London: The six contenders vying to become Britain’s next prime minister held a leadership hustings on Saturday with rival candidates aiming their fire at frontrunner Boris Johnson. The men battling for the leadership of the governing centre-right Conservative Party spoke at a central London hotel ahead of a week of voting that will whittle them down to two. The contenders were warming up their arguments ahead of a 90-minute televised debate on Sunday although Johnson is sitting it out, claiming direct bickering between them will be counter-productive. Also Read – Merkel warns UK Brexit deal ‘unlikely’ without compromise: LondonJohnson, who will be given an empty podium in the Channel 4 programme, will take part in a BBC debate on Tuesday. Conservative MPs whittle the contenders down to two through successive rounds of voting before the 160,000 grassroots party members pick the winner in a postal ballot. Johnson topped Thursday’s first round with 114 votes, ahead of Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt on 43 and Environment Secretary Michael Gove on 37. Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab got 27, interior minister Sajid Javid got 23 and International Development Secretary Rory Stewart was on 19. Also Read – India, China should jointly uphold peace and stability, resolve disputes through dialogues: Chinese ambassadorThere are 50 votes to play for that went to candidates who have dropped out and contenders need 33 votes to get through Tuesday’s second round, when at least one more candidate will be eliminated. A report in The Daily Telegraph newspaper report suggested senior party figures had drawn up plans whereby other candidates could pull out, leaving Johnson as the only person going to a confirmatory vote of the membership, in order to avoid weeks of damaging “blue on blue” attacks. Speaking as he left the private hustings at the London hotel, Javid said: “The party and the country deserve a good choice.