Rishi Sunak trounces Boris Johnson among voters over how to handle coronavirus crisis

Rishi Sunak moved a step closer to No 10 today as an exclusive poll revealed he is trouncing Boris Johnson on a swathe of leadership qualities.

He has the highest satisfaction score of any Chancellor since bushy-eyebrowed Denis Healey in April 1978 – two years before Mr Sunak was even born.

And the architect of Eat Out to Help Out is leaving the PM behind on key image ratings for a potential PM including being “good in a crisis” and having “sound judgment”, pollsters Ipsos MORI discovered.

Senior Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, who chairs the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, set leadership bells ringing this morning by declaring that Mr Sunak “enjoys a huge amount of confident on Conservative benches, and when I speak to people around the country … he has huge support as well”.

Bookmakers Betway named Mr Sunak firm 5/2 favourite to wear the Conservative crown after Mr Johnson.

Almost two-thirds of the country are pleased with the way Mr Sunak is doing his job as Chancellor, found the poll which was taken before yesterday’s successful Jobs Support Scheme announcement . Some 64 per cent say they are satisfied with his performance, while just 21 per cent are dissatisfied – a three-to-one majority.

The only Chancellor to have done better since Ipsos MORI began asking the question in the 1970s was Lord Healey, one of the most popular politicians in modern times. He scored 67 per cent satisfied in 1978, the year Anna Ford becomes the first female TV newsreader, Joan Collins filmed The Stud and the Bee Gees topped the charts with Night Fever.

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Mr Sunak’s score beats the best recorded by Gordon Brown, who peaked at 57 per cent in April 2002, and next-highest Geoffrey Howe, who hit 52 per cent in July 1980. Amazingly, even 59 per cent of Labour supporters say they are happy with Mr Sunak’s performance.

Among Conservative voters, his score is an 83 per cent satisfied, and just eight per cent dissatisfied – a 10-1 majority. George Osborne went higher, by satisfying 87 per cent of Tory supporters in March 2015.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

Mr Sunak’s leader ratings, which measure how the public see him on a range of personal qualities, associated with prime ministers, showed him doing better than Mr Johnson on most.

And Mr Sunak also repeatedly outscored Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer – which could prove influential if the Conservatives find themselves casting round for a new leader to fight the next general election in 2024.

More than half – 54 per cent – of people thought Mr Sunak was “good in a crisis”. Only 32 per cent thought the same of Mr Johnson, and just 31 said it of Sir Keir.

Almost half – 49 per cent – said the Chancellor “has sound judgment”, compared with 30 for Mr Johnson and 43 for Sir Keir.

Over half – 55 per cent – feel Mr Sunak “understands the problems facing Britain”. Some 43 per cent felt Mr Johnson did, and 50 per cent thought Sir Keir did.

Nearly half – 47 per cent – think Mr Sunak is “a good representative for Britain on the world stage”. Just 30 per cent think Mr Johnson is, while 42 per cent think Sir Keir is.

Mr Johnson is ahead of his Chancellor for being “patriotic”, with an overwhelming 68 per cent saying he ticks that box. Some 48 per cent said it of Mr Sunak, but he was ahead of Sir Keir who was seen as a patriot by 43 per cent.

The Prime Minister also beats his junior for having “a lot of personality”. A huge 67 per cent say Mr Johnson has it. Only a third say Mr Sunak has it – but he still beats Sir Keir who scored just 25 per cent in the personality stakes.

None of the trio of rivals is seen by a majority as a capable leader. Sir Keir comes top with 44 per cent, but Mr Sunak is not far behind at 41 per cent. Mr Johnson is placed third with 37.

Mr Sunak scored highest for being “more honest than most politicians”, backed by 41 to Sir Keir’s score of 36. Mr Johnson trailed the field for honesty at 27.

The Prime Minister was well ahead for two qualities he would probably not wish to be associated with. Some 58 per cent said he was “out of touch with ordinary people”, compared with scores of 31 for Sunak and 27 for Starmer. And 46 per cent said Mr Johnson was “more style than substance”, compared with scores of 22 for Sunak and 21 for Starmer.

Among Conservative supporters, Mr Johnson has better scores than his Chancellor for being a capable leader (69 v 52), a lot of personality (76 v 48) and patriotic (84 v 63).

However Mr Sunak narrowly beats his boss for being good in a crisis (66 v 57), having sound judgement (66 v 54), for not being out of touch (20 v 32), being more honest than most politicians (58 v 45), and not being style over substance (17 v 39).

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said the Chancellor’s scores were unusual, especially at a time of economic pessimism.

“Public satisfaction with the Prime Minister and the Government overall might be drifting down, but for Rishi Sunak his scores are moving in the opposite direction with a near 20-point boost since March,” he said.

“As the Standard’s analysis has shown, it’s rare even in Ipsos MORI’s long-term archives to find a Chancellor with scores this strong, which suggests that prior to the latest announcement his policies to deal with the coronavirus have been popular, while continuing public pessimism over the economy has so far not been directed at him.”

Betway’s Chad Yeomans said: “Boris Johnson’s leadership is increasingly under fire and with Keir Starmer beating the Prime Minister in the latest opinion polls, the Labour leader heads the market at 2/1 to be the next MP in Downing Street.

“Chancellor Rishi Sunak is priced at 5/2 to take Boris’ place at the helm of the Tories and to become the next PM. Also in the running at 7/2 is Michael Gove, who could be looking for a comeback after he lost out to Johnson in 2019.”

Ipsos MORI interviewed 1,013 adults across GB by phone from September 11 to 18. Data are weighted. Details from www.Ipsos-mori.com


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