Our Survey. Expectation of a Conservative-led Government at its lowest in 18 months.

26 Apr

Back in December, our editor looked at how the views of our panel on the likely outcome of the next general election had evolved during 2021.

At the time of the November survey, the combined total expecting some sort of Conservative victory – either an overall majority, a minority government, or a Tory-led coalition – stood at 78 per cent.

Today, it stands at just under 61 per cent: 45 per cent expect a majority, 12 per cent a minority government, and just 3.47 per cent a coalition headed by the Conservatives (perhaps reflecting a dearth of potential coalition partners).

When we last looked at this question, every month of 2021 up to November had that total up in the 80s or 90s, so this shows a clear slip in grassroots confidence – although perhaps not as large a one as might have been expected.

Here are the full figures for all the surveys since our December post:

  • April: 61 per cent
  • March: 72 per cent
  • February: 72 per cent
  • January: 66 per cent
  • December: 67 per cent

Most of the volatility is in the score for those expecting a majority government. The shares for a minority government or a Tory-led coalition are fairly stable at 10-13 per cent and 3-5 per cent respectively.

Our survey. Eight in ten Tory activists line up behind the Government’s new asylum seekers’ scheme

25 Apr

This was not an easy question to write.  To be comprehensive, it would have needed to explain that the policy is aimed primarily though not exclusively at the small boats phenomenon; that its aim is primarily to deter asylum seekers who are not presently illegal but will shortly become so; that the asylum seekers in question come via France; that the scheme is not “offshoring”; that its costs are unknown – and more. It might also have asked whether respondents believe that the policy will actually be put into effect, if it will effectively be struck down by the courts, and if the Government will then take further action.

Nonetheless, I think that our panel of Party members has got the gist of the scheme.  It was always likely to support it, but the strength of backing is striking: about eight in ten respondents are in favour.  And roughly one in six are opposed.

Our Cabinet League Table. Wallace top again, Patel up, Johnson down – and Sunak in the red

25 Apr
  • This is Ben Wallace’s third table-topping month (with 85 points his rating has barely moved), and a pattern is beginning to form below him – as Liz Truss, Nadhim Zahawi and Anne-Marie Trevelyan come in variously at second, third and fourth (with scores in the mid to low sixties).  Both the first of those and now the second are being written up as potential leadership candidates.
  • Priti Patel was bottom of the table last month on -17 points, having languished at the lower end of it for some time – not least because of the small boats issue.  The Government now has a policy to deal with it, and her rating consequently jumps to 31 points, near the middle of the table.
  • Boris Johnson was in the same zone last month, having been in negative ratings for the previous three, and is now back down again – third from bottom.  Ukraine will have pushed him up last month; partygate will have pulled him down this. But the driver of his low scores is that the Government is too left-wing, at least in the view of many activists.
  • Rishi Sunak plunged last month to third from bottom in the wake of the Spring Statement (on plus eight points).  He drops to last place this month, coming in at minus five points, in the wake of the furore about his wife’s tax affairs and former non-dom status.  It is perhaps surprising that his fall isn’t larger; it may even be that the worst is behind him – in this table at least.

Our survey. Over a third of Tory members think that Johnson should resign. And over half don’t.

24 Apr

That over a third of our Party member panel believes that Boris Johnson should resign is a menacing result for him.  Remember that 93 per cent of more or less the same people gave him a thumbs-up in our first Cabinet League Table after the last general election.

Had this survey not gone out with local elections due very soon, the percentage saying he should quit might have been higher.  Or if it had given respondents the option of saying he should go now or later: the latter could have dragged some votes over from the supportive column.

Perhaps we will do exactly that at some point soon, but I like to keep the questions as simple as possible.  But enough of these might-have-beens: the fact is that a majority of Conservative members, if our survey is right, want Johnson to stay as Prime Minister and Tory leader, at least for the moment.

He is helped by almost exactly the same proportion believing that partygate is being overblown by the media and is not important to most voters.  Last month, 59 per cent of respondents took that view while 38 per cent did not. This month, those figures have scarcely twitched: they are 58 per cent and 39 per cent.

Furthermore, 95 per cent are satisfied with Johnson’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – an emphatic thumbs-up.  Our latest Cabinet League this week will give a sense of the panel’s view on his and others’ performance more widely.

But the headline message of this survey is that if Conservative MPs move against Johnson they will be doing so without the support of a majority of Tory members – if the survey is correct and as matters stand.

Our Cabinet League Table. Sunak plunges to third from bottom.

4 Apr
  • Last September, I reported that Dominic Raab had plummeted third from top in July to fourth from bottom in our Cabinet League Table.  Today, he is back to sixth from top, having worked his way out of the relegation zone.
  • I write this to offer comfort to enthusiasts for Rishi Sunak, who was eleventh last month, but now finds himself plunged to third from bottom, in the wake of a Spring Statement with which the majority of our panel is dissatisfied.
  • Having managed the table for a long time, I know that what goes down can come up again – and vice-versa.  Our respondents are very knowing, and many use the table as a form of running commentary rather than a means of permanent judgement.
  • At the top, the changes are very marginal, with Steve Barclay’s fall of nine points from 64 to 55, and drop from second to fifth, being the largest movement in the top ten – and it’s not a very large one in the great scheme of events.
  • At the bottom, Priti Patel falls into negative ratings after a month’s bad headlines over Ukrainian refugees.  The Home Office is so permanently troubled that it’s hard to see her moving up towards the comfort of mid-table in the near future.
  • Meanwhile, Boris Johnson is out of negative ratings, where he had been for three months running, and into the middle of the table.  This is at once an impressive recovery from where he was and a lacklustre rating given his position as Prime Minister.
  • Johnson will undoubtedly have gained from his handling of the Ukraine, which received an overwhelming thumbs up from our panel.  Ninety-three per cent took a positive view of it and 58 per cent a negative one of Sunak’s Spring Statement.

Our survey. It’s a thumbs down to Sunak’s Spring Statement, and a thumbs up to Johnson’s war handling.

3 Apr

About third or so of respondents are satisfied and a third dissastified with the Sping Statement.  Not much to choose between those percentages, which are almsot exactly the same.

What swings the finding overall is the proportions that are very satisfied and very dissatisfied. For the former, we have five per cent.  For the latter, 24 per cent – in other words, about a quarter of the panel.

The survey didn’t probe the basis of dissatisfaction – a matter it may return to – but only a small proportion of respondents will want higher taxes and more borrowing.

Larger ones will want, variously, lower taxes and more borrowing or lower taxes and less borrowing.

Meanwhile, criticisms of the Government over Conservative ties to oligarchs, the speed of sanctions, and Ministers’ response to the needs of Ukrainian refugees have made almost no impact on the panel.

A puny six per cent of it is either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with Boris Johnson’s handling of Russia’s recent invasion of Ukraine.

Fifty-eight per cent are very satistied and 35 per cent satisfied: that’s a 93 per cent approval rating overall.  The Prime Minister has been performing poorly recently in our monthly Cabinet League Table.

We will find out tomorrow what this month’s brings.



Our survey. What do party members make of Jamie Wallis coming out as trans?

1 Apr

Trans has been all the rage this week. We have had headlines about trans swimmers and cyclists, opinion pieces by talented, handsome, and eager young commentators about the political response to his issue, and even the International Transgender Day of Visibility on March 31st. All very worthy

. But the most important bit of trans-related news for Conservatives was the announcement by Jamie Wallis, MP for Bridgend, that he is transgender, giving Britain its first ever trans MP. Naturally, we couldn’t resist asking our panel for their thoughts.

We asked whether they were proud or not proud of the first trans MP being a Tory, or whether they were neither, or if they didn’t know if they had a view. 19.58 percent said they were proud; 18.68 percent they were not. So about 19 percent for either poles of pride or shame.

The far more popular response, picked by 59.14 percent of respondents, was neither. Rather than waving the blue, pink, and white flag, or fulminating into their favourite J. K. Rowling novel, most of our panel were indifferent to Wallis’ big revelation.

What can this tell us?  Not necessarily that the announcement is unimportant. After all, there comes a natural feeling of satisfaction at beating the identity-obsessed Left at their own game. But it perhaps also suggests that the average Tory’s reaction (if there is such a thing) is one that should please any libertarian: they have little interest in an MP’s private life, and they are not opposed on principle to transgenderism.

Nevertheless, with the increasing pushback on transgender participation in female sports and disagreements over the inclusion of transgenderism in the upcoming(ish) Conversion Therapy Bill, Tory tempers on trans are hardly likely to die down in the coming months.

One suspects this will not be the last time that our members are asked about these issues – but it may be the last time so many panellists don’t take a side.

Our survey. A big minority of the panel continues to believe that Partygate is important to many voters.

1 Apr

Putin’s war in Ukraine has dramatically changed the domestic political landscape.  One of its most visible effects has been to remove Partygate from the top of the news bulletins and front pages.

The last ConservativeHome survey to ask showed that panel members were already tiring of the Downing Street parties story – up to a point, anyway.

Whereas in December a majority of the panel  that the row was not being overblown (by 55 per cent to 43 per cent), January saw those proportions almost exactly reversed.  By 55 per cent to 42 per cent, panel members said that the controversy was being overblown.

We didn’t ask the question in our February survey.  So what difference has a month of the war, and the recent news of Partygate police fines, made to the panel’s view?

The short answer is: not all that much.  The proportion of those who think the story is overblown has drifted up by four points; that of those who think it isn’t down by four points.  The war has not collapsed the view of a big minority of the panel that partygate is important to many voters.

Elliot’s taste

21 Feb

Like many readers of this site, I’m a Conservative Party member.  Like a smaller number, I’m an Association patron.  Both require giving money.  Requests for more duly follow.

And with good reason. The Party leadership worked out some while ago, roughly during the period when Andrew Feldman was Chairman, that it is hazardous to rely on a few givers of million pound-plus sums. For the donors may decide that they no longer wish to give on that scale.  Or eventually be barred from doing so.

Since declarations under £7500 don’t have to be declared, it’s impossible to know what proportion of any political party’s funds these raise. Though I’ve been told that the amount of money raised by the Conservatives from such gifts have been increasing in recent years.

This humdrum flow of requests for money helps to put yesterday’s Sunday Times splash into perspective.  “Revealed: the wealthy donors with PM’s ear,” it said.  The details were new (in other words, the names of those who attend an “advisory board”).  Its essence was not (the board’s existence was revealed last summer).

The Sunday Times referred to “a leak of several thousand documents”, and presumably there will be more to come in due course.  The paper is not revealing its sources – quite rightly too if it doesn’t wish to – and speculation would lead down a blind ally.

At any rate, the story contains a quote from Mohammed Amerci, a member of this board during the pandemic, who has since fallen out with the Party and is highly critical of the project.  What are the facts?  The starting-point is the existence of forums that allow wealthy donors to meet party politicians.

Labour has the Rose Network Chair Circle, which has invited donors to meet Keir Starmer, details of which are available online. The cost of membership is £5,000 a head per annum.  The Conservatives have the Leader’s Group (£50,000) and the Treasurer’s Group (£25,000)Michael Gove addressed the former last year.

No difference in principle, then.  The advisory board is higher in price (it costs £250,000 a head) and may be different in practice.  It is alleged that members are asked for advice as well as money, but no documentary evidence for the claim was cited; nor is it clear that such requests, if made, are unique to advisory board members.

It was reported that advisory board members lobbied Ministers directly, but it would be surprising if no member of other forums has ever done so, regardless of party.  Certainly, there is nothing new about senior Ministers being asked to attend events to “sing for their supper”.

As I say, the Party’s drive for more small donations puts this push for more large ones in perspective, and three points follow – beside the obvious one that since Labour is in a glass house when it comes to donor clubs, it isn’t well placed to throw stones (and that’s before we get to the turbulent story of the party’s relationship with the unions).

First, the members of the advisory board are unlikely to feel that they’re getting what they want. As I’ve written before, “consider the planned rise in Corporation Tax, the effective re-nationalisation of the railways, and the shift in infrastruscture funding from south to north.”

“Plus net zero, industrial strategy, and the Conservative commitment to spend more, more, more on doctors, teachers and nurses. Much of this goes down well with, say, the CBI but badly with Tory donors, who tend to be blue in tooth and claw”.

Indeed, if advisory board members are hoping for results, there’s scant evidence that they’re getting them.  The Sunday Times report specifically referred to property, construction and big tobacco.  The former is fighting a rearguard action against a Government ambition for a smokefree England by 2030.

As for construction, the irresistible force of the housing lobby is meeting the immovable object of voter resistance. Liberalising planning proposals met mass resistance from the Conservative backbenches – and that was before the Chesham and Amersham by-election.

If my first point is that donors don’t always get their way, my second is that there’s no reason why they shouldn’t – sometimes, even often.  Unfashionable though it may be to say so, the clash of interests in Parliament, and their peaceful resolution through debate, is integral to liberal democracy.

Those Tory forums are part of one of those interests, capital, making its view known to Conservative front benchers. The latter are Ministers because voters made them so, in the near-landslide of the 2019 general election. So far, so good for the advisory board.  But there is a sting in the tail.

Which is that those who give the Party £25 a year, the standard membership fee, have no less an interest in its future than those who give £250,000 a year, the advisory board fee.  This brings me to my third point, which may be less helpful to CCHQ than my first two.

Namely, that we know a bit about what party members think, at least if the ConservativeHome panel is anything to go by. Seven in ten believe that money raised by activists shouldn’t help fund the leader’s private costs (with specific reference to that Downing Street wallpaper). Half want more control of how the money that they raise is spent.

It follows that a big slice of members, if our panel is representative, ask as ConHome has sometimes done: whose party is it anyway?  If an advisory board is to raise six figure sums, should the party leader effectively control how these are spent? And might it not be wiser to declare membership, rather than have it leaked?

At any rate, the trend in recent years has been for the leader to appoint an MP to spearhead campaigning and a friend to raise money.  The latter in Boris Johnson’s case is Ben Elliot, who has got the advisory board up and running.  I suspect our panel’s take is that what it gets up to is fundamentally a matter of taste.

On which point, Elliot will be more aware than anyone else, or at least should be, that Labour has its sights trained on him.  As Andrew Gimson wrote in his profile of the Party Chairman for this site, Elliot would not have arranged the seating plan which seated Robert Jenrick next to Richard Desmond at a party fundraising dinner.

But “because Elliot is in overall charge of CCHQ, he still incurs criticism when things go wrong”, Andrew continued.  “His insouciant manner suggests to those around him a refusal to contemplate the danger of scandal.”  Elliot later apologised to the 1922 Committee Executive.

If taste fails, rules step in: that at any rate is the lesson of the John Major years.  And the more rules there are, the more regulators there are – the Committee on Standards in Public Life, the Electoral Commission, the Independent Adviser on Ministerial Interests, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards…

And the more regulators there are, the more power falls into the hands of those we don’t elect rather than those we do.  But if voters don’t like the people they elect to govern them, they don’t seem to care for those they don’t elect, either – at least, not if Brexit is anything to go by.

By the same token, they may not like how the Conservative Party is paid for, but they would like paying for it themselves even less.  And funding Starmer, too.  Not to mention Nicola Sturgeon.  But when private funding becomes tainted as illegitimate, state funding steps in.  Elliot is playing for higher stakes than he may appreciate.

What our new Next Tory Leader survey tells us about support for the Prime Minister

1 Feb

There have been two Next Tory Leader opinion polls of Conservative Party members elsewhere since our last Next Tory Leader survey on this site.

The first, from YouGov, showed Rishi Sunak leading Liz Truss by 33 per cent to 25 per cent.  Respondents were given a choice of seven options.  (Our panel had been given 15.)

Those figures are less different from our last survey than Opinium’s – the second survey.  It had Sunak defeating Truss in a play-off by 64 per cent to 36 per cent.

At any rate, the panel is nothing if not consistent.  Last time round, Truss was on 23 per cent.  This time, she’s on 20 per cent, and top.

Sunak was on 20 per cent, and second.  Now, he’s on 19 per cent, and second.  Penny Mordaunt was on nine per cent, and third.  Now she’s on 13 per cent, and third.

This is a bit of a showing for an MP who is neither a Cabinet member not a prominent backbencher. Elsewhere, two One Nation-ish potential candidates, Jeremy Hunt and Tom Tugendhat, score less than ten per cent each.

But the real feature to note from this essentially static result is what showed up in the comments and the number of abstentions.

Out of roughly 75 suggestions in the comments, only two people made double figures: Lord Frost, who had 20 mentions…and Boris Johnson, who had 32.

Now look at those absentions – 119 of them compared to only 14 last month.  There is no other way of reading them than that the majority believe the question to be premature.

Put this result together with the panel’s view on Downing Street parties, the Prime Minister’s handling of Covid and this morning’s Cabinet League Table, and you have two polarities.

One is a significant slice of Party members who think that “partygate” isn’t overblown, and that the Prime Minister is doing badly.

A slightly larger one thinks that the party story is overblown, and it contains among it a smaller group of committed supporters of Johnson. They are part of his fightback, reasons for which I gave here.

All concerned think that he and the Government are doing well on Covid – as, hopefully, it at last begins to vanish over the horizon.

And overall there is a small positive movement in the Prime Minister’s Cabinet League Table rating, but it is still in the red.

So is the next leader question premature?  All I can say is that about 150 respondents either didn’t answer the question or wrote in for Johnson, and about 850 either did or wrote in for someone else.