Boris Johnson to face Jeremy Hunt in the battle to become Britain's next prime minister

  • Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson will go head-to-head in the battle to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.
  • Environment secretary Michael Gove was eliminated in the fifth round of voting.
  • Johnson and Hunt, the foreign secretary, will now participate in a month-long series of hustings around the country.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

LONDON – Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt will go head-to-head with Boris Johnson in the battle to become prime minister after Michael Gove was knocked out of the contest in the final round of voting.

Hunt beat Gove into second place by just two votes amid claims that Johnson’s campaign had deliberately lent supporters to Hunt in order to avoid a run-off with his former colleague on the Vote Leave campaign.

Hunt accepted that he has a long way to go to beat the former Foreign Secretary in his bid to be Conservative party leader and deliver Brexit.

“I’m the underdog – but in politics surprises happen as they did today,” he tweeted.

“I do not doubt the responsibility on my shoulders – to show my party how we deliver Brexit and not an election, but also a turbo-charged economy and a country that walks tall in the world.”

Hunt and Johnson will now participate in a month-long series of hustings around the country with audiences comprised of the 160,000-strong Conservative party membership, who will vote for their preferred candidate by postal ballot.

The result is expected on July 22, and Johnson is the clear favourite to replace Theresa May in Downing Street, with the most support from colleagues and polling indicating that he is the most popular candidate among Conservative members.

How Conservative MPs voted:

  • Boris Johnson: 160
  • Jeremy Hunt: 77
  • Michael Gove: 75

Sajid Javid, the home secretary, was knocked out in the fourth round of voting on Thursday morning.

Johnson gained just three votes after Javid’s elimination, triggering suspicions that Johnson’s supporters voted tactically to prevent Gove making the final two.

Johnson, the MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip who resigned as foreign secretary in 2018, faces a stiff challenge from Hunt, who is a polished media performer.

Former Foreign Office minister Alistair Burt, who has supported Hunt’s campaign, told BBC News after the result: “I’m perfectly convinced that given time through the hustings process we’ll see the Jeremy Hunt that we’ve seen over the years: diligent, capable, with very exciting ideas for Britain.”

He said Hunt was an “experienced negotiator” who could “get the Brexit that the country needs.”

Johnson has been accused of avoiding media scrutiny in the first weeks of the campaign when he focused on winning support from parliamentary colleagues.

But he will now be under intense pressure to reveal more details of his plan to take Britain out of the EU on October 31 with or without a deal, which some critics say is unlikely.

All 313 Tory MPs voted in Thursday evening’s vote, with one ballot paper rejected.

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.