BORIS Johnson is on course for No10 after a huge win in the Tory leadership election which all but guarantees he’ll make it to the final shortlist of two.
The Brexiteer big beast won more than twice as many votes as his nearest rival Jeremy Hunt – with Michael Gove and Dominic Raab trailing behind.
Andrea Leadsom, Esther McVey and Mark Harper were all knocked out after failing to reach the necessary threshold of 17 votes to proceed further.
Sajid Javid, Matt Hancock and Rory Stewart all scraped over the line – but face a tough fight to stay in the race any further.
The victory for Boris in the secret ballot cements his frontrunner status and will give him huge momentum for the second round next week.
Mr Johnson said: “Thank you to my friends and colleagues in the Conservative & Unionist Party for your support. I am delighted to win the first ballot, but we have a long way to go.”
He took 114 votes – more than a third of the total vote – meaning he is almost certain to be one of the two candidates who party members will choose between next month.
Mr Hunt was on 43, Mr Gove 37, Mr Raab 27 and Mr Javid 23 – with Mr Hancock and Mr Stewart clinging on with 20 and 19 votes respectively.
Ms McVey came in last with the backing of just nine MPs while Mr Harper picked up ten and Ms Leadsom – the runner-up to Theresa May in 2016 – got 11.
The seven candidates who passed the threshold of winning at least 17 votes – 5 per cent of the party – now go through to a second ballot scheduled to be held next Tuesday.
Over the course of next week the field will be whittled down to a final two who will go before the membership.
Matt Hancock vowed to stay in the race, saying it was “terrific to have more votes than I could have hoped for”.
Rory Stewart, who hung on by just three votes, tweeted: “We can win this. Realism, action, unity, truth. Thank you. #RoryWalksOn.”
Today the PM travelled to the Commons to cast her own vote – but asked who she was supporting, she hit back: “That’s none of your business.”
The three longshot candidates Mrs Leadsom, Ms McVey and Mr Stewart posed for a selfie together in the Palace of Westminster corridor where voting was taking place.
Mrs Leadsom insisted she was “very positive and optimistic” while Ms McVey admitted she was an “outsider” in the leadership race.
Mr Hancock jokingly started lobbying BoJo supporters in the corridor, saying: “Can I persuade you?”
Boris won the last-minute endorsement of veteran Brexiteer John Redwood, who said: “I’ve chosen to vote for Boris Johnson because he has said the withdrawal agreement is dead.”