Sunak sees popularity surge after watering down net zero targets

Rishi Sunak
Rishi Sunak has rowed back on net zero targets, pleasing members of the Tory party - Pool via Reuters/Justin Tallis

Rishi Sunak’s popularity among Tory members has surged in the wake of his watering down of net zero targets, a survey has found.

The Prime Minister’s satisfaction rating among the Conservative grassroots has risen out of negative territory to become the eighth-most popular member of Cabinet.

He had placed seventh from bottom last month, having sunk to his lowest approval rating among the membership since taking office.

Mr Sunak was polling at -3.8 ahead of Parliament returning from summer recess, but now sits at +25.8 points.

His popularity bounce comes after he announced a delay to a raft of net zero targets, including pushing back the ban on new petrol car sales to 2035.

He still remains behind Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, Penny Mordaunt, the Commons leader, and James Cleverly, the Foreign Secretary. They have all remained in the top five Cabinet members for the party’s grassroots.

Kemi Badenoch, the Trade Secretary, came top of the ConservativeHome website’s Cabinet League Table for the second time in a month, leading with a net satisfaction score of +59 percentage points.

Sunak’s ‘brave new approach’ garners favour

The Prime Minister’s popularity had previously rebounded following the Conservative victory in Uxbridge in July, a by-election widely seen as a referendum on the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) to outer London.

Mr Sunak also watered down the ban on new oil boiler sales from 2026 to 2035 during his net zero speech last Wednesday, in which he promised a “brave new approach to politics”.

He also increased heat pump grants and promised not to introduce taxes to discourage meat eating or flying.

The latest Cabinet rankings come ahead of the Conservative Party Conference taking place this weekend, the first that Mr Sunak will attend as Prime Minister.

He is expected to use the conference to announce a new “plan for motorists”, in which he will block councils from introducing new 20mph zones and scale back low-traffic neighbourhoods.

Among the Cabinet ministers who have received negative satisfaction scores is Gillian Keegan, the Education Secretary, who is now polling at -2.2 following her department’s handling of the RAAC crisis in schools.

Jeremy Hunt, the Chancellor, Therese Coffey, the Environment Secretary, and Robert Jenrick, the immigration minister, have also recorded sub-zero scores.

This month’s league table from ConservativeHome was based on responses from just under 700 respondents.

Most popular Tory Cabinet members
Most popular Tory Cabinet members