Further blow for PM as poll suggests Sunak would do better in election

27 December 2021, 20:37 | Updated: 27 December 2021, 20:43

Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson in Downing Street earlier this month.
Rishi Sunak and Boris Johnson in Downing Street earlier this month. Picture: Alamy

By James Morris

Boris Johnson’s authority has been dealt another blow after a poll suggested the Conservatives would do better at a general election with Rishi Sunak in charge.

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A survey carried out by Opinium for The Guardian suggested chancellor Mr Sunak would provide more of a challenge to Sir Keir Starmer, whose Labour Party has surged in recent polls following a series of scandals overseen by Mr Johnson.

The new poll – which asked respondents who they would vote for under four scenarios in which the Tory leader was Mr Johnson, Mr Sunak, Liz Truss and Michael Gove – projected Mr Johnson winning 203 seats, compared to 263 under Mr Sunak.

However, such an outcome from Mr Sunak would still be well short of the 326 seats required to form a majority government. The Conservatives, following Mr Johnson’s landslide election win in 2019, currently have a majority of 361.

In better news for the beleaguered prime minister, though, the poll suggested foreign secretary Ms Truss – hugely popular with the Tory grassroots – would only win 162 seats, and Michael Gove 136.

For context, Jeremy Corbyn led Labour to its worst general election result since 1935 when the party won 202 seats in 2019.

Mr Johnson will be hoping for a reset of his premiership in the new year following a series of scandals involving Tory MPs’ second jobs, the refurbishment of his Downing Street flat and, arguably most damaging of all, allegations of various parties or gatherings in government buildings when the wider country was subject to Covid lockdown restrictions.

Read more: Rachel Johnson: 'Boris always insisted we followed Covid rules when we met'

Furthermore, any reimposition of Covid restrictions will likely trigger an angry rebellion from backbench Tory lockdown sceptics, something which would further damage Mr Johnson’s standing.

On Monday, Mr Johnson’s health secretary Sajid Javid ruled out any further restrictions before the new year – but hinted measures may have to be taken in January as the Omicron variant continues to cause huge case numbers.