Rishi Sunak appears to have lost ground in the Tory leadership race but a reported delay in voting due to safety concerns could give him more time to impress ahead of the vote.
The YouGov poll puts Liz Truss well ahead of Mr. Sunak in support of party members, with her lead increasing to 34 points.
It shows that 60% of party members polled between July 29 and August 2 intend to vote for the foreign minister, up from 49% since the July 20-21 period when rivals first made the cut for the last two did.
Support for Mr Sunak, the former chancellor, has fallen from 31% to 26%, according to YouGov, while the rest of the 1,043 Conservative party members polled say they are undecided or will not vote.
The Conservative Party has delayed mailing the ballots on advice from the National Cyber Security Center (NCSC), which is part of GCHQ, the Telegraph reported.
The paper said it understood there was no specific threat from an enemy state and instead raised concerns about the vulnerability of the voting process.
Under the party’s original system, members could vote but change their decision while the vote remained open, but a unique code is now provided which the Telegraph says only allows for one unchanging vote.
North West Durham MP Richard Holden, who supports Mr Sunak, told BBC Newsnight: “I’ve heard they are being delayed. I think there is a small security issue that has been fixed, but it will not delay the outcome of the poll, which is vital for everyone.”
The ballots were due to be mailed from Monday but could not arrive until Thursday, August 11, according to the Telegraph.
In another blow to Mr. Sunak, YouGov data also showed that 83% of those who currently say they intend to vote for Ms. Truss also say they have made up their minds.
Only 17% say they could still change their mind, while 29% of Mr Sunak’s supporters say they could still vote differently.
But the Sunak campaign will hope that the extra time to make its case before the first votes are cast will work in its favour.
The Truss campaign spent Tuesday doing damage control after abandoning a flagship policy to cut £8.8billion from public sector salaries outside London.
Monday night’s announcement met stiff opposition from senior Conservatives, who said it would “level” the nation by making nurses, police officers and teachers worse off.
Tees Valley Conservative Mayor Ben Houchen, who supports Mr Sunak, said the proposed wages policy left him “speechless” and suggested it would have cost the party the next general election if implemented.
Mr Houchen told BBC Radio 4’s World At One program that the “terribly bad” policy “could be Liz’s dementia tax moment”, compared to Theresa May’s scrapped policy which was blamed for her poor electoral performance in 2017.
Mr Sunak’s camp argued the move was not a mistake and said Ms Truss called for the move when she was chief secretary at the Treasury Department in 2018.
“The lady is turning,” said a source, ridiculing the cabinet minister over comparisons she’s getting with former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
But Ms Truss insisted her policies had been “misrepresented”.
Speaking to the BBC in Dorset, she said: “I am afraid my policy on this has been misrepresented. It was never my intention to change the working conditions of teachers and nurses.
“But what I want to make clear is that I will not go ahead with the regional pay bodies, that is no longer my policy.”
Former Chief Whip Mark Harper told Ms Truss to stop “blaming journalists – reporting what is in a press release is not ‘willful misrepresentation'”.
“So this U-turn has wiped out savings of £8.8 billion. Where are they supposed to come from now?” said the Tory MP for the Forest of Dean.
“A priceless economic policy is not very conservative. Mrs Thatcher would be furious.”
But after a mixed day, Ms Truss received a campaign boost with support from the Daily Mail.
A source for the Liz Truss campaign told the YouGov poll, “Members are making decisions and they are supporting Liz.
“Your bold and ambitious plan for the country and the economy unites conservatives across our country. But we’re certainly not complacent, Liz is fighting for every vote and hitting as many members as possible.”
An NCSC spokesperson said: “Defending the UK’s democratic and electoral processes is a priority for the NCSC and we work closely with all parliamentary political parties, local authorities and MPs to provide cybersecurity guidance and support.
“As you would expect from the UK’s national cybersecurity authority, we have advised the Conservative Party on security considerations in the online leadership election.”
The PA news agency has reached out to the Conservative Party for comment.
https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/ballots-delay-gives-sunak-time-before-votes-cast-as-truss-pulls-ahead-in-poll-41886519.html Ballots ‘delay’ gives Sunak time before votes cast as Truss pulls ahead in poll