Is it time for the PM to step down?
“Things can only get better” was the hit pop song that Tony Blair’s Labour Party adopted as its theme tune for the 1997 general election when, after nearly twenty years of uninterrupted Conservative rule, they returned to power with a massive majority of 179 seats. It’s a song that might well be on Boris Johnson’s lips (quietly, of course, so as not to waken the youngest of his many offspring) late at night as he wanders the darkened corridors of 10 Downing Street ruminating painfully on how it has all gone so wrong. For Johnson is a prime minister under immense pressure, mostly of his own making. As the clock ticked down on Brexit, his bragging and blustering that deal-or-no-deal was the future for the UK was full of “sunlit uplands” impressed or fooled no one.
His decision-making over coronavirus has been constantly questionable and at times disastrous. This was highlighted no more so than when he personally – as the Daily Mail and other supportive publications claimed – battled the experts and “saved” last Christmas for us by easing social gathering restrictions. And we know how that turned out. Johnson constantly appears to be a leader most concerned about his public image. His PR team works frantically to make him seem like one of us, a man of the people.
Almost nightly he’s featured on the news, filmed in a hospital ward or testing centre, his shirtsleeves rolled up and his tie tucked in, masked and ready to offer hands-on help, whilst at the same time giving us an accurate and, we hope, truthful summing up of the current situation. Too often, though, it appears that favourable PR takes precedence over the truth, and Johnson is too slow in accepting the facts.
Last November we ran a survey in which we looked at the Prime Minister’s falling approval ratings and his competence for the job. Now, with rumours that Johnson wants to resign circulating again, we are returning to the topic.
The PM is said to reckon he can’t make ends meet on his £150k salary, having previously earned much more. He wants, however, to see the UK through the post-Brexit period and what he hopes will be the beginning of the end of the coronavirus crisis. After that, insiders say, he’ll be ready to go. But is that soon enough?
What our surveys show
Everyone accepts that the Prime Minister has had to deal with a terrible first year in office; the overriding issue is whether or not he has dealt with it well. When we ran our poll back in November 2020, the Government had already developed a reputation for U-turns and more than half of those surveyed, 54%, declared Boris Johnson to be “incompetent” for the role of Prime Minister. In our new survey, his ratings have only worsened. The U-turn on school closures and lockdown hesitancy have contributed to the “incompetent” figure rising to 61%. The fact that Johnson did “get Brexit done” with a last-minute deal offers slight consolation with almost half of Leave voters, 47%, considering him unfit for the job. Almost as many Leavers, 44%, however, believe the opposite. A mere 15% of Remainers consider him “competent” as PM. Our second survey question was a simple one: should he stay or should he go? The answers were damning, with a clear majority, 63%, saying Johnson should step down now and let someone else have a go. Only 26% of those surveyed felt he should stay and 11% were “don’t knows.”