Gove Tops Poll as Future U.K. Tory Leader for First Time

  • Justice secretary is among leading campaigners for `Brexit'
  • London Mayor Johnson slips into second in poll of activists

Michael Gove.

Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

U.K. Justice Secretary Michael Gove topped a poll of Conservative Party activists as the Tories’ preferred next leader for the first time as support fell for the previous favorite, London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Gove was backed by 26 percent of respondents in the regular poll for the Conservative Home website, up 6 percentage points from last month, according to results published Wednesday. Johnson slid 13 points to 20 percent to take second place.

Prime Minister David Cameron has pledged to step down before the next general election in 2020. There’s increasing speculation he may have to resign as early as this summer if he fails to win the referendum on continuing European Union membership he’s called for June 23. Gove and Johnson are among the leading campaigners for leaving the bloc.

Another supporter of a so-called Brexit, former Defence Secretary Liam Fox, was in third place at 16 percent, followed by three pro-EU ministers, Home Secretary Theresa May, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and Business Secretary Sajid Javid. Osborne led the poll late last year, while May was top in January.

The website didn’t provide a detailed breakdown of this month’s poll. Last month’s version drew almost 2,400 responses.

Bookmaker William Hill Plc made Johnson favorite in odds published Tuesday, with Osborne in second place and Gove third.

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