David Cameron is heading for a comfortable victory in the Tory leadership race, according to a survey of grassroots members.
He has established a two-to-one lead over his rival, David Davis, a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph suggests.
The survey brings to an abrupt halt the mini-revival Mr Davis staged on the back of strong performances on television and in the House of Commons.
With the Conservatives' 254,000 members already in receipt of their postal ballots, Mr Cameron's current lead could be decisive. The final result will be announced on 6 December.
The frontrunner will today move to maximise pressure on Tony Blair with a ringing endorsement of the Prime Minister's education reforms.
In an interview with BBC1's Politics Show broadcast today, Mr Cameron said: "I support the education White Paper. I'm not interested in the politics of it; I'm interested in doing the right thing. If the Government comes up with right measures, good measures to give schools more autonomy, I'll back them. City academies - I think they're a good idea. I back them."
His support will be most unwelcome in Downing Street, however, as it prepares to announce a new drive to sell the reforms to a largely hostile party. Mr Blair agreed on Thursday to a plan drawn up by Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Education, to head off the looming rebellion. The Bill's second reading has been delayed until the new year to allow what one aide termed a "military-style campaign, the like of which there has not been in the Blair government".
Mr Blair will seek to make the "Labour case" for giving schools more independence, in a speech on Friday. How to sell school reform will also form the main theme of a political meeting of the Cabinet on Thursday. Mr Blair, shaken by the Commons defeat over 90-day detention, is also to step up contacts with his backbench MPs as he seeks to dampen an incipient revolt.Reuse content