In Depth

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Tory leadership election: First blood to May as two candidates are out

6 July

Theresa May topped the first-round vote in the Conservative leadership election last night by an overwhelming majority, securing the support of more than half of all Tory MPs.

As expected, Liam Fox, the former defence secretary, was eliminated after finishing last with the support of just 16 MPs.

It was also a disappointing result for Stephen Crabb, who dropped out after finishing fourth on 34 votes.

The Work and Pensions Secretary said he would offer May his "wholehearted support".

However, all eyes will now be on Justice Minister Michael Gove, who had pinned his hopes of making it onto the final ballot by staying within touching distance of Andrea Leadsom, whose campaign is gathering momentum.

Gove finished 18 votes behind the energy minister and will wait to see how many endorsements he can secure from Fox's supporters before deciding whether to continue.

Following the shock of Brexit and the trauma and political drama of the past week, Tory minds are "starting to focus on what life, post-David Cameron will look like", says the BBC's political editor Laura Kuenssberg.

Gove's "Machiavellian" decision to stand for the leadership rather than support his fellow Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson appears to have seriously hurt his chances, adds the BBC, while Leadsom still has "a long way to go to convince MPs and members that she is ready for the job".

Leadsom reportedly "stumbled as she tried to distance herself from Ukip supporters" during a parliamentary hustings on Monday evening, which may have affected her final tally.

Meanwhile, the opinions of one of the party's grandees were given an accidental airing when former Tory chancellor and staunch Europhile Ken Clarke was caught on camera ridiculing the various leadership contenders.

Talking to his one-time colleague Sir Malcolm Rifkind while off-air in a Sky News studio, Clarke described May as a "bloody difficult woman", said Gove was so right-wing he would start wars with "at least three countries" and that he did not really think Leadsom wanted to leave the European Union.

The second round of voting takes place tomorrow – and with it comes the possibility that Gove will drop out, leading to an all-female face-off between May and Leadsom when the ballots are sent out to party members.

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