Rory Stewart made the biggest gains in the second ballot of the Tory leadership contest. Not only did he get over the 33 votes needed to stay in the race, but he also put on more votes than any other candidate—going from 19 to 37.
But with Dominic Raab knocked out, the votes that are most clearly up for grabs are, generally, those of hard-line Brexiteers. It is hard to imagine many, if any, of Raab’s 30 supporters moving to Stewart. That means that if Stewart is to keep up his momentum he is going to have to take votes from the other Cabinet candidates—in particular, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove.
Tonight’s TV debate will now be more dramatic than expected. But as I said yesterday, there is a danger for Rory Stewart in being seen to go in too hard on Boris Johnson. While there are a good number of Tory MPs who’d enjoy seeing Boris Johnson taken down a peg or two, most worry about what a month of no holds barred, blue on blue action would do to the party’s prospects.
The leading contenders for second place — Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove — only put on a handful of votes each. There will now be questions about whether these two candidates join forces or not. But with only five votes between them (Hunt is ahead 46 to 41) it is hard to imagine either folding into the other until after at least one more round of voting.
Boris Johnson only put on 12 votes today, which was less than some expected. But he should pick up the bulk of Raab’s 30 votes tomorrow. This would put him within touching distance of having the support of the majority of the parliamentary party.