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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 October 2005, 16:03 GMT 17:03 UK
Tory hopefuls await MPs' verdict
Liam Fox, David Cameron, David Davis
The three remaining contenders face the vote in round two
Conservative MPs have voted for the final time in the party's leadership contest, with David Cameron the clear favourite to top the poll.

Rivals David Davis and Liam Fox seem to be contesting second spot, with only two going on to a nationwide members' ballot, which ends in December.

The poll closed at 1700 BST and the result is expected at 1730 BST.

Ex-chancellor Ken Clarke was knocked out in the first round of voting by the party's 198 MPs on Tuesday.

Contingency plans

Mr Cameron's supporters say he may win up to 100 votes, while Mr Davis' and Mr Fox's camps say they are confident of progressing.

In the first ballot of Tory MPs on Tuesday, Mr Clarke was eliminated after getting 38 votes. Mr Davis came top with 62 votes, followed by Mr Cameron on 56 and Dr Fox on 42.
David is fighting for every vote, is confident he will go through to the next round and intends to take the contest to the party membership and win
Spokesman for David Davis

The top two in Thursday afternoon's vote should go through a six week run-off campaign before a postal ballot of the party's 300,000-strong membership.

Some Tory officials have been told to make contingency plans for a new leader by Friday if Mr Cameron wins the poll overwhelmingly and the second placed candidate decides to withdraw.

Dr Fox said it was "unthinkable" that members could be "denied their say in the leadership election". And Mr Davis said he would stay in the race if he comes second in the MPs' ballot.

'No pressure'

Party chairman Francis Maude told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there had been "no pressure" from Tory headquarters on the candidate coming second among MPs to give way.

NEWLY DECLARED FOR CAMERON
Sir Malcolm Rifkind
Adam Holloway
Andrew Lansley
Sir George Young
Michael Jack
John Bercow
David Curry
Charles Hendry
David Heathcoat Amory
Stephen Dorrell
Stewart Jackson

Mr Maude said he expected the ballot of Conservative members to go ahead as planned.

Mr Cameron's hopes of winning the contest received another boost with a YouGov internet poll for the Daily Telegraph suggesting that 59% of ordinary party members wanted him to take the helm.

This put him well ahead of Mr Fox on 18% and Mr Davis on 15%.

YouGov interviewed 665 Conservative Party members across the UK online on Tuesday night.

In an eleventh-hour pitch for votes, Mr Davis told BBC News that as Conservative leader he would push for good public services, low taxes and opportunity for youngsters.

NEWLY DECLARED FOR FOX
John Redwood
Nigel Waterson
John Whittingdale
Laurence Robertson
Ann Widdecombe

Mr Cameron said his priorities as Tory leader would be to make the economy more competitive, to strengthen families and communities and improve the quality of life for everybody.

And Dr Fox said as Tory leader he would want to see a Britain "where hard working people get to keep more of their own money, where we encourage enterprise and prosperity".

The two finalists are due to meet party officials on Friday to finalise arrangements for nationwide hustings.

The final result of the party members' ballot is expected on 6 December.

Michael Howard, who has formally resigned as leader, will carry on in a caretaker role until then.


SEE ALSO:
Where will Tories go now?
19 Oct 05 |  UK Politics
How new Tory chief will be chosen
20 Oct 05 |  UK Politics



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