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Boris Johnson wins most support in first round to pick UK PM

LONDON: Mr Boris Johnson, the man who has pledged to deliver Brexit on Oct 31, surged closer to power yesterday when he won by far the most support from Conservative Party lawmakers in the first round of the contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May.

Mr Johnson, the face of the official campaign to leave the European Union in the 2016 referendum, won the support of 114 Conservative lawmakers in the first round of the contest to replace Mrs May. A total of 313 lawmakers voted.

He said: "Thank you to my friends and colleagues in the Conservative & Unionist Party for your support. I am delighted to win the first ballot, but we have a long way to go."

His closest rivals in the first round were: foreign minister Jeremy Hunt, who garnered 43 votes; environment minister Michael Gove, 37 votes and former Brexit minister Dominic Raab, 27 votes.

Interior Minister Sajid Javid came fifth with 23 votes.

Mr Matt Hancock won 20 votes and Mr Rory Stewart, 19.

Three were knocked out: Ms Andrea Leadsom, former leader of the House of Commons, Mr Mark Harper and Ms Esther McVey.

Betting markets give Mr Johnson, who has a long record of scandals and gaffes, a 70 per cent probability of winning the top job.

The second round is due on June 18, with further ballots planned for June 19 and June 20 until there are just two candidates.

A postal ballot of the wider Conservative Party membership will then be held to pick a leader. A new prime minister should be chosen by the end of July.

There had been speculation that the contest could be accelerated because of Mr Johnson's strong lead but there was no immediate sign of rivals bowing out of the race.

Mr Johnson kicked off his official campaign on Wednesday with a pledge to lead Britain out of the European Union on Oct 31 and a warning to his divided Conservative Party that "delay means defeat".

"After three years and two missed deadlines, we must leave the EU on October 31," Mr Johnson, the 54-year-old former foreign minister and London mayor, had said then. But he added: "I am not aiming for a no-deal outcome."

Mr Johnson, whose unconventional style has helped him shrug off a series of scandals in the past, has won over much of his party by arguing that only he can rescue the Conservatives by delivering Brexit. - REUTERS

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