Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson will win three quarters of the votes in a ballot to choose Britain’s next prime minister, according to a new opinion poll on Saturday published in London by the Times newspaper.
The poll result came as ballot papers started to arrive at the homes of 160,000 members of the ruling Conservative Party.
Johnson is going head-to-head with current Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in the race to succeed Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party. The winner will automatically move into 10 Downing Street as prime minister.
In the YouGov/Times poll Johnson is backed by 74 percent of party members and Hunt 26 percent.
In an interview with the Times, Hunt has called on members to hold off filling in their voting papers until they watch two televised debates next week between the two candidates.
“The big message I want to give to Conservative Party members is wait to see me and Boris in action on the TV debates. Try before you buy,” he said.
The Times, in its commentary, says the scale of Hunt’s task in turning around the contest is laid bare by their latest survey which indicates that most members of the Conservative Party do not believe Hunt’s claim that he is prepared to take Britain out of the European Union (EU) without a deal.
Although 90 percent believe that Johnson will force through a no-deal Brexit, only 27 percent think that Hunt would, the poll showed.
There had been fears Johnson’s campaign would be hit by widespread media coverage of a domestic row he had with his girlfriend hours after winning a place in the leadership contest.
But the new survey found an overwhelming majority, 77 percent, think that Johnson’s private life is not relevant to whether he would make a good prime minister.
“That finding helps to explain why he has retained a commanding lead despite media coverage of the row,” said the Times.
Conservative members have until July 22 to post their ballot papers, with the result declared July 23.
May will then head to Buckingham Palace to inform Queen Elizabeth II of her resignation as prime minister, leaving Downing Street on the same day to pave the way for the new occupant of the most famous address in London.