Bookmakers have slashed the chances of Boris Johnson being replaced as Prime Minister following outrage over his attendance at a ‘bring your own booze’ event at the height of the lockdown.
Several Tory MPs broke rank to say the No 10 garden rally on May 20, 2020 could be a matter of resignation – warning that Mr Johnson’s position could soon be “untenable”.
Mr Johnson is now set to be replaced in 2022, according to a major betting company. “Our bet indicates that the Prime Minister is unlikely to see the year in number 10,” said John Hill of Coral.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak is the favorite to replace Mr Johnson in the event of a leadership race, narrowly ahead of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss.
Mr Sunak is 9/4 to be the next prime minister, while Ms Truss is 22/5, according to Oddschecker, a comparison site compiling odds from major UK bookmakers.
Backbench MP Jeremy Hunt – who lost to Mr Johnson in the 2019 Tory leadership race – is 11/1 with several bookmakers, while Minister Michael Gove is further back at 16/ 1 with several companies.
Two-thirds (66%) of voters – including 42% of those who backed the Tories in the last election – polled by Savanta ComRes said Mr Johnson should quit over the party issue, up 12 points from a similar survey in December.
Mr Johnson has apologized to PMQs for attending a rally in No 10 Garden during England’s first lockdown. He acknowledged the public’s ‘rage’ at the incident – but insisted he thought it was a ‘work event’ and could have been said to have it “technically” fell within the guidelines.
Tory MP Sir Roger said he concluded Mr Johnson had ‘misled’ the Commons with his previous denials. “Politically the Prime Minister is a walking dead man,” he told the BBC – calling on the 1922 committee of backbenchers to “determine how we proceed”.
The Tories have said backbench MPs are now “definitely” having conversations about how to replace Mr Johnson in 2022 after a turbulent few months.
A member of the “red wall” declared The Independent Opponents of Mr Johnson within the party could easily muster the 55 signatures required for the 1922 committee of backbenchers to launch a vote of no confidence – but they will not budge until they have dozens of others behind his dismissal.
Ms Truss is said to have ‘quietly wooed’ Tory colleagues in recent weeks in the event of a contest, but a spokesman for the Foreign Secretary said ‘she regularly meets MPs to discuss foreign policy, and previously trade policy’ .
Mr Sunak’s allies are also said to have polled fellow Tory MPs for their support for a leadership bid if a contest were to take place.
According to regular ConservativeHome surveys, Ms Truss remains the most popular cabinet member among Conservative supporters. She maintains her lead over other ministers – a position she has held for more than a year – with a net satisfaction of +82.
However, the latest poll figures suggest that Mr Sunak is the most popular choice to take over at No 10 with the general public.
A survey by research firm Redfield & Wilton found that 43% of adults polled said Mr Sunak would make a better prime minister than Mr Johnson. By comparison, only 23% of voters said Ms Truss would make a better prime minister.