Conservative Party delays sending out leadership ballots over security fears as Truss pulls ahead in poll

The delay gives the Sunak campaign more time to make their case before the first votes are cast

The Conservative Party has delayed sending out ballot papers for the leadership election over security concerns.

The party has made changes to its process on the advice of the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), part of GCHQ, after warnings that cyber hackers could hinge people’s vote, according to The Daily Telegraph.

The ballots delay gives the Sunak campaign more time to make their case before the first votes are cast (Photo: Getty Images)

Under the party’s original system, members would be able to vote and later change their decision while the ballot remained open.

However, members will not be given a unique code which will allow only one, unchangeable vote, the paper said.

The Daily Telegraph said it understood there was no specific threat from a hostile state and concerns were around the vulnerability of the voting process.

The ballots had been due to be sent out from Monday (1 August) but could now arrive as late as Thursday 11 August.

North West Durham MP Richard Holden, who is supporting Rishi Sunak, told BBC Newsnight: “I’ve heard they’re delayed.

“I think there’s some minor security issue which has been dealt with but it won’t delay the result of the poll which is a crucial thing for everybody.”

An NCSC spokesperson added: “Defending UK democratic and electoral processes is a priority for the NCSC and we work closely with all parliamentary political parties, local authorities and MPs to provide cyber security guidance and support.

“As you would expect from the UK’s national cyber security authority we provided advice to the Conservative Party on security considerations for online leadership voting.”

Delays allow Sunak to bid for more votes

The delay in issuing the ballot papers will give Rishi Sunak more time to make an impression and win more support before votes are cast, after he appeared to have lost ground in the leadership race.

A YouGov poll puts Liz Truss well ahead of Mr Sunak in support from party members, with her lead increasing to 34 points.

It shows 60% of the party members polled between 29 July and 2 August say they intend to vote for the Foreign Secretary, up from 49% since the period 20 to 21 July when the rivals first made the cut for the final two.

A Liz Truss campaign source said on the YouGov polling: “Members are making up their mind, and they are supporting Liz.

“Her bold and ambitious plan for the country and economy is uniting Conservatives right across our nation. But we are certainly not complacent, Liz is fighting for every vote, meeting as many members as possible.”

By comparison, support for Mr Sunak has dropped from 31% to 26% according to YouGov, while the rest of the 1,043 Conservative party members polled say they are undecided or will not vote.

In a further blow to the former Chancellor YouGov data also showed 83% of those who currently say they intend to vote for Ms Truss also say they have made up their mind, while just 17% say they might change their mind and 29% of Mr Sunak’s supporters say they could still vote differently.

The Sunak campaign will be hoping the additional time to make their case before the first votes are cast will fall in their favour.

When will the leadership ballot results be announced?

The Tory Party member ballot will close at 5pm on Friday 2 September, with the winner to be announced the following week on Monday 5 September.

The candidate with the most votes will become Leader of the Conservative Party and the UK’s next Prime Minister.