Ruth Davidson comes second in Tory leader poll

Scottish Conservative party leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
Scottish Conservative party leader Ruth Davidson. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire
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Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson is the second favourite among party members to succeed Prime Minister Theresa May, just behind Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

A poll conducted by Yougov for the Times of Conservative party members found that 23 per cent wanted former London Mayor Boris Johnson to take over as leader if and when Mrs May steps down.

Edinburgh Central MSP Ms Davidson, who has overseen a remarkably revival in the party’s fortunes in Scotland, was second on 19 per cent.

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Among Conservative members who voted Remain in last year’s EU referendum, Ms Davidson is the runaway leader, with 29 per cent backing her, well ahead of nearest challenger Amber Rudd on 14 per cent, and Mr Johnson himself on 10 per cent.

However, those who backed Brexit in June 2016 favour Mr Johnson by a wide margin, with 29 per cent backing the controversial MP, while 23 per cent of Tory Leave voters prefer backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Ms Davidson was praised by UK political leaders last year after being perceived on both sides of the EU referendum debate to have had a good campaign, memorably taking on Boris Johnson in a debate in London.

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She has previously described being Prime Minister as ‘the loneliest job in the world’ and says she is focused on becoming First Minister in Scotland at the next election.

While the former journalist is currently ineligible to stand in any Tory leadership contest (party rules say candidates must be serving MPs) she is often touted as a future leader of the party.

If the current Brexit infighting in the party ends in a leadership battle, Ms Davidson will be seen as a key ‘kingmaker’ with one right-wing columnist claiming that whomever the Scottish Tory leader backs will be ‘halfway to number 10.’

Despite the hurdles in becoming leader, bookmakers still reckon Ms Davidson is a worthy outside bet, with her current odds of 16/1 putting her ahead of Cabinet big hitters like Michael Gove and Damian Green.

Joe Twyman, head of political and social research at YouGov, said: “The question of who will take over from Theresa May and when is likely to dominate the Conservative Party Conference.

“Our survey of Conservative party members shows that it is the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, who receives the highest leadership rating.

“When members are asked directly to choose who they would like to see as the next party leaders, however, it is Boris Johnson who comes out on top - despite him being the candidate to bring out the largest difference between Remainers and Leavers.”