David Davis outlines Penny Mordaunt's strength in winning seats
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The focus group was made up of five working class first-time Tory voters from Wolverhampton in a bid to see how the top candidates in the leadership race would fare against Labour. In a blow to Mr Sunak and Ms Truss, Ms Mordaunt proved most popular with members of the group.
After being shown a video of the trade minister, three of the voters said they would choose the Conservatives while one opted for Labour and another was undecided.
One of the group said: “When she’s speaking it sounds like it’s coming from the heart a bit more, especially compared with Rishi. He sounds a bit too slick, and Starmer sounds too robotic.”
Another added: “She has more energy about her. Liz Truss just seems a bit cold.”
In comparison, after seeing a video of Mr Sunak, three of the voters said they’d pick Labour and just one backed the former Chancellor.
Mr Sunak was described by members of the group as “out of touch”, “too slick” and “minted”.
After viewing a clip of Ms Truss, three members of the group said they would vote for Labour, while two said they would choose the Foreign Secretary.
One said: “She looks untrustworthy, just looks too much like a politician – even more than Rishi.”
Ed Dorrell, a director at centre right political research group Public First, said the “secret” to Ms Mordaunt’s “flurry of popularity” may be that she is not well known.
Mr Dorrell told the i: “Voters think she isn’t associated with the ruling class in Westminster.
“Many have never heard of her, but they like the cut of her jib – and they think she might be a breath of fresh air.
“Whether that would last if she were to become PM, and she was on the news day-in-day-out, is another thing altogether.”
It comes as Mr Sunak and Ms Mordaunt are the frontrunners in the Tory leadership race, with Ms Truss just behind.
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Attorney General Suella Braverman was eliminated in the latest round of voting today.
Ms Truss will be hoping to pick up votes from Ms Braverman’s supporters in the next ballot as Tories on the right of the party seek to rally round a single candidate.
Mr Sunak picked up 101 votes, Ms Mordaunt 83, Ms Truss 64, Jemi Badenoch 49 and Tom Tugendhat 32.
Ms Braverman had 27 votes, five fewer than she had in Wednesday’s first round of the contest despite the field being smaller on Thursday.
Mr Tugendhat also dropped five votes but insisted he would not quit the race.
Ms Mordaunt gained the most votes, putting on 16 from Wednesday’s total.
Mr Sunak put on an extra 13 votes and is closing in on the 120 votes required to guarantee a place in the final two, who will face a vote of the Tory membership to decide the next party leader and Prime Minister.
Ms Truss, who made a campaign launch speech earlier on Thursday, gained 14 votes but will hope that she can serve as a standard-bearer for the party’s right, picking up supporters from not only Ms Braverman but also Ms Badenoch, who is under pressure from the Foreign Secretary’s allies to pull out of the contest.
The next round of voting is due on Monday, with subsequent rounds if required until two candidates are left, who will then battle it out over the summer to win the support of Conservative members.
Their choice of the next Prime Minister will be announced on September 5.
Boris Johnson will then formally tender his resignation to the Queen to make way for his successor the following day.
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