Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt are the winners of the first stage of the Conservative leadership contest.

It means the two Tory politicians move on to the next part, which begins with a hustings event in Birmingham on Saturday.

And one of them will be Prime Minister by the end of July.

The first stage of the contest involved Conservative MPs holding a series of votes to whittle down the ten original candidates into two frontrunners.

In the final vote of MPs, there were three contenders - former foreign secretary Boris Johnson, environment secretary Michael Gove and foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Mr Johnson received 160 votes, putting him firmly in first place.

Mr Hunt was second, with 77 votes.

And Mr Gove was third, with 75 votes - which meant he was knocked out of the contest.

In the second stage, Conservative party members across the country will vote to pick a winner - who will become party leader and Prime Minister.

The two remaining candidates will face each other at a series of hustings events across the country, with the first being held in Birmingham on Saturday.

A winner will be announced in the week commencing July 22.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt

Hexham MP Guy Opperman, who helped organise Michael Gove's campaign to be leader, said after the result was announced: "Now is the time to have a large beer, recover after a long campaign."

He rejected suggestions that some of Boris Johnson's supporters had fixed the election result by voting for Mr Hunt - not because they support him, but because they believe he will be easier to beat than Mr Gove.

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Mr Opperman said: "I'm obviously disappointed but there are no recriminations, it was a fair ballot.

"There are other very good candidates in the race. I wish them both very good luck, they are both conservatives, I will support them both."

He told the BBC he had not yet decided which of the two remaining candidates to support.

30 May, 2016: Boris Johnson poses for a selfie at Chester-le-Street Cricket Club
30 May, 2016: Boris Johnson poses for a selfie at Chester-le-Street Cricket Club

Mr Johnson backed Brexit in the 2016 EU referendum, while Mr Hunt opposed it.

But they both now insist the UK should leave the EU - preferably after signing a withdrawal agreement with the EU if possible, but with a "no-deal" Brexit if needed.

They differ slightly on the precise date. As things stand, the UK is due to leave the EU on October 31, and Mr Johnson appears to be saying that the country must stick firmly to that date while Mr Hunt says he could agree to a short delay if it was required to put a withdrawal agreement into effect.

The candidates

Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson, aged 55, is the former mayor of London and former foreign secretary.

He attended Eton, the country's most prestigious public school, and Oxford University.

He is a former journalist - who still writes newspaper columns - and spent time as a trainee reporter working on the Wolverhampton Express and Star.

Jeremy Richard Streynsham Hunt, aged 52, is the foreign secretary and a former health secretary.

He attended Charterhouse, a prestigious independent boarding school, and Oxford University. His father, Sir Nicholas Hunt, was an admiral in the Royal Navy.

Mr Hunt has worked as a management consultant and co-founded a public relations consultancy. He also taught English in Japan.