Katy Balls

Is Kemi Badenoch on the way out?

The race is still wide open

Is Kemi Badenoch on the way out?
(Photo: Getty)
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It’s the day of the penultimate ballot in the parliamentary stage of the Tory leadership contest. The four candidates left in the contest are Rishi Sunak, 115 votes, Penny Mordaunt, 82 votes, Liz Truss, 71 votes, and Kemi Badenoch, 58 votes. Voting to whittle the four to three begins this afternoon with the result announced at 3 p.m. But as last night’s results showed, the race is wide open.

The general consensus among MPs is that Sunak is on course to reach the final two – but when it comes to who joins him there, all bets are off. Mordaunt remains in second place but has lost momentum – she actually went down a vote between the second and third ballot. Truss remains ahead when it comes to the candidates on the right of the party but Badenoch ultimately won more votes from Suella Braverman’s backers – even though the Attorney General urged Tory MPs to back Truss.

On paper, it is Badenoch who is the most likely to be knocked out today. But strange things can happen. Speaking on LBC, Michael Gove – one of her key backers – mischievously said Badenoch could make significant gains as many MPs he’d spoken to were experiencing ‘buyer’s remorse’ over their original choices.

It’s Tugendhat’s supporters that are currently being tapped up by the various camps – and the sense is they are most likely to go to either Sunak or Mordaunt. However, some in his camp – such as Anne-Marie Trevelyan – have been highly critical of Mordaunt suggesting there is a ceiling on how many MPs she can win over. What’s more, some of Tugendhat's supporters valued most that he was a fresh face. It’s therefore not impossible that a handful of his supporters move over to Badenoch. Add that to the MPs with an ‘anyone but Truss’ position and the contest once again looks rather unpredictable.

The only certainty right now is that if Badenoch is knocked out tonight, she won't be out of the spotlight for long. She has won plaudits from fellow MPs and the press for her campaign meaning she is likely to be offered a cabinet role by whichever candidate comes out on top.