Election expert advises Rushi Sunak to edge Liz Truss 51:49 in leadership race

A British politics professor with a history of correctly predicting major developments in the UK has named his favorites to replace outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson but also said it will be a close race.

Liverpool University’s Jonathan Tonge thinks Rishi Sunak will win after opponents failed to land punches in the early rounds of the campaign, but he can see a tall order from Liz Truss.

“Without any confidence, I would say that Rishi Sunak will become the next prime minister,” he said.

“But I think it’s a 51/49 call because Liz Truss also plays pretty well with members of the Conservative party.

“I think members might see Sunak as a slightly more plausible prime minister than Truss because I don’t think they’re as obsessed with tax cuts as is commonly assumed.

“Members of the Conservative Party are obsessed with Brexit, and in that sense Sunak has the upper hand over Truss because he is the longer-term Brexiteer.”

He believes Penny Mordaunt still has an outside chance if she makes it past the MP voting stage to the final round when party members choose the winner from the two horses remaining in the race.

The eight candidates who made it to the MP vote are Kemi Badenoch, Suella Braverman, Jeremy Hunt, Penny Mordaunt, Rishi Sunak, Liz Truss, Tom Tugendhat and Nadhim Zahawi.

The leadership election was called after Mr Johnson was forced to resign after a scandal involving MP and Deputy Whip Chris Pincher.

It was the latest in a string of controversies for the government that included partygate – where government officials held parties defying the Covid lockdown – the renovation of the Prime Minister’s flat and ethical shortcomings.

Ms Mordaunt is a serious contender who could make it to the last ballot, said Prof Tonge, who has a strong track record of political forecasting.

“Unlike Truss, Mordaunt was a Brexiteer from the start, and there’s clearly a ‘Stop Rishi’ campaign, where MPs will vote for the bottom two candidates based on who they think is most likely to beat him in the of the final vote.

“If they think the members of the Conservative Party, who voted in the last resort, care more about Brexit than tax cuts, they will choose Mordaunt. I think Truss will probably shade it before Mordaunt.

He said: “Sunak also looks a bit more like the role of PM than Truss.

“He’s a polished performer who understands the economy and the seriousness of the economic situation better than any of his rivals.”

Updated: July 13, 2022, 3:09 p.m.

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