Fervent Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson and foreign minister Jeremy Hunt emerged on Thursday as the only two candidates left in the race to become British prime minister, with the flamboyant Johnson odds-on favorite to win next month, Trend reports citing Reuters.
Despite a series of scandals in the past and criticism about his attention to detail, Johnson has dominated the race since Theresa May announced a month ago that she would step down after failing to get her Brexit deal through parliament.
About a dozen candidates put their names forward, but In a fifth and final ballot of Conservative lawmakers, which eliminated Environment Secretary Michael Gove, Johnson was again way out in front with 160 out of 313 votes, versus Hunt’s 77. One ballot paper was rejected.
Whoever wins will have to find a solution to the Brexit turmoil, Britain’s biggest political crisis in a generation, which eluded May for three years and ultimately led to her downfall.
Johnson increased his share of the vote of Conservative lawmakers at each of the ballots: 114 out of 313 votes in the first ballot on June 13, 126 on June 18, 143 on Wednesday, and 157 and 160 on Thursday.
Gove was third with 75. Interior minister Sajid Javid was knocked out in the fourth round earlier on Thursday.
Betting markets gave Johnson a 92 percent probability of becoming prime minister and Hunt just 7 percent.
“I look forward to getting out across the UK and to set out my plan to deliver Brexit, unite our country, and create a brighter future for all of us,” Johnson said.
Hunt, once an opponent of leaving the European Union who has now promised to exit with a deal, cast himself as the underdog.
“In politics surprises happen as they did today,” he said. “I do not doubt the responsibility on my shoulders - to show my party how we deliver Brexit and not an election, but also a turbo-charged economy and a country that walks tall in the world.”
Hustings will be held across the country for the roughly 160,000 Conservative Party grassroots members who will decide on who will be their new leader - and Britain’s next prime minister. The result of the postal ballot will be announced in the week of July 22.