PM’s handling of pandemic sees the electorate lose faith
Perhaps it was the lack of credible opposition, from both Labour and from within his own party, that propelled Boris Johnson so emphatically to power, firstly as Tory leader and then as Prime Minister.
When he stormed back into Downing Street last year with a thumping majority and personal approval ratings to match, Johnson was reckoned by many to be exactly the man for the job of “getting Brexit done”.
Good old “BoJo”, the clowning-around prime minister, seemed just what the nation needed.
There was something about Johnson that was tough, defiant, and – above all else – funny: he’d tell those Euro types what for, put them properly in their places and make us laugh at the same time.
And when the going got tough he’d make us a few more promises, spout a few more gags and then tell us everything would be alright – actually, much better than alright, it would be better than ever – in the end.
But the last eight months have seen a massive change in the mood of the nation, and the Prime Minister’s thumbs-up, wise-cracking ways no longer sit so easily with friend or foe.
Tens of thousands have died, hundreds of thousands have become ill, people fear for the safety of their families and for the future of their jobs.
There’s not a lot to laugh about these days and the people want something different from their leader. They want calm, authoritative, considered and reassuring leadership. And Johnson specialises in none of that.
Once our Prime Minister is robbed of his jolly, man-of-the-people performer persona, he flounders. In the Commons, at Prime Minister’s Questions, he flounders bad-temperedly, brushing off even relatively straight- forward questions.
At Coronavirus press briefings, he flounders when asked for detail, blustering vague generalisations and ill- considered quips instead of giving simple, direct answers.
Even in his keynote speech at the online Tory Party Conference, he floundered, waffling on about arm-wrestling and the offshore wind-power that will help us get to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.
You could almost hear his party members screaming, “What about now, Prime Minister? Tell us about now!”
No one could have predicted the pandemic, but some world leaders are dealing with it far better than others.
As Johnson announced the second lockdown, he looked an unhappy man, hollow-eyed, sometimes bewildered and bereft of a sense of exactly what to do or say next. He has quit before; some are saying he will do it again.
What our surveys show
In our most recent poll, a full 54% expressed the view that Boris Johnson is an incompetent Prime Minister, with only 34% believing the opposite.
Since April, a litany of failures, absences, policy U-turns, coupled with a sense of a PM who has lost his grip, has clearly seen a steady erosion of the trust voters pledged in him just last year.
It is only amongst avowed “Leave” voters that a belief in Johnson’s fitness for the job clings on, by the slimmest possible majority of 51%.
More troubling for the PM is that instead of facing the worthy but “unelectable” Jeremy Corbyn across the Commons’ floor, he now has to square up against Sir Keir Starmer, whose steady hand on the Labour tiller has seen his ratings on an upward trajectory since taking over the leadership in April.
Our survey shows that a significant majority, 54% to 28%, see Starmer as the better leader of the two.