BORIS Johnson galloped towards the Iron throne of the UK yesterday, racing ahead of his rivals after convincingly winning the opening round of the Tory leadership – prompting allies to urge rivals to quit now.
The former foreign secretary romped home in the ballot of Conservative MPs, winning more votes than the combined totals of Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove and Dominic Raab, who came second, third and fourth.
Allies of Mr Johnson urged Mr Raab and lower-placed candidates Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Rory Stewart to drop out, telling reporters that fighting on would be ‘indulgence’.
One Johnson ally accused the other three remaining candidates of fighting ‘vanity’ campaigns, after they mustered just 62 votes between them, and said they should pull out.
‘Prolonging the contest is an act of self-indulgence that the party does not have time for’, the source added.
A former minister involved in the Boris campaign told MailOnline the stragglers in the contest should think about withdrawing.
‘They would be wise to take a hard look at their numbers,’ they said. ‘The bar rises on Tuesday beyond the reach of all but three candidates.’
But they have all vowed to fight on, with Mr Stewart aiming his own broadside at the front-runner over mooted plans to shut down Parliament to force through a No Deal Brexit.
The higher-than-expected score of 114 out of 313 MPs for Mr Johnson – which drew gasps in the Committee Room 14 when it was announced – means he is almost guaranteed to make the final run-off among Tory members.
Bookmakers immediately slashed the odds on Mr Johnson being the next PM from 4/9 to 1/5.
The former foreign secretary topped the secret ballot ahead of Mr Hunt, his replacement in the role, in second with 43.
One Cabinet minister described the result as a ‘knockout blow’, pointing out that Mr Johnson already has enough votes to make the final two. But last night, he faced a fierce backlash from rivals determined to prevent him from becoming prime minister.
Fellow candidate Mr Stewart vowed to ‘bring him down’ if he tried to suspend Parliament to take Britain out of the EU without a deal.
Environment Secretary Mr Gove was third on 37, after his campaign was badly damaged by his cocaine admission over the weekend. Former Brexit Secretary Mr Raab received 26 votes, Mr Javid 23 and Mr Hancock 20.
Aid Secretary Mr Stewart just squeezed over the threshold of 17 votes needed from the total of 313 to continue to the next round, with 19. He immediately launched an excoriating attack on Mr Johnson, vowing to ‘bring him down’ if he became PM and tried to force No Deal by suspending Parliament.
But three hopefuls have been axed from the next stage of the contest after failing to get over the hurdle.
Andrea Leadsom, Mark Harper and Esther McVey were kicked out with 11, 10 and nine votes respectively. The outcome means that the competition is now all-male.