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ANALYSIS: Rishi Sunak still ahead as UK Conservatives enter final round

Sunak has been considered the frontrunner to become the next British PM throughout the campaign.

As the UK Conservative Party goes into the final round of voting to pick their top two candidates for party leader, Rishi Sunak has continued his strong performance at the front of the pack.

Sunak will be joined by Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss on the ballot paper. All three are hoping to succeed Boris Johnson as party leader, and therefore also Prime Minister, following his resignation in early July.

Two hopefuls, war veteran and backbencher Tom Tugendhat and former Minister of State for Equalities and for Local Government, Faith and Communities Kemi Badenoch, who resigned in protest of Johnson like Sunak, were eliminated in rounds of voting held on 18 and 19 July, respectively.

The top three are all political veterans, with impressive credentials.

Rishi Sunak, the frontrunner throughout the entire campaign, served as the Chancellor of Exchequer, the third-highest elected office in the UK, until he resigned in protest of Boris Johnson.

Consisting ranking behind Sunak in second place, Penny Mordaunt is the current Minister of State for Trade Policy, having previously been the Secretary of State for Defence.

In third place, Liz Truss currently holds two Cabinet portfolios, the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs and Minister for Women and Equalities.

Both Mordaunt and Truss have served as Minister for Women and Equalities, while Sunak and Truss have both been Chief Secretary of the Treasury.

Although Sunak has served in the highest office of the three candidates, Mordaunt and Truss have been in government for longer, both getting their start as Parliamentary under-secretaries under Prime Minister David Cameron, with Truss starting in 2012 and Mordaunt in 2014.

Although Sunak has an impressive lead, with the votes of 118 other Conservative MPs in the fourth round, compared to 92 for Mordaunt and 86 for Truss, this does not tell the whole story.

Despite performing poorly in the first leadership live TV debate on Friday, Truss’ performance was much better during the second debate on Sunday, and currently has on ahead of Sunak by 10.4%, with a total of 52.4%, while Mordaunt trails at 13.3%.

Furthermore, Suella Braverman, who placed sixth, has endorsed Truss. Truss’ vote tally increased from 71 to 86 in the fourth round, picking up almost half of Tugendhat's 31 supporters, after he was eliminated.

Sunak is the only candidate to reach triple digits. With 118 votes, his score has increased by 30 since the first round. In contrast, Mordaunt, with 92, has only gained 25 backers. However, Truss, who has fourth place before the first round, currently sits at 86 votes, only 6 behind Mordaunt, and up from 50 in the first round.

Nonetheless, it should be remembered that Sunak has the support of Jeremy Hunt, who placed second in the 2019 race that Johnson won, and Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab.

In the second TV debate, Sunak pointed out that Truss was previously a member of the Liberal Democrats, which previously formed a coalition government with Cameron’s Conservative Party, and that Liz Truss had opposed Brexit. Brexit is a divisive issue in the Conservative Party, with Theresa May’s reluctant support of Brexit being a factor of her downfall as Prime Minister and party leader, with Brexit leader Johnson replacing her after defeating Hunt, who had initially opposed Brexit.

Truss, like Hunt, did not support Brexit at the time of the 2016 referendum, although she did support Johnson in the 2019 leadership race, and she has been endorsed by Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is the Minister for Brexit Opportunities. Both Sunak and Mordaunt supported Brexit from the start.

Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee, is expected to announce the results of the final vote, and the top two candidates, at 4pm UK time, or 1am AEST.

Paying party members will then have the opportunity to pick between these two candidates, with a final result expected on 5 September.

You can read the latest on the Conservative leadership race here. Stuart Jeffery is a freelance researcher & digital editor for 6 News. His views on personal social media pages are his & his only, and do not reflect the views of 6 News or our journalists. He abides by 6 News' editorial standards relating to fairness & accuracy. Sign up to our new free newsletter to catch up on all our original reporting you may have missed & to read the latest from the editor - click here. Help support unbiased journalism & keep us independent: donate just $4 a month on Patreon & receive exclusive benefits. Want to inform others? Share the link to this story on social media & with your family & friends using the buttons below.


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