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Johnson ‘well ahead among Tory grassroots’ in leadership battle

Boris Johnson is the overwhelming favourite among Tory activists to succeed Theresa May as prime minister.

The former foreign secretary, already odds-on favourite with bookmakers, has a massive lead over his nearest rival, fellow Brexiteer Dominic Raab.

Mr Johnson is the first choice of almost one-in-four party members, according to a YouGov poll for The Times conducted this week.

Boris Johnson
Boris Johnson will run to be Tory leader

Cabinet ministers Jeremy Hunt, Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsom, Matt Hancock and Rory Stewart are all trailing way behind on single figures.

The poll is hugely significant because it is Conservative Party members who will elect Mrs May's successor in a ballot of the top two candidates chosen by Tory MPs.

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It suggests that unless his leadership bid is blocked by a "stop Boris" sabotage by MPs, he is on course to storm to victory by a big margin in the ballot of party members.

Mr Johnson is first choice to replace Mrs May among 39% of the Tory membership, according to YouGov, with Mr Raab on just 13%.

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In a head-to-head run-off, Mr Johnson would decisively beat Mr Raab by 59% to 41% and trounce every other candidate by an even bigger margin.

But the poll confirms he is also a divisive figure among Remain-supporting Tories, coming fifth among those who voted Remain in the 2016 referendum, behind Mr Javid, Mr Gove, Mr Hunt and Mr Stewart.

Rory Stewart
I would go for Tory leadership – Rory Stewart

Some 31% of Tory members think he would be a "poor" leader, including 65% of those who voted Remain, and he is less popular in London than the rest of the country despite eight years as London mayor.

Mr Gove and Mr Javid are the first choice of only 9% of Tory members, Mr Hunt 8%, Andrea Leadsom and Penny Mordaunt 5%, Rory Stewart 4% and Matt Hancock just 1%.

Mr Johnson's front-runner status means he will now come under sustained attack from opponents in other political parties. SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon led the way, branding him a "charlatan".

(Top L-R) Matt Hancock, Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Hunt, Amber Rudd. (Bottom L-R) Rory Stewart, Esther McVey,  Michael Gove, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab, Penny Mordaunt
Image: Clockwise from top left: Matt Hancock, Liz Truss, Boris Johnson, Andrea Leadsom, Jeremy Hunt, Amber Rudd, Penny Mordaunt, Dominic Raab, Sajid Javid, Michael Gove, Esther McVey and Rory Stewart

She said at the SNP's Euro-elections manifesto launch in Glasgow: "Boris Johnson, the guy who misled people in the Brexit vote, the guy who has only ever put his own interests first as far as I can see – a complete and utter charlatan in my opinion.

"The prospect of him becoming prime minister of the United Kingdom is, I think, one that will horrify many people across Scotland."

Among Tory members, however, Mr Johnson is seen as the most likely figure to win a general election if he became leader, with 70% saying he would be victorious.

Some 42% think Mr Raab would win, 39% Mr Javid, 32% Mr Gove and 29% Mr Hunt.

The Brexit Party's message is simple and familiar: they took your country from you, now they've taken your democracy too
Image: Mr Johnson claims he is the only candidate capable of taking on Nigel Farage

Mr Johnson claims he is the only candidate capable of taking on Nigel Farage.

The poll also suggests two thirds of Conservative Party members back a no-deal Brexit, with 66% backing it as their first option, 13% wanting a return to Brussels to get a deal which could attract remaining Tory and DUP MPs, 12% backing the existing deal and only 6% supporting a deal with Labour.

More than eight out of 10 Tory members oppose a second referendum, even if no-deal is one of the options on the ballot paper.

Like many recent polls, this one makes gloomy reading for Mrs May, with 64% of Tory members opposing her Brexit deal, and 79% saying she is doing "badly" as PM and should stand down.

Almost one-in-four members, 38%, think she has been a "terrible" prime minister, according to the survey by YouGov which interviewed 858 Tory members on 10-16 May.

Another poll, by Survation in the Daily Mail, suggests Mr Johnson is seen by voters as the best candidate for the Tory leadership.

Asked who was most likely to beat Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, 32% said Mr Johnson, with Sajid Javid on 11%, Jeremy Hunt and Amber Rudd on 7%, Dominic Raab on 4% and Matt Hancock on 2%.

Some 20% of Labour voters said Mr Johnson's leadership would make them more likely to vote Tory, with Mr Javid in second place on 14%.

Mr Johnson was seen as likely to be a good prime minister by 32% but bad by 45%.

And asked if his leadership would make them more likely to vote Conservative, 28% said yes but 38% said they would be less likely to vote Tory.

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