Tory leadership: Who will give up to stop Boris Johnson?

Laura Kuenssberg
Political editor
@bbclaurakon Twitter

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If your first and only brush with the men who want to move into No 10 had been those sixty minutes of debate, would you really conclude that Boris Johnson is the soaraway favourite and Rory Stewart is the exciting one to watch?

Not really.

In fact, a source in the camp of one of the candidates tonight suggests if a newbie to the spectacle were told that afterwards, they would "stare in utter disbelief".

That's not just a reminder that it's always worth skimming off some of Westminster's daily froth to see what's underneath - but that political contests are full of ups and downs, and are rarely a smooth glide to the top or a straight slide down and out.

The former foreign secretary was less sure-footed than the strength in his numbers suggests. But he avoided blundering into fresh disaster, and voting rounds have put him out of reach of the rest.

After a metaphorical lock down lasting weeks, Boris Johnson now has only two days left to step carefully around any banana skins in order to book his place in the final two. But the joust to join him there is real.

Rory Stewart's apparent rising star shone a lot less brightly than his converted fans might have hoped. The senior cabinet trio, Messrs. Hunt, Gove and Javid, were all content with their time in the studio.

And when it comes to votes, all four are within easy potential reach of each other - at this stage, all are reluctant to withdraw.

But by Thursday, they and the Tory party have a bigger decision to make: who, if any among them, will give up their own dream, in the hope of mounting a serious and collective effort to stop Boris Johnson?

Strangely, at this moment, the tension in this race is not about the identity of the likely winner, but which politician will wrangle their way to second place.

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