Rishi Sunak and Penny Mordaunt will battle it out to be the next PM (Picture: Getty/PA/Metro.co.uk)
The former chancellor was given a huge boost on his climb to the top of the Tories as Boris Johnson announced he would not be running.
But Mordaunt has struggled to be heard over all of the commotion from Johnson and Sunak.
Johnson said he had come to the conclusion ‘this would simply not be the right thing to do’ as ‘you can’t govern effectively unless you have a united party in Parliament’.
But this now just leaves Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt in his way.
Penny will need around another 75 nominations from other MPs, for her name to make it onto the ballot papers.
She is still a long way behind Rishi, who is said to have the backing of around 140 MP, with nominations closing at 2pm today (Monday).
Sunak is now the clear favourite to be the next PM (Picture: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock)
Penny Mordaunt could be the only person in the way of Rishi getting to number 10 (Picture: Getty)
The former PM pulled out in dramatic fashion (Picture : MEGA)
Bo-Jo claims he had the backing of 102 MPs (Picture: pixel8000)
Mordaunt, 49, earlier said she would not be backing Boris and would be standing herself, despite Boris, Rishi and Penny all said to have tried to reach an agreement over the leadership battle.
Appearing on BBC One’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, Ms Mordaunt said: ‘I am very confident about the progress we are making and I will say to you I am in this to win it.
‘It is important for our party to have a contest and I am very confident about our numbers.
‘The reason why I am doing this is because I think I am best placed to bring the party together. We can’t deliver for people, they are fed up.’
While announcing his place in the leadership race Sunak said: ‘The United Kingdom is a great country but we face a profound economic crisis.
‘That’s why I am standing to be Leader of the Conservative Party and your next Prime Minister.
‘I want to fix our economy, unite our Party and deliver for our country.’
It will now remain to be seen where those who had initially put their support towards Boris, which corner of the ring they take next.
Sunak is now the clear leader, and he has picked up other heavy backers, including a few of those who had initially backed Boris.
As of this evening, 228 out of 357 Tory MPs have gone public with their support. Mr Sunak is understood to have 147 backers, while Ms Mordaunt has just 24. Mr Johnson had 57 when he pulled out, but claimed he had in fact reached more than 100,
His hopes of a return had earlier gained traction when Foreign Secretary James Cleverly and Nadhim Zahawi, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, both declared their support.
Mr Zahawi earlier claimed ‘Boris 2.0’ had ‘learned from those mistakes’ he made during his first spell in No10 and would lead the Tories to ‘victory and prosperity’.
He is now backing Mr Sunak, this evening tweeting: ‘A day is a long time in politics… Given today’s news, it’s clear that we should turn to Rishi Sunak to become our next Prime Minister.
‘Rishi is immensely talented, will command a strong majority in the parliamentary Conservative Party, and will have my full support & loyalty.’
Other powerful backers included Chancellor George Osborne added: ‘Very welcome and sensible judgement call by Boris Johnson – the country was heading for a constitutional crisis.
‘Instead Rishi Sunak can now – with hard but necessary decisions – begin to restore Britain’s economic credibility and good governance.’
Rishi had remained tight-lipped on his leadership bid and was said to have met with Boris over the weekend after he flew back from his family holiday in the Caribbean.
He said after the announcement: ‘Boris Johnson delivered Brexit and the great vaccine roll-out.
‘He led our country through some of the toughest challenges we have ever faced, and then took on Putin and his barbaric war in Ukraine.
‘We will always be grateful to him for that. Although he has decided not to run for PM again, I truly hope he continues to contribute to public life at home and abroad.’
Sunak was seen leaving his home over the weekend (Picture: Tom Bowles / Story Picture Agency)
Mordaunt lags behind in the number of nominations but that could all change before 2pm (Picture: Tayfun Salci/ZUMA Press Wire/Shutterstock)
His leadership bid was further bolstered by the backing of former Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who is popular on the Tory Right, and her close ally Steve Baker.
Grant Shapps, who replaced Ms Braverman as Home Secretary following her resignation this week, and Work and Pensions Secretary Chloe Smith also gave their support to Mr Sunak.
And Armed Forces and Veterans Secretary James Heappey also this evening tweeted his support, saying: ‘I’ve been agonising all weekend knowing that our choice as next PM must bring together our divided party and restore stability to our Government.
‘All wings of our party will need to work together after contest to achieve that but I’m supporting Rishi Sunak to lead us in doing so.’
But the Labour Party are still not letting off, and leader Keir Starmer has repeatedly called for a general election, and his deputy Angela Rayner has also echoed his calls.
She said: ‘The Tories are about to hand Rishi Sunak the keys to the country without him saying a single word about how he would govern. No one voted for this.
‘Perhaps it’s not surprising he’s avoiding scrutiny: after all, he was so bad that just a few weeks ago he was trounced by Liz Truss.
‘All anyone knows about him is that he broke the law, he was rejected by his own party because he created a vicious cycle of low growth, he did nothing to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, that his family avoided paying tax in this country; and that he betrayed Boris Johnson to get his job.
‘It’s why we need an election now – people deserve a vote on the future of the country.’
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Sunak is the clear favourite to be the next MP to enter Number 10, but he will first have to get past Penny Mordaunt who has refused to knock down her support