By Alan McGuinness, political reporter
Boris Johnson is by some distance the preferred option among Conservative MPs to become the party’s next leader and Britain’s new prime minister, a Sky News analysis has found.The former foreign secretary so far has the support of 74 MPs, well ahead of his nearest challenger Jeremy Hunt, who is on 32.
Michael Gove is third with 30 MPs supporting him, followed by Dominic Raab (22), Sajid Javid (19), Matt Hancock (16), Mark Harper (eight), Rory Stewart (seven), Esther McVey (six) and Andrea Leadsom (five).
Candidates needed to gain the support of at least eight MPs to stand, so contenders down the bottom of the list will have secured the backing of MPs who have yet to declare their voting intention.Through a combination of phone calls, interviews and collating public statements of support, Sky News has been able to find out the intentions of 218 of the party’s 313 MPs.
The figures will further enhance Mr Johnson’s status as the front-runner, with many in Westminster seeing the contest as his to lose.
He will formally launch his campaign later, during which he will declare that a third delay to Brexit would be catastrophic for the Tories.
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“Kick the can and we kick the bucket,” Mr Johnson will say.Mr Javid will also launch his bid for the top job, declaring: “I believe now more than ever that this is a moment for a new kind of leadership and a new kind of leader.”The Sky News analysis suggests that the battle to join Mr Johnson in the final two is between Mr Gove, the environment secretary, and foreign secretary Mr Hunt.
And it suggests that the likes of Mrs Leadsom, Ms McVey, Mr Stewart and Mr Harper could quickly fall by the wayside as the crowded field is whittled down.The Tory leadership contest officially began on Monday, with 10 candidates vying to replace Theresa May.On Thursday, the first ballot among MPs will take place.
Candidates will be required to win 5% of votes (a total of 17 MPs) to move on from the first round.If candidates do not meet the threshold, they will be eliminated.
Further rounds of voting will take place to whittle down the candidates to a final pair, with the 124,000 party members then asked to pick their preferred leader.The final result is expected to be announced in the week beginning 22 July, with Mrs May then handing over power to the winner.
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