Boris Johnson has stormed ahead in the leadership contest after the first round of voting. He received 114 votes from fellow Tory MPs, which is enough to secure his place on the final ballot so long as no backers jump ship. As of this first round of voting, the contest looks sewn up. Boris is the most popular with the party members – who get the final say – by quite some distance.
Jeremy Hunt came in second place with 43 votes, well under half of Johnson’s total. Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey all failed to meet the threshold of 17 votes to stay in the race.
Michael Gove surprised on the up. Following a tricky weekend of headlines dominated by his past drug use, Gove’s campaign looked to be struggling. Instead he came in with just 6 votes behind Hunt at 37. Gove is perhaps best placed to challenge Johnson with the membership. If he can convey this to the party we might see an uptick in support for his bid in the second round, perhaps creating a minor headache for the Johnson camp.
Behind Gove was Dominic Raab – who ran with an extreme pitch to prorogue parliament to force through a no-deal Brexit. His tactic has cinched him 27 MPs in the first round – not the backing many would have expected when he kicked off his campaign, but Raab has struggled to maintain momentum, and lost out on some crucial ERG support to Johnson. However, with fellow hard-Brexiteers Leadsom and McVey out of the race (whose votes taken together total 20) Raab will probably enjoy a boost in the second round that could see him overtake Gove. Leadsom and McVey’s backers will jump ship largely towards Raab and Boris.
Sajid Javid came in with 23 votes, Matt Hancock with 20, and Rory Stewart with 19. Javid’s campaign picked up momentum yesterday but it was too little too late, and Rory Stewart was lucky to make it over the 17-vote threshold.
Mark Harper dropped out of the race with 10 votes. Unlike in the case of Leadsom and McVey – whose votes we can expect to be distributed between Raab and Boris, Harper’s 10 votes will dissipate across Hunt, Gove, Javid, Hancock and Stewart – giving none of them the much-needed boost. In the second round then we can expect Dominic Raab to move up the rankings.
When it comes to Boris’s successes today, he can thank Raab in part. With Raab’s hardline Brexit approach, moderate MPs initially concerned with a Boris premiership quickly turned their attention to blocking Raab’s route to No 10. Boris still managed to win over the ERG big wigs, and corralled support from the moderate wings of the party too. Opposing wings of the party may be enjoying an armistice now to secure Boris’s premiership, but that won’t last forever. And Boris may find himself in much the same Brexit bind as Theresa May.