Early polls suggest Rory Stewart as winner in BBC Tory leadership debate

Rory Stewart said that his performance was "lacklustre" in the BBC Our Next Leader debate. Picture: BBC

Rory Stewart said that his performance was "lacklustre" in the BBC Our Next Leader debate. Picture: BBC - Credit: BBC

Informal polls are placing Rory Stewart in an early lead as debate winner in the immediate aftermath of the BBC Our Next PM Tory leadership debate - but Stewart called himself 'lacklustre'.

A Times online poll, at time of writing, places Stewart a massive 85% ahead as the winner. Meanwhile, a YouGov snap poll - not yet weighted - has placed Stewart top with 49% of its respondents declaring him the winner, 10% ahead of Johnson.

Neither poll has closed yet.

BBC Sunday Politics presenter Richard Moss tweeted the Times poll with extensive caveats just after the debate.

"Pretty meaningless perhaps but Rory Stewart is the winner with more than seven in ten of voters in this self-selecting unscientific poll at the moment," he said. "Have I qualified that enough? Still it's better than being last in it."

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The Times poll was shared on social media where Stewart has staked a great deal of his campaigning energy.

By far the most centrist candidate of in the race, he picked up the largest number of new votes from Tory MPs in the second round of the leadership race, moving from 19 to 37.

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His vote share in the race, like that of remaining candidates Sajid Javid, Jeremy Hunt and Michael Gove, is dwarfed by Boris Johnson's 126, which saw him gain 12 new backers.

READ: Brexiteer Dominic Raab eliminated from Tory leadership raceStewart's campaign has struck a markedly different tone to the other candidates, both on Brexit and on other issues.

He is the only candidate at the debate who straightforwardly called for an extension to Article 50 in order to avoid a catastrophic no deal situation.

If the polls, still ongoing, are indicative of anything, it may point towards the difference between core Conservative voters - who alone are deciding on the future prime minister - and the broader electorate and how they might vote in a general election.

Ladbroke's disagreed that Stewart had done himself any favours. "Main conclusion of the betting markets is that Rory Stewart hasn't helped his chances tonight," said the bookies' politics Twitter account, which showed that his current odds - of seven to one - hadn't shifted.

Stewart himself agreed, when it was suggested by by BBC Newsnight's political editor Nicholas Watt that his performance had been "lacklustre".

"You're right. I didn't find that format really worked for me," admitted Stewart. "And I'm going to have to learn how I flourish in a strange format of alternative reality."

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