4 contenders battle in bitter race to replace Boris Johnson

LONDON (AP) — The fractious race to replace Boris Johnson as Britain’s prime minister narrowed on Tuesday, with four candidates battling for two spots in a run-off vote by members of the governing Conservative Party.

After three rounds of voting by party lawmakers, former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak leads the shrinking field and has all but secured his place in the final pair. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt and former Equalities Minister...

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LONDON (AP) — The fractious race to replace Boris Johnson as Britain’s prime minister narrowed on Tuesday, with four candidates battling for two spots in a run-off vote by members of the governing Conservative Party.

After three rounds of voting by party lawmakers, former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak leads the shrinking field and has all but secured his place in the final pair. Foreign Secretary Liz Truss, Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt and former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch are vying for the second place.

All are running to succeed Johnson, who quit as party leader this month after snowballing ethics scandals sparked mass resignations in his government.

Tory lawmakers will vote Tuesday and again on Wednesday, with the last-place challenger eliminated each time. The two finalists will go to a runoff vote by all 180,000 members of the Conservative Party, with a winner announced Sept. 5.

The remaining candidates are courting supporters of Tom Tugendhat, an influential lawmaker who was eliminated from the contest on Monday.

Mordaunt came second on Monday, with 83 votes to Sunak’s 115. Truss got 71 and Badenoch 58 — but any of the three could still make the cut if they can win over supporters of axed contenders.

Both Mordaunt and Badenoch tweeted praise for Tugendhat after Monday’s vote. Truss promised to increase military spending from 2% to 3% of gross domestic product — a key issue for Tugendhat, a former soldier who chairs the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

The bitter campaign has exposed deep divisions in the Conservative Party at the end of Johnson’s scandal-tarnished reign. Opponents have rounded on Sunak for raising taxes in response to the economic damage wrought by the coronavirus pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Sunak has hit back that his rivals are peddling economic “fairy tales.”

In a contest where every vote counts, the electorate of 358 Conservative legislators was reduced Tuesday to 357. Tobias Ellwood, a Johnson critic who supports Mordaunt, was suspended from the party group in Parliament for failing to vote in a confidence motion on Monday.

The government easily won the vote thanks to the big Conservative majority, but Ellwood was punished for not cutting short a trip to Moldova to return for it.

Ellwood, who heads Parliament’s Defense Committee, said he had been unable to return “due to unprecedented disruption both here and in the U.K.,” where a heat wave is adding to summer travel chaos.

“I am very sorry to lose the whip but will now continue my meetings in Ukraine promoting the prime minister’s efforts here and specifically seeking to secure the reopening of Odesa port — so vital grain exports can recommence,” Ellwood said.

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