BORIS Johnson was on the way to No10 last night after nailing his rivals in the race to replace Theresa May.
Delighted Mr Johnson said there was still a “long way to go”.
But a resigned Tory opponent said last night: “He’s home and dry.”
Further votes will be held next week to whittle down the contenders to two.
The 114 votes is equivalent to more than a third of the entire Conservative parliamentary party. A “delighted” Mr Johnson cautioned there was a “long way to go” after hearing the result in his Westminster office.
He celebrated last night at a constituency dinner in Grantham.
But jubilant Boris backers said they were confident of hitting 150 votes in the second round of voting next Tuesday as MPs switch sides.
‘BORIS IS HOME AND DRY’
An insider said ‘Team Boris’ were already making approaches to Brexiteers’ Andrea Leadsom and Esther McVey – two of three candidates knocked out yesterday.
One ‘Team Boris’ backer said: “We’ve got a momentum. People will come hurtling towards us now. He’s the unity candidate.”
A ‘Remain’ MP admitted: “Boris is home and dry.
Boris backers last night urged the “vanity candidates” — those who only scraped through — to quit. One told the Daily Telegraph: “The race is between Boris, Hunt and Gove. Anyone else who tries to carry on is being indulgent.
“He’s reached a tipping point where people think he’s going to win so the bar to back him is far lower, while the bar to back anyone else is much higher.
“He’s got a mixture of pure Brexiteers and careerist Tories who hope to get a job in the next Cabinet.”
Tory veteran Cheryl Gillan read out the first round results in a packed Westminster Committee room yesterday lunchtime.
While Boris Johnson got 114 votes, Jeremy Hunt secured 43, Michael Gove 37, Dominic Raab 27, Sajid Javid 23, Matt Hancock 20 and the shock outsider Rory Stewart got 19.
Three of the ten were booted out after failing to reach the cut off of 17 votes.
Ex-Commons leader Andrea Leadsom received 11 despite begging MPs to help her.
Former Tory chief whip Mark Harper got 10 and former Cabinet Minister Esther McVey came last on 9.
The successful candidates now have until 1pm today (Fri) to decide whether they want to continue into next week.
A second, third and fourth round of voting will take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday to whittle the field down to a final two – who then go before the Tory party faithful.
I’m sure there are some who will ask themselves whether it is worth progressingChris Grayling
Bookies slashed the odds on a Mr Johnson victory to 1-5 odds on last night.
One of his biggest backers, Liz Truss, said the result was “brilliant”.
And another Cabinet supporter – Chris Grayling – called on those at the bottom of the field to consider whether it was worth carrying on.
He said: “You can never take anything for granted but it’s a very, very good start for Boris.
“I would say to anybody I hope over the next few days that it‘s important for members to have a choice but I’m sure there are some who will ask themselves whether it is worth progressing.”
Critically even supporters of bitter rival Michael Gove indicated to The Sun they may now switch to Mr Johnson amid fears of a “Stop Boris” campaign among Tories desperate for a soft Brexit.
One MP said: “I don’t see how it could now happen but I am aware there is talk of a Stop Boris at all costs plot. That would be outrageous.
“The party as a while must be able to decide for themselves if they want him as Prime Minister.”
Boris Johnson’s early victory came just 24 hours after he promised massed ranks of Tory backers a super-fast Brexit and vowed to give Britain it’s mojo back.
He said the party had a “duty to the people” to leave the EU on time.
A poll in yesterday’s Conservative Home website once more highlighted the challenge facing Boris Johnson’s rivals.
The heavyweight won the over half the vote in an indicative poll of Tory members for “next leader of the Conservative party” – on 54 per cent.
Rory Stewart came second – but still 43 percentage points behind the man in front. Dominic Raab fell from 15 per cent a month ago to 8.3 per cent.
Michael Gove was fourth and Jeremy Hunt fifth.
While Boris Johnson has been accused of “hiding in a bunker”, supporters claim they have concentrated on the audience they need to win over – MPs.
‘ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE’
Ex-Tory party chairman Grant Shapps has been charged with building a huge database of every contact Mr Johnson has had with MPs.
And former chief whip and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has coordinated the recruitment campaign in Westminster.
One MP said: “He’s been having a lot of one to ones and been on message in each of them.”
But critics last night claimed Mr Johnson appeared to be “promising all things to all people”. One MP said: “The joke going round is that he’s offered three people the defence job.”
Rival campaigns add that Mr Johnson appears to be notably softening his stance on a No Deal. They said that while promising Brexiteers he may suspend Parliament to force through a No Deal, he had told ‘moderates’ he didn’t want a cliff edge exit, they claimed.
Brexit Party chief Nigel Farage last night said it was difficult to “trust” Boris, adding “Words are not good enough for me, I need to see actions.”
But he said it appeared beyond doubt he would be Britain’s next Prime Minister.
THE SUN SAYS
BORIS Johnson now looks all but certain to become Prime Minister. Tory Remainers had better start getting used to it.
Because collapsing his new Government over a No Deal Brexit, as some are absurdly threatening, would be an act of staggeringly stupid self-harm.
There are two likely results from the snap election they would force on Boris. One is that he wins a majority, as polls indicate he might, and pushes through a Brexit they despise anyway.
The other is they hand power to Corbyn’s Marxists, green-light the transformation of our economy into Venezuela’s and destroy their own party forever.
Alternatively they could actually support Boris, who plainly shares many of their beliefs and has committed to prioritising a new deal over No Deal.
That said, PM Boris is not nailed-on yet. And however much his supporters want a swift coronation he MUST face proper scrutiny first.
No matter how far ahead he is he must be rigorously tested, over facts and details, in live debates against a rival who knows his weaknesses.
The Tories cannot impose another PM on Britain without voters knowing just what we are getting.
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He told The Sun: “The question is, if he wins, which looks likely, is he going to deliver?
“Are we going to leave on the 31st of October?
“And if we do leave the EU then Boris will go down in history books as one of the great heroes.”