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20 June 2019updated 08 Jul 2021 1:02pm

Jeremy Hunt narrowly finishes second, as Boris Johnson storms to victory in final ballot

By Stephen Bush

Jeremy Hunt narrowly beat Michael Gove into second place in the fifth and final ballot, with the support of 77 MPs, against Gove, who received 75. Well ahead in first place was Boris Johnson, with the support of 160 MPs. Johnson and Hunt will now go forward to a vote of all Conservative party members, in which Johnson starts as the heavy favourite.

The outcome of the result is unsurprising, but the margin is unexpectedly tight. Supporters of Sajid Javid, a Cabinet minister who wooed MPs by emphasising how both his backstory and his approach would make for a constructive final round of the contest, were always expected to split in favour of Jeremy Hunt, who is considered unlikely to fight a particularly pugnacious campaign against Boris Johnson; as opposed to Michael Gove, who was thought more likely to fight a more damaging campaign against Johnson.

In the end, Hunt only just saw off Gove. Johnson picked up just three votes between the two ballots, while Hunt went up by 16, and Gove by 14:  evidence, as far some are concerned, that Johnsonites voted tactically to secure their preferred opponent. True or not, it is an indicator that while Johnson has achieved an absolute majority of Conservative MPs, doubts about his fitness for office have not vanished from the parliamentary party. Either a hard core of MPs still opted not to back him or a large number of his opponents went for the candidate most likely to give him a rough ride. 

For Team Johnson, that is a minor worry for now. They have their dream opponent: a former Remainer and a Theresa May loyalist who will be unlikely to make the final stage of the race uncomfortable for them

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