A majority of voters believe a general election should be called immediately after the Tory leadership election, regardless of whether Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak succeeds Boris Johnson in No 10, a poll for The Independent reveals.
Ashley Cowburn www.independent.co.uk
It comes as around 160,000-plus members of the Conservative Party – equivalent to 0.34 per cent of the voting public – will begin casting their ballots next week to elect the next Tory leader and Britain’s next prime minister.
Highlighting the appetite among the public for a snap election, the poll by Savanta shows that 56 per cent support the proposal that whoever wins the leadership contest “should call a general election immediately”.
Just over a third of all respondents disagreed, with the figure being higher among Tory voters, at 59 per cent. But strikingly, 34 per cent of those who cast their ballot for the Conservatives in 2019 believe the new leader should go to the polls.
Sir Keir Starmer has already challenged whoever succeeds the outgoing prime minister on 5 September to call a snap election, insisting that the Labour Party is “ready” to govern after 12 years on the opposition benches.
During the televised debates, both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss dismissed calls for an early vote, and instead tried to focus on what they would do as an immediate response to spiralling inflation and an economy in crisis.
However, their comments echo assurances given by both Mr Johnson and Theresa May on taking office that they would not hold a snap general election – assurances they later reneged on.
Chris Hopkins, associate director at Savanta ComRes, said: “Despite it becoming fairly commonplace in recent years for prime ministers to come and go without the backing of the public at an election, the view that the next leader of the Conservative Party should call an immediate election and seek a mandate from the British public is held by a majority of the public.”
The survey also found that Ms Truss, who has remained loyal to the outgoing prime minister and made cutting taxes a centrepiece of her leadership bid, is the clear favourite among 2019 Tory voters, with 45 per saying they would prefer her to Mr Sunak as prime minister.
Just under a third (31 per cent) opted for Mr Sunak, while 24 per cent of those polled said they did not know. Polling of Tory members, who will ultimately decide the winner of the contest, has also highlighted a significant lead for the foreign secretary in recent weeks.
However, among all voters surveyed by Savanta, the former chancellor enjoyed a three-point lead over Ms Truss – 33 per cent versus 30 per cent. A significant proportion (37 per cent) opted for “don’t know”.
In recent days Mr Sunak’s campaign has struggled to gain momentum, while Ms Truss has won the highly sought-after endorsement of the defence secretary Ben Wallace – a popular figure among the Tory grassroots – and the former leadership contender Tom Tugendhat, who appeared alongside her on the campaign trail on Saturday.
As a Tory peer leads a grassroots campaign to include Mr Johnson on the leadership ballot – despite party rules forbidding this – the poll also shows that 45 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters would prefer the current prime minister to either Ms Truss or Mr Sunak.
In this scenario, Ms Truss comes in second place, with 23 per cent preferring her for the next prime minister. Mr Sunak – only slightly ahead among the general public on this metric – trails behind among Tory voters, sitting in third place, with 18 per cent.
Highlighting the support among Tory voters for the outgoing prime minister, Mr Hopkins said: “The fact that Sunak was so instrumental in bringing the prime minister down may not have worked in his favour among Conservative voters, having put himself in the running for leader.”
He added: “Of course, that race is now down to the final two, where Liz Truss is narrowing the gap to Rishi Sunak among the country at large, having enjoyed the backing of a plurality of Conservative voters and, if notoriously difficult membership polling is accurate, the backing of Conservative members for a few weeks now.”