Javid, Johnson, and Rees-Mogg hold their podium slots in our Cabinet League Table

Last month we published our first Cabinet League Table of the Johnson Ministry. It offered a sea-change from Theresa May’s embattled government, both in terms of composition and the estimation in which party members held it.

One month on and the general picture hasn’t really changed. If anything, over August there was a general upward drift in the scores, reflecting what many commentators – including our own Mark Wallace – thought was a very strong start in the role.

It goes without saying that the data for this was collected prior to the return of the Commons and the Government’s miserable week therein. We might therefore anticipate a quite different set of results in October.

Here are a few of the details:

  • Post-Ruth politics. Our survey was front-page news in Scotland last month when it showed the Scottish Conservative leader, so often one of the most highly-rated individuals, down to a positive score of just +14. Perhaps it was an omen of things to come, because Ruth Davidson has since stepped aside, triggering a battle for the future of the Party in Scotland.
  • Javid tops the poll again. The Chancellor puts on four points to take his score into the mid-Eighties. This suggests that activists are either untroubled by the Government’s decision to move away from spending restraint, which Sajid Javid is by necessity spearheading, or are at least not holding it against him.
  • Johnson and Rees-Mogg fill out the podium. No change in the ordering of any of the top three, and both the Prime Minister and Leader of the House have put on about five points to their score.
  • Gove climbs… The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster is climbing the ranks. But will his ongoing defence of May’s deal, and reports that he is leading the charge against Johnson’s disciplining of anti-No Deal rebels, put a dent in his score next month?
  • …as does Cleverly. Of course small changes in position may not be terribly significant, but the Party Chairman is nonetheless one of the most popular politicians in the survey. If this continues it can’t hurt his chances of being offered a Cabinet brief in a future reshuffle.
  • What happened to Wallace? In a survey which generally saw very little movement – save for two outright departures – there are a couple of obvious exceptions. Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has seen his score drop by over ten points and now languishes near the bottom of the table.
  • Williamson wins members over. The other is the Education Secretary, who has seen his stock rise from +27 to +45 and gone from being close to the bottom of the table to comfortably in the middle.
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Almost half of Party members oppose the Withdrawal Agreement – even without the backstop

ConservativeHome has no window through which to peer into Boris Johnson’s soul.  But we think that the balance of the evidence is that he wants a deal with the EU rather than No Deal (though in our view he is very unlikely to gai one).

He seems to be aiming for a settlement based on the Brady amendment.  This sought to remove the Northern Ireland backstop from the Withdrawal Agreement, and is the only Brexit policy of any substance to have passed the Commons.

The Prime Minister will have a bedrock of support among Party members if he makes it through this week in the House, and pushes for this position.  Just over two in three of them would back it, according to our survey (see above).

But the bedrock of opposition would be bigger, almost touching half.  Perhaps Johnson would be able to change some of their minds – and perhaps not since, when asked if the backstop would be acceptable with a time limit, backing for that position falls to about a third (see below).

So what does the Withdrawal Agreement mean, regardless of the presence of the Northern Ireland backstop?  Perhaps the best summary of the debate is John Redwood’s correspondence with Ministers, in which he puts the case against the Agreement, and Steve Barclay puts the case for.

With Redwood’s agreement, we will be re-posting it entire, with links to his own site, this week.  However, the question may be academic.  By the end of this week, the Commons may have voted for a general election.  There is simply no way of knowing.

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Our survey. Nearly eight out of ten Party members believe that Johnson will deliver Brexit by October 31.

It would be an understatement to claim that this finding shows confidence in both Boris Johnson’s intentions and his capabilities.

For 78 per cent of our Conservative Party members’ panel evidently believe not only that the Prime Minister intends to take Britain out of the EU by the due date, but that those who seek to stop him doing so will fail.

Elsewhere, 86 per cent support the Government’s decision to seek prorogation, with only 13 per cent opposed.  Party activists emphatically support their new leader. There is no other way of reading these findings.

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More than 70 per cent of Conservative Party members believe the UK will leave the EU by 31st October

The third and final finding from this month’s ConservativeHome survey of Party members is not very surprising, but important nonetheless.

Over 72 per cent of respondents answered “Yes” to the question “Do you believe that the UK will leave the EU by 31st October 2019?”

We knew that the majority of Tory members voted Leave, that around six in ten voted for the Brexit Party in the EU elections, and that a clear majority voted for Boris Johnson as Conservative leader. We also know that they are feeling fairly optimistic about the next election, since the change of Prime Minister, and newly positive about his Cabinet.

On that basis, you’d expect a high degree of belief in and agreement with Boris’s pledge to deliver Brexit by the end of October among Tory members. The challenge, of course, comes in ensuring the promise – and thereby this weight of expectation – is fulfilled. Fail that test, and every other positive number will tumble with it.

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