BORIS Johnson moved closer to No10 today as he scored a fourth landslide poll win with HALF of all Tory MPs' votes while Sajid Javid was eliminated.
Michael Gove overtook Jeremy Hunt in second place – making him narrow favourite to be the final contender taking on BoJo in the ballot of Tory activists to decide who's the next PM.
The two men have spent this afternoon frantically trying to win over supporters of the defeated Home Secretary – ahead of the fifth and final round of voting which started at 3.30pm.
Boris Johnson took just over half the votes with 157 out of a total of 313, with Michael Gove second on 61 and Jeremy Hunt just behind him with 59 supporters.
Mr Javid drops out of the race after a widely praised campaign, as he picked up just 34 votes – a slight fall compared to yesterday's third ballot.
As MPs voted for the last time:
- Boris Johnson won the key endorsement of ex-Chancellor George Osborne
- Jeremy Hunt's supporters accused the frontrunner of dirty tricks
- Michael Gove lobbied Rory Stewart's backers to switch their votes to him
- Sajid Javid made a failed last-ditch bid for momentum to carry him over the line
The fourth ballot was open from 10am to noon, with the result coming at 1pm.
For the first time in this leadership race, two MPs spoiled their ballots rather than pick one of the remaining candidates – apparently backers of Rory Stewart who refuse to support anyone else.
The 34 supporters of Mr Javid will now be crucial in deciding which of Mr Gove or Mr Hunt will come second tonight – and become the last remaining challenger who could defeat Boris.
Mr Gove said he was "absolutely delighted" to have come in second, adding: "It’s all to play for in the final ballot this afternoon. If I make the final two I look forward to having a civilised debate of ideas about the future of our country. "
He won a boost when Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson confirmed she's now backing him after Mr Javid was knocked out.
But a source close to the Foreign Secretary said: "Boris and Michael are great candidates but we have seen their personal psychodrama before – it’s time to offer the country someone the EU will actually talk to."
Boris said: "Delighted to have the support of over half of all Conservative MPs in the fourth ballot. I am incredibly grateful, but we have much more work to do."
Sajid Javid – who won't publicly say which candidate he's backing – said: "I have been truly humbled by the support I have received from colleagues and Conservatives around the country."
And in a message to young children growing up as outsiders like he did, the Home Secretary added: "Work hard, have faith in your abilities, and don't let anyone try and cut you down to size or say you aren't a big enough figure to aim high."
This morning BoJo was forced to distance himself from an alleged a dirty tricks campaign to crush Mr Gove's run for No10 by pushing Mr Hunt and Mr Javid ahead of him.
This morning Mr Johnson denied taking part in "dark arts" as he arrived at the Commons to vote for himself.
This evening Tory bosses will reveal the names of the two final candidates – almost certain to be Boris and one other.
The finalists will spend five weeks campaigning around the country to win the votes of party activists, who will cast their ballots by post next month.
Today Boris landed the endorsement of Mr Osborne, his former rival, who used his Evening Standard newspaper to come out in support of the frontrunner.
We are by no means there yet
The former Chancellor warned: "To avoid the fate of the outgoing Prime Minister, who laboured in office but not in power, he must harness the credibility he has with Brexiteers to the liberal internationalist credentials he displayed as Mayor."
And he suggested Mr Johnson could end up calling a second Brexit referendum to break the Brexit deadlock – which would be a bitter blow for many of his supporters.
Amber Rudd, who backs Mr Hunt, called on Boris to distance himself from any dirty tricks campaign.
She said: "I find all this conversation about lending votes rather discrediting of the system.
"I would really call on Boris himself to repudiate the information that is coming out of 'friends of Boris', saying this, saying one thing.
"This is a serious moment. We don't need that sort of game playing going on in Parliament."
Boris supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg said: "I think people should always vote for the candidate they support. It is really silly to try and game elections because you can find that your candidate then loses."
Mr Johnson today promised to get serious if he's elected leader, telling the Evening Standard: "I do think it is time we had some excitement back into politics, I do, but there’s also quite a serious job of work to be done."
He acknowledged his status as the heavy favourite but insisted: "We are by no means there yet. This movement is going to have to build."
And vowing to unite the country, Boris added: "I think we can recruit voters from everywhere.
"I think many Labour voters have no interest in the metropolitan obsessions of Jeremy Corbyn with Venezuela or, you know, neo-Marxist economics. The Corbynista anti-Semitism leaves people totally bewildered and cold."
Yesterday Mr Stewart, who was knocked out after going backwards in the third ballot, accused Mr Johnson's team of "dark arts".
This morning he promised to stay quiet about which candidate he now supports.
Mr Gove was hopeful of winning his backing and has been furiously lobbying Mr Stewart behind the scenes.
Today European leaders – who are meeting in Brussels along with Theresa May – fired a fresh warning shot at BoJo's Brexit plan, which would see a two-year transition period in place to give extra time for a better deal.
Timetable of Tory leadership election which will pick new PM
June 20, morning: Fourth ballot of MPs, open 10am-12pm; fourth-placed candidate eliminated
June 21, afternoon: Fifth and last ballot of MPs, open 3.30pm-5pm; fifth-placed candidate eliminated
June 22: Final two candidates take part in first members' hustings, set to take place in Birmingham
July 8: Tory bosses send out postal votes to all party activists
July 22: Result announced this week, in time for Commons recess to begin
Dutch PM Mark Rutte said: "As Boris Johnson would say, Brexit is Brexit. I would say a hard Brexit is a hard Brexit. I don't see how you can sweeten it."
And Ireland's Leo Varadkar added: "There's no Withdrawal Agreement without a backstop and there's no implementation period without a withdrawal agreement."
The Sun revealed that Boris has told the other contenders he "hardly" disagrees with them on the EU, sparking fears he'll water down his policy.
Tory leadership candidates threaten to boycott future BBC debates
TORY leadership hopefuls have threatened to boycott future BBC debates after the corporation was slammed for featuring questions from an ex-Labour worker and an imam accused of anti-Semitic tweets.
Furious MPs accused the Beeb of bias after it was revealed they failed to vet their audience on the Tuesday night telly debate.
One of those who was chosen to ask a question had a history of alleged anti-Semitic remarks and attacking Boris Johnson, while another used to work for the Labour party.
The BBC have plans for a Question Time style programme with the final two candidates later on in the contest.
All four remaining candidates' camps expressed reservations about the BBC's handling of the next debate and suggested they would prefer a debate with ITV, Sky or Channel 4 instead.
A source close to Boris said: "Candidates will now be casting doubt on the format and the balance and impartiality of the BBC audience."
A source close to Jeremy Hunt said: "We are reserving judgment but it's fair to say we didn't think it was brilliant."
A source on Michael Gove's campaign team said: "It is deeply concerning that the BBC failed to properly vet those asking questions and provided a platform for someone who has spread anti-Semitic messages. The BBC should apologise."
Ex-Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said the BBC appeared to be a "stop Boris Johnson Broadcasting Service" and Radio 4 looked like it was now "Remain Central".
"Tuesday's debate was a shambles," he added.
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