FORMER defence secretary Penny Mordaunt is the top choice amongst Tory party members to take over the top job from Boris Johnson.

Kemi Badenoch, former equalities minister, comes second in the rankings, followed by former chancellor Rishi Sunak and Attorney General Suella Braverman.

According to the poll - the top two contenders to replace Johnson are not members of his Cabinet.

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Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel, Transport secretary Grant Shapps and Sajiv Javid languished at the bottom of the poll of 842 Tory members.

It comes as the powerful backbench 1922 committee announced the rules of the leadership contest with nominations set to open and close on Tuesday, before successive ballots will be held amongst the parliamentary group to decide on the top two candidates.

Mordaunt has the second most endorsements amongst Tory MPs so far (23), topped only by former chancellor Rishi Sunak (37). Badenoch currently has 13 endorsements, including sacked levelling up secretary Michael Gove, but would need a further seven to secure her spot in the race - after the rules were changed to require 20 endorsements for the candidate to move on to the next stage.

Just before the new rules were announced, the ConservativeHome blog released its figures showing how the current 11 contenders fair amongst the grassroots party membership.

The National: Mordaunt is top of the ConservativeHome poll to take over as PM Mordaunt is top of the ConservativeHome poll to take over as PM

Mordaunt topped the poll with 19.6% of respondents backing her, followed by Badenoch on 18.65% and Sunak on 12.11%. Attorney general Suella Braverman sits in fourth place with 11.05%, then Foreign Secretary Liz Truss on 10.93%.

Aside from Tom Tugendhat (7.24%) - Jeremy Hunt, Nadhim Zahawi, Sajid Javid, Grant Shapps and Priti Patel all scored less than 5% amongst the membership. 

Paul Goodman, editor of ConservativeHome, noted that Mordaunt had been a "strong performer" in recent popularity polls, but pointed out Saffron Walden MP Badenoch's "ascent is faster". Former minister of state for equalities and also local government, she was elected for the first time in 2017.

Goodman added: "These are early days, and among MPs Sunak is currently running first in declarations, though roughly half the Conservative parliamentary is still sitting on its hands.  

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"Much can change – but were the former Chancellor in the ring now against either Mordaunt or Badenoch, I wouldn’t fancy his chances."

Mordaunt has won the backing of Scottish Tory MP John Lamont as well as the outspoken Michael Fabricant and former BEIS secretary Andrea Leadsom.

Fabricant claimed Mordaunt shares his "socially liberal views" but will not compromise on Brexit, while Leadsom cited her "values, drive and conviction" as why she was giving support. 

The only notable name backing Badenoch is Gove who told the Sun he had "no hesitation" in saying she should be the next Prime Minister, describing her as "brave, principled, brilliant and kind". 

Meanwhile, Sunak has gained the support of Scots Tory MP Andrew Bowie and the largest cohort of the Tory party so far, including energy minister Greg Hands, Liam Fox, Alister Jacks's former parliamentary private secretary Ruth Edwards and Robert Jenrick, amongst others.