Politics

Tory members’ ballot an ‘undemocratic’ way to choose next PM, say voters

Almost half the country believes the power of Conservative party members to pick the next prime minister is “undemocratic”, a new poll for The Independent has found.

Some 41 per cent of voters believe the process – decided by around 160,000 Tory members – is not a democratic way of selecting Boris Johnson’s successor, according to the Savanta ComRes survey.

Only 38 per cent believe the members’ ballot, which will see either Liz Truss or Rishi Sunak take charge at No 10 in early September, is a democratic way for Britain to choose its political leader.

Only three former leaders – Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair and David Cameron – have become prime minister by winning a general election since 1979.

Savanta’s poll also found that Ms Truss is well-placed to become the fifth prime minister since 1979 to take over at Downing Street following an internal party battle.

Ms Truss is the favoured choice as the next PM among 49 per cent of Tory voters, compared to Mr Sunak on only 25 per cent. Some 25 per cent of the party’s voters are undecided.

Despite Mr Sunak’s pitch as the candidate most likely to win the next election, the Savanta poll suggests the foreign secretary is also more favoured by the wider public.

Some 32 per cent of all voters would prefer it if Ms Truss wins the Tory contest and becomes PM, over 26 per cent preferring Mr Sunak.

Strikingly, there is evidence of regret about Mr Johnson’s political demise. If the caretaker PM were running as a candidate, 46 per cent of Tory voters would prefer he won, compared to only 24 per cent for Ms Truss and 16 per for Mr Sunak.

The poll suggests the public would also prefer it if Mr Johnson stayed on at No 10, despite widespread outrage over the Partygate scandal and his declining popularity in surveys during his final months before his resignation.

If he was standing again, 26 per cent of voters would rather Mr Johnson won, compared to only 22 per cent for Mr Sunak and 19 per cent for Ms Truss.

The results indicate little enthusiasm for Ms Truss or Mr Sunak. The six-week slog between the final two candidates has played out amid growing fears over the cost of living, with annual bills energy forecast to top £3,500 from October.

Mr Sunak has ramped up his promises to tackle the cost-of-living crisis, telling The Times he is prepared to find up to £10bn of extra support to ease the pain of soaring bills. Ms Truss, who has prioritised tax cuts, has yet to commit to any further “handouts” – but said she would consider more support at an emergency budget.

More than half of Britons (55 per cent) believe an organised campaign of non-payment of energy bills is justified, according to the Savanta poll for The Independent.

And almost half (44 per cent) fear that there will be riots if consumers are given no further help.

This week’s survey found that 7 per cent of consumers say they have already refused to pay their bills in full, and a further 19 per cent are considering doing so.

Savanta questioned 2,239 adults in the UK on 6 and 7 August

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