To use a sporting cliche, Penny Mordaunt has brought the Tory leadership election alive. The little known former Defence Secretary placed second in today’s first round, with 67 votes – which is 17 more than third placed Liz Truss, and 21 behind the leader Sunak’s 88.
And given that the MP contest is all about finding the top two, Mordaunt will believe that the momentum is with her – whereas the foreign secretary, Truss, should feel anxious.
The question is whether the way that Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nadine Dorries yesterday positioned Truss as the Boris’s-Revenge-on-Sunak candidate has hurt or helped Truss. Either way, she has considerable ground to make up.
Tonight there are three big questions.
First, where will the votes of the two knocked-out candidates, Jeremy Hunt and Nadhim Zahawi, go tomorrow?
Talking to Tory MPs, it seems a good number of Hunt’s 18 supporters will transfer straight to Sunak.