Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are the final two candidates in the Conservative Leadership Race.
Sajid Javid was eliminated in Round Four on Thursday morning, and Michael Gove was eliminated in Round Five on Thursday afternoon.
The results from Round 5 were as follows;
- Michael Gove MP: 75
- Jeremy Hunt MP: 77
- Boris Johnson MP: 160
The two high-profile MPs will go against each other to become the leader of the Conservative party after rumours of tactical voting led to the end of the road for Michael Gove.
Boris Johnson’s frontmen have been accused of skulduggery – something they deny – which could have been responsible for ending Gove’s chance at the top spot.
At least one Johnson-backing MP has suggested some members may have swapped votes to ensure the environment secretary was knocked out.
It comes after the fourth round of voting on Thursday where Gove was slightly ahead of Jeremy Hunt, which saw the end of Sajid Javid’s bid for number 10.
But when the ballots of the fifth and final round were revealed later that day at 6 pm, Hunt had overthrown Gove by two ballots making it 77 votes to 75.
And eyebrows were raised when Johnson’s vote increased by just three ballots – from 157 to 160 – as at least five Javid supporters had before publicly announced their backing for Johnson after his exit.
MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland and Johnson-backer, Simon Clarke, told the BBC that some MPs may have “freelanced” outside the official race campaigns.
He said: “I think some people might have taken it upon themselves to try and steer the outcome.”
But first to dismiss accusations of trickery voting was Gove’s campaign manager, Mel Stride, who said there did not seem to be any wrongful behaviour on “first observation”.
She told the BBC: “Because we didn’t see a situation where, as some had speculated, a very large number of votes might have transferred from, say, Boris Johnson to Jeremy Hunt.
“It would appear to me everybody has behaved pretty much as one would hope they would.”
And speaking from the Hunt camp, Sir Alan Duncan told Channel 4 News there was “one team using proxies” designed for their own candidate to boost a different contender.
He added: “Well you know, this happens in all leadership contests.”
As it stands Boris Johnson is the clear favourite for the job after topping the chart in all of the votes so far, promising he will take the UK out of the EU before October 31 – deal or no-deal.
The ex-foreign secretary and former London mayor will be pleased he is up against Hunt rather than Gove as he is seen to be a weaker contender and easier to beat.
And as Hunt – often dubbed “Theresa in trousers” – voted to remain in the EU referendum, his chances may well be less of that than Johnson’s who has been an avid Brexiteer from the start.
The former NHS boss and current foreign secretary announced in his campaign he would like to leave with a deal and would grant an extension to October 31 if he was “close” to an agreement.
But this is not an option for Johnson who said the only way to stop the Tory party from “permanent haemorrhage” was to come out of the EU which “means doing it properly”.
Now, both contenders will take part in hustings across the country in front of Tory party members before the results of a final postal vote are revealed in the week of July 22.
A live ITV debate on July 9 will see Johnson and Hunt battle one-on-one in their bid for leadership and the keys to number 10.