Rishi Sunak vows to ‘give everything to service our nation’ as he storms ahead in battle to be PM

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RISHI Sunak has edged out Penny Mordaunt to once again bag first place in today’s second Tory leadership ballot – as Suella Braverman became the latest candidate to crash out.

Ex-Chancellor Mr Sunak secured his commanding lead with 101 votes after winning over 13 more Tory MPs since yesterday.

Mr Sunak, who remains the frontrunner in the Tory leadership contest after the second ballot, said he was “incredibly grateful” for the support of Tory MPs.

He tweeted: “I am incredibly grateful for the continued support from my colleagues and the wider public.

“I am prepared to give everything I have in service to our nation.

“Together we can restore trust, rebuild our economy and reunite the country.”

Ms Mordaunt gained 16 votes to put her on 83, with Foreign Secretary Ms Truss running in at third on 64, up 14.

Ms Badenoch’s support increased by 9 to 49, while Mr Tugendhat scraped through on 32 votes after actually losing backers.

Despite an embarrassing reversal of fortunes, the former soldier insisted he was staying in the race to fight another day.

In key developments:

  • Brexit hero Lord Frost launched an extraordinary attack on Ms Mordaunt and backed Ms Truss
  • Tom Tugendhat suggested he would be the best person to protect Ukraine
  • Ms Truss said she did not resign from the Cabinet because she was “loyal”
  • Mr Sunak denied he was too rich to be PM 
  • A poll showed Tory members think taxes are much too high

The field of wannabe PMs was cut down to the final five after a frenzied day of rival camps fighting tooth and claw for every vote.

Ms Braverman flew out of the blocks this morning to urge colleagues to support her after just scraping through the first round yesterday.

The Attorney General refused to abandon her doomed bid and declared herself the one-true defender of Brexit, saying: “We are in this to win it.”

Allies of Liz Truss had wanted Ms Braverman and fellow true-blue rival Ms Badenoch to fall in behind her to “unite the right” of the party.

She was quick out of the blocks this afternoon to hoover up Ms Braverman’s backers.

A Truss campaign spokeswoman said: “As Liz set out in her speech now is the time for MPs to unite behind the candidate who will cut taxes, deliver the real economic change we need, continue to deliver the benefits of Brexit and ensure Putin loses in Ukraine.”

FINAL FIVE

The candidates who made it through will be put through their paces in a series of TV debates ahead of the third ballot on Monday.

The Foreign Secretary is trailing outsider Ms Mordaunt after she charged into second and Mr Sunak bagged first.

Officially launching her campaign today, Ms Truss insisted she was Tory MPs’ best bet to slash taxes and take on the Whitehall blob.

Ms Truss this morning sought to light a fire under her campaign with a launch littered with eye-catching pledges to win round Tory MPs.

She told a room of supporters: “We are at a critical moment for our country. Now is the time to be bold, we cannot have business-as-usual economic management, which has led to low growth for decades.”

Pledging huge tax cuts, the Foreign Secretary said she would hold a Budget on day one and insisted she fought against the National Insurance rise.

LOYAL LIZ

Quizzed on why she had not quit Mr Johnson’s Cabinet along with Mr Sunak and Sajid Javid, she said that she was a “loyalist”.

She said: “I am a loyal person. I am loyal to Boris Johnson. I supported our Prime Minister’s aspirations.”

And Ms Truss refused to bad-mouth closest rival Ms Mordaunt, who she is jostling with for second place and the likely challenger to frontrunner Mr Sunak.

Ms Mordaunt’s bid for the top job was electrified yesterday when a poll of Tory members put her on course to beat everyone in the final run-off.

She is now the bookies favourite to enter Downing St despite not being in the Cabinet and entering the race as an outside bet.

But a powerful campaign to stop her was underway today, with former Brexit guru Lord Frost mounting a fierce attack on the Trade Minister.

He told TalkTV he had “grave reservations” about whether Ms Mordaunt is fit to lead the country.

Lord Frost said: “I would not feel able to serve in a ministerial team under Penny Mordaunt. That’s how strongly I feel about that.

“I felt I had to make that clear today. MPs are voting today and I think they need to know the facts.

“The party has made wrong choices in recent years and I want to make sure we make the right one this time, so I had to make my views clear.”

Allies of Penny Mordaunt said she had “nothing but respect” for Lord Frost despite his scathing attack on her.

THE FINAL 5 – 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

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