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Sunak is leading the race for British Prime Minister as the rivals take on bookmaker favorite Mordaunt

#Sunak #leading #race #British #Prime #Minister #rivals #bookmaker #favorite #Mordaunt

Former Finance Minister Rishi Sunak led the last vote by Conservative MPs on Thursday to choose Britain’s next prime minister, followed by bookmaker favorite Penny Mordaunt as attacks on her within the ruling party escalated.

In the second vote by Tory lawmakers since serious competition began on Tuesday, Secretary of State Liz Truss came third, hours after she officially launched her campaign by promising tax cuts and a smaller state.

The race, which now has five candidates after the elimination of another long-distance competitor, will intensify with two televised debates – on Friday and Sunday – ahead of the next round of voting on Monday.

The final pair of candidates to succeed Prime Minister Boris Johnson, due to be presented to Conservative Party members in the summer, will be decided in the middle of next week.

The little-known Mordaunt, a longtime Brexiteer who briefly served as Britain’s first woman defense secretary before Johnson demoted her to lower-level positions, has become the darling of the Tory rank and file.

Recent membership polls suggest she’s beating out Sunak, Truss and the other remaining candidates, including former Equality Minister Kemi Badenoch and prominent backbencher Tom Tugendhat.

But in a sign of her new status as a frontrunner, Mordaunt faced a barrage of attacks from peers on Thursday, for everything from her Brexit record to allegedly misplaced support for transgender rights.

In the final salvo as she left the race, Attorney General Suella Braverman accused her of not “standing up for women” when Mordaunt pushed a maternity leave bill through Parliament last year.

She also asked if she was an “authentic Brexiteer”, while party elder and Truss supporter Iain Duncan Smith said he didn’t know what she had done for Brexit over the past three years.

– ‘Character’ –

The race for the leadership was sparked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement last week that he would step down once a successor had been chosen after months of near-constant scandal.

The final winner will be announced on September 5th.

At the last vote, 356 Tory MPs cast votes, with Sunak leading the field at 101, followed by Mordaunt at 83 and Truss – the preferred candidate for the Johnson loyalists – at 64.

Braverman was eliminated after collecting just 27 votes while Tugendhat got through with 32 votes. Braverman said she would now support Truss.

Sunak thanked his supporters for their “continued support” and said he was “ready to give everything I have to serve our nation”.

“Together we can restore confidence, rebuild our economy and reunite the country,” added the 42-year-old, whose resignation from cabinet last week helped spark a ministerial revolt against Johnson that led to his ouster.

Former Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt backed Sunak after his elimination on Wednesday, calling him “one of the most decent, heterosexual people with the highest standards of integrity.”

But the wealthy frontrunner is facing questions about his family’s tax affairs and his previous decision to remain a US resident, and polls are now showing high “unfavorable” views of him.

Meanwhile, he opposes immediate tax cuts to address a post-pandemic cost-of-living crisis, instead emphasizing the need for fiscal responsibility.

“I don’t judge people by their bank accounts, I judge them by their character,” Sunak told BBC radio.

– ‘Part-time Penny’ –

Ahead of Thursday’s vote, Truss officially launched her campaign by promising “a rising nation.”

The 46-year-old insisted she would be ready “from day one” – in an apparent altercation with Mordaunt, who has been criticized for a lack of experience as Britain grapples with multiple crises.

Mordaunt, a Royal Navy reservist and junior trade secretary relatively untouched by the scandals surrounding Johnson’s tenure as prime minister, has been targeted as she increasingly finds herself in the spotlight.

Political enemies have branded her “part-time penny” and claimed she didn’t take her government duties seriously.

Former Brexit Secretary David Frost, who had worked with her on dealings with the European Union, backed the claims, calling her unfit for the post.

“She has not always delivered tough messages to the European Union when it has needed to… she has not always been visible. Sometimes I didn’t even know where she was,” he said.

Mordaunt supporters dismissed the portrayal, while Downing Street declined to comment.

She also lacks national prominence. A recent poll found that only 11 percent of people could identify her from a photo – two respondents even thought she was the singer Adele.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail took aim at her stance on transgender people, one of Britain’s “culture wars” debates that has inflamed the party’s right wing, and accused her of “telling lies” on the issue.

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