Making Michael Gove Tory leader would hand Labour 18-point lead, poll finds

Liz Truss would also be a drag on support, while Rishi Sunak would narrow gap with Keir Starmer’s party

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Wednesday 29 December 2021 10:45 GMT
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Ditching Boris Johnson as Tory leader and replacing him with Michael Gove would hand Labour an 18-point poll lead, a new survey has found.

Polling conducted by Opinium asked people how they would vote if different people led the Conservative party – and found there was no magic bullet to restoring lost support for the government.

As a baseline, Opinium gave Labour a 7-point lead over the Tories if no leader was named, with the gap widening to 12-points if Boris Johnson's name was explicitly mentioned.

The polling found that replacing Mr Johnson with chancellor Rishi Sunak would have the most positive effect on Tory support, cutting the lead to just three points.

But other Tories polled even worse than Mr Johnson. Liz Truss, sometimes seen as a future leader, would give Labour a 16-point lead and swell support for Keir Starmer's party to a massive 43 per cent.

The foreign secretary has a reputation as an ardent free marketer and spent the last few years negotiating controversial trade deals, before being promoting to foreign secretary.

Making Michael Gove leader meanwhile would have the most negative effect on Tory numbers, cutting the governing party's vote share down to 23 per cent, a full 18-points behind Labour.

Mr Gove was intensely unpopular as education secretary under the coalition government, and has since entered the public consciousness for his role in the Brexit campaign, as well as his historic use of drugs.

Recently he has focused on the environment and “levelling up” – activities which so far appear to have won him little love from the public.

There is some hope for the Tories, however, as hypothetical polling figures are notoriously unreliable, and represent a snap-shot of what voters believe they would do under circumstances that do not yet exist.

But they represent the baseline scenario for any future leader before they have laid out their stall.

The government has haemorrhaged support in recent months after high-profile rows over sleaze, corruption, and rule-breaking dominated the news agenda – taking Tory support consistently below its 40 per cent floor for the first time since the European Parliament elections.

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