More than half of Brits would be 'unhappy' with Boris as new Prime Minister, new poll finds

21 October 2022, 18:14 | Updated: 21 October 2022, 19:08

Boris Johnson resigned for 'partygate' earlier this year, which sparked a series of protests (R)
Boris Johnson resigned for 'partygate' earlier this year, which sparked a series of protests (R). Picture: Alamy

By Kit Heren

More than half of British people do not want Boris Johnson to become Prime Minister again, a new poll suggests.

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Some 52% of people surveyed by YouGov on Friday said that they would be "unhappy" to see Mr Johnson, who resigned after the 'partygate' scandal only three months ago, return to Downing Street.

Out of the 3,429 people the pollsters asked, 43% said they would be "very unhappy" and 9% said they would be "fairly unhappy" with Mr Johnson in the top job. But of the Conservative voters polled, some 21% said they would be unhappy.

Read more: Cabinet ministers come out in support for Boris as poll shows Rishi is the people's favourite

Mr Johnson is touted by some in his party as a "unity" candidate who can bring the Conservatives back together after a bitter and divided spell under his successor Liz Truss, who announced her resignation on Thursday after only 44 days.

'I don't think Boris is as intelligent and intellectual as he claims to be.'

His defenders claim that the former PM is popular in parts of the UK that the Conservative Party often finds hard to win over.

They point to the spectacular success in the 2019 general election - which saw swathes of the 'red wall', traditional Labour heartlands in the North and Midlands, swing to the Conservatives that year.

But the new poll suggests that the 'partygate' scandal may have had a lasting impact among voters. It emerged earlier this year that several parties had been held in Downing Street and other government buildings, while draconian Covid-19 lockdown rules were in place.

Read more: “We know he’s a prat, but he’s our prat” Uxbridge voters react to Boris Johnson’s political comeback

Many people have complained about the sacrifices they made, such as not being able to visit sick loved ones or attend funerals, at the same time as the 'partygate' events were taking place.

Mr Johnson still faces a Commons inquiry later this year over claims he misled parliament about the 'partygate' affair.

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But despite the scandal, some 27% of people polled by YouGov said they would be "happy" for Mr Johnson to take over the reins of government again. Of those, 14% would be "very happy" and 13% would be "fairly happy".

Some 56% of Conservative voters polled would be happy with a Johnson comeback.

Of the rest of people polled, 18% said they would be neither happy nor unhappy with Mr Johnson being back in power, and 4% said they didn't know.

Read more: 'If he thinks he can win, he will run': Boris is in the leadership race for himself, his former spokesman warns

Candidates to become the next Prime Minister need 100 MPs to back them in order to reach an online vote with the party members.

Rishi Sunak appears to be the frontrunner
Rishi Sunak appears to be the frontrunner. Picture: Getty

Mr Johnson appears to be trailing Rishi Sunak, his former chancellor, with MP backers, but ahead of Penny Mordaunt, the other frontrunner.

But several Cabinet ministers have come out in favour of Mr Johnson, including defence secretary Ben Wallace, business secretary Jacob Rees-Mogg, and levelling up secretary Simon Clarke.

A recent poll from Opinium Research showed that a showdown between Mr Sunak and the former PM would see Mr Sunak come out on top.

Penny Mordaunt is another candidate to lead the Conservatives nexr
Penny Mordaunt is another candidate to lead the Conservatives nexr. Picture: Getty

An overnight poll showed that in a Rishi Sunak vs Boris Johnson run-off, the public would back Sunak 44% to 31%.Mr Sunak would be the public's favourite in two of three 'final two' scenarios, with him also winning 45% of support over 23% for Mordaunt.

It has been reported that Mr Johnson has privately urged Mr Sunak, whose departure from government precipitated his downfall, to join forces.

The ex-PM has told MPs only he can win the next election for the Conservatives after Liz Truss's dreadful few weeks in No10 saw the Tories crash in the polls. Stanley Johnson, his father, said he is "on a plane, as I understand it".

Candidates have to have 100 MPs on Monday to progress to the members' vote. The overall winner will be announced next Friday.