Since I became Editor of ConservativeHome some two years ago, Boris Johnson and Theresa May have slugged it out each month at the top of the future Party leader poll that I inherited. The broad context of the survey was the expectation by most respondents, displayed in its other findings, that there would not be a Conservative Commons majority in the General Election that was coming
However, such a majority is now in place – and a sign of the change it brings in the political weather can be found at the top of the table.
Theresa May is out of the top two for the first time since I took over. Her fall is not dramatic – a mere two points from 17 per cent – but it confirms the slide in her rating since the 35 per cent high it hit last June in the wake of her speech to the Police Federation.
But watch George Osborne and especially Sajid Javid. The Chancellor is up seven points to 15 per cent, which takes him to third – his highest position since he hit the same spot last summer. Javid is also up seven points to 17 per cent, which pushes him into second place, his best performance ever. The Business Secretary is breathing down the neck of Boris, who is down six points.
My reading is that David Cameron’s victory has given some respondents a new confidence in George Osborne – who was the co-architect of the win, together with the Prime Minister and Lynton Crosby – and made them re-weigh his prospects as a future leader.
However, Javid’s score is even more suggestive. The Business Secretary’s promotion, clear-cut style, right-wing views and absence of unforced errors are winning him admirers.
If the EU referendum comes early, Cameron recommends a Yes vote – and wins it – he could leave Downing Street within the next 18 months on a triumphant high. So although the poll is fluid and a snapshot of present sentiment (as ever) it is also showing an unmistakable trend of rising support for the Business Secretary – a protege of the Chancellor who he now threatens to overtake.
Here are the findings in full:
- Boris Johnson: 21 per cent (down six points).
- Sajid Javid: 17 per cent (up seven points).
- George Osborne: 15.3 per cent (up seven points).
- Theresa May: 14.5 per cent (down two points).
- Liam Fox. 8 per cent (No change).
- Michael Gove: 4.3 per cent (down one point).
- David Davis: 3.9 per cent (down two points).
- Owen Paterson: 3.8 per cent (up one point).
- Jeremy Hunt 3.1 per cent (up one point).
- Rory Stewart 1.8 per cent (No change).
- Philip Hammond: 1.2 per cent (down three points).
- Dominic Raab: 1.2 per cent (down two points).
- Nicky Morgan: 1.1 per cent (No change).
- Elizabeth Truss: 0.9 per cent (No change).
- Graham Brady: 0.7 per cent (No change).
- Andrea Leadsom: 0.7 per cent (up one point).
For the second month running, Chris Grayling and Philip Lee came in at under one per cent, and Adam Afriyie gained gained no votes at all.
As ever, we round 0-4 down and 5-9 up, which explains the precise figures we give when people in the poll tie on the same percentage.
The list of possible contenders reflects the pre-election situation in which a sweeping range of candidates were either preparing to enter the fray, in the event of defeat, or were having claims made by others on their behalf. We will purge it next month – but choosing those who go in it remains more of an art than a science.
Finally, I repeat what I’ve written before, more or less. Fifty-two Party member respondents skipped the question – which indicates that at least some of them think that it is in rather bad taste in the immediate aftermath of Cameron’s election victory.
However, they were greatly outnumbered by the 706 Party members who answered it, presumably believing that though there is a case for not running such a poll, there is also a case for running it if the question is pertinent – which it is. In any event, Cameron’s announcement that he would not seek a third term as Prime Minister has given it additional legitimacy.