Johnson would prevent Tory majority, according to poll

Favourite to succeed Brown would leave the Tories six seats short of a majority

Alan Johnson would prevent a Conservative majority at the next general election if elected Labour leader, according to a new poll.

The ComRes/Independent poll found that under Gordon Brown, Labour would win 22 per cent of the vote to the Conservatives’ 38 per cent, giving the Tories a majority of 74.

But under Johnson, the Conservative vote would fall to 36 per cent, with Labour rising to 26 per cent, leaving the Tories six seats short of a majority. Johnson, the new Home Secretary, is widely seen as the frontrunner to succeed Brown.

Earlier this morning the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Johnson was the leading candidate to be the next Labour leader.

The poll is the first to show that support for Labour would significantly increase under an alternative leader and may convince rebel backbenchers that the party could successfully fight an early general election.

Labour’s performance would also improve with Justice Secretary Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary David Miliband, backbencher Jon Cruddas or Children’s Secretary Ed Balls as leader, according to the poll. But only under Johnson would Labour deny the Conservatives an outright majority.

The poll suggested that under James Purnell, who resigned from the cabinet last week and called for Brown to resign, the party would lose more seats. Under Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, the party would replicate its current performance.

The Conservatives’ poll rating was 38 per cent, up 8 per cent since the last ComRes survey, with Labour unchanged on 22 per cent and the Liberal Democrats up two points to 20 per cent. Fringe parties continue to receive unusually high support in the wake of expenses scandal, but backing for them was down 10 per cent to 20 points.

To read a full, detailed interview with Alan Johnson pick up this week's New Statesman on Thursday