TORIES are braced for a brutal summer battle for No10 between arch-rivals Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.
Outgoing PM Boris Johnson declared that either Mr Sunak or Ms Truss would “wipe the floor” with Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
It is now up to the 160,000 Conservative Party members to choose who it will be over the next seven weeks.
Delighted former Chancellor Mr Sunak retained the pole position he has maintained throughout when he cruised into the final two with 137 votes.
Foreign Secretary Ms Liz Truss, now bookies’ favourite to be the UK’s 56th PM, secured 27 more votes to give her 113.
MPs rallied to her cause after the other Right-wing candidates fell away.
A fresh YouGov poll of Tories showed 54 per cent would choose her against 35 per cent favouring Mr Sunak.
Ms Mordaunt, meanwhile, ended with 105 votes after garnering another 13.
The final two will spend the next six weeks pressing the flesh at a hustings acros the UK, starting on Ms Truss’s home turf of Leeds.
Many fear the summer showdown could further tear the party apart, gifting Labour the next election.
The leading candidates have torn chunks out each other in two live TV clashes but last night both sides vowed to try keep it clean.
But MPs are braced for mud-slinging, personal and blue-on-blue attacks.
The pair will go head-to-head again in a BBC telly debate on Monday in another popcorn moment for viewers at home.
MPs think Mr Sunak will benefit from a long campaign, hoping that the Foreign Secretary will trip up during the intense six-week dust-up.
But they are worried that early ballots – which will go out in early August – might favour Ms Truss.
Insiders reckon that the Foreign Secretary could make a fatal mistake that will see her face a drubbing with the members.
‘Human hand grenade’
And some colleagues say she isn’t competent enough for life in pressure cooker of the top job.
Meanwhile, Team Rishi are braced for an onslaught of attacks on his wealthy background from comp-educated Ms Truss, and why he rubber stamped eye-watering tax rises during the cost of living crisis.
Yesterday the Chancellor was pictured in a suit by Bloomsbury tailor Henry Herbert, which is estimated to cost at least £3,500, He has also raised eyebrows with his choice of expensive Prada shoes and designer trainers.
They also worry if sceptical members will ever be able to trust the man who knifed Boris in the front and sparked the whole messy leadership campaign.
Mr Sunak said he was “humbled” to have made it to the final two – and promised to work night and day to snatch the keys to No10 so he can deliver his vision for Britain.
He was straight out of the blocks to claim he was “the best person to defeat Keir Starmer and the Labour Party at the next election”, insisting: “that’s the question that matters to Conservatives”.
Ms Liz Truss insisted she was “ready to hit the ground running from day one” – bigging up her tax-cutting, libertarian agenda.
Anti-woke rising star Ms Badenoch did not publicly endorse anyone, although her backers were more aligned with low-tax pioneer Ms Truss.
The PM’s former rogue aide, Dominic Cummings took an early pop at Ms Truss, tweeting a string of clown emojis and calling her a “useless remainer”.
And he accused the PM of backing the “human hand grenade” because he “knows she’s mad and thinks she’ll blow and can make a comeback”.
He swiped: “Why did I give her this nickname? Cos she blows up all she touches.”
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