KEMI Badenoch's stunning insurgency bid for PM ended today as she became the latest candidate to crash out of the Tory leadership race.

Her elimination sets up a nail-biting showdown between Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt for second place in the final ballot tomorrow.


Rishi Sunak continued to storm the race after winning 118 Tory MPs – just two shy of being guaranteed a place in the final two.

The battle to challenge him in the vote of party members will be a photo finish as Ms Truss and Ms Mordaunt are now just six votes apart.

Ms Mordaunt clung on to second place after winning 10 more votes to put her on 92.

But Ms Truss is hot on her heels after surging 15 votes to put her just behind on 86.

Both will now mount a desperate charm offensive to gobble up Ms Badenoch's supporters that could tip the balance of the race.

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The former equalities minister could not improve on her 59 backers yesterday and so was knocked out.

The wildcard Tory was handed an eleventh-hour boost as a bombshell members poll put her on top of all her wannabe PM rivals.

She has built a loyal fanbase after railing against woke policies and championing true blue issues.

Her soaring popularity puts her in prime position to bag her first Cabinet job.

Now Ms Badenoch looks set to be King or Queen maker as her endorsement could determine who becomes runner up.

In key developments:

  • Mordaunt supporter Tobias Ellwood was banned from voting after having the whip withdrawn
  • A focus group declared Mr Sunak too rich to be the next PM
  • Ms Mordaunt was embroiled in a fresh ministerial trade row
  • Boris Johnson hosted his last ever Cabinet before handing over

Ms Mordaunt hurtled out of the blocks this afternoon to lure Ms Badenoch's supporters with a gushing tribute.

She said: "I want to pay tribute to my friend Kemi Badenoch who electrified the leadership contest with her fresh thinking and bold policies.

"She and I both know that the old way of government isn’t working as it should."

Ms Truss particularly will be hell bent on hoovering up Ms Badenoch's MPs to leapfrog Ms Mordaunt into the final two.

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This morning she continued her lovebombing of Tory colleagues by vowing to hike defence spending to 3 per cent of GDP.

It sets her apart from Mr Sunak who has vowed to stick with the 2.5 per cent cash.

The pair clashed in the last debate on Sunday when the former Chancellor accused the Foreign Secretary of pushing "socialist" policies.

Ms Truss today snapped back at her frontrunner rival and banged the drum for dramatically scaling back the size of the state.

The jockeying will continue tonight as the final three candidates make their pitches to the northern caucus of Tory MPs.

Mr Sunak today also said he was the best bet to win an outright majority at the next election and send Sir Keir Starmer packing.

He burnished his Unionist credentials by vowing to pay more attention to the devolved powers.

The former Chancellor said: "This Leadership contest is about more than just being the Leader of our Party, it’s about becoming the custodian of our United Kingdom.

"We can’t rule out a deal between the Labour Party and the Scottish Nationalists at the next General Election so it’s important that we confront this threat early."

THE FINAL 3 – WHO ARE THEY AND WHAT ARE THEY PROMISING?

RISHI SUNAK 

Key pitch: No tax cuts until inflation under control

The former Chancellor has laid out his stall as the candidate for economic responsibility while rivals go gung-ho on tax cuts.

He has promised to cut taxes only when inflation has been brought under control, warning to do so now would just hike prices higher.

Key policies:

  • Cut taxes when inflation is down and public finances are repaired
  • Plough on with the planned rise to 25 per cent corporation tax
  • Keep the Rwanda immigration policy to cut small boats crossings
  • Keep defence spending at current levels with no increase
  • Publish a manifesto to protect women's rights
  • Open the door to scrapping the BBC Licence Fee in the future

LIZ TRUSS

Key pitch: Tax cuts on day one as PM

Liz Truss is also pledging to cut taxes on her first day in office if she wins the contest.

The Foreign Secretary – who is yet to formally launch her campaign – has also vowed to publicly recognise China's persecution of Uighurs as a genocide.

Key policies:

  • Reverse NICs hike and cut taxes from day one
  • Reform the Euro court and leave altogether if not possible
  • Publicly recognise the genocide in China
  • Reduce the size of the state in comparison to the private sector

PENNY MORDAUNT

Key pitch: Halve VAT on fuel immediately

The Trade Minister says she is the candidate that Labour would fear most in a general election.

She has promised to slash taxes and help families by solving the childcare crisis.

Key Policies:

  • Immediate 50% cut to fuel duty
  • Establish a taskforce to address the “paralysis” in the NHS
  • Appoint a cabinet minister with responsibility for family policies
  • Repeal 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars

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