James Moore, The Independent
People are often sceptical of polls and goodness knows, they have reason to be. Trump and Brexit are the most often cited examples of their compilers getting egg all over their faces, but you can find plenty more to suggest that their business is more art than it is science – and by art I mean the sort of stuff that usually gets at least a second look from the Turner Prize committee. But this is also true: they have some value as a guide. They’re a useful indicator when it comes to the way opinion is moving. That being the case, if I had a gig as a Labour strategist, I wouldn’t exactly be sleeping soundly. Consider the situation. We have, in Boris Johnson, a prime minister who has been (repeatedly) exposed as a liar, a buffoon and is now the first incumbent to have committed a criminal offence (breaking lockdown to go to booze-ups) while in office.
His chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has admitted to the same offence, by paying a fine the plod belatedly got around to issuing for conduct the Met more or less had to be shamed into investigating. It has also emerged that Sunak’s wife has avoided millions of pounds in UK tax courtesy of her non-dom status while he’s been busy soaking the electorate. Sunak had a good pandemic, but he’s since struggled to come up with anything beyond half measures to tackle a cost-of-living crisis that has left millions of people facing the choice of heat or eat. Those are just your starters for ten. I could probably spend all day listing Johnson’s foibles and his government’s failures.
Suffice it to say that the constant attempts by the prime minister and his sycophants to deflect attention from his law breaking by claiming he wants to get on with the job of “delivering for the British people” (excuse me while I vomit) is wearing very thin. That’s not least because, well, what has he actually delivered lately? Anyone got an answer? You there on the back benches? No? Thought not.
Despite all this, despite leading a government of second raters with the exception of, I dunno, I guess the defence secretary, Ben Wallace, who has been getting some favourable write ups for being something other than rubbish, the Tories retain the support of one out of every three Britons. Per Politico’s tracker, that’s two pips above the low of 32 per cent recorded earlier this year. Labour enjoys a flimsy looking five point lead. Governing parties have come back from far greater deficits mid-term.
Donald Trump once infamously said he could stand on New York’s Fifth Avenue and “shoot someone” and still not lose voters. If the Tories had a little more self-confidence they might feel the same way. A cabinet minister could probably put on a Dougal suit – look up The Magic Roundabout if you want to learn more – and tell voters to pipe down about Partygate because “you lot were all getting trashed with your mates on the quiet too”, and still hang on to roughly a third of the electorate.
Something like that actually happened recently. Michael Fabricant, whose hair makes him look like Dougal except that it’s so stupid The Magic Roundabout’s dog would be ashamed of it, intimated that “many teachers and nurses” did just that (without a shred of evidence, it should be said). Sure, he’s not a cabinet minister, he’s not even a ministerial bag carrier, but the way he’s going you wouldn’t put it past Johnson to elevate him.
There are already more clowns in this government than you’d find in the average Cirque du Soleil show, so what’s one more among their number? Despite all this, the Tories are still within spitting distance of the opposition. YouGov’s latest figures show just 27 per cent of UK adults think Keir Starmer is doing well as Labour leader with 53 per cent saying the opposite. The tracker has been trending resolutely downwards.
The next fortnight is going to be hugely important for the future of the north of England. With Boris Johnson on the rocks, and the very real possibility that he will lose two deeply embarrassing by-elections in a couple of weeks, the whole idea of the government focusing its energy on “levelling up” is on life support.
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