Tory leader LIVE: PM hopefuls face first vote of MPs in HOURS – six likely to get through

The 313 Conservative MPs sitting in the Commons are called to cast their ballot at 10am today, in what marks the first real test of this contest. Any of the 10 candidates failing to secure at least 17 votes will be eliminated from the race. Five Tory hopefuls are believed to have long gathered the required support – Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid. 

And last night, Health Secretary Matt Hancock seemed to have made it over the line, becoming the sixth Tory MP to secure a place in the next round, according to Politico.

The remaining four, Mark Harper, Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Rory Stewart, could be forced out of the contest if they fail to convince enough MPs to back them within hours.

But, as the vote is secret and more than a quarter of the MPs eligible to vote haven’t yet publicly backed anyone, everyone still has a chance to go through the second stage of the contest.  

The next round of votes, which will likely take place next week, will eliminate from the contest those who can’t gather the support of at least 33 MPs.

But if all candidates pass this benchmark, the party will eliminate the person with the fewest votes.

The third round of the race will see members of the Conservative Party have their say via a postal vote.

The leader replacing Theresa May will be announced by July 22.

Today’s vote is taking place following the new rules agreed by the Conservative Party earlier this month, agreed to speed up the contest.  

FOLLOW EXPRESS.CO.UK FOR LIVE UPDATES ON THE TORY LEADERSHIP CONTEST

8.20am update: Matt Hancock says he can beat Jeremy Corbyn 

Tory leader hopeful Matt Hancock claimed he could beat Jeremy Corbyn at the next general elections by turning pace and leaving behind the “rancour” he says has been gripping British politics in the past months. 

He told the Guardian: “Of course we’ve got to deliver Brexit; but then we’ve got to win a majority by appealing to aspirational people in the centre ground of British politics, where there’s a gaping hole.

“I can turn the page from the rancour that we’ve seen in politics in the past few years: because I’ve been concentrating on delivering in government, getting stuff done, rather than the bitter Brexit rows.” 

The Health Secretary added that he could win back the votes of those who in the European elections have backed the Liberal Democrats or the Labour Party. 

He said: “The Conservative Party’s always been a broad church, and I can appeal better than any of the other candidates to the centre ground to unite the country, and to voters who will ultimately deliver a majority so we can really get things moving.

“There are some candidates who won’t be able to bring the Conservative party with them, and there are others who will find it more difficult to reach into the centre ground.

“I think I’m best placed to be able to do both.” 

8.06am update: Boost for Boris! Theresa May’s former right-hand man backs Brexiteer for Tory leadership

Theresa May former joint Chief of Staff Nick Timothy has backed bookies favourite Boris Johnson for the Conservative party leadership. 

Writing in The Daily Telegraph Mr Timothy said: “Despite his flaws and indiscretions, and despite the qualities of the other candidates, Boris alone has the belief in Brexit, the determination to deliver it, and the ability to defeat Labour in an election.” 

Mr Timothy agreed with Mr Johnson’s remarks that the party would face “extinction” if Brexit is delayed beyond October 31.

He explained: “The Tories simply have to get Brexit done. If they do not, they face destruction as an electoral force.

“But even if Brexit happens, they face electoral upheaval, because some Remain-supporting Conservatives will inevitably take their votes elsewhere.”

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