TORIES are braced for a brutal summer battle for No10 between arch-rivals Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss.
Britain will get its first British-Asian PM or its third Tory female leader after Penny Mordaunt was booted out of the leadership race by just eight votes.
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 Truss, now bookies’ favourite to be the UK’s 56th PM, secured 27 more votes to give her 113.
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MPs rallied to her cause after the other Right-wing candidates fell away.
A fresh YouGov poll of Tory members 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.
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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.
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 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.”
Ms Mordaunt crashed out of the contest after clinging onto second place for the entirety of the contest.
Earlier in the day she had imploded her own campaign with a string of gaffes as she desperately scrambled to win last-gasp support.
After frenziedly ringing round wavering MPs at the crack of dawn, she sparked a huge dust-up for suggesting Mr Sunak or Ms Truss would ‘murder’ the Tory party.
She had posted a link to a newspaper comment article which read: “Tory MPs – vote for Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss today and you’ll murder the party you love”.
The bungling Trade Minister was forced to delete the incendiary tweet that flew in the face of her claims to be running a “clean campaign”.
Appalled MPs noted her remarks came just 24 hours before Commons tribute to slain Tory MP Sir David Amess.
Tory MP and Sunak supporter Richard Holden fumed: “Language like this shows a complete lack of judgment. Let’s leave the hateful nonsense to the lefties please.”
Ms Mordaunt also faced ridicule for touting a nationwide competition to choose a new British theme song to “get people excited”.
Ministers from the Cabinet down cringed at the thought of the former Splash contestant on TV promoting her bizarre contest.
Last night her bitter backers insisted Mr Sunak had lent votes to Ms Truss because he’d rather face her in the final run-off.
Ex-minister David Davis sniped: “He wants to fight Liz, because she’s the person who will lose the debate with him.”
And another Mordaunt backer warned: “We have lit a flame, she is not going away.”
Ripping up their vows not to get dirty, one Team Penny insider said: “Who is going to be – the billionaire, or the nutter?
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“Tory MPs are incredibly out of touch with the grassroots – it’s a stitch-up.”
The winner will be crowned on September 5 and enter No10 on September 6.
TRANS ROW LEAK QUIZ
PENNY Mordaunt’s trans record was last night at the heart of a Whitehall leak probe.
Civil servant chief Simon Case was on the hunt after details of Ms Mordaunt’s past support for gender reassignment were leaked to the media.
She was rocked by claims she had been dishonest over her previous support for ditching medical-approval for sex changes.
Her pal David Davis wrote to Mr Case to raise his concerns.