Boris Johnson has taken a huge step towards Downing Street after comfortably winning the first ballot of Conservative MPs, with 114 votes. Of the other candidates who qualified for the next round of voting: Jeremy Hunt is well adrift of him with 43 votes, Michael Gove is a little behind him on 37 votes, Dominic Raab is on 27 votes, Matt Hancock on 20 votes and Rory Stewart is on 19 votes. None of Andrea Leadsom (11 votes), Mark Harper (10 votes) or Esther McVey (nine votes) cleared the 17-vote threshold necessary to make the next round of voting.
Under the rules of the Conservative Party’s leadership election, MPs vote until they have whittled down the field to just two, who go through to the final round — a vote of the full party membership. A recurrent feature of these contests has been tactical voting, with MPs voting to block candidates they dislike as much as voting to send candidates they support through to the final round.
To avoid that fate, the magic number is 105: a third of MPs plus one. That’s the point at which no amount of tactical voting can keep you off the ballot. Johnson has cleared that with room to spare and, provided he can avoid imploding, it means that the contest now is for who goes through to the final two with him.
That two of the defeated candidates are diehard Brexiteers means that his base of support will likely grow, particularly if Dominic Raab, who has no plausible path to the ballot paper on this showing, decides to endorse Johnson now in the hopes of securing a better job in a Johnson government.