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The Tory leadership contest has been narrowed to eight candidates as Sajid Javid was knocked out of the race.

Former chancellor Rishi Sunak was first over the line as he strengthened his chances of going into the final round.

He was closely followed by Liz Truss and Penny Mordaunt who looked set to battle it out for the second spot in the run-off.

New chancellor Nadhim Zahawi, former health secretary Jeremy Hunt and attorney general Suella Braverman all met the 20-vote threshold.

Newcomers Tom Tugendhat and Kemi Badenoch also made the cut.

Rishi Sunak at the launch of his campaign to be Conservative Party leader ( PA)

But former health secretary Sajid Javid, who trigged Mr Johnson’s fall by being first to quit his Cabinet last week, pulled out after failing to get the numbers.

The field is expected to narrow further tomorrow when Tory MPs vote for the first time on their new leader – and Britain’s next Prime Minister.

Tory sources suggested that Mr Sunak’s campaign had “lent” Mr Hunt support to get him on the ballot – but that he was unlikely to hit the 30 threshold today.

Nadine Dorries also accused Mr Sunak of pulling “dirty tricks” after he and Jeremy Hunt made it into the first ballot of MPs in the Tory leadership contest.

She tweeted: “This is dirty tricks/a stitch up/dark arts. Take your pick.

“Team Rishi want the candidate they know they can definitely beat in the final two and that is @Jeremy_Hunt”.

But Mr Hunt denied such claims telling Andrew Marr on LBC: “We are running completely independent campaigns,” Mr Hunt told LBC radio when pressed on the claims.”

Growing numbers of Tory MPs now believe that trade minister Penny Mordaunt or foreign secretary Liz Truss will get through to the final round.

Rehman Chisti was forced to pull out of the race as he failed to secure any public backers. 

Rehman Chishti failed to get any public backers and was forced to pull out of the race ( PA)

The Gillingham and Rainham MP is deciding who to back as he reflects on he “bottom up campaign” based on “self-belief and resilience”.

A new ConHome poll of party members suggested that either woman could beat the former Chancellor – with Tory activists traditionally to the right of MPs.

It suggested in the run-off stage of the contest Ms Mordaunt would get 58% to Mr Sunak’s 31% and Ms Truss would beat him 51% to 34%.

One Tory MP told the Mirror: “It will be a clear choice between the change candidate and more of the same”.

They added: “Rishi’s going to struggle with the members. Whoever is the anti-Rishi candidate has a really good chance of winning”.

Sajid Javid was knocked out of the race, making a statement a few minutes before the 1922 Committee confirmed candidates on the first ballot ( Tejas Sandhu/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock)

Mr Sunak launched his campaign yesterday pledging to have a “grown-up conversation” about the state of the economy.

Backed by deputy PM Dominic Raab, he promised to push down taxes “when, not if” he gets soaring inflation under control.

The top Tory tackled head-on claims of betrayal by allies of Boris Johnson insisting he quit government because “it was no longer working”.

And he rejected allegations that he had been working with Dominic Cummings, formerly one of the PM’s closest allies, to bring Mr Johnson down.

Mr Sunak has the support of three of the last four chief whips, including Gavin Williamson, who are known for their use of persuasion.

But the PM’s closest allies, including Nadine Dorries and Jacob Rees-Mogg, rallied behind Ms Truss, Mr Sunak’s main rival for the Tory crown at this stage.

Liz Truss arrives in Downing Street ( Wiktor Szymanowicz/REX/Shutterstock)

Mr Johnson’s allies are bitter at what they regard as Mr Sunak’s betrayal after he quit dramatically last week, prompting dozens more resignations.

Mr Rees-Mogg praised Ms Truss who had “always opposed Rishi’s higher taxes”, in efforts he labelled “proper conservativism”.

Former Army Colonel Tom Tugendhat also launched his bid for Tory leadership by warning tax cuts cannot be the “only round in the magazine”.

The senior Tory issued a scathing verdict on the Government’s record, saying they had been “divided and distracted” when they should have been “united, responsive and committed” to the future of the British public.

Culture warrior Kemi Badenoch pledged to cut subsidies for low-quality degrees and make it easier to get into nursing without needing to go to uni.

While moderate Ms Mordaunt was narrowly in second place, her allies fear she will slip off the final ballot if right-wingers back Liz Truss.

One supporter said: “My fear is that the right will coalesce around Liz and push Penny into third place. That is the clear direction of travel.”

Leadership candidate Tom Tugendhat addresses the audience during his campaign launch ( Getty Images)

The supporter believed it would be “Penny or Liz” to face Rishi Sunak, adding: “It will be a clear choice between the change candidate and more of the same.”

They suggested despite more than 40 MPs backing the former Chancellor, he would come second in a vote of 180,000 Tory members this summer.

“Rishi’s going to struggle with the members,” the MP said. “Whoever is the anti-Rishi candidate has a really good chance of winning.”

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