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…


Earlier this week there was a new YouGov poll of Conservative party members in the Times or, more specifically, two new polls of Conservative party members: YouGov polled the same party members before and after Boris Johnson came out in favour of leaving the EU to see what impact it had on the leadership race. Results are here.

At the simplest level Boris was ahead before, and was ahead afterwards, but there were some interesting shifts. Boris’s approval rating among Conservative party members dropped significantly after he came out (from 83% approval to 76% approval), but his position in the leadership race improved. Presumably he annoyed some members who saw his actions as disloyal or disagreed with his stance, but he consolidated the support from those who did not.

Almost unavoidably Boris coming out was going to upset some members – he has carefully avoided having many fixed political opinions over the years, so I expect many pro-European members would have assumed Boris agreed with them, many anti-EU members would have assumed Boris agreed with them. For once, he is forced off the fence and forced to upset some people – so his overall approval rating among Tory party members fell. However, in the race to be the next Tory leader his position has improved. 43% now say they’d back Boris, up from 38%, with support falling for Theresa May and Sajid Javid, both of whom were seen as potential “outers” and both of whom ended up supporting Remain. Asked how they’d vote in a match up between Osborne & Boris the figures don’t change as much (Boris 55%, George 36% before, Boris 56%, George 38% after) – the broader balance between those party members who want Osborne as the next leader and those who don’t hasn’t changed much, it’s just Boris is now more clearly the “not-George” candidate.

Only a quarter of Tory party members said that the leadership candidates’s stances on the EU were an important factor in picking the next leader – 4% said they wanted the next leader to be someone who had campaigned for the UK to stay, 20% wanted the next leader to be someone who campaigned to leave, three-quarters picked other criteria as their main considerations. Far and away the most widely picked criteria was someone who will make a competent PM, picked by 67%, followed by someone who has a good chance of winning the next election on 52%.

At the moment, Boris is very clearly the front runner if he reaches the stage of the membership vote. At the moment that looks relatively likely – there will be a fair chunk of Conservative MPs who will want to vote for a leadership candidate who supported leaving the EU, and Boris is now obviously the biggest “pro-Leave” beast in the Tory party (though it will be interesting to see how the Parliamentary party divides – Boris maybe anti-EU, but he is not otherwise associated with the Tory right. Will the right of the parliamentary party fall in behind him, or will they want their own “proper” standard bearer?).

That said, it is very early days. If the referendum is lost it’s possible Cameron could go soon, but if not he may be here for a few years yet. Among Conservative party members there is very little call for Cameron to make an early departure – only 20% think he should step down in 2016 or 2017 (roughly the same proportion as think he should change his mind and teste the next election – the majority think he should stay till at least 2019). In reality though, any pressure for Cameron to go early will come from the Parliamentary party, not from the rank-and-file membership, and I expect that will depend upon the extent to which the Tory party rips itself apart over the next three months and the final result of the referendum.


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The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is up here. Topline figures are CON 33%, LAB 37%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%.

Most of the rest of the poll dealt with Boris Johnson’s planned return to Parliament. Dealing with the practical implications first, 35% think Boris should stand down as mayor if he wants to stand for Parliament, 54% think it is fine for him to do this at the same time as being Mayor. If he actually gets elected 60% think he should stand down as Mayor, in the event he becomes Tory leader 79% think he should resign as Mayor.

Looking forward to whether there is a vacancy, 44% of people think that David Cameron should resign as Tory leader if he loses the next election, only 29% would like him to stay (a majority of Tory voters would actually back Cameron staying on as leader after a defeat, though personally I can’t imagine it being an issue – I think he’d step down anyway). If David Cameron wins the next election then by 46% to 28% people would like him to remain for a full term, 80% of Tory voters would want him to serve a full term.

Were Cameron to go, Boris is the frontrunner to succeed him. 30% would back Boris as the best Tory leader, ahead of Theresa May on 16% and George Osborne on just 7%. Amongst Tory voters Boris leads Theresa May by 41% to 15%.

Asked which words best describe Boris Johnson likeable (34%), buffoon (32%), entertaining (31%) and intelligent (26%) come top. It’s unusual for any politician to have three positive words in the top four of a question like this, but it flags up Boris’s shortcomings too: statesmanlike (1%) and competent (7%) are down at the bottom of the list. In a separate question 36% think Boris Johnson would be up to the job of Prime Minister, 43% think he would not.

And what difference would Boris as leader actually make? Well, with all the usual caveats for questions like this (people are crap at answering hypothetical questions and have no idea what Boris would actually do and say as leader) it wouldn’t actually make much difference to voting intention at all. A control question asking how people would vote with the current leaders produces voting intentions of CON 33%, LAB 35%, LDEM 9%… with Boris as Conservative leader it would change to CON 34%, LAB 35%, LDEM 10%.


This morning’s YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 36%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%. Full tabs are here.

YouGov also asked specifically about the reshuffle for the Times. Usually reshuffles are essentially a lot of people the public have never heard of being replaced by a group of other people the public have never heard of. This reshuffle was at least unusual in that it involves some ministers – like Michael Gove and William Hague – who the majority of respondents will actually recognise and have an opinion about. YouGov found that the majority of people thought that Hague had done a good job as Foreign Secretary… and that Gove had done a bad one as Education Secretary. 63% of people, including a majority of Conservative voters, thought it was right to remove him from the Education role.

Asked about how well represented women are at the top of the Conservative party, 36% now say they are very or fairly well represented. That’s up from 29% at the start of the week, but is still well below the 48% who think women are well represented in the Labour party. Will it make any immediate difference? Probably not – in the months and years to come being less male-dominated will probably improve the Conservative party’s image a bit, but it’s certainly no magic bullet. You can see at the top of this post that today’s voting intention figures are wholly in line with those from before the reshuffle.


This morning’s daily YouGov poll for the Sun has topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 39%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 13% – full tabs are here. The six point Labour lead is down from the big post-conference leads last week, but a bit too “in the middle” to really be confident what is going on. As ever, it’s common to have a lot of up and down in the polls in conference season, so don’t get too excited – wait and see what they look like once they are all over and things have died down.

There were also the first reactions to the announcements the Tories made at the start of the conference, which broadly got thumbs up – 62% supported allowing married couples to transfer £1000 of their tax allowance when one of them stays at home or earns less than their allowance, 68% supported making the long term unemployed undertake full time community work or risk loosing their benefits, 50% support giving guarantees to banks to encourage them to offer 95% mortgages.

In all three cases, I doubt there will be any impact (help to buy is just changing the timing of something already announced, forcing the long term unemployed to take work of some sort was probably perceived as the sort of thing the Conservatives supported anyway, the transferrable tax allowance is worth a relatively small amount) – just getting high approval ratings in polls doesn’t mean it will have any sort of effect. If the Conservatives do get any conference boost, the most likely time will be after David Cameron’s own speech, the part of party conferences that tends to get the most coverage and publicity.