Is it worse to lose the chance to be Prime Minister by a whisker or a landslide? In a knife-edge defeat, the losing candidate’s mind will forever toil over what else they could have done. Rishi Sunak’s silver lining might be that he escapes that fate.
How so? Because YouGov’s latest poll gives Liz Truss a 38-point lead among 1,043 Conservative members. When directly facing Rishi Sunak, 69 per cent of members swing in her direction compared to 31 per cent for Sunak – a lower percentage than Jeremy Corbyn achieved in the 2019 General Election. When “don’t knows” were included, Truss still enjoyed a romping 34-point lead, up from 18 points when the final two were first known. It is a triumph Tony Blair could only dream of.
The picture could not be much worse for Sunak. Though polling took place before Truss’ public sector pay debacle, Sunak has fallen back. When the campaign started, over a fifth of members were undecided. Now, only 13 per cent are. Worse still, 83 per cent of Truss supporters state their mind is made up, with only 17 per cent open to persuasion (29 per cent of Sunak’s supporters meanwhile say they are open to altering their ballot).
Truss’ rhetoric on tax cuts has worked in her favour, with leading economists endorsing her plans as “not inflationary”. Similarly, pledging to “ignore” Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon went down a treat with members, as the SNP leader was labelled an “attention-seeker” (by the Instagram-obsessed Truss).
Hustings continue in Cardiff today, with both candidates desperate to stress their unionist credentials.
Team Sunak says the race is tighter than it seems. Their man spoke to 2,000 members face-to-face over the weekend. But it seems his message – supposedly “telling the truth” – is not one they want to hear.