London: UK’s former Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak on Wednesday emerged the top contender in the race to replace Prime Minister Boris Johnson, picking up nearly a quarter of votes in the first round of the leadership contest.
Indian-origin Sunak has won 88 of the possible 358 votes in the opening ballot of Conservative MPs.
Sunak told the BBC that he feels “great” about the result.
Team Sunak said: “He’s landed a quarter of the party’s votes with eight candidates in the field.”
Minister of State for Trade Policy, Penny Mordaunt, came second with 67 votes, followed by Foreign Secretary Liz Truss with 50 votes.
Mordaunt was modest, saying “I’m honoured” in response to her strong second place.
Of the rest, Equalities and Levelling Up Minister Kemi Badenoch secured 40 votes, backbench MP Tom Tugendhat 37, while Attorney General Suella Braverman, who is also of Indian-origin, just made the cut with 32 votes.
Former Minister Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahaqwi, who succeeded Sunak as Chancellor of the Exchequer, got less than 30 votes — the threshold to advance further — and are now out of the race.
Zahawi said he does not “intend to make any further intervention” in the leadership contest, following his failure to make the second round.
In a letter posted on Twitter, he wrote that he will continue to work leading the Treasury with “total focus” and thanked the supporters of his campaign.
It remains to be seen whom Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi’s backers will support now.