trade Secretary Liam Fox argued that Mr Hunt should go through rather than Mr Gove.

He said: ‘I think it’s our job to provide good governance not entertain the media.’

Mr Gove’s decision to stand for the leadership in 2016 torpedoed Mr Johnson’s campaign then, and the wounds have not healed.

A source in Mr Hunt’s campaign said: ‘Boris and Michael are great candidates but we have seen their personal psychodrama before: it’s time to offer the country someone the EU will actually talk to.

‘Jeremy is the candidate who can best unify the party and deliver Brexit.’

But Mr Gove insisted that a run-off between him and Mr Johnson would be a ‘civilised debate of ideas about the future of our country’.

A source in Mr Gove’s campaign said the final round of voting was ‘too close to call’.

Mr Johnson secured 157 votes in the fourth round – more than half the 313 Tory MPs – and his commanding lead has led to speculation some of his supporters could choose to back Mr Hunt to ensure Mr Gove does not make the run-off.

Mr Johnson denied being involved in ‘dark arts’ to block Mr Gove from making the final two.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, a supporter of Mr Johnson, said any ‘dirty tricks’ by supporters of the former foreign secretary to try and knock Mr Gove out of the contest would be ‘silly’.

He said: ‘I think people should always vote for the candidate they support.

‘It is really silly to try and game elections because you can find that your candidate then loses.’

In the fourth round of voting on Thursday morning, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was eliminated with 34 votes, but declined to say who he would go on to support.

Thursday morning’s vote saw two Tory MPs spoil their ballots, an apparent indication that they did not have faith in any of the remaining candidates to lead the country.

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