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Tory leadership contest: Rory Stewart boldly calls for rivals to quit so he can take on Johnson | Politics News



Tory leadership contender Rory Stewart has called on his rivals to drop out so he can take on frontrunner Boris Johnson in the final ballot to choose the party’s next leader and the UK’s new prime minister.

The international development secretary, who has gone from outsider to potentially making the final two, told Sky News he was best placed to take on Mr Johnson.

Speaking ahead of the third ballot of Tory MPs, he told All Out Politics: “I feel it would be great to get into that final two, to persuade Sajid, Michael and Jeremy to join forces with me so that we can make sensible, reasonable arguments to keep our party together and our country together.”

Rory Stewart ponders his effectiveness in a debate without a live audience

Stewart prefers a debate with a live audience

The bold call from Mr Stewart is a reflection of his growing self-confidence in the race for Number 10.

He surprised many in Westminster by making it through the first ballot of Tory MPs, before seeing a surge in support in the second round of voting on Tuesday.

Mr Johnson enjoys a commanding lead – and his number of supporters means he is guaranteed to make it through to the last stage of the process, a postal ballot of roughly 160,000 Conservative Party members.

But the rise of Mr Stewart means the race to be the second name on that ballot is wide open.

Mr Stewart finished fourth in Tuesday’s vote with 37 MPs, while Michael Gove was third with 41 and Jeremy Hunt second on 46. Sajid Javid was last, with 33 votes.

Pressed on whether his plan was feasible, Mr Stewart acknowledged it would not be straightforward.

“This is the problem, it’s always the problem with politicians’ egos,” he said.

“I would say to them, I am massively outpolling them with all the key target groups we need, with 18 to 45-year-olds, with Scotland, with London.

“We have to think about how we win an election.”

When it was put it to him that his pitch to his rivals was “come in behind me and back me”, Mr Stewart responded: “I’m afraid so, yes.”

A spokeswoman for his campaign confirmed discussions about a joint ticket with Mr Gove had been held, but stressed “Rory wants to lead”.

TV Tory leadership debate

Contenders scrutinised at chaotic Tory leaders debate

However, a source in Mr Gove’s campaign has given the suggestion short shrift.

“We are in it to win it and we would obviously welcome the support of any candidate that wanted to drop out and support us,” they said.

The candidate with the fewest number of votes will be eliminated in Wednesday’s ballot.

Further votes are scheduled to take place on Thursday.

Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab was eliminated in Tuesday’s ballot, and he has now decided to back Mr Johnson.

Mr Raab said Mr Johnson is the only candidate who will make sure Britain leaves the European Union on time on 31 October.

“The only candidate who will now do this is Boris Johnson – and so I’ll be supporting him to become our next prime minister,” he told the Evening Standard.

A winner in the contest will be declared next month, with the victor expected to take over from Theresa May in the week beginning 22 July.

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