THE Conservative Home monthly poll for November is out so we can once again look on as party activists pick through the unappetising entrails of Boris Johnson’s Cabinet.
The winners of the popularity stakes this month are much as before though it is worth noting that Liz Truss, still top, is the only one with an approval score over 80 and David Frost, still second, is the only one in the 70+ bracket. Ben Wallace has been nudged out of the top group but is still strong and just shy of the 60+ set which is now the preserve of the three newcomers, Zahawi, Dorries and Trevelyan.
In the current climate and given the media monoculture people might be inclined to do without much radio, television and newspapers. Consequently it’s all too easy to overlook the activity of individual ministers because the chaotic personality and style of Boris Johnson crowds out the minor satellites. What ministers do or fail to do day to day is outflanked in the minds of most of us by an insurgent Peppa Pig bounding into public consciousness against our will.
How to explain Nadhim Zahawi’s position in sixth place? With the masking of school children what is this man doing apart from following orders?
Way down in the substrate of uselessness we find Alok Sharma who is the only real winner of the month, bouncing back from the bottom rung at number 31 to a handsome 20 or from 5.8 to 29.1 approval. Does this reflect a spirit of forgiveness among the Tory grass roots and show that there can be political life after COP26 or is the panel impressed by the closing tears in Glasgow and rewarding an innocent zero-carbon heart?
Let’s look now at those who have done less well in the opinion of the Conservative Home panel. The losers comprise some of our familiar serial losers plus a couple of new entrants.
Last month, this column made two daring predictions and both were fulfilled. We thought that George Eustice was taking a bit of a gamble in proposing a meat tax and so it has proved. It seems to be true that a politician has to propose something entirely idiotic to be able to get an element of cut-through past the Macron-baiting, HS2- cancelling, rule-trashing Prime Minister.
The other prediction was that the rule-trashing debacle was going to allow us to welcome the Chief Whip on to this chart and here he is: Mark Spencer has taken the number 31 spot with a -21.1 score (and yes, that is a ‘minus’ sign).
Prime responsibility for the debacle rests with the Prime Minister of course so there’s no surprise that he is just one rung up from Spencer with -17.2 approval. Jacob Rees-Mogg, as Leader of the House, is the third immediate victim of the Owen Paterson affair.
There’s nothing new to say about poor Priti Patel who after her brief flirtation with the number 23 slot in October has settled back into 29th, completing the triumvirate of doom at the foot of the rankings.
This leaves only Sajid Javid whose gradual decline from 5 to 8 since taking over from Matt Hancock is probably due to being overtaken by Trevelyan, Dorries and Zahawi rather than disappointment with his performance. One should not begrudge the man the afterglow of not being Matt Hancock but Javid is next month’s man to watch.
That the Health Secretary can talk about ‘keeping the virus at bay’ shows that some of us have not learnt much over the last twenty months and that the government is still trapped on its hamster wheel of corona frenzy. Worse, perhaps, are early signs that the European tendency for governments to distract attention from their draconian yet ineffective policies by reviling the unvaccinated are taking root here.
In a few weeks’ time, no doubt, we will all be sorting out our Christmas ‘bubbles’ and donning our Yuletide reindeer masks. With luck there may even be a socially distanced Midnight Mass near you, but don’t count on it. Pope Innocent III closed England’s churches in the reign of King John and Archbishop Welby did the same thing eight centuries later.