Boris Johnson tops first round of voting for next UK PM

New-look Boris Johnson emerges as Tory frontrunner

Boris Johnson, who has pledged to deliver Brexit on October 31, surged closer to power on Thursday, winning by far the most support from Conservative lawmakers in the first round of the contest to replace Prime Minister Theresa May.

That was far ahead of his nearest rival, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, with 43. If they all clear that hurdle, the one with the lowest number of votes is knocked out.

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

A cross-party effort to block a chaotic end to the 46-year partnership failed on Wednesday, potentially leaving more room for manoeuvre for a future premier.

Mr Johnson, a former Foreign Secretary who served for eight years as Mayor of London, said he was "delighted" to win but warned that his campaign still had "a long way to go".

If there were only three candidates left by next Tuesday's vote, one would be eliminated and the contest could proceed to the next stage of voting by the party membership the same day, instead of next Thursday as now scheduled.

The ballot will commence at 10am, with a result expected at around 1pm this afternoon.

Leadership candidate and former work and pensions secretary Esther McVey told the Press Association: "I'm the outsider, I know that". Stewart voted against Brexit in 2016, and has vigorously opposed a "no-deal" Brexit.

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The contest has so far been dominated by Brexit and arguments over whether a deal can be renegotiated with the European Union by 31 October and whether talking up a no deal Brexit is a plausible promise.

The Times reported the health secretary met Javid, the home secretary, but the meeting appears not to have resulted in any agreement and Hancock is now thought to be more likely to back Gove or Hunt.

"I'm going to have to now say to those who are neck and neck with me, I'm afraid this is the time to be serious".

Six of the 10 candidates in the race for Downing Street: Andrea Leadsom, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid and Dominic Raab (left to right).

The candidates face their first live television debate on Sunday in a 90-minute programme on Channel 4.

Leadership hopefuls needed at least 17 votes in Thursday's secret ballot to go through to the second round, with anyone below that threshold automatically eliminated.

The victor of the contest to succeed Theresa May is expected to be announced in the week of 22 July.

The victor of the leadership race is set to become the UK's next Prime Minister after Theresa May announced her resignation on the 24th May.

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