Tory leadership race: Theresa May and Andrea Leadsom make final ballot as Michael Gove is eliminated
Theresa May will face Andrea Leadsom in the battle to become the next leader of the Conservative Party in nine weeks' time as Michael Gove was eliminated in the second round of the leadership contest.
The Home Secretary won the support of 199 MPs while Andrea Leadsom, the energy minister, came second in the contest with 84 votes. Mr Gove, the Justice Secretary, was pushed back into third place with 46 votes, meaning he is now eliminated from the leadership contest.
The leader of the party and Britain's next Prime Minister will be chosen from a ballot of around 150,000 Conservative Party members, due to end on 9 September.
During the first round of voting Liam Fox, a former Defence Secretary, was eliminated from the contest and Stephen Crabb, the Work and Pensions Secretary, withdrew his bid to succeed David Cameron as Prime Minister after he failed to gather enough support for his campaign. Both of the candidates pledged their support.
Mrs May said: "I am delighted to have won so much support from my colleagues. This vote shows that the Conservative Party can come together - and under my leadership it will.
"I have said all along that this election needs to be a proper contest. And now it is time for me - and my team - to put my case to the Conservative Party membership.
"That case comes down to three things. Because we need strong, proven leadership to negotiate the best deal for Britain as we leave the European Union, to unite our party and our country, and to make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us.
"Those are the things my colleagues have voted for in overwhelming numbers today, and I am confident they will win the support of our members - and the support of the country as a whole."
Michael Gove said he was "naturally disappointed" to be eliminated but said his two rivals were both "formidable politicians" who deserved to be in the final run-off, and whichever of them won would "lead the country well".
Theresa May won the first round with an overwhelming result of 165 votes – followed by Andrea Leadsom on 66, Michael Gove on 48 and Stephen Crabb on 34.
Meanwhile Priti Patel, the Employment minister who was one of the leading Leave campaigners in the EU referendum, backed Ms May for the top job. “She shares the steely determination I always admired in Margaret Thatcher, and she has the experience and trust needed to succeed for this great nation of ours,” Ms Patel said.
Who is Andrea Leadsom?
Until recently a relatively obscure junior minister, Andrea Leadsom has emerged as Theresa May's only challenger in the battle to become prime minister.
The energy minister achieved prominence taking a leading role in the Brexit campaign and leapfrogged more senior rivals amid a Tory battle which saw Boris Johnson drop out of the race after Michael Gove sensationally decided to run against him.
In fact, it was Mr Johnson's reported failure to keep a promise to make clear that Mrs Leadsom would serve in his "top three" cabinet positions that may have driven Mr Gove to his about-turn, according to some observers.
When Mrs Leadsom and Mr Gove then announced they would run for the Tory leadership hours before nominations closed, Mr Johnson's chances were spectacularly ended.
She now has the support of Mr Johnson and has seen off the challenge of Mr Gove - now seen as a traitor by many Tories - to become the Leave camp's standard bearer in the race for No 10.
As a member of the 2010 intake of so-called "Cameroon" MPs, the 53-year-old said leaving the European Union would be a "disaster" but now insists she has been on a "journey" and campaigned to leave after being convinced the bloc was "not reformable".
She has defended herself against accusations that she lacks the experience, pointing out that David Cameron had no experience of government before becoming Tory leader and then prime minister.
Mrs Leadsom has more than two years' experience in Government - first becoming a junior minister to George Osborne at the Treasury in 2014.
It is thought the Chancellor picked her due to her 25 years' experience working in the City - a career that has come under the spotlight in the leadership race.
Mrs Leadsom has been forced to release her CV and then deny she massaged her employment history to make it look like she held more senior roles.
Alongside her finance career, Mrs Leadsom chaired a charity that helped parents struggling to form bonds with their new babies.
She continued that work - a long-held passion - after entering Palriament in 2010 as MP for South Northamptonshire, founding the charity PIP UK.
Her most recent role has been serving as a junior minister to Energy Secretary Amber Rudd, who she clashed with during the EU referendum TV debates.
After taking the job she immediately raised eyebrows after admitting she previously doubted whether climate change was real, telling the website Drill or Drop during a parliamentary hearing: "When I first came to this job one of my two questions was: 'Is climate change real?' and the other was 'Is hydraulic fracturing safe?' And on both of those questions I now am completely persuaded."
Born in Buckinghamshire, Mrs Leadsom had wanted to be an MP since she was a 13 year-old pupil at Tonbridge Girls' Grammar School in Kent, and after leaving school she went to Warwick University to study political science.
She is married to Ben Leadsom and has three children.
When not at Westminster, she enjoys cycling, walking in the countryside and spending time with her family.
She describes herself as a "very committed Christian" who spends time studying the Bible with parliamentary colleagues.
Belfast Telegraph Digital