Tory hopefuls are frantically lobbying MPs today with just hours to go until voting begins to decide the next PM.
Half the 10 candidates could be wiped out at a single stroke in the first round of the contest – as they need at least 17 backers to continue.
He warned of ‘mortal retribution’ from the public unless the government delivers
At a hustings last night, Mr Johnson also refused to rule out suspending Parliament to force No Deal by the end of October, merely saying he was ‘not attracted’ to the idea.
But rivals have stepped up their attacks on the former foreign secretary, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid branding him one of the ‘same old school ties’ and urging Conservatives to choose a less divisive candidate.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt joked that he woke up today feeling like it was the ‘morning of my wedding’. ‘Something big is going to change but don’t quite know how it is going to unfold,’ he tweeted.
Boris Johnson (pictured leaving his London home today) cemented his front runner status yesterday after launching his leadership campaign
Michael Gove (pictured leaving his London home today) has been struggling to recover after admitting to cocaine use in the past
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt joked that he woke up today feeling like it was the ‘morning of my wedding’
Ten MPs are on the ballot as Tory MPs prepare to vote on who will be their next leader
Leadership hopefuls need at least 17 votes in the secret ballot to go through to the second round, with anyone below the threshold automatically eliminated.
But even if all the candidates meet the target, the one with the lowest number of votes overall will still have to exit the race.
Mr Johnson has 82 public pledges of support – way ahead of Michael Gove who has 32, and Jeremy Hunt on 30. Dominic Raab has 22, and Sajid Javid 18.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock looks to be close to the threshold of 17, while all the other candidates are well below on declared support.
However, dozens of MPs have yet to state their allegiance – and it is a secret ballot so there is no way of knowing whether they follow through on their pledges.
How will the Tory leader battle play out?
This will be another critical day, as the first ballot takes place between 10am and noon. The result is due to be announced at 1pm.
Anyone with fewer than 16 votes will be automatically eliminated, and at least one will be ejected.
THURSDAY, JUNE 19
Further rounds of voting will take place during June until there are just two candidates left by this point.
They will then go to a run-off ballot of the 160,000 Tory members.
WEEK OF JULY 22
The winner is due to be declared this week.
They will take over from Mrs May as PM shortly afterwards – probably in time to take a session of PMQs before the Commons breaks up for its summer recess.
Mr Johnson launched his bid with a warning to MPs that they will ‘reap the whirlwind’ if they try to thwart Brexit – and said it was essential that Britain was out of the EU by the end of October.
But Mr Javid dismissed the former foreign secretary as ‘yesterday’s news’, saying the party needed to show it had changed.
Former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom insisted she was ‘very optimistic’ about the ballot, and said she thought that she had the support to get through to the next round – despite a relatively low number of public endorsements.
She told ITV’s Peston: ‘There’s a whole range of colleagues who for one reason or another don’t want to declare for one candidate or another and I’m very optimistic about tomorrow.
‘But tomorrow’s a big day, and we’ll see some real facts tomorrow – before then it’s all just speculation.’
Former chief whip Mark Harper, ex-work and pensions secretary Esther McVey and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart may also struggle to get over the line on Thursday.
But Mr Harper said: ‘I’m confident about getting through tomorrow based on the feedback that I’ve had from my colleagues, from my campaign launch yesterday and the various hustings that we’ve had.’
Meanwhile, Labour vowed to keep fighting against No Deal Brexit after the latest cross-party attempt by MPs to take control of Commons business failed.
The cross-party motion, which would have enabled MPs to take control of the business of the House on June 25, was defeated by 309 to 298 – a majority of 11.
Ten Tories – including Ken Clarke, Sir Oliver Letwin, Justine Greening and Dominic Grieve – supported the motion, but eight Labour MPs voted against.
However, eight Labour MPs defied Jeremy Corbyn to back the government – and two more abstained.
Shadow Brexit secretary Sir Keir Starmer said it would have acted as a ‘safety valve’ enabling Parliament to pass legislation preventing the next prime minister from taking Britain out of the EU without a deal.
The ballot today opened at 10am and will close at noon, with the result due to be announced at 1pm.
At his own launch last night (pictured), Home Secretary Sajid Javid branded Mr Johnson one of the ‘same old school ties’ and urged Conservatives to choose a less divisive candidate