THE Conservative Home site has published its latest monthly poll and the aspect now more salient than ever is that the path for Laurence Fox with his Reclaim Party and Richard Tice’s Reform UK is crystal clear.
The survey of Conservative Party constituency stalwarts continues to give useful pointers to any party which seeks to capitalise on small state, Brexit-relaxed and economically conservative sentiment.
The winners of the popularity stakes this month are not much altered, with Liz Truss still top and David Frost and Ben Wallace swapping places. Jacob Rees-Mogg disappears from the top set, possibly because he is out of the public eye during recess. But look at the October chart entries: Anne-Marie Trevelyan has taken over the popular international trade role vacated by Liz Truss and Nadine Dorries, scourge of the posh boys, is taking on the BBC.
Leaving Sajid Javid and Nadhim Zahawi to one side for a moment, what the rest of this group have in common is that they can all be readily perceived as positive and forward-looking as well as clearly sticking up for Britain in a practical sense and happy to say so.
As for Javid and Zahawi, they were launched into the top set by dint of not being Matt Hancock (boo!) and Gavin Williamson (hiss!) which is an odd but understandable phenomenon. Does this mean that the panel are broadly satisfied with the way the health and education portfolios are being run? In fact, Javid’s fall from fifth to seventh place in September suggests that the honeymoon was waning even faster than the effectiveness of a Covid shot! More authoritarian intransigence in the weeks ahead could see Javid lose more ground.
Zahawi hasn’t been in harness long enough for any disillusion to set in, but the education department is a mess, teachers continue to be recalcitrant and the use of schools as vaccination centres for young teenagers is not going to redound to his credit, particularly among parents who are banned from exclusion zones near schools.
The principal losers have their own chart, and while Priti Patel is still near the bottom of the heap, it’s only fair to point out that she has had a modest rise since the last time. If she belongs on this chart it is to emphasise that three out of the four great offices of state (PM, Chancellor, Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary) are held by individuals who are unpopular within their own party.
Perhaps the most significant yet least surprising development is the fall from favour of Rishi Sunak. His national insurance hike wounded him in September and his Budget has dealt him (and us) a more severe blow in October. The economy can only get worse so it would be foolish to expect an upturn in his poll fortunes while either he continues in post or Boris Johnson, who increasingly owes much to Billy Smart and Billy Bunter, remains as prime minister.
At the bottom of the class languishes the luckless Alok Sharma who even before the PR debacle that was COP26 reached a depth matched only by the expensive heat pump he wants you to install with the help of a modest bung from Rishi. The net zero policy is everything that conservatives should abhor: government interference in matters that should be beyond government control, curtailing individual choice, legislation that anticipates technological progress and gets it wrong, interference by legislators hijacked by lobbyists and vested interests. Sharma deserves his drubbing.
In the zombie zone between Sharma at 31 in the chart and ‘Two Billys’ Johnson at 27 is a cushion of new reshuffle also-rans who have either not moved between September and October (Ben Elliot at 30) or who have astonishingly managed to lose ground (Michelle Donelan from 27 to 28 and Nigel Adams from 25 to 29).
And here are our predictions for the November poll: George Eustice with his proposed meat tax, who went from the number 13 slot in August and currently stands at 19 will feature on the losers board next time around, as will Mark Spencer who might no longer be Chief Whip as you read this.
If there is a common thread among the winners, the losers also share a feature anathema to all voters and not just those on the Right: unvarnished uselessness. Migration Watch, for instance, reports that the number of illegal migrants crossing the channel are at an all-time high (as many as 20,000 this year) while arrests are lower than ever and deportations have dried up.That’s a pretty poor show. So much for taking back control.
‘Two Billys’ (three if you include the priapic goat) has only one reflex and that is to spend, spend, spend while Sunak signs the cheques and avers that he is a tax-cutter at heart.
Consider this: Tim Davie, the BBC’s director general, told the COP meeting in Glasgow that climate science is no longer politically controversial. The reaction of sensible people to this will be that we need to find some fresh and engaged politicians so the controversy cauldron can be kept bubbling. This applies not only to global warming but to every issue which has been allowed under the current political monoculture to drift into the sandy bunker of complacency, indolence and accepted wisdom.
It is in this light that one has to hope that the fledgling parties, Reform UK and Reclaim, soon manage to overcome the legal and administrative roadblocks that the establishment has raised in their paths and carry the battle for diversity in political opinion to the foe.