Good Thursday Afternoon,
It’s time to take a look at the polls! In this week’s issue of Magnified, we look at Boris Johnson’s resignation from Parliament and make the case for why his Government’s policy failures make climbing back to the top of British politics so difficult.
This week, our research also covered:
- Our latest Westminster polling
- What do Britons think Rishi Sunak means when he says he aims to “halve inflation”?
If you would like to find out more about how Redfield & Wilton Strategies can help your organisation succeed through polling and strategic advice, click here.
Westminster Voting Intention (11 June):
Labour 44% (–)
Conservative 30% (–)
Liberal Democrat 13% (+1)
Reform UK 6% (+1)
Green 4% (-1)
Scottish National Party 3% (–)
Other 1% (–)
Changes +/- 4 June
Combined Net Approval Ratings (11 June):
Keir Starmer: +13% (+4)
Jeremy Hunt: -11% (–)
Rishi Sunak: -9% (–)
Changes +/- 4 June
Following an extraordinary political week which ended with Boris Johnson resigning as an MP (see Long Exposure) and Nicola Sturgeon, the former First Minister of Scotland, being arrested, we find Labour holding an unchanged 14% lead over the Conservatives.
Below that headline figure, however, there may be signs that Labour’s lead is about to widen.
Keir Starmer’s net approval rating is up four points to +13%, the highest net approval rating he has recorded since late February, and his lead over Rishi Sunak as the person who Britons think would be the better Prime Minister has widened to ten points today (43% to 33%), his largest lead over Sunak since Sunak became Prime Minister.
This week’s Red Wall poll, released on Tuesday, finds Labour’s lead in these seats up five points to 22%, with only 54% of 2019 Conservative voters in the Red Wall now saying they would vote Conservative again.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approval rating in the Red Wall registers at -16% (-9), his lowest approval rating in these seats since 19 March.
In addition, Keir Starmer—whose approval rating in the Red Wall is up five points to +6%—leads Sunak by nine points (40% vs 31%) as the person Red Wall voters think would be the better Prime Minister, the largest lead Starmer has held over Sunak in these seats since 7 February.
Taken together with our latest Blue Wall poll last week, which found Labour with a four-point lead in a collection of seats (including Uxbridge!) where they came third in 2019, the overall polling picture for the Conservatives remains dire, with the party now having to contemplate the prospect of several tough by-elections in the coming months amidst ugly and public party infighting.
Chart of the Week
In January, Rishi Sunak announced his ‘five priorities’ for the year, focusing on the key electoral issues of the economy, the NHS, and immigration. The first of Sunak’s five priorities was a commitment to “halve inflation” in order to, in the Prime Minister’s words, “ease the cost of living and give people financial security.”
At the time, inflation in Britain was running at over 10%, meaning inflation needed to fall to about 5% by December in order for the Prime Minister to be able to declare victory. As it stands, nearly halfway through the year, inflation is now 8.7%.
But there is an even more fundamental problem for the Prime Minister:
Many Britons do not appear to know what he means by saying he aims to “halve inflation.”
Recent research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies suggests that a large plurality of Britons (47%) think the Prime Minister aims to get prices to decrease by the end of the year, while only 42% correctly identify his aim as being to get prices to increase more slowly.
While getting prices to decrease is expressly not the goal the Prime Minister set for himself and his Government, it is the standard against which a large number of Britons appear set to judge his success or failure.
When all is said and done, the Government will be punished for the significant increase in prices that has already taken place and, crucially, will not be reversed. It may be a hard reality for voters to accept that the increased prices they see everywhere today are here to stay.
In theory, easing inflation would be a tangible and welcome sign of progress that Rishi Sunak could tout at the next election. But, in practice, if most Britons are still feeling the sting of the rise in prices over the last year, then the ability for Sunak to declare ‘Mission Accomplished’ will be severely diminished.
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Long Exposure: In-Depth Analysis
To Make a Comeback, Boris Johnson Should Have Delivered When He Was PM
As Boris Johnson formally resigned from parliament this week, he hinted at a possible return, saying that he was “very sad to be leaving Parliament—at least for now.”
Those words echoed his comments upon leaving Downing Street last September, when he bade adieu in Parliament with the words “Hasta La Vista!” (See you later!) and compared himself to Cincinnatus, the Roman dictator who voluntarily stepped down and returned to civilian life, only to be recalled to office later on.
When Liz Truss resigned only 45 days into her tenure as Prime Minister, Johnson did almost stage such a return. And, indeed, he likely would have won the Conservative Party leadership if the vote had gone to the membership.
Yet, listening to Conservative MPs in recent days, a Johnson comeback appears further away now than at any point since the largest number of ministerial resignations in a single day in British history forced Johnson to resign the Premiership.
Grant Shapps, who loyally defended Johnson throughout the Dominic Cummings and ‘Partygate’ affairs, appeared on television to declare that “the world has moved on” from the former London Mayor, adding for good measure that “people don’t miss the drama of Boris Johnson.”
On Wednesday, Conservative MP Philip Davies mocked Johnson’s argument that the Government should be more Conservative, pithily stating, “If only he had had a majority of 80 and been Prime Minister, he might have been able to do something about it.”
Davies’ comment was significant for two reasons. One, because it shows the depth to which Johnson’s standing within the Conservative Parliamentary Party has sunk that a Conservative MP felt freely able to make such a jibe in the Commons chamber. And secondly, and more importantly, because it accurately reflects the complete failure of the Johnson Government to deliver on policy.
As we wrote at the time of Johnson’s resignation as Prime Minister, it was the failure to deliver on the policy promises of 2019 more than his personal character failings, most of which were widely known for years if not decades, that ultimately doomed his Premiership.
In the week Boris Johnson resigned as Prime Minister, the Coronavirus Pandemic (+10%) and Defence (+1%) were the only issues on which his Government held positive net approval ratings. Majorities disapproved of the government’s performance on the NHS, on the economy, and on immigration.
In August, in the midst of the Conservative leadership election to replace Johnson, more voters said they wanted Johnson’s successor to adopt a more different approach to Johnson on every policy area listed except Ukraine/Russia.
Worse still, ‘Levelling Up,’ the Conservatives signature pledge to northern ‘Red Wall’ voters to make their lives better, had been—and still is—an abject failure. Even before Johnson left office, many areas in the Red Wall were, in fact, falling further and further behind London and the South. Most still cannot even name what it is specifically that ‘Levelling Up’ is supposed to deliver.
To have any plausible chance of a comeback, Johnson would have to demonstrate he recognises the failure of his own Government to deliver on their 2019 pledges and to respond to the various crises that emerged following the coronavirus pandemic, which led him to leave office with an approval rating of -29%.
Yet, in the first place, Johnson shows no such inclination to do so. Rather than demonstrate that he has learned the lessons of 2022, his resignation statement listed a long set of grievances against the privileges committee which had investigated him.
In the second place, how can Boris Johnson address his previous policy failures? To do so would be to contradict himself on nearly every major achievement he has claimed for his Government.
Take, for example, Brexit. His policy prescription for the current Government is to “fully deliver on Brexit and the 2019 Manifesto.” But when he gave his final address to the nation from Downing Street last September, Johnson commended his Government for getting Brexit done and for delivering on its Manifesto commitments.
Is Brexit yet to be fully delivered on or did his Government get Brexit done, which is it?
More fundamentally, what has Rishi Sunak, who ran as the continuity candidate in opposition to Liz Truss last August, changed from Boris Johnson’s government? What policies on the economy, the NHS, immigration, housing, education, the environment, the war in Ukraine, and even taxes are any different from when Boris Johnson was Prime Minister and Rishi Sunak was serving as his Chancellor?
On policy, the Government of Rishi Sunak is, frankly, virtually the same as the Government of Boris Johnson. If Boris Johnson criticises Sunak, he might as well be criticising himself.
Stated simply, if Rishi Sunak is someone who so seriously disagrees with Boris Johnson, as indeed appears to be the case from Rishi Sunak’s own resignation letter last July, well, then, why did Johnson not replace him as Chancellor before it was too late?
Last August, we described the leadership contest between Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak as an internal policy debate being publicly aired at last. Johnson, in our view, had shied away from a spat with his Chancellor and therefore had failed to change course on an exceptionally unpopular set of policies. For that failure to confront Sunak when it mattered, he only has himself to blame.
For Boris Johnson to make a political comeback, he should have delivered in the first place. Yet, he did not.
R&WS in the Media
Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.
EXCLUSIVE: Voters overwhelmingly back tougher penalties for owners of dangerous dogs
The Mirror | 12 June 2023
Scotland’s Ex-Leader Nicola Sturgeon Arrested in Party Finances Probe
Wall Street Journal | 11 June 2023
Politicians Using Public Services
ITV News | 8 June 2023
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