Theresa May clear favourite to be next prime minister as Tories begin voting for new leader

New poll puts the Home Secretary at the top of the pack of five candidates

Charlie Cooper
Whitehall Correspondent
Tuesday 05 July 2016 08:47
Comments

Theresa May has opened up a commanding lead in the Conservative leadership race, as MPs begin voting in the first round of the contest.

A new poll of Tory members puts the Home Secretary at the top of the pack of five candidates, and in a final round run-off against nearest rival Andrea Leadsom, the poll indicates she would win by 32 points.

The Times/YouGov poll is also encouraging for Mrs Leadsom who, it suggests, would beat rivals Michael Gove and Stephen Crabb convincingly in a final round run-off.

However, Mrs May is, by a significant margin, the candidate to beat. She is regarded as the strongest leader, the most unifying candidate, the candidate with the best economic understanding and the best media performer by Conservative party members.

Conservative MPs will cast their first ballots in the leadership election today, with the candidate with the least votes eliminated by the end of the day. Mrs May currently has the public support of 115 MPs, Andrea Leadsom 39, Michael Gove and Stephen Crabb around 25 each and Liam Fox fewer than 10.

The new poll also reveals a collapse in support for Michael Gove among the Tory membership, following his 11th hour decision to pull out of Boris Johnson’s campaign and run himself. Last week Mr Gove was regarded positively by 63 per cent of members – this has now tumbled to 32 per cent.

Mrs May has reached out to the Tory right, writing in the Daily Mail to affirm her commitment to a strong defence policy and renewing Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system, to counter the threat of Russian aggression. However, the Home Secretary has suffered the first setback of her leadership bid, with opposition across the political spectrum to her stance on EU citizens in the UK after Brexit, whose long-term residency status she has not been willing to guarantee.

Theresa May admits future of EU citizens living in the UK is uncertain

Mrs Leadsom, meanwhile, was boosted on Monday night by a public declaration of support from Boris Johnson. The energy minister is also likely to benefit from the likely elimination of former Defence Secretary Liam Fox from the race today. Both candidates campaigned for Leave and Mrs Leadsom, who is viewed as a more ‘hardline’ Brexit candidate than Mr Gove, is likely to pick up most of Mr Fox’s supporters.

Conservative MPs will vote in another two ballots after today, eliminating the candidate with the least votes at each turn. The two remaining candidates will face a ballot of party members with the winner announced on September 9.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in