Rory Stewart’s bad debate leads to his elimination from the Tory leadership race

Rory Stewart is out of the Tory leadership race. He polled only 27 votes—ten down on what he received yesterday. It seems clear that his performance in last night’s debate, where he chose to take on all the other candidates — not just Boris Johnson — cost him heavily. There was a sense among Tory MPs that the level of blue on blue action his candidacy was causing was damaging the party’s future prospects, and today they have stubbed out his candidacy.

The fall in Stewart’s vote makes it hard to blame his ousting on tactical voting. If he had increased his own vote by just two from yesterday, he would still be in the race.

Where Stewart’s supporters go now will determine who faces Boris Johnson in the members’ round. The race for second place between Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove is finely balanced, Hunt is ahead by 54 to 51. In ideological terms, Hunt is a neater fit for most of Stewart’s supporters. But many of Stewart’s backers were motivated by a desire to see Boris Johnson properly put through his paces. If that is your prime concern, then Michael Gove is the more obvious candidate to back.

Sajid Javid is still in the race, on 38 votes. But it is hard to see how he catches up with Gove and Hunt from here. It would be no surprise if Javid folded in behind Boris Johnson, who received 143 votes in this round, when Javid is eliminated tomorrow lunchtime.

I suspect that the Johnson camp will be keen to make it past 157 votes by the end of this process. This would give them the support of a majority of the parliamentary party.

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