UK Government ministers believe Boris Johnson will be Prime Minister for “at least” two terms, it has been reported.

As new research revealed Chancellor Rishi Sunak is slightly more popular than Johnson, ministers suggested he would need to wait his turn to become the next Tory leader.

A YouGov poll found more people would prefer Sunak as PM than Johnson by 28% to 26%.

The 40-year-old MP for Richmond has enjoyed lots of media hype since taking over from Sajid Javid last year, with policies like the furlough scheme and Eat Out To Help Out linked to him.

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However, Sunak has since had to defend the controversial dining out scheme, which was linked to an increase in Covid-19 infections last year.

Since Sunak announced the UK Budget this week the Tories have seen a 13-point lead over Keir Starmer’s Labour in the polls. This is despite the financial measures including tax rises and a 1% pay increase for NHS staff.

Sunak has also planned to cut about £4 billion from government department budgets, a little over a year after the party vowed austerity had come to an end.

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In The Times, some sources said Sunak believes he is the future PM. Others said this was nonsense and that as an “economic geek”, the role of Chancellor is his “dream job”.

Last year there were reports that Johnson would vacate Downing Street soon – with sources saying he was in ill-health and complaining about his salary. Some predicted he would leave Number 10 after Brexit.

His approval ratings plunged last year but have steadily risen again, with the Tories enjoying a clear lead over Labour following the perceived success of the vaccination roll-out.

Now ministers say Johnson’s departure is not imminent. Referring to Sunak, one minister said: “The ambition is there. He’ll have to wait though. Boris is at least a two-term PM.”

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Another added that Johnson may stick around even longer than that. “Just look at Joe Biden,” a Cabinet minister told the newspaper. “Boris is the greased piglet, he just keeps coming back. Never underestimate him.”

The suggestions may be encouraging to independence supporters, who believe Johnson is a significant boost to the cause.

Scottish Tories have described him as “toxic” in Scotland and suggested he should not be too visible in the Holyrood campaign. The party’s flyers notably do not feature the Prime Minister.

The National:

On a recent mid-lockdown trip to Scotland, Johnson may have dashed their hopes by telling reporters that “wild horses” couldn’t keep him away from campaigning in the country.

The latest Opinium poll of approval ratings for the four main UK party leaders put Johnson’s approval rating in Scotland on -42. In that same poll Nicola Sturgeon tied with Starmer across the UK as the leader with the highest rating.

Johnson has frequently been described as a “recruiting sergeant” for Scottish independence – with pollsters finding he comes up frequently as a reason why voters increasingly back leaving the Union.