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Boris Johnson is Tories' top choice to succeed Theresa May, poll reveals

Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson outside No 10 Downing Street. Picture by Dominic Lipinski/Press Association

Theresa May is facing fresh speculation about her political future after polling found Tory members want her to quit after Brexit, putting Boris Johnson as the top choice to take over.

As the prime minister prepares for the Conservatives' annual conference, Britain's foreign secretary was backed by 23 per cent of party members to take over, followed by Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson on 19 per cent.

High-profile backbencher Jacob Rees-Mogg, who has was branded "extreme" after expressing opposition to abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest, came in third on 17 per cent, in the YouGov poll.

Mr Johnson has enjoyed a resurgence in support after releasing a Brexit blueprint in a move that was viewed to have boxed in the prime minister ahead of her speech in Florence.

Brexit secretary David Davis was backed by just 11 per cent of Tories, falling from the top spot in July.

Some 38 per cent of party members want Mrs May to quit after Britain leaves the European Union in 2019, despite her vow to take the party into the 2022 general election.

While 29 per cent Tories want her to contest the next national poll, 5 per cent believe she should quit immediately, 8 per cent chose next year and 13 per cent said she should step down just before the vote.

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."

Mrs May will face Tory members in Manchester at the first party conference in the wake of her disastrous election gamble.

Recriminations about the result, which wiped out the Conservative majority, leadership speculation and progress on Brexit, are likely to dominate chatter on the fringes of the conference.

The atmosphere of the gathering will be in stark contrast to last year's event, where the prime minister held an iron grip on the party and chose to make two speeches from the platform.

Instead, Mrs May will return to conference tradition by giving one address on the final day of the conference that she will hope can shore up her position.

:: YouGov interviewed 927 Tory members online between September 20 and 27.

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