MPs hunt for the two 'numpties' that spoilt their leadership race ballots

PUBLISHED: 15:47 20 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:57 20 June 2019

Mark Francois MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, also a member of the European Research Group (ERG) seen at Westminster College Green. Picture: Ian Lawrence X/Getty Images.

Mark Francois MP for Rayleigh and Wickford, also a member of the European Research Group (ERG) seen at Westminster College Green. Picture: Ian Lawrence X/Getty Images.

2018 Getty Images

MPs are on the hunt for the two Tory 'numpties' that spoilt their ballot papers in the vote to elect the next prime minister.

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For the first time in the leadership contest to find the next Tory leader and prime minister, members of the "selectorate" have returned two spoiled ballots.

Just two votes out of 313 separating second placed Michael Gove and challenger Jeremy Hunt.

The spoiled papers could have made the difference between the contenders showing which opponent of front-runner, Boris Johnson, was seen to have the most momentum.

Johnson supporter Mark Francois said it was up in the air which cabinet minister would fight the ex-foreign secretary in the run-off to be decided by party members, stating: "The other thing that every MP wants to know is who were the two numpties who spoilt their ballot papers? I can't believe anybody did that by accident.

Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Rory Stewart, Sajid Javid, (bottom row) Esther McVey, Matt Hancock, Andrea Leadsom, Dominic Raab and Mark Harper. Picture: PA/PA WireBoris Johnson, Michael Gove, Jeremy Hunt, Rory Stewart, Sajid Javid, (bottom row) Esther McVey, Matt Hancock, Andrea Leadsom, Dominic Raab and Mark Harper. Picture: PA/PA Wire

"I know people have criticisms about the limitations of members of Parliament, but most of them are capable of putting an X in a small box.

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"There was a gasp when it was read out that there were two spoilt ballot papers.

"So, we are now all trying to work out who that was.

"We might have a sweepstake among the parliamentary party about who it was who spoilt the ballot papers.

"And, hopefully some day, years from now when somebody writes their memoirs they will go 'oh, by the way, it was me'."

In the ballot on Thursday morning Sajid Javid was knocked out of the Conservative leadership race when he received 34 votes.

Gove got 61, Hunt got 59, and Johnson got 157.

The results of the next ballot will be announced 6pm on Thursday evening.

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