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Rishi Sunak & Penny Mordaunt storm Tory PM leadership battle

THE race to be Britain’s next PM stepped up a gear tonight as the field was dramatically cut down in the first round of voting.

In the opening ballot of the leadership contest Rishi Sunak stormed ahead in first place after hoovering 88 votes.

Eight candidates were listed on today's ballot but only six made it to tomorrow's round

Eight candidates were listed on today’s ballot but only six made it to tomorrow’s roundKrediet: PA
Eight leadership hopefuls were on the ballot but not all made it through

Eight leadership hopefuls were on the ballot but not all made it throughKrediet: PA

Dark horse candidate Penny Mordant came in second with 67.

Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Liz Truss and Tom Tugendhat also successfully made it on to tomorrow’s third stage of the leadership contest after securing the backing of at least 30 LP’s.

But Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi failed to make the cut and crashed out after only receiving 18 en 25 votes respectively.

Candidates had to get at least 30 supporters to make it through to tomorrow’s round of voting.

In more key developments:

  • Ms Mordaunt launched her campaign with a pledge to slim down Whitehall
  • She later topped a poll of who ordinary Tory members want to be PM
  • Mr Tugendhat took a swipe at rivals scrimping on defence spending pledges
  • Boris Johnson said he’d be leaving office with hishead held high

From tomorrow daily ballots will take place, with the candidates receiving the least number of votes knocked out.

The final two contenders will be revealed by next Wednesday at the latest.

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Tax has become the central battleground in the contest, with most candidates pledging to let Brits keep more of their cash.

Former Chancellor Mr Sunak has peeled off from the pack by only promising tax cuts once inflation is reined in.

His stall as the candidate for economic responsibility sets him apart from rivals offering up huge tax cuts.

TORY LEADERSHIP RACETIMETABLE

WEDNESDAY July 13

– 1.30-3.30pm: Tory MPs vote in person or by proxy in Parliament for their preferred candidate to be the next party leader.

Around 5pm: The results of the first round are announced by 1922 chair Sir Graham Brady. The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, as is anyone with fewer than 30 votes.

Straight after: The remaining candidates field questions from Tory MPs at the 1922 hustings.

THURSDAY July 14

Tory MPs vote in the second ballot and the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated.

FRIDAY July 15

The remaining candidates go head to head in the first TV debate live on Channel 4 om 19:00.

SUNDAY July 17

They will then do battle again with a debate on ITV at 7pm.

MONDAY July 18

The remaining candidates are put before Tory MPs at the third ballot. By this stage there could just be three candidates left, meaning the final two will emerge. Sky News will host the third TV debate at 7pm

TUESDAY July 19 – FRIDAY July 22

Knockout ballots will happen daily until just two candidates are left standing.

FRIDAY July 22

The final two candidates tour the country trying to win the votes of 100,000 or so ordinary party members who will decide the next PM.

MONDAY September 5

The results of the vote is announced and Britain’s next PM is revealed

Ms Truss has vowed to cut taxes on day one if elected PM, while Mr

Zahawi wants income tax down to 18p by 2024.

Grassroots darling Ms Mordaunt is promising eye-catching cuts to VAT on petrol and diesel to bring down crippling fuel costs.

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Rising star Kemi Badenoch is steering clear of entering the taxbidding warbut has made clear she wants the burden on Brits eased.

Instead she is serving up a platter of red meat policies that are going down a storm with many Tory MPs.

She opposes the Net Zero 2050 target and the Online Safety Bill that risks handing powers to tech giants like Nick Clegg.

Brexit and defence spending have also emerged as key wedge issues separating the field.

Former soldier Mr Tugenhadt has vowed to hike cash for armed forces on day one if he wins the keys to No10.

He has taken a swipe at rivalswidely viewed as a dig as Mr Sunakfor scrimping on national security.