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Five still in the race to become Britain's next prime minister

By EARLE GALE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-06-19 09:22

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Rory Stewart appear on BBC TV's debate with candidates vying to replace British PM Theresa May, in London, on June 18, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Hardline Brexiteer Dominic Raab out of the competition in the second round

Five people are still in the running to become the United Kingdom's next prime minister after voting on Tuesday afternoon among Conservative Party members of Parliament eliminated Dominic Raab from the competition.

Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Rory Stewart, Sajid Javid, and Michael Gove are still in the race to become not only national leader but also leader of the Conservative Party and got to take part in a televised debate on Tuesday evening.

Johnson, the UK's former foreign secretary, led the field after attracting 126 votes. Only those who received 33 votes or more advanced in the competition. Hunt was second with 46 votes.

Johnson had earlier been accused of promising MPs whatever he had to in order to win their support, even if that meant some of his pledges contradicted each another.

The claim was made in the Guardian newspaper on Tuesday after Johnson reportedly told hardline Brexiteer lawmakers that he wanted to thoroughly renegotiate-if not throw away-the withdrawal agreement drawn up by Prime Minister Theresa May and the European Union. The paper said he told the MPs the proposed deal that sets out the terms of the UK's pending exit from the bloc was effectively "dead".

But, at the same time, Johnson reportedly told EU-friendly Conservative Party MPs that there would be almost no chance of the UK leaving the EU without a deal if he became leader.

With him having also said the UK will leave the EU on the scheduled Oct 31 exit date and there being little time left to renegotiate May's deal, his promises seem to be mutually exclusive.

"Boris has been telling colleagues… 'I'll rip up the whole thing', yet he's also securing the votes of centrists like Oliver Dowden… that can really come back to haunt you," one unnamed MP told the paper.

Rory Stewart told reporters: "Somehow, he's convinced (EU-friendly MP) Matt Hancock that he agrees with every word that Matt says, that he's in favor of the softest of soft Brexits … and at the same time he's got (hardline Brexiteer) Mark Francois roaring: 'This man looked me in the eyes and promised we're going out on the hardest of no-deal Brexits.'"

Other MPs reportedly said Johnson has made conflicting promises in closed-door meetings about the UK's proposed high-speed, north-south rail link, with some believing he is in favor of it and others convinced he is not.

By the end of this week, two people will be left in the running to be prime minister and they will be separated by the Conservative Party's 160,000 members, who will take place in a postal vote that will start on June 22. The winner will be announced at the end of July.

Sajid Javid, the current home secretary, said on the BBC's Today program that he hopes the final two candidates will not be from the same privileged background.

Javid, the son of a Pakistani bus driver who graduated from the University of Exeter, said he didn't want the face-of to be like "some kind of Oxford Union debate".

Javid was the only person in the final six not to graduate from Oxford University.

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