UK PM candidate Johnson increases support in third round of leadership contest

International Development Minister Rory Stewart received only 27 votes and was eliminated from the contest

epa07657274 Former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson departs his home in London, Britain, 19 June 2019. Johnson is one of five Conservative Party candidates campaigning who are vying to be Britain's next Prime Minister.  EPA/ANDY RAIN
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Brexit campaigner Boris Johnson cemented his position as the favourite to be Britain’s next prime minister on Wednesday after increasing his support in the third round of the Conservative Party leadership contest.

Mr Johnson received a 143 out of 313 votes. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt was in second place with 54 votes and Environment Minister Michael Gove third with 51. Interior Minister Sajid Javid won 38 votes.

International development minister Rory Stewart managed only 27 votes and was eliminated from the contest after what many members regarded as a poor performance in the most recent televised leadership debate.

The remaining candidates will face two more votes on Thursday to decide the final two.

Conservative Party grassroots members will decide who will become their leader, and Britain’s next prime minister, by the end of July.

“We’re gaining momentum,” said a source in the team running Mr Johnson’s campaign.

Mr Johnson, whose career has been marked by gaffes and scandals, is the all but inevitable choice to replace Prime Minister Theresa May and take on Britain’s negotiations to leave the EU.

The former foreign minister and London mayor has vowed to take Britain out of the EU by October 31 no matter what, raising the prospect of a no-deal Brexit, which businesses say could harm the economy and investment.

Almost three years since Britain voted to leave the EU, the country, Parliament and two main parties are deeply divided over  Brexit.

Mr Johnson, who unlike other politicians is better known by his first name, has managed to persuade much of his party that only he can rescue it from electoral disaster by delivering Britain's departure.

He won the support of one of earlier candidates, pro-Brexit MP and former Brexit minister Dominic Raab.

"The only candidate who will now do this is Boris Johnson, and so I'll be supporting him to become our next prime minister," Mr Raab told the Evening Standard.