A YouGov poll, a ConHome survey – and next Tory leader questions

9 Jun

Here are the results of a Next Tory Leader poll published by YouGov placed side to side with those from this site’s survey member panel in January.

Don’t know: YouGov 23 per cent.  ConHome n/a.

Ben Wallace: YouGov 12 per cent.  ConHome n/a.

Liz Truss: YouGov 11 per cent. ConHome 20 per cent.

Jeremy Hunt: YouGov: 10 per cent.  ConHome 9 per cent.

Penny Mordaunt: YouGov: 8 per cent. ConHome 13 per cent.

Rishi Sunak: YouGov: 7 per cent. ConHome 18 per cent.

Michael Gove: YouGov: 7 per cent. 4 per cent.

Priti Patel:  YouGov: 6 per cent. ConHome: 1 per cent

Tom Tugendhat: YouGov: 5 per cent. ConHome: 7 per cent.

Nadhim Zahawi: YouGov: 5 per cent. ConHome: 4 per cent.

  • We neither provided a don’t know category nor the same list as YouGov: additionally, we had Kemi Badenoch, Steve Baker, Graham Brady, Mark Harper, Sajid Javid, Dominic Raab and Anne-Marie Trevelyan.  We didn’t offer Ben Wallace – currently top of our Cabinet League Table.
  • Water has passed under and indeed over the bridge since January: Truss no longer tops our table, for example.  Sunak’s Spring Statement wasn’t well received and the non-dom controversy has taken place.  Patel has announced the Rwanda illegal immigration policy.
  • The provision of a don’t know category by YouGov highlights what our survey suggested.  Truss tops both polls, but with only a fifth of the vote in our survey, what Ben Walker of the New Statesman writes about YouGov’s poll also applies to ours: “when you collate the views of Tory party members, you find no one stands out”.
  • Note too the similarity of the long tail – indeed, the YouGov poll results for individuals are arguably a form of long tail from the don’t knows.  Our Mordaunt score was double YouGov’s, but at 13 per cent in the latter she wasn’t lighting many fires.  Essentially, both surveys have a mass of people in not dissimilar individual figures.
  • YouGov also produced a poll of 506 Tory members on Monday which asked:” “do you think it was right or wrong for Conservative MPs to submit letters of no confidence in Boris Johnson to the 1922 committee?
  • We asked the panel whether the view that Conservative MPs should remove him as Tory leader was closer to theirs than that they shouldn’t.  We got over a thousand replies.  I think it’s fair to say that the two questions are roughly comparable.
  • YouGov said the MPs were wrong to do so by 53 per cent to 42 per cent.  The panel said that they would be right to remove him by 55 per cent to 41 per cent: almost a mirror  image.
  • Incidentally, the return to the survey from the panel last month for the same question was: 41 per cent and 53 per cent – almost exactly the same result as YouGov’s poll this week.
  • YouGov is a proper opinion poll and ours is a self-selecting survey – albeit one that got Johnson’s eve-of-ballot return to within a single point, which helps to explain why it gets picked up by other media.
  • But you will see that the two are in the same broad territory even allowing for six months’ or so difference: big blocks within the party for and against Johnson staying as leader; no decisive view on who any replacement should be.
  • If you want to join the panel, please send a copy of your membership certificate or other evidence of membership to news@conservativehome.com and you will be added.  It’s not hard to do and each addition helps to make the survey more representative.

 

The post A YouGov poll, a ConHome survey – and next Tory leader questions first appeared on Conservative Home.

Andrew Gimson’s Commons sketch: This Prime Minister has never sounded so contrite, and it seemed to work

19 Apr

Never has Boris Johnson said sorry so often, so publicly and with such a sombre demeanour. Tory MPs repeatedly sought to extenuate the mistake for which he was given a fixed penalty notice by the Metropolitan Police.

“Nothing extenuate, nor set down aught in malice,” was Othello’s last plea. Johnson did not make that argument in his statement, and would not be tempted, by dozens of supportive Conservatives, into making it as he took question after question.

Mark Harper (Con, Forest of Dean) was very far from supportive: “I no longer think he is worthy of the great office he holds.”

The Prime Minister did not rise to this, but instead continued to humble himself: “I bitterly regret the event in Downing Street as I said.”

This was a big day for Sir Keir Starmer. He began with the words: “What a joke!”

A difficult opening line. Sir Keir spoke it in the manner of a cook who has handed in his notice.

“They know what he is,” Sir Keir went on, indicating the Conservative benches.

“The Chancellor’s career up in flames,” he continued, as an example of how everything went wrong under Johnson.

But why should Sir Keir mind if the Chancellor’s career has gone up in flames? His aim, after all, was to make sure that Johnson’s career went down in flames, an objective not promoted by making implausible assertions.

“The Prime Minister knows what he is,” Sir Keir continued, still in infuriated cook mode.

He then brought in John Robinson, from Lichfield, who because of Covid rules could not be with his mortally ill wife: “John would have given the world to hold his dying wife’s hand even for nine minutes.”

Johnson nodded, more sombre even than Sir Keir. In July 2019, when he took office, I do not think Johnson would have been capable of this.

A thousand days later, he looks older and sadder, and no sign could be detected of his old habit of lightening a serious moment by making a joke.

By the time Paul Howell (Con, Sedgefield) said of Johnson’s offence, “I certainly do not think it is a resigning matter,” it was clear that most of those on the Tory benches agreed with this remark.

Stephen Kinnock (Lab, Aberavon) referred to the resignations of Neville Chamberlain and Margaret Thatcher. Johnson could not say, but many will have reflected, that Chamberlain’s resignation took place when this country was suffering a military catastrophe, and Thatcher’s when her government was split from head to toe on the European issue, and had introduced the perilously unpopular poll tax.

So the question of proportion hovered over all this. Johnson had spoken also of Ukraine, where great and terrible events are unfolding.

He declined to make the connection. Nor would his accusers, for they were intent on maintaining the highest moral tone. They had every right to do this, perhaps it was their duty to do this, but one could not help feeling that there was an element of willed indignation in some of their protestations.

Andrew Gimson’s PMQs sketch: This was neither a victory nor a defeat, but will tend to embolden Johnson’s opponents

9 Feb

A vulnerable Prime Minister is good for the House of Commons, and Boris Johnson is far more vulnerable than he was.

Towards the end of PMQs, Mark Harper (Con, Forest of Dean) stood up and began: “Can I ask the Prime Minister a question about Sue Gray’s report?”

This produced groans from the Tory benches. “Well colleagues may groan,” he continued, “but I asked the Prime Minister last week and I didn’t get a straight answer.”

How bad for Johnson was this question going to be? “It’s important because it’s about those who make the law obeying the law,” Harper went on.

He proceeded to ask the Prime Minister to ensure that “Sue Gray’s final report is published immediately and in full”.

Johnson said he thought he had already answered this question, but went on to confirm that “as soon as all the inquiries are concluded I will immediately publish in full whatever Sue Gray gives me”.

That was the worst that came from the Tory benches: no David Davis or Andrew Mitchell withdrew their support.

Fabian Hamilton (Lab, Leeds North East) had earlier asked Johnson about a picture published in the last few minutes “of the Prime Minister in Downing Street on the 15th of December 2020 surrounded by alcohol, food and people wearing tinsel”.

Johnson replied that “in what he has just said I am afraid he is completely in error”.

Sir Keir Starmer’s series of questions about fraud, during which he pointed out that the “anti-fraud minister quit”, in some ways seemed relatively innocuous compared to the questions just quoted.

Johnson’s manner was robust. His position is not yet robust. This encounter will be scored in different ways according to what each judge already thought of him. In my view it was neither a victory nor a defeat, but will tend to embolden his opponents.

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.

Greig Baker: I’ve been a Conservative member for the past 20 years – but vaccine passports have pushed me to my limit

28 Jul

Greig Baker is a former Chairman of the Canterbury Conservatives Association.

I am enormously proud to have been a Conservative member for the past 20 years, but I just can’t do it anymore. The threat of vaccine passports is the straw that is breaking this camel’s back.

I have supported the party through the rough and smooth. I have loved some of the things we have achieved (like saving the country in the ‘80s, gay marriage, and vaccines) and have had some doubts about others (I’d rather give tax breaks to entrepreneurs tackling climate change than ban things or fine people, for example).

But all told, I understand that being in a party is about sharing a broad set of beliefs and helping each other promote solutions, finding common ground with people and working to reach practical solutions that actually achieve stuff, rather than being a purist all the time.

Basically, until now I have been confident that being a Conservative meant helping to make things better for the people who need help most.

That confidence started to take a hit when the Government assumed far-reaching emergency powers early last year. Lockdown followed lockdown, laws gave local “emanations of the state” (to use a phrase from the PM’s past) the ability to detain people they simply “suspect” have Covid, and people were banned from seeing family, meeting friends, or shacking up with someone they fancy. Every measure was felt most keenly by people who could least afford to bear the burden.

But fine, we didn’t know what we were dealing with and maybe it was best to be cautious. Maybe it was right to borrow hundreds of billions of pounds, too. I honestly don’t know for sure either way.

What I do know is that making everyday life conditional on medical status from now on, or even just threatening to do so, is not what I thought Conservatism was all about.

I don’t want a vaccine passport and I don’t want anyone else to be coerced into having one either. I don’t want the Government spending vast sums on a system that could give the wrong people access to health records, is open to fraud, would discriminate by age and ethnicity, create new burdens on business, discourage personal responsibility and that would inevitably be used in an ever growing list of places for an ever growing list of reasons.

Precedents are called precedents because they are followed. Show your vaccine passport at the football or voting booth to prove you haven’t got flu or shingles, anyone? Presumably, that is, unless you’re on important “Government Business”…

If, in the best possible case, ministers espousing this kind of “certification” are just flying a kite to test public reaction, then I think that kite needs shooting down as quickly as possible. And if they are actually planning to introduce vaccine passports through the front, back, or any other door, I think that door needs to be slammed shut and double bolted right now.

Surely mandatory vaccines and certifications for inspection go against everything it means to be a Conservative? How on earth does a belief in personal responsibility, limited intervention and faith in your neighbour marry up with demanding to see vaccine passports?

I do see reasons for hope. MPs like Steve Baker (no relation) and Mark Harper offer constructive scrutiny of the restrictions we have faced or could be lumbered with.

Backbenchers gave another term at the head of the ’22 to Graham Brady, too, which says something important about how our MPs view their role and the best way to support the Government. I have also been reassured every time a minister has promised not to introduce a mandatory health certificate that would dramatically extend the state’s reach into our daily lives – I just wish they’d stick to it.

The prospect of vaccine passports, the creation of a more interventionist state, and the higher taxes that would be needed to pay for it, leave me cold. I just can’t feel comfortable with these proposals – let alone summon the will to go out and try to convince voters of them.

Membership has been a big part of my life and I have met true friends through the party. I sincerely wish them well and I get it when they say that it’s better to stay in and try to change things from the inside. I really hope they can.

But I can’t be a member of a party that makes people’s ability to go about their daily lives conditional on undergoing a medical procedure and then proving they’ve done so to anyone who asks. This seems to be counter to everything we stand for.

Of course, the party is so much bigger than any one person and, rightly, it will barely notice my leaving. But I hope senior Conservatives take a moment to think how some of the grassroots feel about our slide towards a state of affairs where the Government dictates terms in every area of normal life. I know I am not alone in my worries about this – just look at my Twitter feed.

I would be delighted if someone could reassure me that my idea of being a Conservative has not been wrong all these years. Indeed, if the PM could regain the enthusiasm for a truly liberal approach to Government that he showed in the years before he took office, I’m all ears.

McVey, Walker and Wragg. The most rebellious Conservative MPs in our survey of major votes.

22 Jun

Last week, ConservativeHome published a list of the 49 Conservative MPs who voted against the Coronavirus Regulations. As we said at the time, it was the biggest Covid rebellion since December 2, and a reminder that even if a Government has a huge majority, it can easily be rocked about by unprecedented events (a pandemic).

From 2020 and 2021, we have been keeping track of rebellions. It’s worth adding that rebellions can take various forms – Chris Green resigning as a ministerial aide, for instance – and that there have been many minor ones, so there may be one MP who is technically the most rebellious on less prominent issues. However, for the purpose of one article we’ve focused on major voting events. So who exactly has pushed back the most?

First of all, here is a list of the rebellions we tracked – with a nickname and link to recap on what each was about:

And without further ado, we can reveal that Esther McVey, Charles Walker and William Wragg are joint first in our “most rebellious MP” league table – with nine rebellions to their names. Here’s how they rebelled.

Esther McVey:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Curfew
  5. Lockdown
  6. Tiers
  7. Third lockdown
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus regulations

Charles Walker:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Genocide Amendment
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus regulations

William Wragg:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Curfew
  5. Lockdown
  6. Tiers
  7. Genocide Amendment
  8. Coronavirus Act 2
  9. Coronavirus Regulations

MPs who have rebelled on eight occasions:

Graham Brady:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Philip Davies:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Richard Drax:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Andrew Rosindell:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Genocide Amendment
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

Desmond Swayne:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Third lockdown
  7. Coronavirus Act 2
  8. Coronavirus regulations

MPs who have rebelled on seven occasions:

Philip Hollobone:

  1. Huawei
  2. Coronavirus Act 1
  3. Rule of Six
  4. Tiers
  5. Genocide Amendment
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus Regulations

Tim Loughton:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Genocide Amendment
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Anne Marie Morris:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Henry Smith:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Tiers
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

Robert Syms:

  1. Huawei
  2. Rule of Six
  3. 10pm curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Third lockdown
  6. Coronavirus Act 2
  7. Coronavirus regulations

MPs who have rebelled on six occasions:

Peter Bone:

  1. Coronavirus Act 1
  2. Rule of Six
  3. Curfew
  4. Lockdown
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

Christopher Chope:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Coronavirus Act 1
  6. Coronavirus regulations

David Davis:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Tiers
  4. Genocide Amendment
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

Stephen McPartland:

  1. Huawei
  2. Lockdown
  3. Tiers
  4. Third lockdown
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

John Redwood:

  1. Huawei
  2. Curfew
  3. Lockdown
  4. Tiers
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations

David Warburton:

  1. Huawei
  2. Tiers
  3. Third lockdown
  4. Genocide Amendment
  5. Coronavirus Act 2
  6. Coronavirus regulations
Some more notes:
  • We have stopped with MPs who have rebelled a maximum of six times during this period (out of 10 in total).
  • It’s interesting to note that some “familiar faces” when one thinks of a Tory rebel aren’t included in our league – Mark Harper, for instance, who leads the Covid Recovery Group.
  • Lastly, there are some new faces to our rebellion list: Siobhan Baillie, Karen Bradley and Miriam Cates were some of the MPs to recently vote against Coronavirus regulations.

Parliament should vote monthly from March on ending the lockdown

23 Feb

Perhaps the most significant moment during Boris Johnson’s statement on the Government’s roadmap out of lockdown came when he was questioned by Paul Bristow.

The Peterborough MP asked the Prime Minister about the five week gap between each of the plan’s five stages.  In sum, his question was: if the date on which each stage is due to begin can be put back, why can’t it also be brought forward?  Why a rigid five week delay?

Johnson’s answer was that the five week gap is “crucial…For instance, we will need four weeks to see whether the opening of schools has caused an uncontrollable surge in the pandemic, and then a week to give advice and so on”.

This five week delay, which gives the plan its inflexible character, is in the Prime Minister’s view “dictated by the science” – and suggests that we were wrong yesterday to suggest that it might be relaxed if better progress than expected is made early.

Strange but true: lockdown sceptics (such as the 13 Conservative backbench MPs, including Bristow, who yesterday urged a faster restiction lift) have today been joined by none other than the high priest of shutdowns – Neil Ferguson of Imperial College.

“Hopefully what we’ll see when each step happens is a very limited resurgence of infections. In which case, there’s a chance we can accelerate the schedule,” he said on Times Radio.  Number Ten insists that this won’t happen.

The sum of the Government’s view will be informed by figures that won’t be in the 60-page roadmap document: its estimate of death numbers, cases and hospitalisations if restrictions are lifted earlier (and therefore of the threat to the NHS’s operability).

The Prime Minister, his top quad of Ministers and SAGE will be worried about how high vaccination failure rates, the number of those unvaccinated and potential new variants could push those figures.

That anxiety was the sum of his answer to the Chairman of the Covid Recovery Group, Mark Harper, who pointed out that groups one to nine in the Government’s scheme will have been vaccinated by the end of April.

These are everyone over 50 and those aged 16 to 64 with a health condition that makes them vulnerable to Covid.  “Those groups account for 99 per cent of deaths and around 80 per cent of hospitalisations,” Harper said.

“So for what reason, once they have been vaccinated and protected from Covid by the end of April at the latest, is there any need for restrictions to continue?”  Johnson reverted to his point that vaccination doesn’t necessarily equal protection.

You might argue that the vaccines need a bit of time to kick in, and that Harper’s date is say a fortnight premature.  Or you may believe that the Prime Minister is right.  Or that all restrictions should end now bar voluntary social distancing, masks and handwashing.

Or you may have a quarrel with details of the proposals.  For example, the restriction on outdoor sports activity until March 29 seems Cromwellian.

Or you may think that some are already honoured more in the breach than the observance – such as the restriction on meeting outdoors with more than one person.

Above all, you may go back to Bristow’s point, and ask why restrictions can’t be lifted more quickly than explained if hospital numbers fall faster than expected.

We lean towards thinking that the roadmap journey looks on the slow side, but acknowledge that the calculations are not easy, and may change: essentially, they boil down to lives v livelihoods, and lives v lives, as they always have: cancer deaths, say, versus Covid deaths.

That’s assuming in this last case, of course, that the NHS is operating as normal, more or less.  But the most pressing question isn’t who’s right or wrong.  It’s who should take the decision – and how often.

Johnson confirmed to Graham Brady yesterday that there will be a vote on the renewal of emergency powers before Easter, which falls this year on April 4.

The Commons should also vote on these at least twice thereafter: at the end of April – which would give the House a chance to test Harper’s view – and the end of May.

Our best guess is that the Commons wouldn’t vote at any point to speed up the Government’s plan, since more Conservative MPs would vote with Ministers than against them, and opposition MPs would abstain at the very least.

But this is beside the main point – which is that the Executive should propose, the Legislature dispose, and that in this case there should be regular opportunities to test the will of the house as the facts emerge.

In that way, life would be breathed into the Prime Minister’s slogan of “data, not dates”.  At the moment, we are being offered data – and dates maybe later than those given, but not earlier.

On one point, however, all can surely agree.  It is wonderful to see so large a proportion of our vulnerable people being vaccinated so fast, due to good Ministerial decisions, scientific prowess and effective management.

Sunak opts to suck it and see

25 Nov

We must be thankful that no-one is forecasting that Government borrowing will rise to record levels this year.  Or Rishi Sunak wouldn’t have been in a position to announce that Government spending will rise at its fastest rate for 15 years.

Apologies for the sarcasm – which isn’t aimed at the Chancellor’s measures, but is meant instead to provide an introduction to the thinking behind them.

One response to a ballooning deficit is to cut the rate of growth of spending.  That’s what the Coalition did after 2010, when the deficit hit seven per cent of GDP.

The Office for Budget Responsibility is forecasting a peak of 19 per this year.  But Sunak’s response is to raise the rate of spending.  Why?

Because in 2010 George Osborne judged the deficit to be structural (he was right), and his successor judges this one to be exceptional (he’s right, too).

It is almost entirely a product of the pandemic and what has followed.  It is in this context that the OBR forecasts the economy to shrink by 11 per cent this year and unemployment to hit 2.6 million next year.

In these circumstances, the Chancellor has found it impossible to produce the four year spending review he hoped for, and has been forced to issue one for a single year instead.

Furthermore, his statement was only one side of the tax and spending coin. Today, we got the spending.  In the Spring, we will get the Budget – and the tax.

Given all this, it will be very odd if Sunak turns up then with large-scale tax rises to raise revenue quickly.  The foundation of his measures today appears to be: suck it and see.

Broadly speaking, the spending package suggests that the Chancellor is going for growth.  That’s the logic of the infrastructure spending, the coming review of regulation, the new northern bank and the enlarged Restart programme.

The Levelling-Up Fund is a classic Treasury exercise in the English centralist tradition, with its central feature of bids from the provinces to Westminster for money.  So it is in a country with relatively few local taxes.

On that point, Sunak announced “extra flexibility for Council Tax and Adult Social Care precept”.  Local authorities will like that, council taxpayers not so much.

It’s worth stressing that the OBR’s forecasts, like all such animals, shouldn’t be taken too seriously.  Our columnist Ryan Bourne debunked its record on this site earlier this week.

If you walk down the sunny side of the street, you will smack your lips at the thought of a Roaring Twenties effect, as employment recovers, consumers spend, the hospitality sector booms and people pile into holidays abroad.

And it may be that post-Covid changes even out for the better, with a shift in activity and spending from city centres to the suburbs and countryside, together with music, art, theatre and all the rest of it.

That might not be such a bad things for towns and their centres, at which the new Levelling Up Fund is partly aimed.  Our columnist James Frayne believes they are a core concern for provincial voters, and government listens to him.

If on the other hand you stick to the shady side, you will point to the economic equivalent of Long Covid: fearsome economic and social bills for damaged mental health, postponed operations, lost educational opportunities.

All that is a big minus for levelling-up – because it’s the disabled, poor and disadvantaged who have been hit hardest by restrictions and lockdowns, especially if they work in the private sector.

The background in recent years is not encouraging.  Since the financial crash exploded, we haven’t grown at more than 2.6 per cent a year.  That suggests recovery may be sticky.

Sunak’s persuasive manner, grip of detail and spare eloquence have served him well during this crisis.  Others holding his post would not have survived roughly ten major finance annoucements in less than a year.

It’s not as though he hasn’t sometimes had to recast his plans – as in October, when he pumped more money into his Job Support Scheme.

And if the economics of his strategy are straightforward enough, its politics was sometimes a bit odd.  If the Government’s overall plan in the short-term is expansionary, why raise the minimum wage but curb public sector pay?

If spending on nearly everything else is rising, why crack down on the 0.7 per cent aid spend?  Doing so because you think aid is wasted or the target is wasteful is one thing.

But that wasn’t the basis of Sunak’s decision – since, after all, he said that the Government intends to return to 0.7 per cent “when the fiscal situation allows”.

The Chancellor also left a big unresolved question hanging in the air.  What will the Government do about the Universal Credit uplift?  Will it be extended or not?

The sense of a statement with contradictory messages was picked up Rob Covile of the Centre for Policy Studies.  (The Treasury would do well when the Budget approaches to look at its supply side ideas.)

“Feels slightly like Treasury couldn’t decide whether the message was ‘tighten belts’ or ‘we’re still spending’,” he tweeted. “So we’re getting two or three minutes of each in turn.”

That first element in the Chancellor’s statement, plus the OBR’s horrid short-term forecasts, comes at a bad time for the Government.

For tomorrow, the toughened tiering details are announced. Lots of Conservative MPs won’t like them.  The detail of which tiers apply in which areas will be published, too.  Many Tory MPs will like those even less.

Graham Brady, Steve Baker, Mark Harper, and the Covid Recovery Group will say that the economic damage of restrictions is so severe that the Commons should not vote for more – at least, without an impact assessment.

They may not be alone.  “These measures may be a short-term strategy, but they cannot be a long-term one,” Jeremy Wright declared in the Commons during the recent debate on the lockdown regulations.

He and Edward Timpson (another ex-Minister) plus other MPs backed the Government but, sounded a cautionary note.

Will the prospect of vaccines be sufficient to rally the doubters round?  Or will they take a leaf from the book of Theresa May, who savaged the regulations during the same debate?

We shall see – but Ministers are not helping themselves by dodging requests for that impact assessment, urged by this site and others, and the subject of a dogged campaign by Mel Stride, Chair of the Treasury Select Committee.

All in all, Sunak is shaping up to go for growth.  Good for him.  Nonetheless, he must watch and wait to see how and when the economy rebounds.  Brady and company are less patient.