Rishi Sunak tops first round of voting in UK leadership contest

Former British finance minister secures 88 votes, ahead of junior trade minister Penny Mordaunt on 67 and foreign Secretary Liz Truss on 50

By Prasun Sonwalkar

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Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Photo: AFP
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak. Photo: AFP

Published: Wed 13 Jul 2022, 8:34 PM

Former British finance minister Rishi Sunak on Wednesday won the most number of votes in the first round of election for the next leader of the Conservative party, who will take over from Prime Minister Boris Johnson in September, polling 88 votes, with Penny Mordaunt finishing second with 67 votes.

Two of the eight candidates who polled the least votes – Jeremy Hunt (18) and Nadhim Zahawi (25) – were eliminated from the contest. A second round will be held on Thursday, when those gaining the least votes will be eliminated; the process continuing until two candidates remain.

The common expectation is that frontrunner Sunak will be one of the last two candidates.

There was much energy in the campaign launched by Penny Mordaunt on Wednesday. Opinion polls within the Conservative party suggested that if Mordaunt and Sunak are the last two candidates, Mordaunt will have the advantage.

Until the last two candidates are decided, party MPs have the vote. When the last two candidates are decided, the winner will be decided by over 160,000 party members through postal votes. During that period, the two candidates will appear at hustings across the country and hold debates on live television.

Photo: AFP
Photo: AFP

Foreign secretary Liz Truss polled 50 votes, while Kemi Badenoch got 40, Tom Tugendhat 37 and Suella Braverman 32 votes. The minimum threshold for the first round was 30. The Conservative party has 358 MPs in the House of Commons.


Mordaunt, who claimed to be the candidate the opposition Labour feared the most, said she was confident of leading the party to another victory at the next election. Her experience in the Royal Navy and ministerial roles in government are expected to go in her favour.

Sunak, whose slick campaign has won him new supporters, remains the bookmakers’ favourite, but Team Rishi insisted they are not taking anything for granted. Sunak will have his task cut out, given that he is less popular among the party rank and file than Mordaunt or Truss.

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