It would be remarkable were it not predictable – or perhaps it is both at once.
From the moment he resigned over Theresa May’s new Brexit policy, Boris Johnson was always going to get an uplift in our Next Tory Leader poll.
A month ago, before the Chequers Cabinet meeting and the Brexit White Paper, he was Foreign Secretary – tied to a policy which he clearly didn’t believe in, and having failed to quit over Heathrow expansion. He was fifth in the survey, languishing on eight per cent.
Now, his rating has almost quadrupled, and he is top of the poll. He last led as long ago as March 2016 – in the aftermath of his decision to come out for Leave. Again, his total soared.
Our reading is that most panel members believe that David Davis is now too old to lead the Party, even as a stopgap, and that Johnson, with his Daily Telegraph column, his national projection and reach, and his publicity-mongering over the best part of 30 years, is best placed to make the case for an authentic Brexit to the voters.
But would MPs put his name as one of two for the members to choose from, in the event of a leadership contest? There’s a good chance that one of them would be the man who comes second in our survey this month – Sajid Javid.
The Home Secretary topped the poll last month with 22 per cent, and remains competitive on 19 per cent. Those who want a fresh face seem to be rallying round him at present. Jacob Rees-Mogg moves down a point to 13 per cent. Otherwise, it is much of a muchness.
Please note that support for the Chequers policy from pro-Leave ministers is a minus in this poll. Michael Gove was second last month, on 17 per cent. Now he is fifth on seven per cent, down ten points.
In the Times today, I argue that it is hard to see the gain for the Conservative Party, or anyone else, from a new leader in the same Commons. A Prime Minister Johnson would need a mandate from the voters in order to get a new policy through Parliament.
That would presumably be Canada Plus Plus Plus, or the variant that Davis calls “the reserve parachute”. But Dominic Grieve and his group of former Remainers would be unlikely to support it.
Or it could just conceivably be the EEA port-in-a-storm option – but most Brexiteer MPs fear that once in it, we’d never come out of it, and that it is anyway wide of the referendum mandate.
And Tory MPs of all dispositions view a general election as hazardous, in any event.