THE Conservative Home popularity poll for January was released a few days ago and the result reveals little: the current febrile environment means that individual performances are probably evaluated by panel members alongside the potential of Boris Johnson being forced to stand down.
Liz Truss has relinquished her number one slot but is this due to a perception that she has been on manoeuvres or because her usually-popular espièglerie is not thought fitting for a prime minister in waiting? There is also the matter of her trip to Australia at a cost to the taxpayer of £500,000. Rishi Sunak, even more blatant as an eager successor to Johnson, has fallen further so it’s likely that the membership expects the cabinet to rally round more enthusiastically than some of them have.
All in all, though, the poll more than anything looks like a political lava lamp, with gobbets of ministerial wax rising and sinking pretty much at random.
Last month’s man to watch was Johnson himself, and that was of course before the whole Partygate business blew up. His score is in fact better than it was a month ago both in terms of points and in terms of ranking where he has relinquished the bottom slot to Mark Spencer, whose rating is not just awful but Mark Spencer awful.
Are the grass roots rooting for their beleaguered leader or is there more to Johnson’s mild upswing than that? Could it perhaps be that in all the media frenzy they recognise a simple truth: that Johnson, who is widely accused of being unable to organise a gathering in a brewery, is now lambasted for organising a concatenation of drinks parties and cake festivals.
The truth is probably that he unthinkingly let these things happen and that he absolutely shouldn’t have. However, there was a certain logical, unspoken hierarchy of rules, and Johnson was not barging into intensive care units or gate-crashing funerals. Many places of work, just like Downing Street, have continued to be staffed over the past two years and it is doubtful whether no birthday cakes were shared by staff behind the scenes at supermarkets or that the odd crate of beer didn’t make its way into delivery depots.
Without doubt Johnson should have done more to resist the authoritarian instincts of colleagues such as Hancock, Gove and Javid and the jackbooted enthusiasm with which rules were implemented by every petty official in the NHS, education, and almost every public sector institution you can think of, but every decision was taken against the baying of the opposition parties and the clamour of the media for ever more draconian measures. A sense of proportion and fairness is called for.
Johnson continues to be our man to watch for February. The purging of that poultry shed which is Number Ten Downing Street is stage one of the Great Reset that his administration needs. If Johnson’s libertarian instincts can combine with a compact team who ensure that things get done across government and get done well, there is hope for him to lead his party into the next general election.
Johnson must also find time to listen to more than one opinion on subjects that bore him (which I fear is most of them). ‘The Science’ is a concept which should grate on anyone with an open mind. Modelling has been shown to be bunk, so where else is modelling being used to promote junk policy? He must send climate campaigners and activists packing and abandon targets which cannot be met because it’s not possible to legislate effectively for zero anything in anticipation of technology catching up with ideology.
Next, levelling up needs to be scrapped: this is simply rebadged socialism and Red Wall voters are not going to vote for socialism with a blue rosette when they can have socialism and cervix awareness lessons from the opposition.
By the time of the next survey there may be some personnel changes. Nominations for the chop are the authoritarians such as Michael Gove and those like Rishi Sunak and Sajid Javid who are the playthings of their departments.