Liz Truss now leads Rishi Sunak in the Tory leadership race by a devastating 34 points, according to a new poll of Conservative members who will ultimately choose the next prime minister.
Despite the ex-Chancellor securing the support of significantly more Tory MPs in the early stages of the contest, the crucial ballots are being cast this week to the more staunch right-wing party faithful, who have long favored the Foreign Secretary.
New polling by YouGov now suggests that 60 per cent of Tory members intend to elect Mrs Truss to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister – compared to just 26 per cent who want Mr Sunak in Downing Street.
The vote, conducted for The times between July 29 and August 2 – during which period the first two of 12 planned leadership exercises have been held in Leeds and Exeter – indicates that the Secretary of State has expanded his leadership significantly in recent days.
YouGov found that support for Truss has increased by 11 per cent since an earlier poll of party members, carried out as third-place rival Penny Mordaunt was eliminated and the pair reached the final stages of the contest. Mr Sunak dropped five points in the same period.
The results also suggest that the Foreign Secretary has been able to win over previously undecided members and those who had previously intended not to vote at all – with these figures falling from 15 to 11 per cent and 6 to 2 per cent respectively since YouGov’s last opinion poll.
However, the fieldwork was largely carried out before the first major misstep in Truss’s campaign, which came on Tuesday in the form of an embarrassing U-turn on a pledge to cut public sector pay for workers outside London – just 12 hours after it was announced.
The Secretary of State’s campaign had touted £8.8 billion in potential savings if her plans for regional pay boards were extended beyond the civil service to “all public servants”.
But the plans were immediately slammed by Conservative colleagues as “leveling down, not up”, with influential Tory mayor Ben Houchen calling it “absolutely crazy” and a “ticking time bomb” that could have cost the party the next general election.
The Tees Valley mayor and former health secretary Matt Hancock – both Sunak supporters – were among various Tories to compare the failed political pledge to the “dementia tax” fiasco which was seen as partly responsible for Theresa May’s failure to secure a majority at the general election in 2017.
Tory former chief whip Mark Harper went on to claim the late Conservative titan Margaret Thatcher “would be pissed” at the £8.8bn hole left in Mrs Truss’ plans after the U-turn, urging the Foreign Secretary to “stop to blame journalists” after she tried to claim she had been “misrepresented” in completely accurate reports of her press release about the policy.
YouGov’s findings also contradicted mystery polls – the subject of much debate on Tuesday – which suggested Mr Sunak’s fortunes could be improving.
The poll of just over 800 Tory MPs, carried out by Italian firm Techne between July 19 and 27, found the ex-Chancellor was just six points behind Truss, on 47 and 53 per cent respectively, when excluding respondents who said they “don’t know” who to vote for.
YouGov’s poll also came as Mr Sunak sought to reposition himself in a last-ditch effort to appeal to Tory members’ instincts and avoid a runaway, using Exeter’s shock on Monday night to repeatedly declare himself a “radical” and carry out some of a U. – turn around with a promise to cut income tax by 4 percent by the end of the next Storting.
However, it was Mrs Truss who secured perhaps the loudest cheers of approval from the Tory crowd on Monday night as she risked a political row with Holyrood – and support for the Union – when she described Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as an “attention seeker”. which should be ignored.