Boris Johnson tops Conservative poll as favourite to replace Theresa May

1 August 2018, 12:58

Boris Johnson has returned to being the darling of the Tory grassroots after quitting government in protest at the prime minister's Brexit strategy.

The former foreign secretary, who quit the role last month, has topped a monthly poll of Conservative Party members as to who they want as their next party leader.

It is the first time Mr Johnson has achieved such popularity since March 2016, soon after the ex-London mayor came out in support of Brexit.

In the survey conducted by the ConservativeHome website, Mr Johnson was backed by 29% of respondents.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid was the second most popular (19%) and prominent backbench Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg came in third (13%).

Mr Johnson left government shortly after ex-Brexit secretary David Davis also walked out of Theresa May's cabinet.

The pair vented their anger at the prime minister's proposals for the UK's future relationship with the EU, which were thrashed out by ministers at a Chequers meeting.

However, Mr Davis achieved no similar boost in support among Tory members following his resignation.

He was sixth in the poll of more than 1,300 Tory members, below Environment Secretary Michael Gove and "other".

The survey results mark a stunning turnaround in Mr Johnson's popularity since his resignation as foreign secretary.

Last month, he was languishing in fifth place with the support of just 8% of Tory members, while Mr Javid topped the poll with 22%.

At the time, Mr Johnson was still tied to Mrs May's Brexit proposals and had failed to quit government despite being an opponent of plans to expand Heathrow Airport.

Conservative members play a key role in deciding the party's next leader.

They are balloted on their choice of two candidates, once Tory MPs have whittled down contenders to a final pair.

Mrs May's Chequers plan for Brexit has been witheringly branded a "semi-Brexit" by Mr Johnson.

It is unpopular with large numbers of her Leave-supporting MPs, as well as party members.

Last week, The Times quoted a source as saying a Tory leadership election this autumn was now "nailed on" and predicting Mrs May will be out of 10 Downing Street "by October".