Tory leadership contest

Raab out of the race, Rory in

BY Finn McRedmond   /  18 June 2019

Dominic Raab has been knocked out of the Tory leadership contest in the second round of voting.

Each candidate needed 33 votes to make it to the next round, and Raab failed to meet that threshold receiving just 30 from fellow MPs. Sajid Javid squeaked across the line with exactly 33 votes. Next up was Rory Stewart with 37 votes, then Michael Gove with 41, and Jeremy Hunt with 46 votes. Boris Johnson remains well ahead of the pack with 126 votes.

Rory Stewart performed best in this round, increasing his vote from the first round by 18. That’s the largest increase out of all the candidates, including front runner Boris. His campaign has gathered a lot of media momentum, and Stewart has clearly benefitted from moderates like Matt Hancock and Mark Harper dropping out of the race. He will have received a lot of their votes (which totalled 30 in the first round). It also seems likely that some MPs defected from other contenders to support his bid. It’s worth noting that Stewart will still find it tough to pick up votes tomorrow, however. Brexiteers Raab’s votes won’t be going anywhere near the erstwhile Remainer’s camp.

This round of voting was a disaster for establishment choice Jeremy Hunt, the Foreign Secretary. The results suggest the ongoing theory – that the Boris team was going to lend Hunt 15 votes to boost his chances of making it into the final two – was plain wrong. In the end, Hunt only picked up three votes from last time. His campaign has lost all momentum.

Michael Gove is still in the game. He did okay, having struggled in the last round following a tricky weekend of headlines dominated by his admissions on drug use. Gove increased his votes by only four this time, but he is still attracting a blend of moderate Brexiteers and former Remainers who like his administrative style and rhetorical skill of the policy-minded leaver. Gove was an instrumental figure in the Vote Leave campaign.

It was a close call for Sajid Javid. He struggled with just 23 votes in the first round. But, despite only getting across the line by the skin of his teeth it’s worth noting his votes increased by 10 to total 33 in this round – that’s more of a gain than Raab, Gove and Hunt combined. His campaign got off to a slow start but like Rory, Javid is gathering momentum.

Dominic Raab’s miscalculation early on – to go for the hardest hardline Brexit conceivable – has backfired. Boris has stormed ahead with the mantle of the Brexiteer’s Brexiteer. He won 3 more votes this time around, but expected to pick up a lot more from fellow hard-Brexiteers Esther McVey and Andrea Leadsom. These thirty votes will go mostly to Boris, but there are still a lot of MPs who don’t trust him. Those will go to Javid and Gove.

And as for Boris – he didn’t receive as massive an uptick in support this time as anticipated, but there is no cause for concern for the front runner. In the next round many of Raab’s votes will go to him so he should shoot up again. The next round – on Wednesday evening – will be a contest between the remaining four moderates – Gove, Hunt, Stewart and Javid – for second place.

The five remaining candidates are set to debate their leadership pitches on the BBC tonight. Stewart has proven himself to be at ease with these things, and Javid impressed last time round too. Hunt was robotic and Gove sounded perhaps a little too rehearsed. All eyes will be on how Boris performs – this will be his first proper scrutiny since the contest began. His handlers have been keeping him out of the spotlight, and been uncharacteristically for Boris, risk-averse.

Boris should be nervous about tonight. He has charisma but can he maintain the surprising discipline he’s managed so far? And, as the only remaining hard Brexiteer in the race, he may be wise to expect a bit of a soft-Brexit pile on, with no Raab to absorb some of the shock.

For the votes to change drastically for any of the other four tomorrow, one may have to drop out.

Raab’s votes will go largely to Boris, and may slightly boost Gove or Sajid’s bids. Jeremy Hunt is floundering, and Stewart will need to win over some defectors to stay in the race. After the debate tonight the various campaigns will be in contact trying to work out whether or not to form pacts. Let the horse-trading begin.


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