Former health secretary Sajid Javid withdraws from the contest minutes before the nominations deadline.
Eight candidates are left in the race to lead the Conservative Party – and become the next prime minister – after former health secretary Sajid Javid pulled out of the contest.
To stay in the race, leadership hopefuls had to get support of at least 20 Tory MPs by Tuesday evening.
Minutes before the deadline, Mr Javid withdrew, saying he “looked forward to seeing the debate unfold”.
Junior minister Rehman Chishti also pulled out of the contest.
The remaining candidates are Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Tom Tugendhat and Nadhim Zahawi.
Trade Minister Ms Mordaunt is expected to launch her campaign on Wednesday morning.
The first round of voting will take place on Wednesday from 13:30 to 15:30 BST and any candidate who gets less than 30 votes from their fellow MPs will have to drop out.
Over the next few days, further votes will take place to whittle the number of candidates down to a final two.
These two will then go to a full ballot of around 160,000 Conservative Party members over the summer. The result is expected on 5 September.
Dropping out of the contest, Mr Javid – who helped trigger Boris Johnson’s downfall when he quit the cabinet last week – said he had “set out the values and policies I think are right for the future of our great country”.
“I believe the party must now look outwards, not inwards, if we are to win again.
“I look forward to seeing the debate unfold and to see colleagues working together as a united Conservative Party once the leadership election is concluded.”
At the Tory leadership hustings – that began at 19:00 in Parliament – roughly half of the audience will not be persuadable because they’ve already said who they’re backing.
Others, like Priti Patel and Sajid Javid, have said they are yet to make up their minds.
But only part of their decision will be based on the performance this evening.
Some already have in mind who they might be potentially backing, but if someone was to come in with a better job offer dependent on their support, that might persuade them.
It’s not entirely going to be a merit-based process. The hustings may be crucial for a few MPs choosing how to vote – but there will be other considerations, including personal ones, at play.
Earlier in the day, Mr Chishti, the other candidate to drop out, confirmed he had not been able to secure the required number of nominations, adding that his campaign had “very few resources”.
He said he had “given everything I possibly can in this period to step up and serve our great country”.
On Tuesday morning, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps also ditched his own campaign in order to support Mr Sunak.
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel said she would not join the race, despite having already garnered some support from MPs.
Those left in the race took part in the first hustings taking place in Parliament on Tuesday evening. They had 12 minutes each to speak, but no cameras are allowed in to cover it.
After the initial list of contenders was announced, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries and loyal supporter of Mr Johnson accused Mr Sunak’s team of using what Ms Dorries called “dirty tricks/ a stitch up/dark arts” by trying to make sure Jeremy Hunt made it over the first hurdle.
Responding to suggestions that supporters of the former chancellor had lent their nominations to Mr Hunt, Ms Dorries said: “Team Rishi want the candidate they know they can definitely beat in the final two and that is Jeremy Hunt.”
A source close to Mr Sunak’s supporters told PA News the claim was “complete nonsense” adding: “That sort of behaviour just isn’t happening”.
Mr Hunt also denied the claim telling LBC Radio: “We are running completely independent campaigns.”