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Liz Truss gains more ground in race for UK Tory leadership final

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LONDON — Liz Truss further narrowed the gap on rival Penny Mordaunt in the latest round of voting to pick the next U.K. Conservative Party leader, as Rishi Sunak remained the clear front-runner.

Sunak, the former chancellor, bagged 118 votes from fellow Conservative MPs, who are whittling down the field of candidates to a final two before the ultimate decision is thrown open to rank-and-file Tory members. Sunak added three more backers in the latest round.

Former Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch was knocked out after coming in fourth place with 59 votes, adding a vote since the third round but failing to build enough support to overtake Truss, the foreign secretary.

The results mean Truss, who netted 86 votes — up 15 on the previous round — is closing in on former Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt, who is currently placed second on 92 votes and added 10 to her tally in this round.

Badenoch was seen as a major competitor to Truss for votes on the Brexiteer right wing of the party and the foreign secretary’s team will hope Badenoch’s departure helps Truss overtake Mordaunt for a face-off with Sunak.

MPs hold their final vote on Wednesday, and could still switch who they’re backing. The ultimate winner will succeed Boris Johnson not only as Conservative Party chief, but as U.K. prime minister. Johnson is due to step down in September after losing the support of his own MPs.

The results came as an opinion poll of Tory members by YouGov suggested Sunak would lose by a wide margin against any of the candidates in the final stage of the contest.

Such an outcome is not unprecedented in Conservative politics. In 2001, Ken Clarke, also a former chancellor, won the backing of MPs but lost the ballot of party members, with Iain Duncan Smith ultimately becoming leader.

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