Rory Stewart accused his rivals of “dark arts” and even offered backers city status as he waged a dramatic fight to stay in the Tory leadership race tonight.
The surprise star was forced to tour the Commons tearoom in a last-minute bid to scoop up support.
Tory chiefs were due to announce the third MPs’ ballot for the next Prime Minister at 6pm – with whoever won the fewest votes knocked out.
Yesterday Dominic Raab, a hard Brexiteer, was knocked out of the race and candidates were scrambling to pick up his votes.
But with voting under way Mr Stewart told the Mirror he’d picked up just two of Dominic Raab ’s 30 supporters – including one in a text at 3am.
Meanwhile he feared he would lose one of his own backers after his performance in Tuesday’s BBC debate.
That left the risk that Sajid Javid – who finished just four MPs behind Mr Stewart on Tuesday – could overtake him and knock him out.
With every vote crucial, Mr Stewart even offered to give Southend in Essex city status if he became Prime Minister.
He said he “certainly hoped” he’s won over Southend West MP David Amess – and even offered to do the same for other MPs.
He said: “More towns, definitely definitely. Anyone who wants to vote for me… anyone can be a city.”
It wasn’t clear if he was joking.
Mr Stewart also made a dramatic accusation against Boris Johnson ’s key ally Gavin Williamson.
He said: ”There’s the dark arts. Gavin Williamson’s proxy votes, which we don’t know about. He has people who have 5 or 10 proxy votes. So some very interesting things could happen. We don’t know.”
Asked directly if he was suggesting Boris Johnson’s campaign would lend votes to Sajid Javid he said: “I have absolutely no idea, but I mean those are the unknowns in this race.”
Mr Williamson declined to comment on the “dark arts” claims.
Theresa May once again arrived to vote in person, ignoring shouts of “are you proud of your colleagues Prime Minister?”
Once again she refused to say who for, telling journalists: “I told you yesterday, none of your business!”
Sajid Javid put on a brave face, posing for a team photo in the corridor outside the voting room and saying he was “quietly confident”.
Michael Gove told reporters he was “chavin’ awa, as they say in Aberdeen.” He emerged from the vote with a grin saying: “Fingers crossed!”
And Boris Johnson mumbled incoherently as he left the vote.
His backers were confident they had picked up several of Dominic Raab’s 30 supporters – having won 126 votes last time.