The Times have a YouGov poll tomorrow asking who people want to see as the next Conservative leader. Now, this is a question that I had got a bit bored of asking over the years: almost always Boris Johnson wins easily – he is the most recognisable of the Tory leadership contenders, obviously the most charismatic, and seems to have swung the trick of getting judged by the standards of a celebrity rather than the standards of a politician. However, in today’s poll he is pipped by Theresa May – 19% of the public think she would be the best candidate for the next leader of the Tories, 18% think Boris Johnson. To put this in context a similar question a week and a half ago had Johnson six points ahead of May, a fortnight ago Johnson was twelve points ahead of May.

This is, I hasten to add, polling of the general public, not of the people who decide. It is the votes of Conservative MPs and the party members that actually count, and they may very well have completely different views. However – part of Boris’s appeal to the Conservative party is his supposed ability to reach out to voters, his charisma and his public popularity are one of his primary selling points. If he isn’t the choice of the wider public… well.

Anyway, the really interesting thing will be if the increase in support for Theresa May among the general public is echoed among the Conservative electorate. For that, however, we will have to wait for some polling of Conservative party members…

1,010 Responses to “YouGov show May and Johnson neck-and-neck as public choice for next Tory leader”

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  1. Yet again we see the intransigence of EU ruler Anglea Merkel who is determined to break the EU.

    She could have offered compromise, and she still could – after all some reasonable concessions could see a second referendum if there was a reasonable change.

    But no, Merkel has dug her heels in, it’s her way or the highway.

    I think we can look forward to the break up of the EU, and a Germany shouting & stamping & throwing its weight about.

    Nothing much changes.

  2. For comparison with the YouGov figures the tables for which are now available:

    I’ll repeat the figures from the Survation poll that came out over the weekend (f/w 24-25 Jun – Fri to Sat):

    Following the result of the EU Referendum, David Cameron will resign in October as Leader of the Conservative Party. Of the following potential candidates who do you think should replace him as leader?[1]

    Boris Johnson 28% {33}

    George Osborne 7% {10}

    Theresa May 13% {19}

    Michael Gove 6% {7}

    Jeremy Hunt 1% {3}

    Ruth Davidson 6% {4}

    Stephen Crabb 1% {2}

    Don’t know 37% {26}

    {} the percentage from current Tory voters.

    Boris led, as he has in previous polls for years, but it’s not as overwhelming as in the past. There has always been a large minority of Conservatives resistant to the Boris charm and it seems to be growing.

    What is very illuminating is when Boris is put head-to-head with other Conservatives (with a forced choice, so Boris is 100-whoever). Because, after all, a forced choice of two is what the Conservative members will be presented with:

    Osborne 39% {42}

    May 50% {50} [2]

    Gove 42% {38}

    Hunt 38% {30}

    Davidson 44% {37}

    Crabb 39% {31}

    {} again among Con voters. It’s revealing even the disliked (Hunt), obscure (Crabb) or ineligible (Davidson) can do so well against the ‘charismatic’ Boris. His popularity is dropping fast and the YouGov figures (f/w 26-27 Jun) suggest that process continues.

    One hint why comes with a later Survation question, with the 38% who agreed with “Boris Johnson’s primary motivation for joining was that it would help him become Prime Minister”. It was even higher among Conservatives (42%). Of course Survation polled before his prolonged dithering over what should happen next which seems to have disillusioned more Leave supporters (from where most his support comes). He had 43% of them in Survation but only 32% in YouGov[3].

    [1] Asked whether “David Cameron was right to announce he will resign by October” 53% agreed but only 41% of Tories (51% said he was wrong – though that might include some who thought he should go sooner). This is replicated in YouGov’s figures showing most voters wanting him to go, but a small majority of Conservatives thinking he was wrong to go.

    [2] Boris was just ahead of May, but tied exactly among Con voters.

    [3] YouGov has more Don’t Knows, presumably a consequence of trying to recruit ‘low attention’ voters to their panel. But that should help the high-profile Boris who leads May by the same proportion among those who did not vote in the referendum as among those who voted Leave. But attracting the support of people who don’t vote much isn’t a great idea electorally.

  3. Thoughtful

    I believe an EEA deal with freedom of movement but not CAP or CFP (and no more David Cameron at the helm to put voters off) could be sold to the British people and would win in a second referendum.. The people for whom immigration is the most important consideration are numerous, but not a majority.

    That is what Angel Merkel is looking for and she has support amongst some prominent Tory Brexiteers I believe

  4. Andrew111,
    “It is pretty clear that significant numbers of Leave campaigners voted Leave to annoy David Cameron ”

    UK Polling Report itself carried banner ads in the run-up to the vote which said “Wipe the smile off their faces, vote Leave” alongside photos of Cameron and Osborne.

    It’s difficult to know how cookies affect what each user sees, but I saw these ads on UKPR on many separate occasions before the vote. Such naked manipulation was a bit at odds with the content of the site.

  5. Thoughtful
    Sounds like you were taken in by those who said (and still say) “we just have to vote Leave and we will get exactly the same trade deal with Europe with no freedom of movement”. That was just another assertion with no basis in fact or experience I am afraid.. But how many voters did it convince?

  6. ^ interesting. Every time I logged on to this page I got a ‘wipe the smile off their face’ banner. Strange as clearly we know this site is impartial, but would other people or new posters? I am not sure sure.

  7. That’s just Adsense targeting, about which Anthony can do very little!

  8. @Edge of Seat – “UK Polling Report itself carried banner ads in the run-up to the vote which said “Wipe the smile off their faces, vote Leave” alongside photos of Cameron and Osborne.”

    It was from the Labour Leave campaign:

  9. Edge of Seat

    “It is pretty clear that significant numbers of Leave campaigners voted Leave to annoy David Cameron ”

    UK Polling Report itself carried banner ads in the run-up to the vote which said “Wipe the smile off their faces, vote Leave” alongside photos of Cameron and Osborne.

    It’s difficult to know how cookies affect what each user sees, but I saw these ads on UKPR on many separate occasions before the vote. Such naked manipulation was a bit at odds with the content of the site.
    Yes, I saw them – it was Labour for Leave group.

  10. Edge of Seat

    Those will have been google ads which help pay for this site. Occasionally a Remain ad appeared, but the “Labour Leave” campaign obviously paid the most. Now we have an ad for Jeeps up there.

    Those ads will have been focused on UK political sites and put on UKPR by software, not by anyone controlling this site

  11. Sam Coates Times tweet

    “Boris Telegraph y’day column was “written too quickly” and he’s tired. Friends agree sloppy & sent mixed messages & will be vetted in future”

    The poor dear was too tired to be able to write down what he thought.

  12. However I met several Labour voters in the campaign who said the same to me, so it obviously resonated to some degree

  13. Andrew111,

    Sorry, didn’t mean to sound like criticising there being ads on UKPR or implying anything sinister on the site’s part.

    Just meant that even on UKPR people were being told to vote Leave primarily as a protest against Cameron & Osborne.

  14. (i.e. being told by adverts, not by Anthony)

  15. @Barbazenzero

    The Urban Dictionary has it as Prove Real Love which seemed unlikely and Polskie Radio Londyn seemed the only possibly relevant “hit” on Google. You could put it forward to the UD if you use it regularly.

    Yep that the first step of the plan – ultimately culminating in a city state with the M25 as its natural boundary.

    On a serious note it will be interesting to see how many people become more politically active and which parties benefit/suffer in the aftermath of last Thursday’s vote. While I don’t see the Tories as by any stretch of the imagination as a centre left party, I do think the coalitions that have traditionally underpinned this country’s political parties is on the verge of collapse.

    Labour faces a potential split between left/right and traditional support of working class and middle class liberals/activist. Whatever the Tories do in Brexiting they will alienate some of their traditional voters who could go to UKIP if they voted on the basis of immigration or to the LD if they were remainers.

    I cant think of a time in British politics since the post WW1 period which come close to this.

  16. ALEC

    I find it very very unlikely that they will allow a trial run at getting a deal . Once A50 is utilised I think thats it + in two years if no deal-its WTO rules I think.

    Of course all is for discussion-but imagine the queue if they allowed trial runs at renegotiation.

    Just been listening to GO at a Times CEO Conference. Very impressed actually. He said the broad shape of the prefered relationship covering the key elements featuring in the perceived priorities of Leave voters would be part of the platforms on offer in the leadership election -ie Single Market access/Immigration/ECJ/ Financial Services Passport.

  17. @ToH, Thoughtful

    The Tories ‘centre left’?!

    Since half of UK voters voted in 2015 for parties that are demonstrably more left wing than the Tories then they are, factually, right of centre in UK political terms.

    If your view is that they are insufficiently right wing for your liking, that is of course your privilege, but it doesn’t make the Tories ‘centre left’ in any meaningful sense.

  18. @Maxim Parr-Reid – “It is if we are not a party to the CFP”

    Not it isn’t, apparently.

    This is from

    “The fish catch in international waters outside the EEZ is regulated by the Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) and their member countries. These members include not only the bordering states, but also countries that are heavily involved in fishing in a given marine region. For example, China and Japan also fish in the northeast Atlantic. This is consistent with international maritime law and completely legitimate according to the principle of freedom of access to the high seas. The European countries, in turn, are represented in numerous RFMOs through the European Commission. Annual negotiations are held to determine which countries are allowed to catch how much of a species. Almost all commercially relevant fish species are covered by the RFMOs.”

    The EEZ is the ‘Exclusive Economic Zone’, which according to maritime law extends 200 miles out to sea. Iceland can therefore control completely all of the fisheries within the EEZ. In the UK’s case, the vast majority of our EEZ coincides with other countries EEZ’s, so we are not able to have sole control of these fisheries anyway, and instead would need to negotiate under the relevant RFMO.

    This is something new, of which I was comletely unaware. So it is therefore completely false to suggest that leaving the CFP means we can take back control of the surrounding fisheries. It simply means that the UK alone will have to negotiate it’s catches within the RFMO, this time arguing against the EU, instead of being represented by the EU.

    It also means that EU grants to fishermen to buy new boats, equipment and fish friendly nets will cease.

  19. Alec,

    Yes, it is very unfortunate for UK fishermen that N Ireland did not get Donegal… English fishermen have a tiny EEZ

  20. @ANDREW111

    Andrea Leadsom is a senile old cow. She won’t be Tory leader, but it worries me that she could well be a senior minister.

  21. @CASCLC

    I think we need to be careful in assuming that the EEA simply gives the UK something close to the Single Market:

    A. It covers goods but broadly speaking agriculture and (I think ) services are not covered.

    B. The EEA is not customs free so the UK exporters have to comply with and pay for customs procedures which is potentially complicated and costly.

    C. The UK would need to renegotiate all of its existing trade deals it has by virtue of EU membership as EEA members do not have access to the EU’s. I think that’s 50 or so.

    And of course EEA membership has to be unanimously agreed by EFTA members and then unanimously by EEA members ( the 27 EU states plus three others).


    The left will stay in charge of Labour. Maybe Corbyn will step down in favour of McDonnell but no more. I can’t see and David Miliband bursting to the leadership.

    I think the centrist Labour MPs need to think about possibly joining the Lib-Dems.

  23. @HIRETON

    If what you say is true then the EEA is as good as useless.

    So if I bought something from and have to pay VAT I would be severely pi**ed off, and so would many others.

  24. Are conservative party membership more eurosceptic than the party it’s self? It seems like one of those safe sounding, but potentially flawed, assumptions.

  25. @Tancred

    I suspect you may be surprised how many things you were buying from actually came from or or’s depots. Enjoy the last couple of years of getting anything we want cheaply with free delivery…

  26. @Jayblanc
    It’s generally considered in the media that Tory party members are more euro-sceptic than Tory voters or Tory MPs – I have no idea if this is actually true though.

    it’s a bit like Labour – the membership is more ‘extreme’ than the voting public the party is trying to attract, which can lead to tensions; historically the Tories have managed these better than Labour, but not always.


    One more reason to hate the leave camp. Bast**ds.

  28. Is it remotely possible that the negotiations will end up producing a non-Brexit Brexit? i.e. Some complicated web of terms which keeps something almost identical the status quo without actually calling it EU membership? And there might be enough people with buyers remorse by 2018/2019 to tip the country into accepting it?

    If Boris & co really weren’t expecting to win, they might be tempted to roll back on Brexit in all but name?

    “I suspect you may be surprised how many things you were buying from actually came from or or’s depots. Enjoy the last couple of years of getting anything we want cheaply with free delivery…”

    Bought a load of English-language American-published books from Amazon UK the other week, they were marked as “Dispatched from and sold by Amazon UK”. When I followed the tracking details (which are hidden by default), they actually came from Germany.

    I don’t think people realise how much they rely on cross-border trade even in their day to day lives, because the seamlessness of modern supply chains hides it from us so well. Packaging rarely states country of origin as clearly as it used to.

  29. It’s also important to note that the EEC’s tariff free arrangements are similar, but not identical, to the EUs. There are some items that will still have tariffs applied, and you’ll no longer be able to sell something on Ebay to someone in France without going through the customs procedures.


    German MEPs are pretty united on this one – there will not be any cherry picking. Merkel’s deputy said that Cameron ran an awful campaign – very true – time someone told Cameron to his face. I never believed Cameron really wanted Britain to be in the EU anyway; this was just an internal Tory game.

  31. I have been moderated for a fairly mild comment – I thought AW had his shears out – and then I’ve read some of the comments above.


    I now know we both live in London, but I just do not see the Metropolitan vote as being Corbynite.

    I still believe that Corbyn won as protest vote of Labour members sick to the back teeth of the austerity-lite nonsense. A re-run will see the same outcome as re-running the EU referendum would; a different decision.

    Even in the event that Corbyn is unassailable, the rump Labour Party would only consist of the old Bennite left, plus various trots. The only way they could succeed would be if the replacement party elected a Blairite as leader.

  33. @Hireton

    Thanks for replying, and yes EEA membership outside the EU currently means EFTA membership:

    A. Think it includes “persons, goods, services and capital” but not, as you say, agriculture and fisheries.

    B. Indeed, although apparently a lot of bilateral agreements have been made on customs (the EFTA site is not blindingly clear on this, at least not to me)

    C. Yes, although from a site comparing external trade deals “EFTA states have built up a network of 26 preferential trade agreements (PTAs) with 37 partners, compared to more than 120 trade agreements concluded by the EU with more than 45 partners.”

    Fundamentally the UK needs to decide whether to start the EU-free world with some trade deals by negotiating to remain in the EEA (probably becoming EFTA members to do so) and accepting some cost in terms of movement of people, regulations, and contributions to less developed EU members.

    Or we start with a blank sheet. Miriam González Durántez (not necessarily unbiased) estimates we have around 25 trade negotiators and would need 500 or so to work over many years.

  34. @Candy
    “Juncker has put an official ban on all contact between EU officials and UK officials until Article 50 is triggered:”
    Until UK triggers Article 50, UK is a member state.
    By what right does Juncker instruct EU officials to decline to contact the officials of a member state?
    That this kind of behaviour is possible for an EU president is exactly why I voted Leave. I am in favour of the rule of law, even when it is unpalatable.

  35. “Boris Telegraph y’day column was “written too quickly” and he’s tired/
    And this man is forecast to be our next PM and may well be involved in the detailed negotiations on the country’s future. God help us all.

  36. Tancred,

    Don’t mean cherrypicking, that was never going to happen. Just mean that when negotiators have weighed up the pros and cons, factored in the rival tensions between EU and UK (and outside world), and gone through entire process, could we end up with a similar set of commitments and benefits to what we have now? Wouldn’t be the first time that a huge upheaval has dragged everybody back to where they started.

  37. Candy- so you would be happy with a Norway style deal? And, if such a deal came to pass, do you think the ‘grand coalition’ that you so touchingly referred to elsewhere would be happy with that?

  38. @Dave

    The EU got a taste for authoritarianism when they crushed poor Greece and they are using the same playbook on us.

    The UK is a big contrast – for example legally speaking neither the Scots nor the Gibraltans have the authority to negotiate anything, but everyone is being relaxed and allowing them to do their thing. No-one would dream of trying to crush their hopes such as they are.

    In the EU – full scale authoritarianism unleashed. I too am glad we’re out – I think we may have got out just in time too. Yay for the good sense of the British public.

  39. @VALERIE

    He is getting on now, 52. Have some sympathy please.

  40. @CANDY

    Nothing wrong with a bit of authoritarianism – it’s called leadership, something totally absent from British politics these days.

  41. @CANDY

    “The EU got a taste for authoritarianism when they crushed poor Greece and they are using the same playbook on us.”

    The Greeks got what they deserved for living outside their means and constantly failing to follow the economic conditions they agreed to when they joined the Euro. Poor Greeks my arse.

  42. @Tristan

    I think we should negotiate a deal to suit us and not use other people’s templates.

    The free movement of people thing is out, not just for us but for Switzerland. The Swiss had a binding referendum to exit free movement of people last year, but the EU has been stalling on implementing it. But the Swiss constitution says it has to be implemented by 2017.

    So basically the EU now faces two big economies who want out of free movement of people, which changes the dynamics.

    I have no doubt that our people are talking to the Swiss right now to see if we can do a pincer movement.

  43. @ANDREW111

    Andrea Leadsom is a senile old cow.
    Usually I ignore such rubbish but this is beyond the pale.
    I’m no fan of the Tories but, Tancred, you should be ashamed of yourself.

  44. @Candy, Dave

    The Commission have ordered it’s officials that there’s to be no negotiations with the UK until an Article 50. The simplest way to ensure that, is to halt communications until there’s been an official statement to the EU Council from our government on how we wish to proceed. Stop complaining about the consequences of a Leave vote, what did you think would happen? Business as usual, while we negotiate the best possible terms from an accommodating EU?


    Yep, I always thought that would be the most likely thing under Brexit which is why I initially had a gallic shrug reaction to it.

    However, the damage it is doing is much worse than I anticipated.

    On the other hand, it has removed the long and tedious wait I would have had to see Cameron, Osborne meet their nemesis and the Corbyn-bomb finally work to bring the PLP to their senses.

  46. Valerie


  47. Candy- you still think to seem the UK basically holds all the cards. We shall see.

  48. In no particular order.

    The UK will activate A50 before the Conference season, probably early September as one of the first acts of the New “Hit the Floor Running/First 100 days” PM, probably Boris.

    There will be an Autumn General election.
    The FTPA needs a two thirds majority or 215 to vote against. Labour has 230 I think so I think if eve tone else wants it only 15 Labour MP’s have to side with the Tories and if Corby’s gets the boot his backers can get that.

    It will all be done within two years which might coincide with Indy2 with that timetable giving Scots a choice of which union they want.

    The EU will effectively decide the terms of the UK relationship post Brexit because it really is take it or leave it with the clock running.

    The more the UK antagonise the EU the more the the public in the EU will push for a toughened stance.

    Ionically the Leave side seem to think they speak for the common people against an out of touch EU political elite, but in fact EU politicians respond to their public opinion just like ours and if the current remorse about Britain leaving amongst Europeans turns to animosity the EU negotiating stance will reflect that.

    If having decided to leave we seem truculent and rather than go quietly we make a fuss and continue to make stupid comments it will cause unnecessary harm.

    The EU is not going to fragment or decline nor will the Euro fail.

    As the largest Country and Economy, having lead on the Euro and migrant crisis Germany’s leadership of the EU is strengthened and secured.

    Perhaps that’s the biggest single result of all this!

    Britain didn’t want to be part of a Europe run from Berlin and by leaving we have all but guaranteed Europe will be run from Berlin!


  49. The sudden devaluation of the Pound and British stock prices, suggests that the international community values the British a lot less outside the EU than in it. And this is before we’ve formally left.

    The idea that we’re in a strong position to negotiate our terms is laughable. We’re now swiftly moving from being a primary world power, to not even being a primary regional power.

  50. @Tristan

    The EU’s negotiating strength depends on the economies within it being stronger than those outside.

    The EEA up till now was only Iceland and Norway, who are minnows. Switzerland pulled out because of the free movement of people referendum they had.

    You are acting like the power dynamic is exactly as before, but of course it has changed. The second biggest economy in the EU has walked out. And the EU economies seem to have taken a bigger hit from Brexit. See the following chart from Bloomberg for the reaction of all the indices since Brexit:

    h ttp://

    We’ve suffered the least.

    It ultimately comes down to who needs who the most – which is why it is so important to start simultaneous negotiations with non-EU countries. The more we can substitute EU products, the weaker the EU’s negotiating hand becomes. And teaming up with Switzerland on rejecting the free movement of people thing makes sense too.

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