Liz Truss has been backed by Telegraph readers as Britain’s next prime minister in the largest campaign poll to date.
Six in 10 readers surveyed said that the Foreign Secretary should replace Boris Johnson, in a fresh blow to Rishi Sunak’s campaign.
The poll of almost 10,000 subscribers came as Andrea Leadsom became the latest senior Conservative to offer Ms Truss her support.
Writing in The Telegraph, the former business secretary said that Ms Truss would make sure “every baby is given the best start for life” and “unite the Conservatives and lead a team drawn from across the party”.
The poll showed that 42 per cent of Telegraph readers believe the winning candidate should cut taxes “as soon as possible”, while almost half say green levies should be scrapped to help voters with the cost of living.
Sources close to Ms Truss denied that she had already set a date of Sep 21 for an “emergency Budget” to be delivered if she wins the race to Number 10.
However, they said that the Budget would include an immediate reversal of the increase in National Insurance Contributions, a pause to green levies and the cancellation of a planned rise in corporation tax.
In an interview with the Financial Times on Friday night, Ms Truss said she would not call a snap election if she was elected leader next month.
The Telegraph’s poll revealed both candidates’ focus on Whitehall reform is popular, with 71 per cent of those polled agreeing or strongly agreeing with the view that the “current size of the state is too big”.
Almost half of readers said that they supported Britain’s 2050 net zero target, which both Mr Sunak and Ms Truss back, compared with 39 per cent who said they did not.
Two thirds of the 9,847 respondents said that if Ms Truss wins the leadership, she should not appoint Mr Johnson in her Cabinet.
A large majority, 85 per cent, said that spending on the Armed Forces should be increased.
Unlike some surveys carried out by pollsters, the results were not weighted by demographic to be nationally representative but show a majority view among Telegraph readers.
The figures came as a video of Mr Sunak surfaced online, in which he told Tory members that he had scrapped a Treasury spending formula that “shoved all the funding into deprived urban areas”.
He appeared to suggest that more money should be spent in rural areas such as Tunbridge Wells, where he was speaking, which is in the top third of the wealthiest constituencies in the country.
The average house price in the town was £528,459 at the end of last year, compared with a national average of £271,000.
The gaffe prompted criticism from top Tories, including Lord Goldsmith of Richmond Park, who said that it was “one of the weirdest – and dumbest – things I’ve ever heard from a politician”.
Jake Berry, the chairman of the Northern Research group of Conservative MPs, accused Mr Sunak of “boast[ing] about trying to funnel vital investment away from deprived areas”.
“He says one thing and does another – from putting up taxes to trying to block funding for our Armed Forces and now levelling up,” he said.
Mr Sunak told The Telegraph that the furore was “very, very straightforward to clear up” and there was “not a problem at all” if the public examined his record in government.
“What that was about was about the way the Government identifies areas that are deprived and then allocates funding according to need and the way they did that until recently was very outdated and it wasn’t reflective of the actual need in areas,” he said.
Pressed, he said: “People come to that event from all over the county of Kent. It’s not that they’re all from Tunbridge Wells and I think that again, it’s just slightly wrong to focus on that.”
Challenged again that the video did not present a favourable impression of him to voters, he said: “If people want to clip a very short part and not have the overall explanation, there’s not a lot I can do about that.”
Ms Truss visited the Isle of Wight, where she posed in front of the world’s largest Union flag, at Venture Quays in East Cowes.
The site was previously used for a photo opportunity by Margaret Thatcher, Ms Truss’s political idol.
Friday night’s leadership hustings in Eastbourne, Sussex, was the fourth of the campaign.
The Telegraph is hosting its own Q&A with both candidates in Cheltenham on Aug 11. Click here for more information.