LONDON: Rishi Sunak topped the second round of voting by Conservative MPs in the Tory leadership race on Thursday with 101 votes whilst the only other Indian-origin candidate in the race, attorney general Suella Braverman, was knocked out of the contest.

Trade minister Penny Mordaunt came second with 83 votes, followed by foreign secretary Liz Truss with 64 votes. Former equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was fourth with 49 votes and chairman of the foreign affairs committee Tom Tugendhat was fifth with 32 votes. These five candidates have made it through to the third round of voting, which will take place on Monday.

Sunak, the son-in-law of Infosys founder N R Narayana Murthy, had topped the first round with 88 votes. But whilst he is performing well with Tory MPs and is widely expected to make it to the final two candidates to be put to the party membership, a snap YouGov poll of Tory party members — who will take the final call — found more support for Penny Mordaunt and Kemi Badenoch than for Sunak. Mordaunt has now overtaken Sunak as the bookies’ favourite to be the next UK PM.

Braverman, who pledged to take the UK out of the European Court of Human Rights, was eliminated after getting the lowest number of votes at 27. Her father has family roots in Nairobi and Goa whilst her mother, a Tamil, was born in Mauritius.

Lord Frost, former chief Brexit negotiator, told Talk TV he had “grave reservations” about Mordaunt becoming the next prime minister, saying he did not feel she was tough enough to stand up for Brexit and to make a success of it.

“I am quite surprised she is where she is in this leadership race,” he said, saying he did not feel she mastered the detail that was necessary when she was his deputy in the Brexit talks and was often not accountable or visible.

Frost, who worked in the cabinet with Sunak, said: “Rishi is a very serious guy and there is no doubt he could do the job very well. Whether he is yet offering the scale of economic change and change of direction that is needed, I am not yet sure.”

Former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt, one of two candidates eliminated on Wednesday night, has now thrown his support behind the ex-chancellor, saying Sunak has “formidable ability”. “Rishi is one of the most decent, straight people with the highest standards of integrity I have ever met in British politics,” Hunt said.

Sunak was grilled on BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme over whether he was too “rich and slick” to be PM given that hard-up Brits were “now using washing-up liquid rather than shampoo to wash their hair”. He replied: “I don’t judge people by their bank accounts. I judge them by their character and I think people can judge me by my actions. I believe in hard work and aspiration. That’s my story — my parents worked incredibly hard, sacrificed a lot and gave opportunities for me and my brother and sister. That’s something I am proud of and if I am PM I will stand up for those values.”

He said he supported home secretary Priti Patel’s plans to deport illegal immigrants to Rwanda, saying, “I think it is critical we have control of our borders and I say that as the child and grandchild of immigrants. This country has a proud history of welcoming people. There is nothing ethical about letting people perish to their deaths in the channel,” he said, adding he would only cut taxes in a responsible way as it was more important to tackle inflation. “I don’t cut taxes to win elections; I win elections to cut taxes,” Sunak said.

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