Rory Stewart organises a LOSER’S RALLY as he refuses to formally endorse any of the remaining Tory leadership candidates – but says he WILL vote for one of them
- International Development Secretary says he will not be declaring for anyone
- Mr Stewart crashed out of race yesterday after securing support of 27 Tory MPs
- The former challenger could now be the king-maker in battle for second place
- Michael Gove and Jeremy Hunt fighting for right to take on Boris Johnson
Rory Stewart has organised a loser’s rally to say thank you to his supporters as he refused to formally endorse any of the remaining candidates in the Tory leadership race.
The International Development Secretary was eliminated from the battle for Downing Street yesterday after his campaign went backwards and he dropped from 37 votes to 27.
Mr Stewart and his supporters could now act as a king-maker for either Jeremy Hunt or Michael Gove as they fight for second place and the right to face Boris Johnson in the final two.
But he dealt a blow to both of their campaigns today as he said he would not be publicly backing anyone in the race to takeover from Theresa May.
However, he said he will be voting for one of the candidates in the privacy of the secret ballot.
He said: ‘I will not be declaring for anyone today – but I will be voting.’
Mr Hunt secured 54 votes in the third round of voting while Mr Gove was close behind on 51 and both will have pinned their hopes of success on winning over the backers of Mr Stewart.
The International Development Secretary had started the Tory leadership contest as a rank outsider but defied the odds to make it to the final five. He crashed out of the race yesterday
Mr Stewart has organised a thank you rally for his supporters. He has refused to say who he will now be backing in the final two rounds of voting
Mr Stewart has organised a rally on London’s Southbank this evening at the same venue as where he launched his campaign to say thank you to his supporters.
Announcing the plan in a video published on his Twitter account, Mr Stewart appeared to poke fun at himself as he walked towards the camera and clumsily removed his tie.
The former leadership challenger was mocked online after he took off his tie midway through a TV debate on Tuesday night.
He said in the video: ‘Thank you all very, very much indeed and it has been an incredible campaign.
‘I am really, really, really grateful that you came with me. Six o’clock… we are going to be back in the same venue in the Southbank Centre by the Spiegeltent.
‘Please come and join me – I would love to say thank you. I would love to keep the conversation going.
‘I have been so buoyed up and energised. I am not disappointed by this result because I think we are uncovering something extraordinary in this country and in British politics.
What happens next in the Tory leadership race?
Tory MPs have now whittled the field of challengers down to just four candidates.
By the end of today they will have selected the final two.
Two ballots have been scheduled to take place tomorrow, with the result of the first expected at 1pm.
The candidate with the lowest number of votes will be eliminated and assuming that whoever finishes third decides to continue in the race, there will then follow another round of voting.
The result of what would be the fifth and final round will then be announced at 6pm.
At that point Tory MPs will have completed their part of the leadership contest and the remaining two candidates will then be put to Conservative Party members to choose from.
The final pair will have to face a series of 16 hustings events over the next month with Theresa May’s replacement expected to be announced in the week starting July 22.
‘And Rory walks on.’
Mr Stewart’s elimination from the leadership race means there is no longer a candidate who is advocating proceeding with Mrs May’s Brexit deal in its current form.
It also means there is no longer a candidate ruling out a No Deal split from the EU.
Mr Stewart’s softer Brexit stance means it is unlikely his supporters will move across to support Mr Johnson who yesterday cemented his position as the prohibitive favourite after jumping from 126 votes to 143.
Sajid Javid, who finished fourth yesterday on 38, is thought to be too far behind in the race to have a chance of surviving the first ballot today.
That is likely to mean Mr Stewart’s supporters choosing between Mr Hunt and Mr Gove.
Both have similar approaches to Brexit in that they want to renegotiate Mrs May’s deal.
And while neither has ruled out No Deal, both have suggested they would delay Brexit beyond October 31 if a bit more time was needed to get an agreement finalised.
Two ballots are due to be held today as the remaining four candidates are whittled down to the final pair.
The result of what will be the fourth leadership ballot is expected at 1pm and the result of the fifth and final one is due at 6pm.
The final two candidates will then be put to the Tory grassroots for members to choose between with Mrs May’s successor scheduled to be announced in the week starting July 22.
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