The volatility of the Tory leadership race

18 July 2022

2:35 AM

18 July 2022

2:35 AM

In just a few days, the Conservative leadership race will be down to the final two candidates. But what happens after that is unclear. This afternoon, the ConservativeHome website released another round of polling. This time it is on how the candidates would fare against one another in the run-offs if they made it to the final round.

They published a version of this poll earlier this week – which put Penny Mordaunt out in front. This added to the momentum behind Mordaunt which saw her named the bookies’ favourite. However, it seems a combination of blue-on-blue attacks and a mediocre performance in the first televised debate on Friday night means that she has lost momentum. According to the latest survey of members – taken after the Friday debate – both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss would beat Mordaunt in a run-off.

Penny vs Rishi

Penny Mordaunt: 41 per cent (Last Monday: 58 per cent)

Rishi Sunak: 43 per cent (Last Monday: 31 per cent)

Don’t know: 15 per cent (Last Monday: 13 per cent)

(844 votes cast.)

Rishi vs Liz

Rishi Sunak: 42 per cent (Last Monday: 34 per cent)

Liz Truss: 49 per cent (Last Monday: 51 per cent)

Don’t know: 9 per cent (Last Monday: 15 per cent)

(845 votes cast.)

Liz vs Penny

Penny Mordaunt: 41 per cent (Last Monday: 51 per cent)

Liz Truss: 48 per cent (Last Monday: 33 per cent)

Don’t know: 11 per cent (Last Monday: 16 per cent)

(845 votes cast.)

According to this polling, Truss is in the strongest position if she makes it to the final two – beating both Sunak and Mordaunt. For Sunak, it’s better to face Mordaunt than Truss. The other unknown factor is Kemi Badenoch – the website won’t publish until Monday how she does in the run-off polling. Given she is quickly emerging as a grassroots’ favourite, She’ll likely do well.

So, what does it tell us? First off, it’s an important reminder that the wider polling of the public cannot be taken as much of an indicator of who the membership will plump for. Truss fared the worst of any candidate in the snap polling after Friday’s debate yet still leads Sunak and Mordaunt among the membership. Second, given the polling is changing so quickly, it points to how unpredictable this race is. The public and the membership know rather little about some of the candidates and their opinions can change very quickly. That has the potential to help a more well-known candidate in the final two if the insurgents start to crumble under pressure.

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