The United Kingdom’s former finance minister Rishi Sunak has held onto his lead in the race to replace Boris Johnson, as another hopeful was knocked out, leaving four candidates in the increasingly bitter contest.
Sunak got 115 votes in the third ballot of Conservative legislators on Monday, ahead of former defence minister Penny Mordaunt with 82 and Foreign Secretary Liz Truss with 71.
Since Johnson said he would resign earlier this month – after his scandal-ridden administration lost the support of many in his ruling Conservative Party – the leadership race has taken an ugly turn with several contenders turning their fire on Sunak, the frontrunner.
He has faced criticism on everything from his record in government to his wife’s wealth by those vying to make it to a runoff between the final two candidates, with Truss and Mordaunt his most likely opponents.
Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Tom Tugendhat, a former soldier and Johnson critic who has never had a role in government, was eliminated from the leadership contest on Monday, after securing the fewest votes with 31.
Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch came fourth in the vote, with 58 votes.
Attorney General and right-winger Suella Braverman, who was knocked out of the contest last week, had thrown her weight behind Truss.
That endorsement, however, was not enough to push the foreign secretary into second place.
The ballot came after another fraught day of campaigning, despite concerns being expressed publicly about the growing divisions within the party over the contest.