Conservative leadership candidates Rishi Sunak (L) and Liz Truss participate in a debate at Riverside Studios in London on Sunday. Photo by Jonathan Hordle/ITV/EPA-EFE
July 20 (BP) — Britain’s Conservative Party whittled down its field of candidates for the next prime minister to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss after Wednesday’s vote.
Sunak, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s former chancellor of the exchequer, and Truss, foreign secretary, will now go head-to-head in voting by the entire dues-paying party, about 200,000 people. The party is expected to announce its new leader Sept. 5.
Wednesday’s runoff election ousted International Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, who received 105 votes compared to Sunak’s 137 and Truss’ 113.
Mordaunt held on to the second-place spot in previous rounds of voting, but Truss was able to capture many of Kemi Badenoch’s votes after her ouster Tuesday.
Truss offered her thanks for those who voted for her Wednesday.
“I’m ready to hit the ground running from day one,” she tweeted.
Sky News announced Wednesday that it will hold a final debate between Sunak and Truss on Aug. 4 ahead of the wider party vote.
Sunak tweeted that it was ready for the debate.
“Grateful that my colleagues have put their trust in me today,” he said. “I will work night and day to deliver our message around the country.”
The new leader will replace Johnson, who announced his plans to resign as prime minister earlier this month. He remains in power until the leader premier is selected.
Sunak resigned from Johnson’s Cabinet on July 5 amid a wave of top party leader departures, which were spurred by allegations that former Deputy Chief Whip Chris Pincher groped two guests at a dinner.
Johnson faced criticism for appointing Pincher to a top-level position in February despite the fact that the latter had previously faced sexual misconduct allegations.
Johnson’s ministers initially said he hadn’t known about the allegations, but last week, a spokesman said the prime minister knew about the allegations but believed they were “either resolved or did not progress to a formal complaint.”
Simon McDonald, the former top civil servant at the Foreign Office, later said Johnson was briefed about Pincher’s behavior before his February appointment.
“The original No. 10 line is not true and the modification is still not accurate,” McDonald said of Johnson’s various statements.