(Bloomberg) -- The field of candidates to succeed Theresa May as U.K. prime minister narrowed to six from 11, and after the first ballot of Conservative Members of Parliament, Boris Johnson appears a shoo-in to make the final two. The race is on to see who can join him on the ballot paper that will be sent to 160,000 party members. Here’s our weekly summary of the contest.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
Nominations closed on Monday, and Sam Gyimah was the first candidate to drop out, lacking the backers to even enter. The first ballot of MPs on Thursday saw another three candidates fall: Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper. That left seven men to fight it out, until Matt Hancock withdrew on Friday.
The favorite, Boris Johnson, spent most of the week avoiding public appearances, in what the media described as a “submarine strategy.” He surfaced on Wednesday to launch his campaign -- and answered just six questions. The tactic, alongside a behind-the-scenes charm offensive, appeared to pay-off: on Thursday, he topped the ballot of Tory MPs with 114 votes -- enough to get to the final two if he hangs on to his supporters.
On Friday, he emerged for a radio interview in which he defended his record as London mayor in response to a question about Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a Briton jailed in Iran while he was foreign secretary. He promised more openness next week, when he’ll take part in a televised BBC debate.
Johnson’s biggest rivals had lukewarm weeks. Michael Gove spent his campaign launch on Monday fending off accusations of hypocrisy over the admission he’d taken cocaine. He still managed third place, on 37 votes, on Thursday. Jeremy Hunt -- who appeared the man most likely to challenge Johnson -- failed to capitalize on Gove’s woes, winning just six votes more to place second.
Rory Doesn’t Walk
One surprise was that Rory Stewart didn’t get knocked out on Thursday. He’s had an entertaining campaign, posting shaky footage on Twitter of meetings with voters with the hashtag #RoryWalks, and launching his campaign in a circus tent more accustomed to late-night cabaret.
But he’s also given mixed messages. On Tuesday, he said he couldn’t serve in Johnson’s Cabinet; on Thursday, he threatened to bring down a Johnson government if it suspended Parliament, and by Friday he said he would serve the former foreign secretary in a crisis if asked.
Three politicians are scrabbling to meet the threshold of 33 votes to stay in after Tuesday’s second ballot -- though whatever happens, the last-placed will be knocked out. They are Stewart, who took 19 votes, Sajid Javid, whose tally of 23 supporters underwhelmed for a home secretary, and former Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab on 27. They have the weekend -- including Sunday’s televised debate -- to show MPs why they deserve to carry on.
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