Sajid Javid was eliminated when he came bottom out of the final four contenders with 34 votes, four fewer than he got last night.
Mr Johnson came top again with 157 votes, an increase of 14.
The big surprise at the 1pm announcement was Foreign Secretary Mr Hunt coming in third with 59 votes, up by five. Environment Secretary Mr Gove crossed the line ahead of him for the first time with 61, up by 10.
A fifth ballot was under way this afternoon to decide whether Mr Hunt or Mr Gove goes forward to battle Mr Johnson for the keys to 10 Downing Street in a national vote of 160,000 Tory party members.
Two Tory MPs spoiled their ballot papers in a possible sign of anger over allegations of “dirty tricks” by campaign managers. Speaking to the Standard, Mr Johnson promised to “heal” the divisions in the UK and revealed he wants his epitaph to be “somebody who helped to unite the country and unite society”.
Mapping out a national plan built around “education, infrastructure and technology”, the frontrunner to become prime minister said his mission was to “heal” the Brexit divisions and reach out to voters from every walk of life.
“There are lots of parts of the UK that just feel left behind, they feel they don’t share in the success of this incredible country,” he said.
Conservative MPs began voting this morning to whittle down the field of candidates, which started with 10 names, to a shortlist of two. Mr Hunt bared his teeth this morning by questioning whether Mr Johnson could get the job done. “We’ve got to put someone forward as prime minister who the EU are actually prepared to talk to,” he said returning from a morning jog. “That is the only way to get a better Brexit deal.”
Mr Hunt, left, told reporters: “May the best man win, and that’s going to be me.”
Mr Gove insisted on LBC radio: “I do think I would be a better prime minister than Boris.”
While the Conservatives were picking the next prime minister, European Union leaders were starting the process of choosing the next EU chiefs who will sit at the opposite side of the Brexit negotiating table.
Among names for a new Commission president being floated ahead of a dinner in Brussels tonight was Michel Barnier, the tough French-born chief EU negotiator from the last round of talks.
One of Britain’s closest EU allies, Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte, issued a warning that Mr Johnson needed to realise that a no-deal Brexit would be disastrous for UK power.
“With a hard Brexit, even with a normal Brexit, the UK will be a different country,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. “It will be a diminished country. It is unavoidable.”
Anglophile Mr Rutte said there could be no transition period for the UK if a withdrawal agreement was not in place. “I would say a hard Brexit is a hard Brexit,” he said. “I don’t see how you can sweeten it.”
German MEP David McAllister, an ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, insisted there is no new Brexit deal available. “The way forward is the withdrawal agreement,” he warned on the BBC.
Former Labour foreign secretary David Miliband told Today that UK foreign policy was already being “castrated by Brexit”.
Chancellor Philip Hammond, an increasingly vocal critic of hard Brexiteers, will use a speech tonight to highlight dangers of leaving the EU without a deal, which would risk the break-up of the UK, damage the economy and gobble up the £26 billion of “headroom” that leadership candidates have been eagerly promising for tax cuts and spending increases.
Allegations were flying between the leadership rivals of “shenanigans” and dirty tricks after the exit of Rory Stewart from the leadership race.
He was eliminated after 10 MPs who voted for him on Tuesday changed camps in last night’s vote, fuelling claims that Team Johnson artificially boosted Mr Stewart’s votes to ensure Brexiteer Dominic Raab was knocked out early.
Cabinet minister Amber Rudd has called on Mr Johnson to condemn “game playing” amid allegations that Mr Javid would be used to knock Mr Gove out of the competition. “I find all this conversation about lending votes rather discrediting of the system,” Ms Rudd told Today.
Defeated Mr Stewart tweeted this morning: “I will not be declaring for anyone today — but I will be voting.”
Leading Boris supporter Jacob Rees-Mogg said any “dirty tricks” to try to knock Mr Gove out of the contest would be reckless. “It is really silly to try to game elections because you can find that your candidate then loses,” he said.
In his Mansion House speech, Mr Hammond will say: “I cannot imagine a Conservative and Unionist-led government actively pursuing a no-deal Brexit; willing to risk the union and our economic prosperity.”
Warning that he will speak out loudly in future, he will say: “I will fight, and fight again, to remake the case for pragmatism and, yes, for compromise in our politics — to ensure an outcome that protects the union and the prosperity of the United Kingdom.”
Jeremy Corbyn today came under fire on two fronts for presiding over incidents of anti-Semitism in Labour and his position on Brexit.
The party leader was accused of being a “false messiah” and “irresponsible” in relation to anti-Semitism by one of the UK’s most senior Jewish voices, Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner.
Labour described her planned speech as “false and offensive”.
Deputy Labour leader Tom Watson also heaped pressure on Mr Corbyn to back Remain in a second referendum.