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Liz Truss has leapt ahead of Rishi Sunak as Tory members’ favourite to replace Boris Johnson as Prime Minister, a new poll suggests.

The UK’s top diplomat and new leading Brexit negotiator leapfrogged the Chancellor in party popularity after his tax-and-spend budget in November, new figures suggest.

Mr Sunak unveiled a free-spending Budget last month, choosing to ‘invest’ rather than ‘retrench’ after the pandemic hammered the country.

Departmental spending will go up by £150billion over this parliament – an average of 3.8 per cent a year in real terms, the fastest rate this century.

There was also extra spending for schools and benefits. Additionally this year Mr Johnson, backed by the Treasury, unveiled major reform to social care funded by a hike in national Insurance payments.  

This appears to have gone down badly with Conservative members, who favoured Mr Sunak top move from No11 to No10 in a Conservative Home poll in August.

When the same question was asked of readers today, Ms Truss had surged past him.

A regularly popular figure with members, Ms Truss was promoted to the Foreign Office in the last reshuffle. 

She also took on EU negotiation responsibilities when lord Frost resigned as Brexit Minister last week.

Liz Truss

Liz Truss

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak

The UK’s top diplomat and new leading Brexit negotiator leapfrogged the Chancellor in party popularity after his tax-and-spend budget in November, new figures suggest.

However, the findings come after a separate poll suggested Mr Sunak was more popular with the general public.  

A poll for MailOnline on Christmas Day found broad support for the Tories getting rid of Mr Johnson as leader – with 25 per cent backing the idea and another 35 per cent saying they felt ‘strongly’ it was the right thing.

The research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies suggest that Rishi Sunak would be the preferred replacement in No10.

Some 29 per cent thought he would be better and a further 14 per cent saw him as a ‘significant’ upgrade – superior figures to both Ms Truss and Sajid Javid, two other ministers often touted for the top job.   

Asked to pick a new Tory leader from a range of potential candidates, a third of the party’s supporters plumped for the Chancellor. Just 9 per cent chose Ms Truss.

 Keir Starmer was seen as an improvement by 48 per cent, while 25 per cent believed he would be worse.

A poll for MailOnline found broad support for the Tories getting rid of Mr Johnson as leader

A poll for MailOnline found broad support for the Tories getting rid of Mr Johnson as leader

A poll for MailOnline found broad support for the Tories getting rid of Mr Johnson as leader

Some 29 per cent thought Rishi Sunak would be better as PM, and a further 14 per cent saw him as a 'significant' upgrade - superior figures to Liz Truss

Some 29 per cent thought Rishi Sunak would be better as PM, and a further 14 per cent saw him as a 'significant' upgrade - superior figures to Liz Truss

Some 29 per cent thought Rishi Sunak would be better as PM, and a further 14 per cent saw him as a ‘significant’ upgrade – superior figures to Liz Truss

Boris Johnson will get his first glimpse of Christmas infections in a crunch meeting with his top advisers Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance that will examine whether new legal curbs are required ahead of the last social hurrah of 2021.

People in Scotland and Wales are waking to new rules announced before Christmas that include Hogmanay celebrations cancelled for the second year in a row in Edinburgh.

Downing Street, which described the meeting between the PM and his advisers as routine, is understood to be leaning towards new guidance urging people in England to be careful and limit contacts – rather than imposing new legally binding restrictions such as table service in pubs or limits on household mixing.

But this could change if data on hospitalisations suggests the NHS could be overwhelmed by a wave of coronavirus infections.

Full legal curbs would require Parliament to be recalled – which can be done within 48 hours – and would trigger already furious Tory backbenchers and cause serious problems for the hospitality industry.

The Prime Minister faced warnings from within the Cabinet and from his restive backbenchers not to over-react.

One minister told the Guardian that the data was ‘struggling to be persuasive’ of the need for law changes.

And Cotswolds MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee of backbench Tories, told LBC: ‘The latest figures we had before Christmas showed that the number of cases in hospital was relatively stable – and that is the main measure why we need any further lockdowns, is to deal with infectivity in hospitals, and I don’t see that before Christmas.

‘So, I hope the Prime Minister will be very, very cautious before introducing further measures.’

Sir Geoffrey said people were ‘taking matters into their own hands and being very cautious themselves’, adding: ‘That is the best answer in this situation – let people make their own decisions.’

Meanwhile teaching unions warned that whole year groups of pupils could be sent home from school in January due to Covid-related staff shortages.

They warned that students due to sit mocks and other exams would have to be prioritised if widespread illness occurs among teachers. 

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