Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt knocked out of Tory leadership contest

A graphic shows the candidates in the Tory leadership election 2022 with Nadhim Zahawi and Jeremy Hunt greyed out

Nadhim Zahawi and former UK health secretary Jeremy Hunt have been eliminated in the first round of the Tory leadership race.

The results of the first votes for leader of the Conservative party were announced Wednesday (13 July). Hunt and Zahawi were knocked out of the running after failing to secure the 30 votes needed to proceed to the next round. 

Zahawi, who was made the Chancellor of the Exchequer last week, gained 25 votes, the Guardian reported. Hunt, a former foreign secretary, only secured 18. 

Rishi Sunak, the former chancellor, was the clear frontrunner in the Tory leadership race with a total of 88 votes. State and trade minister Penny Mordaunt was in second place with 67, and Liz Truss trailed behind with 50 votes. 

Kemi Badenoch, who resigned as junior equalities minister amid a mass exodus of Johnson’s government, got 40 backers. 

Tonbridge and Malling MP Tom Tugendhat managed to make it over the line with 37 backers while attorney general Suella Braverman barely crossed the line with 32 votes. 

Hunt thanked his “loyal and talented supporters” who put their faith in him in a statement on Twitter. He said his previous run in the 2019 leadership election was his “one big shot”, but he was hopeful there would be an “exciting future” for the Conservative party. 

“Nevertheless, it’s clear that our party has an exciting future, with the amazing array of talent on offer in this contest, and I feel confident that we are on track to win back trust,” he wrote. 

He also advised the remaining contenders in the Tory leadership election that “smears” and “attacks” may “bring short term tactical gain but always backfire long term”. 

“The nation is watching & they’ve had enough of our drama; be the broad church & unbeatable, election winning machine that our country deserves,” Hunt said. 

Zahawi said in a statement on Twitter that it was clear his “part in the contest has now ended”. He vowed to place his “total focus” on his role as Chancellor of the Exchequer and “steward of the nation’s finances”. 

“I don’t wish to make any further intervention, but I wish all the candidates in the leadership contest the very best of luck!” he said, ending his statement. 

The remaining six candidates – who have rocky histories with their stances on LGBTQ+ rights – will face a second round of voting the Tory leadership election on Thursday (14 July), and the 358 Conservative MPs will continue a series of votes until a final two are left. 

The pair will face off against each other in a series of husting events around the country where they will set out their plans for the nation. Conservative party members will then pick the winner in a postal vote. Under the current rules, a new Tory leader will be announced by 5 September at the latest.