Who will be the next Tory leader?

A ConservativeHome survey reveals the runners and riders.

Who will be the next Conservative leader? That's the mischievous question posed by ConservativeHome editor Tim Montgomerie in today's Guardian. Montgomerie, who I recently profiled for the New Statesman, surveyed more than 1,500 Tory members in attempt to offer an answer. The full results haven't been published yet but Tim has revealed the results from the "Influentials Group" [centre-right journalists, think-tank heads and parliamentarians] within the ConHome panel. As he explains:

Participants were asked who could be the next Tory leader if (for unspecified reasons) Cameron is forced to quit before the next election and who might be Tory leader if he steps down after the next election, sometime during the next parliament.

William Hague (20 votes) was the top choice to take over from Cameron in this parliament, followed by Boris Johnson (19), Michael Gove (16), Jeremy Hunt (12), George Osborne (12) and David Davis (10). Of note, is the low support for Osborne [whose stock has plummeted since the Budget] and the absence of a genuine leader-in-waiting.

Asked who could take over from Cameron in the next parliament, respondents were far more likely to name MPs from the 2010 take. But rather than figures such as Matthew Hancock [Osborne's former chief of staff] and Rory Stewart [only named by two or three panellists], those surveyed tipped women - and four women in particular - for the top. Priti Patel received 12 votes, with Andrea Leadsom on 10, Anna Soubry on eight and Liz Truss also on eight. As Montgomerie writes, "it's as if the party is yearning for another Thatcher."

Michael Gove was the third most-popular choice to take over from Cameron in this parliament. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.