Our survey. Just over half of members anticipate a Conservative majority after the next election.

10 Oct

Over the past few months, we have tracked the waning confidence of party members in the Cabinet’s performance (bar a handful of exceptions) in our monthly League Table.

Another question we always ask is what our respondents think will be the outcome of the next general election – and here too, grassroots optimism has waned over the summer.

More than half (54.5 per cent) still expect a Conservative majority. This is not unreasonable, given that the Government is still holding up pretty well in the polls and Labour have a big electoral mountain to climb, especially if Sir Keir Starmer can’t make some progress in Scotland.

But this is down from almost three quarters when we last checked in on this question in August. The two options in second and third place are respectively a Labour majority (13.5 per cent) and a Labour-led coalition (11 per cent).

For the present, this is a somewhat academic question. Unless the Government gets around to repealing the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (and references to 2024 on the latest merchandise suggests this might not be at the forefront of CCHQ’s mind), the next election is years off. If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that a quite extraordinary amount of politics can happen in that time.

But it does illustrate once again that the mounting apprehension which has been so often reported on amongst Tory MPs is shared by their activists. Will the Prime Minister’s conference performance have lifted their spirits?

Our Cabinet League Table. The Prime Minister falls into negative territory.

3 Oct
  • It’s not unprecedented for a Conservative Prime Minister to fall into negative territory in our monthly Cabinet League Table.  In April last year, Theresa May set a new record of scoring the lowest rating it has ever recorded – at -74. Compared to that, Boris Johnson’s -10.3 this month looks tame.
  • Nonetheless, it’s a rotten springboard from which to vault into Party Conference as it begins today.  As we wrote yesterday, it reflects weariness with curbs, frustration with what seem to be fluctuating and arbitrary rules, a sense that Ministers at the top of Government are divided – and a certain frustration with the Prime Minister himself.
  • Liz Truss up to second in the table, from 62 per cent to 70 per cent.  Dominic Raab and Michael Gove’s scores are both down but, with Steve Barclay and Truss, they are the only Cabinet Ministers to clear 50 per cent.  As recently as last December, the entire Cabinet was in the black, with 18 of its members above that 50 per cent rating.
  • Matt Hancock joins Gavin Williamson, Robert Jenrick and Johnson in negative territory. Amanda Milling clambers out of it (just about).  On a happier note, Douglas Ross more than doubles his rating from 26 per cent to 61 per cent: his aggression and energy in Scotland are getting noticed.
  • And finally: the Prime Minister has been low, though not nearly by this much, in the table before – shortly before he resigned as Foreign Secretary.  He bounced back then, and could do so again.  Once again, we make the point that this is much the same panel as gave him a 93 per cent rating after the last election.

Our survey. Under one in three Party members think Johnson is dealing well with the Coronavirus as Prime Minister.

2 Oct

We’ve been asking this question for the last seven months in the monthly survey.  And this is the seventh time in a row that it has fallen.

For the record, the percentage believing that he has dealt with Covid-19 well have been as follows since March: 92 per cent, 84 per cent, 72 per cent, 64 per cent, 59 per cent, 48 per cent – and now 28 per cent.

So only between a third and a quarter of Party activist members of our panel believe that the Prime Minister is handling the crisis well, and the best part of two in three think he’s handling it badly.

The percentage thinking that the Government has handled the virus well is slightly higher at 32 per cent, but the difference is so small as to be minimal.

Three quick points.

First, this dire rating will be the product of a mix of factors: weariness with restrictions, exasperation with what seem to be bewildering and unpredictable rules, and a sense that the Government has no agreed plan.

Second, the Prime Minister’s rating was always likely to yo-yo.  We sometimes write when a politician scores well in the surveys that what goes up must sooner or later come down.  But the reverse often applies too.

Third, this is almost exactly the same panel that gave Johnson a 93 per cent approval rating in the wake of last year’s general election – and a 92 per cent positive rating on this question last March, as we have seen.

Talking of what’s going up – or rather staying up – 83 per cent of respondents back Rishi Sunak’s plans.  His scores for the last three months have been 82 per cent and 81 per cent, and have never dropped below 71 per cent.

These are bleak ratings for Johnson as the virtual Conservative Party Conference prepares to open tomorrow.

Our monthly survey finds support for a Sweden-style Covid-19 policy is up from about a third of Party activists to almost half

1 Oct

We last asked our members’ panel about Coronavirus strategy in May, putting to them the three main policy options open to the Government.

These are: track-and-trace (Ministers’ preferred one); state-regulated lockdowns (currently widespread because track-and-trace isn’t doing the necessary job, at least yet), and voluntary social distancing.

Back then, just over half of the respondents backed track-and-trace (53 per cent), roughly a third voluntary social distancing (31 per cent) and just over one in ten state-regulated lockdowns (13 per cent).

The first approach has been followed in Europe by Germany, the second is being pursued by Sweden, and the third – if we stick to Europe for examples – is that of, say, France and almost everywhere else.

(These are simplifications – so for example, Germany had a national shutdown earlier this year – but they do sum up the broad choices available to Ministers.)

Our survey today finds a significant shift.  The proportion backing a track-and-trace-led policy has fallen from over half to about two in five (38 per cent).

That opting for lockdowns has comes down slightly to under one in ten (from 13 per cent to eleven per cent).  That looks like a floor.

Meanwhile, the cohort supporting a strategy that stresses voluntary social distancing now hovers just below half (49 per cent) – having risen, as we say, from 31 per cent.

The two main factors accounting for the change will be frustration with Government policy and delivery, and the support for a Swedish-type option in the papers that Party members read, notably the Daily Telegraph.

This shift is mirrored in the replies to the survey’s question about the speed at which lockdowns and restrictions should be lifted.

In June, 10 per cent wanted it lifted more slowly and 38 per cent faster, while 50 per cent said that the Government was proceeding in the right speed and way.

Now, those proportions are 14 per cent, 52 per cent and 29 per cent.  So half of our respondents now believe the Government should be lifting lockdowns faster, not that it’s operating in the right way and at the right speed.

So Boris Johnson will enter the Conservative Party Conference with support among Party members for his Covid-19 policy having deteriorated sharply, if our survey is anything to go by.

This decline in confidence echoes that seen in polls of the public as a whole, though support for the Government is obviously higher, and reflects the fall in the Prime Minister’s own rating that our recent surveys have found.

Cabinet League Table: Johnson plummets into the bottom third of our Cabinet League table

5 Sep
  • In our first post-general election survey, no fewer than 18 Cabinet members had a satisfaction rating above 50 per cent.  Now, only six do.
  • Of those six, Liz Truss is a fraction higher than she was (61.7 per cent to 61.3 per cent), Dominic Raab up an insignificant point (66 per cent to 67 per cent), and Rishi Sunak up to the top of the table (79 per cent to 83 per cent).
  • Jacob Rees-Mogg has risen by only two points, from 48 per cent to 50 per cent, but was then tenth from bottom.  Now he is sixth from top.  The difference between his change in score and change in place says everything you need to know about how Cabinet ratings, generally, have fallen.
  • None more so than Boris Johnson.  In that post-election table, he was top on 93 per cent.  Now he is eighth from bottom on 25 per cent.  That’s a drop from sixth from top on 57 per cent last month – a fall of almost half into the bottom third of the table.
  • Robert Jenrick is still in negative territory, and Amanda Milling now joins him.  Gavin Williamson may take comfort from the fact that his expected fall into negative territory isn’t record-breaking.  In April last year, Theresa May reached -74 per cent.
  • The members’ panel has good record as a guide to activist voting in leadership elections, so we’ve no doubt that this month’s survey is picking up unease about the Government’s competence, consistency and sense of direction.

Our survey finds emphatic support for Israel among Conservative activists

31 Aug

Support for India and Pakistan in Britain is aligned with national background.  Backing for Israel and Palestine, if our survey is right, is dividing by party support.

Labour has vocal and articulate pro-Israel supporters, but its members as a whole are decidedly pro-Palestinian (and, to an alarming degree, anti-semitic – but that’s another story).

We’ve never polled our members’ panel on Israel before, but the returns from our last survey leave little doubt where they stand.

Almost two in three reserve the right to criticise Israel when necessary – or rather for the Government to do so – but see it as an ally and part of the western liberal family of democracies, with interests usually aligned with ours.

And one in four go further in their support – agreeing that Israel’s interests and our own are aligned, full stop.  That’s a substantial minority.

By contrast, only one in ten believe that the country’s commitment to democracy and justice is questionable, that our interests and its own are not usually aligned, and that we must be able to criticise Israel’s when necessary.

And only one in a hundred believe that our interests and Israel’s aren’t aligned at all.  These are small minorities of the whole – tiny, in the last case.

It may be that a survey question aimed at measuring our panel’s view on the Israel-Palestine dispute would throw up a result that would muddy these clear waters.

But for the moment we have what we have: a more pro-Israel take from Party members than, in our experience, from Tory MPs, though probably not by all that much.

You will make your own judgement about whether it’s a good thing, more broadly, for backing for these causes to be so starkly distributed between the two main parties.  We are doubtful.

Our survey. Johnson’s approval ratings for managing Covid-19 slip fall below 50 per cent

31 Aug

In March of this year, 92 per cent of ConservativeHome panel members said that they believed that Boris Johnson was dealing with Covid-19 well.

His rating then slipped to 84 per cent in April; to 72 per cent in June, to 59 per cent in July – and now to 48 per cent.

What’s driving this fall to a satisfaction rate of lower than half?  Dissatisfaction with policy mess-ups, such as Coronavirus App?  Bewilderment at changing social distancing rules?  The schools results fiasco?  Maybe the most simple explanation of all – voter fatigue?

Your guess is as good as ours.  At 46 per cent, the overall Government satisfaction rate is little different.

It follows 92 per cent, 82 per cent and 71 per cent.  Rishi Sunak’s positive rating is 82 per cent – the same in effect as his 81 per cent last month.

Our survey. How Unionist are Conservative Party members?

9 Aug

In any given online discussion about Tory policy towards the Union, it is an iron law of the internet that someone will eventually pop up with a reminder that the official name of the Conservative Party is the Conservative and Unionist Party.

That’s true, of course, but it isn’t a determinist fact that a party’s name dictates what its members – or indeed its leadership – actually think. Plenty of working people feel that Labour has become a parody rather than a fulfilment of its brand, for example.

Conservative attitudes to the Union are increasingly complex, and subject to various ebbing and flowing events and tides of opinion. Hence we sought in our most recent survey of Party members to gauge at least the headline calculation: how important is the maintenance of the Union?

The good news for Unionists is that 55 per cent of respondents were unequivocal that the maintenance of the Union is of paramount political importance. (It isn’t directly equivalent, but it is interesting to look back at the question we asked back in 2017 about how Party members would feel were Scotland to leave the Union, when the same share – 55 per cent – expressed varying degrees of concern about the damage such a separation would do.)

At the other end of the spectrum, only four per cent answered that maintaining the Union is “not of political importance to me at all”.

In the starkest terms, this is still very much a Unionist Party membership, therefore.

Between the two poles are some shades of grey, albeit still with a strong lean in a pro-Union direction. A small minority – seven per cent of those surveyed – felt that the Union is “fairly unimportant to me, and less so than other political aims and objectives”. A much larger minority – over a third of respondents – answered that the Union is “fairly important…but not as much as other political aims and objectives”.

Together, that is 40 per cent who might in some circumstances be wobbly on the Union, were they forced into a choice.

The interesting question for Unionists and would-be separatists alike is what other political aims outweigh the Union for that subset of Tories, and what risk (or chance, depending on your view) is there of the two coming into conflict?

Our survey. Almost 75 per cent of members predict a Conservative majority at the next General Election

8 Aug

While it seems a long way away – and the Government has many other things to worry about present – last month ConservativeHome asked its survey panel members what they think is the most likely outcome of the next General Election.

Out of 951 respondents, 74.24 per cent (706) answered a Conservative majority. This was followed by 6.62 per cent (63) for a Labour majority (and the same percentage for a Labour-led coalition), a minority Tory government at 5.47 per cent (52), Tory-led coalition at 3.58 percent (34) and a minority Labour government at 3.47 per cent (33).

Although 75 per cent appears a rather confident estimate for the next General Election, it actually marks a slight shift from January this year, in which a bullish 92 per cent expected a Tory majority.

Obviously this was straight after Boris Johnson’s huge election victory in December last year, and a lot has changed, so it’s not all that surprising that the figure has dropped.

Even so, 75 per cent is no bad position to be in.

Our latest Cabinet Survey. Sunak stable at the top, but Hancock’s ratings are in poor health.

7 Aug
  • Johnson sinks again. The Prime Minister falls from sixth to eighth, but more significantly falls into a lower decile for the third month running. In the table we published in May, he was in the 80s. Last month, the 50s. Now, the 40s.
  • Sunak: returning to Earth? The Chancellor’s scores remain comfortably ahead of those of his colleagues, but he’s out of the 90s and down seven points. It’s easy to be popular when handing out money: paying for it is the real test of political skill.
  • A stable podium. Apart from Johnson’s exit from it there is otherwise a lot of stability at the top table. Sunak, Dominic Raab, and Michael Gove take the medal positions again, albeit with the latter two swapping places, and Liz Truss and Priti Patel likewise hold on to fourth and fifth positions.
  • Negative territory. Both Gavin Williamson and Robert Jenrick stay in the red, but with significantly improved scores on last week. Will they be back in black next month – or will a backlash against planning reforms or A Level grades trip them up?
  • Hancock’s rating in poor health. In April, the Health Secretary took a top-three spot with a score of +88. Now it is just +39, down five on last month, and he languishes in the lower half of the table.