Boris Johnson took a massive towards Downing Street today as he stormed home in the opening round of the Tory leadership battle.
The former foreign secretary topped the secret ballot with backing from 114 MPs – ahead of Jeremy Hunt in second with 43.
The higher-than-expected score for Mr Johnson – which drew gasps in the Committee Room 14 when it was announced – means he is almost guaranteed to make the final run-off among Tory members.
Bookmakers immediately slashed the odds on Mr Johnson being the next PM from 4/9 to 1/5.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove was third on 37, after his campaign was badly damaged by his cocaine admission over the weekend. Former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab received 26 votes, Sajid Javid 23 and Matt Hancock 20.
Aid Secretary Rory Stewart just squeezed over the threshold of 17 votes needed from the total of 313 to continue to the next round, with 19.
But three hopefuls have been axed from the next stage of the contest after failing to get over the hurdle.
Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Esther McVey were kicked out with 11, 10 and nine votes respectively. The outcome means that the competition is now all-male.
The battle for the keys to No10 will now intensify as the contenders vie for support from those eliminated – with the potential for others to drop out now they have taken the temperature of the parliamentary party,
A spokesman for Mr Johnson said: ‘We are happy with the result but there is still a long way to go in the contest. The challenge now is to hold the number that we have.’
Boris Johnson (pictured leaving his London home today) topped the secret ballot with backing from 114 MPs – ahead of Jeremy Hunt in second with 43
Boris Johnson topped the first round of the Tory leadership race, with backing from 114 MPs
Former Cabinet minister Andrea Leadsom posted a selfie with fellow contenders Rory Stewart and Esther McVey looking in good spirits
Michael Gove (pictured leaving his London home today) has been struggling to recover after admitting to cocaine use in the past
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt joked that he woke up today feeling like it was the ‘morning of my wedding’
Mr Johnson did not attend the announcement himself but supporters including Treasury chief secretary Liz Truss were in the room.
There were gasps and intakes of breath in the room as Mr Johnson’s result came out.
Some supporters started banging the benches before stopping so the next result could be heard.
Mr Stewart and Mr Raab attended in person, and Mr Hunt backer Penny Mordaunt was also present.
Mr Hunt tweeted after the results: ‘Delighted to come second today. We face a crucial choice: who can negotiate some better choices than the bad ones we face.
‘The stakes have rarely been higher for our country. This serious moment calls for a serious leader.’
Mr Raab also put a brave face on the result, in spite of his numbers being lower than some supporters had hoped.
‘I’m proud and honoured to have the support of so many brilliant colleagues today,’ he said.
‘This campaign is just getting started and we’ve got a good base to build on. ‘I’m the change candidate who can be trusted to deliver Brexit by October and has the vision and energy to take Britain forward, and beat Jeremy Corbyn.’
Earlier. Mrs Leadsom, Mr Stewart and Ms McVey were hanging around the committee room where the ballot is taking place trying to drum up backers.
How will the Tory leader battle play out?
The first ballot took place between 10am and noon. The result was announced at 1pm.
Boris Johnson came top on 114 – higher than most observers had expected.
Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Esther McVey were eliminated after failing to get the 17 votes required.
TUESDAY, JUNE 18
The next round of voting will take place.
Contenders will be hoping to consolidate their support and hoover up votes from those who were eliminated today.
There is also the potential for pacts with candidates who no longer believe they can win.
THURSDAY, JUNE 20
Further rounds of voting will take place during June until there are just two candidates left by this point.
They will then go to a run-off ballot of the 160,000 Tory members.
WEEK OF JULY 22
The winner is due to be declared this week.
They will take over from Mrs May as PM shortly afterwards – probably in time to take a session of PMQs before the Commons breaks up for its summer recess.
The survey by the grass-roots ConservativeHome website put him on 54 per cent – with Mr Stewart a surprising but distant second on 12 per cent.
Launching his campaign yesterday, Mr Johnson warned of ‘mortal retribution’ from the public unless the government delivers Brexit – although he was left blustering by questions over whether he used cocaine in the past.
At a hustings last night, he also refused to rule out suspending Parliament to force No Deal by the end of October, merely saying he was ‘not attracted’ to the idea.
But rivals have stepped up their attacks on the former foreign secretary, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid branding him one of the ‘same old school ties’ and urging Conservatives to choose a less divisive candidate.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt joked that he woke up today feeling like it was the ‘morning of my wedding’. ‘Something big is going to change but don’t quite know how it is going to unfold,’ he tweeted.
Leadership hopefuls need at least 17 votes in the secret ballot to go through to the second round, with anyone below the threshold automatically eliminated.
But even if all the candidates meet the target, the one with the lowest number of votes overall will still have to exit the race.
Mr Johnson has 82 public pledges of support – way ahead of Michael Gove who has 32, and Jeremy Hunt on 30. Dominic Raab has 22, and Sajid Javid 18.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock looks to be close to the threshold of 17, while all the other candidates are well below on declared support.
However, dozens of MPs have yet to state their allegiance – and it is a secret ballot so there is no way of knowing whether they follow through on their pledges.
Deep in the heart of the Commons today, Tories started filing into the voting booths.
Mrs May refused to answer questions from reporters about whom she voted for.
‘That’s none of your business,’ she joked as she left the committee room where the ballot is being held.
Jacob Rees-Mogg told reporters he thought Mr Harper could be the first to go.
Mrs May (pictured leaving Downing Street today) refused to answer questions from reporters about who she voted for, saying: ‘None of your business.’
‘Mark Harper doesn’t seem in a very strong position,’ he said.
‘The bottom one goes and anyone under 5 per cent goes. So, it could be more than one who’s knocked out.’
Leadership candidate and former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey said: ‘I’m the outsider, I know that.’
Asked who she would urge her supporters to back if she is eliminated, Ms McVey said: ‘I’m not answering that yet.’
James Cleverly said he voted for Mr Johnson.
The Brexit Minister, who aborted his own tilt at the leadership last week, said the former foreign secretary could ‘reach out beyond our traditional voter base as well as reaching out to our traditional voter base’.
‘I have seen Boris do it twice in what is regarded … as a Labour city (London),’ Mr Cleverly added.
‘He has a good track record of delivering.’
Mr Johnson launched his bid with a warning to MPs that they will ‘reap the whirlwind’ if they try to thwart Brexit – and said it was essential that Britain was out of the EU by the end of October.
But Mr Javid dismissed the former foreign secretary as ‘yesterday’s news’, saying the party needed to show it had changed.
Meanwhile, Labour vowed to keep fighting against No Deal Brexit after the latest cross-party attempt by MPs to take control of Commons business failed.
The cross-party motion, which would have enabled MPs to take control of the business of the House on June 25, was defeated by 309 to 298 – a majority of 11.
Ten Tories – including Ken Clarke, Sir Oliver Letwin, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve – supported the motion, but eight Labour MPs voted against.
However, eight Labour MPs defied Jeremy Corbyn to back the government – and two more abstained.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said it would have acted as a ‘safety valve’ enabling Parliament to pass legislation preventing the next prime minister from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal.
At his own launch last night (pictured), Home Secretary Sajid Javid branded Mr Johnson one of the ‘same old school ties’ and urged Conservatives to choose a less divisive candidate