Of the six candidates who entered the ballot tonight, only five are left standing. The survivors were Johnson who took 126 Tory MPs (up 12), Hunt on 46 (up 5), Gove on 41 (up 4), Stewart on 37 (up 18) and Javid scrapping through on 33 (up 10). Dominic Raab failed to beat the 33 required votes and only gained 3 votes since the first ballot.
Whilst I was wrong in predicting that The Saj would be eliminated I was by and large correct. Johnson still has an unassailable lead over his closest rivals and nobody appears to be asserting themselves as the second largest candidate.
This should have led into a BBC debate to beat all others, but the debate was painful to watch. Whilst I would argue that Javid probably edged it, nobody really was a clear-cut winner. However, Javid did show leadership credentials in getting his colleagues to agree to an investigation of Islamophobia in the Tory Party.
The main issue was that there were so many candidates present leading to a cacophony of noise. Emily Maitlis could barely get a word in edge ways at some points.
The main loser of last night debate was Rory Stewart. I have always been a critic of his politics but have consistently praised his superb campaign. However, tonight he confessed to being ‘lacklustre’ and the format not being to his liking. Has Rorymania peaked? He still straggles behind his competitors in YouGov polls with the members and is really only getting support off of members of the public who would be hard-pushed to ever vote Conservative. But I’m not sure if it is all over, there are plenty of twists and turns in a leadership race.
The front runner, Boris Johnson, will come out of this debate with his fortunes staying the same. It was a slightly above average day, but he dodged enough right hooks to come out of it unscathed. Johnson still appears to be tightly holding back, please unleash the Boris! Gove and Hunt both had two more average days in the office. For anyone who expected blue-on-blue conflict we mostly see praise for colleagues.
Overall, I find it hard to say anything has particularly changed in the aftermath of yesterday. The leadership race does appear to be dragging on. It needs to speed up in removing those vying for second place and also kick start a more engaging set of TV debates. Hopefully, after we can whittle it down to the final two this will happen.
By J Walters