The Tory leadership races is a tale of two approaches: Liz Truss appears to be campaigning to win the party membership, but Rishi Sunak is is campaigning to win a general election. And its’ Truss’s approach that appears to be working, given YouGov’s survey of the Tory grassroots which shows her leading by 20 points. And now Mr S has more bad news for team Sunak: it’s not just the Tory membership turning against him but 2019 Tory voters too. For, according to a poll done by The Spectator by Redfield and Wilton, those who backed Boris Johnson at the last election now think Liz Truss is more likely to both stand up to China and grow the economy more than her rival.
Some 38 per cent of those who voted Conservative in 2019 said Truss would ‘grow the economy most as PM’ compared to 35 per cent for Sunak. Fieldwork was conducted on 27 July; six days previously the same question returned 46 per cent going for Sunak and just 31 per cent for Truss. Sunak’s collapse and Truss’s corresponding rise reflects the sustained criticism which the former Chancellor has faced in recent days over his time at the Treasury. Twice as many of those who voted Conservative in 2019 (43 per cent) think Liz Truss would ‘stand up to China’, compared to 18 per cent who think Rishi Sunak would. Unsurprisingly, 36 per cent of 2019 Tories said, regardless of their previous opinions, she has impressed them more during this contest than the 28 per cent who chose Sunak.
What about the wider country? For all Sunak’s efforts to appeal nationwide, there’s little sign it’s doing much good. Of the total 1,500 surveyed – including those aforementioned 2019 Tories – 35 per cent said they didn’t know which candidate would do the most to grow the economy, followed by 34 per cent who chose Truss and 32 per cent for Sunak. Six days previously Sunak got 42 per cent; almost twice as many as the 22 per cent who went for Truss. A third of all voters (33 per cent) said Truss would ‘stand up to China’ versus less than a fifth for Sunak (19 per cent). Yet nearly half of voters are undecided on this question (48 per cent).
And it’s those ‘don’t knows’ which could potentially be an unlikely road back for Team Sunak. Some 42 per cent of all voters said they were only ‘slightly familiar’ or ‘not at all familiar’ with the final two candidates. More than half (52 per cent) said this of Truss, compared to Sunak on 34 per cent. The latter’s hope therefore is that the more they see of his rival, the less, er, they like of her. Still, the 48 per cent who say that they are ‘very’ or ‘fairly’ familiar with Truss is still more than the 45 per cent of the public who say the same of Sir Keir Starmer and what he stands for.
Unfortunately for Sunak, he’s been accused by Nadine Dorries and others of being behind the coup which brought down Boris Johnson. And that is unlikely to increase his standing among those precious 2019 Conservative voters who are necessary to retain the Tory majority next time around. Asked who was the best Prime Minister of the past 12 years, out of David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson, the current incumbent was the overwhelming choice. Johnson polled 51 per cent of 2019 Tories compared to 21 per cent for Cameron and 13 per cent for May. Overall voters broke 27 per cent for Johnson, 24 per cent for Cameron and 20 per cent for May.
Some 50 per cent of all voters, including 62 per cent of 2019 Conservative voters, say that the leadership race matters to them a ‘fair’ or ‘significant’ amount. Steerpike does envy the nearly one in four voters (23 per cent) who claim that they have only heard ‘a slight amount’ or ‘not at all’ about the leadership race…
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