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There have been two Next Tory Leader opinion polls of Conservative Party members elsewhere since our last Next Tory Leader survey on this site.

The first, from YouGov, showed Rishi Sunak leading Liz Truss by 33 per cent to 25 per cent.  Respondents were given a choice of seven options.  (Our panel had been given 15.)

Those figures are less different from our last survey than Opinium’s – the second survey.  It had Sunak defeating Truss in a play-off by 64 per cent to 36 per cent.

At any rate, the panel is nothing if not consistent.  Last time round, Truss was on 23 per cent.  This time, she’s on 20 per cent, and top.

Sunak was on 20 per cent, and second.  Now, he’s on 19 per cent, and second.  Penny Mordaunt was on nine per cent, and third.  Now she’s on 13 per cent, and third.

This is a bit of a showing for an MP who is neither a Cabinet member not a prominent backbencher. Elsewhere, two One Nation-ish potential candidates, Jeremy Hunt and Tom Tugendhat, score less than ten per cent each.

But the real feature to note from this essentially static result is what showed up in the comments and the number of abstentions.

Out of roughly 75 suggestions in the comments, only two people made double figures: Lord Frost, who had 20 mentions…and Boris Johnson, who had 32.

Now look at those absentions – 119 of them compared to only 14 last month.  There is no other way of reading them than that the majority believe the question to be premature.

Put this result together with the panel’s view on Downing Street parties, the Prime Minister’s handling of Covid and this morning’s Cabinet League Table, and you have two polarities.

One is a significant slice of Party members who think that “partygate” isn’t overblown, and that the Prime Minister is doing badly.

A slightly larger one thinks that the party story is overblown, and it contains among it a smaller group of committed supporters of Johnson. They are part of his fightback, reasons for which I gave here.

All concerned think that he and the Government are doing well on Covid – as, hopefully, it at last begins to vanish over the horizon.

And overall there is a small positive movement in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet League Table rating, but it is still in the red.

So is the next leader question premature?  All I can say is that about 150 respondents either didn’t answer the question or wrote in for Johnson, and about 850 either did or wrote in for someone else.