- Rory Stewart was eliminated from the race to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.
- The international development secretary fell out in the third round of voting after losing support from Conservative MPs.
- Stewart had surged ahead before Tuesday’s BBC debate, where he admitted to a “lacklustre” performance.
- However, a YouGov poll conducted in the wake of the debate suggested the public believed he was the best performer.
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LONDON – Rory Stewart has been eliminated from the race to replace Theresa May as Conservative Party leader and prime minister.
He received fewer votes than all of his rivals in a secret ballot on Wednesday afternoon, having lost support from Conservative MPs after his involvement in Tuesday’s BBC debate between the candidates.
Asked if he was surprised that his support had dropped overnight, Stewart told Sky News: “I am surprised, I don’t understand.”
He added: “You’ll have to ask MPs who switched, but something in the air must have made them sense that something else was going in another direction. Conversations must have been overnight and throughout the day, saying to people, ‘Really, I wouldn’t go with Rory, the numbers aren’t looking in the right direction.'”
“And there is a sense in all these races, once people begin to believe that you haven’t got the numbers, that it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy,” he added.
Stewart said his elimination meant there was now no candidate in the race who was opposed to a no-deal Brexit.
“You can’t unify a family or country by sweeping things under the table,” he told Sky News.
“The one candidate in this race who said that no deal was a really bad idea has now been removed from this race,” he added.
Conservative leadership contest 3rd-round results
- Boris Johnson: 143
- Jeremy Hunt: 54
- Michael Gove: 51
- Sajid Javid : 38
- Rory Stewart: 27
Stewart started the race as a little-known outsider and was not seen as a leading candidate in the race.
However, the MP for Penrith and the Border became an unlikely threat to the front-runners, impressing both Conservative MPs and the public with his strategy of travelling around the country and speaking directly with people.
Polls showed that he was winning support from voters in the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties but was broadly disliked by the Conservative membership, which will elect its new leader.
The result means that Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, and Sajid Javid make up the final four in the contest to become Conservative Party leader and the prime minister of the United Kingdom.
Dominic Raab, the former Brexit secretary, was also eliminated from the contest on Tuesday.
The contest will now be whittled down to two by the end of this week before about 160,000 Conservative Party members elect their new leader and the UK’s next prime minister at the end of July.
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