Did Theresa May spoil her ballot paper? Mystery as TWO votes in Tory leadership race are declared null and void with suspicion falling on opponents of Boris Johnson who backed Rory Stewart
- For the first time in the leadership race not all of the 313 votes counted today
- Theresa May told MPs that it was ‘none of your business’ how she voted
- Some think Rory Stewart backers opposed to a No Deal Brexit were responsible
Published: 16:55 BST, 20 June 2019 | Updated: 17:20 BST, 20 June 2019
The hunt is on for two Tory MPs branded ‘numpties’ who spoiled their ballot papers in the vote to elect the next prime minister today – with suspicion even falling on Theresa May herself.
As in every previous round 313 votes were cast in the fourth round of votes this morning. But for the first time not all of them counted towards one of the four remaining candidates.
With just two votes separating second placed Michael Gove and challenger Jeremy Hunt, the spoiled papers could have had an impact on which opponent of front-runner Boris Johnson was seen to have the most momentum.
The ballot taking place in parliament is secret and many MPs have refused to say who they are backing.
Theresa May, pictured in Brussels today, has repeatedly told reporters that how she has cast her vote was ‘none of your business’
Rory Stewart was knocked out of the leadership race last night and has declined to endorse one of the remaining candidates
What happens next in the Tory leadership race?
Tory MPs have now whittled the field of challengers down to just three candidates.
And when the result of the fifth ballot is announced at 6pm they will have selected the final two.
At that point Tory MPs will have completed their part of the leadership contest and the remaining two candidates will then be put to Conservative Party members to choose from.
The final pair will have to face a series of 16 hustings events over the next month with Theresa May’s replacement expected to be announced in the week starting July 22.
They include Mrs May, who has declined to reveal who she is tipping to follow her in taking on one of the biggest jobs in world politics.
When journalists asked her this morning who she voted for, Mrs May said: ‘I have answered this question the same way every time I have come out, and I think you know the same answer today.
‘You can probably chant it with me in unison – ”none of your business”.’
Mrs May’s predecessor David Cameron refused to vote in the leadership ballot which elected her.
Suspicion has also fallen on two of the supporters of moderate candidate Rory Stewart who refused to back the others because of their support for a No Deal Brexit.
Boris Johnson supporter Mark Francois said it was up in the air which Cabinet minister would fight the ex-foreign secretary in the run-off to be decided by party members, stating: ‘The other thing that every MP wants to know is who were the two numpties who spoilt their ballot papers?
Only three of the Tory leadership candidates remain in the race to succeed Mrs May and become Tory leader and prime minister
Mr Johnson tweeted his delight at topping the ballot again today. Mr Javid thanked his supporters (right) as he bowed out of the race
Boris Johnson supporter Mark Francois (right) said: ‘Every MP wants to know … who were the two numpties who spoilt their ballot papers?’
‘I can’t believe anybody did that by accident.
‘I know people have criticisms about the limitations of members of Parliament, but most of them are capable of putting an X in a small box.
‘There was a gasp when it was read out that there were two spoilt ballot papers.
‘So, we are now all trying to work out who that was.
‘We might have a sweepstake among the parliamentary party about who it was who spoilt the ballot papers.
‘And, hopefully some day, years from now when somebody writes their memoirs they will go ‘oh, by the way, it was me’.’
Tory leadership candidates threaten to BOYCOTT next BBC TV debate after the ‘biased’ corporation failed to vet imam who made anti-Semitic comments
Tory leadership hopefuls were today threatening to boycott a BBC TV debate after the first showdown descended into a shambles.
The special programme featuring five would-be PMs has been widely condemned after it emerged one of the ‘ordinary voters’ posting questions was an imam who had previously posted vile tweets about Israel.
Another was a former Labour staffer. There was also fury about the format – which contenders complained made them look like an aging boyband – and how presenter Emily Maitlis weighted into the exchanges.
The debacle has cast serious doubt on a proposed Question Time-style debate between the final two, which would be hosted by Fiona Bruce.
A source on Johnson’s team said the controversy ‘hasn’t helped the case’, while other campaigns also warned that they would be looking more carefully at what was put forward. ‘It’s got to be better than that,’ one said.
Julian Knight, a Conservative member of the culture select committee, said: ‘People look up to the BBC but the format and editorial failings were such that they actually produced a much worse debate than Channel 4.
‘The greats of the past like Robin Day and Richard Dimbleby will be doing full 360 degree spins in their graves at this shambolic execution by the BBC.’