UK Politics Betting: Popular Rishi Sunak clear favourite to succeed Boris Johnson

Chancellor Rishi Sunak
Clear communicator - 59% think Sunak is doing a good job
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Chancellor Rishi Sunak's summer statement was well received this week and he's the clear favourite to succeed Boris Johnson reports Max Liu...

"Much will depend on the fall-out from the pandemic, and perhaps his own health, but if Johnson were to leave in 2023 [6.8], it would open the way for a new leader to reinvigorate the party and its electoral prospects."

Rishi Sunak is [3.85] to be the next leader of the Conservative Party after he won more praise this week for his summer statement to parliament. His nearest rival, Michael Gove, is out to [9.0]. So just how seriously should we take Sunak's chances of succeeding Boris Johnson?

A year ago all but a small group of Tory party aficionados had heard of Sunak who became the MP for Richmond, Yorkshire (where he replaced former-leader William Hague) in 2015. Sunak briefly came to national attention when he stood in for Boris Johnson at one of the leaders' debates at December's general election.

Everything changed for Sunk in February when he unexpectedly became chancellor of the exchequer after Sajid Javid quit citing Dominic Cummings' interference in his spending plans. The new chancellor was only 39-years-old, although he was not the youngest ever to hold the job: George Osborne was a mere 38 when he took over in 2010.

Competent and fresh - Sunak offers contrast to Johnson

Sunak was expected to be Johnson's puppet chancellor and, while few policy disagreements between numbers 10 and 11 Downing Street have been reported during the pandemic, Sunak is increasingly praised for showing qualities that the PM lacks - namely, competence.

Sunak communicates clearly and comes across as capable and likeable. Two of those qualities are lacking in Johnson and, while there are probably still some people who enjoy his shambling demeanour, there are a growing number who find him tone deaf in the current crisis and quite a few who despise him.

The Tories are [1.79] to win most seats at the general election and, while the odds on them winning another majority have drifted to [3.15] during the pandemic, they may have a better chance of achieving that under a new leader.

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The next election is [1.25] to be held no sooner than 2024 (the fixed term parliament act says it will happen in December that year, but surely we won't be subjected to another winter polling day?). Johnson, meanwhile, is [2.06] to leave his job in 2024 or later but I wouldn't take those odds.

Much will depend on the fall-out from the pandemic, and perhaps his own health, but if Johnson were to leave in 2023 [6.8], it would open the way for a new leader to reinvigorate the party and its electoral prospects.

I mentioned above that Sunak is a good communicator and that's underlined by YouGov polling this week that showed 59% think he's doing a good job. But Sunak is also said to be good at communicating with Tory MPs, with open lines of dialogue to the back benches, which could be crucial in boosting his chances of becoming leader.

One hundred days in Starmer is under no illusions

Tomorrow it will be 100 days since Keir Starmer became Labour leader and to coincide with this first milestone Opinium conducted polling that found 52% of voters could imagine Starmer as PM. The same firm recently found more people cited Starmer as their preferred choice (37%) over Johnson (35%) whose popularity is decreasing while Sunak's is increasing. It is Starmer [3.05] who is the favourite to be next PM.

The Tories are still as far ahead of Labour as 10 points in some polls - which leaves Starmer under no illusions about the task facing him - but the really encouraging thing for the Tories is that across all polling they still lead Labour on economic competence.

Will that change over the next four years? Former Tory treasury minister David Gauke praises Sunak today but warns that he will have to raise taxes to fix the economic damage done by covid-19. For Sunak, the true tests lie in the future and how he handles them will determine whether or not he becomes the first politician since Gordon Brown to move directly from number 11 to number 10.

At the moment, though, the politician Sunak most reminds me of is Tony Blair who had the same air of easy confidence and was the right politician in the right place at the right time in the mid-1990s when he became PM at the age of 43.

UK - Party Leaders: UK - Party Leaders (Next Conservative Leader.)

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Wednesday 14 December, 5.00pm

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