Rishi Sunak could still spring a Brexit-style surprise and win the Tory leadership contest, one of his leading supporters has said.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary and a backer of the former chancellor, said polls and pundits had been wrong about election and referendum results in the past and suggested that Mr Sunak could still secure an unexpected victory over Liz Truss.
Mr Shapps pointed specifically to the 2015 general election and the 2016 EU referendum as examples when predicted results have proven to be wrong.
Asked if it was time for Mr Sunak to throw in the towel in the contest, Mr Shapps told Sky News: “We will know who the new prime minister is in a little over two weeks.
“I don’t think it would be right for either side to not allow a formal vote to go ahead and if there is one thing we have learned from the last few years is, think of the 2015 election, I was party chairman at the time, everyone said we couldn’t win the election.
“I think the 2016 Brexit poll where everyone was pretty sure the country was about to vote for Remain.
“I think it would be a very good idea to wait for those who are voting in this contest to complete the vote. As I said, it is only just over a fortnight’s time we will know the answer to that.
“In the meantime many of us are working very hard to make sure that services are available this summer, it’s what I have been doing, I haven’t been away this summer, I have been looking after the transport system to make sure that people can get away on holiday, for example.”
Truss enjoys 32-point lead over Sunak
Polls ahead of the 2015 general election had suggested a hung Parliament was the most likely result but David Cameron and the Tories managed to secure a small majority.
A narrow victory for Remain was widely expected at the 2016 EU referendum but the nation ultimately voted by 52 per cent to 48 per cent for the UK to leave the bloc.
Ms Truss is viewed as the firm favourite in the Tory leadership contest which is due to conclude on September 5 when Boris Johnson’s successor will be announced.
A YouGov poll of Tory members published by Sky News yesterday suggested that the Foreign Secretary has a 32-point lead over Mr Sunak.
It found that 66 per cent of Conservative Party members are backing Ms Truss while 34 per cent are backing Mr Sunak.
Sir John Curtice, the polling expert, told The Times that Ms Truss “would have to foul up in some spectacular fashion” to lose the contest.
He said he would be “extraordinarily surprised” if the Foreign Secretary did not win.