Brexit Campaigner Johnson Far Ahead in Race to Lead Britain

LONDON (AP) -
This four-photo combo shows the contenders still placed to become leader of the Conservative Party, from left: Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, Jeremy Hunt, Sajid Javid. (AP file photo combo)

Boris Johnson, a former foreign secretary who helped lead the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign, is the runaway favorite to win the final ballot later Thursday that will whittle down the race to replace Prime Minister Theresa May to two candidates.

Johnson, who served as London mayor for eight years, has cast himself as the only candidate who can deliver Brexit on Oct. 31 while fighting off the electoral threats of Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party and Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Despite a series of scandals in the past and criticism about his attention to detail, Johnson has dominated the race since PM May announced a month ago that she would step down after repeatedly failing to get her Brexit deal ratified by Parliament.

Johnson increased his support among lawmakers in the fourth round of the ballot on Thursday morning.

Johnson got 157 out of 313 votes. Environment Minister Michael Gove came second with 61 votes, overtaking Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who got 59 votes.

Interior Minister Sajid Javid was fourth with 34 votes and was eliminated from the contest. Two votes were declared invalid.

A fifth ballot later on Thursday will determine the final two candidates. Then around 160,000 Conservative Party grassroots members will vote on who will be their leader – and Britain’s next prime minister – by the end of July. Bookmakers give Johnson an 89% probability of winning.

Johnson has pledged to leave the European Union on Oct. 31 with or without a deal. The EU has said it will not renegotiate the divorce deal that May agreed to last year and the British Parliament has indicated it will block a no-deal exit.

He has not addressed how he will solve that riddle.