The race to Westminster
The summer parliamentary recess is usually a time when political news dries up and is replaced by the frivolous and the outlandish, in keeping with the ‘silly season’ tradition. This has not been the case this summer. The annual estivation period of politicos and journalists was interrupted by the ongoing sagas of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia within the Labour and Conservative parties, respectively. The dearth of other distracting stories proved to be a curse as Labour’s anti-Semitism definition rows, and Boris Johnson’s burqa comments stubbornly clung on to the front pages of newspapers for days on end. With both parties mired in unseemly and depressing controversies, and with little to distract the public’s attention, one would think that the polls may show some interesting shifts. Not so. Both parties remain evenly matched on 40%, with Labour unchanged from two weeks ago and the Tories up 1 percentage point.
The Lib Dems and UKIP are still ominously waiting on 8% (up 1) and 6% (no change) respectively, seemingly ready to pounce if either of the main parties leans too heavily one way or the other on Brexit. As we move ever closer to the March 2019 Brexit deadline, by when negotiations with the EU must reach a conclusion, it will be interesting to keep an eye on the fortunes of both the Lib Dems and UKIP – one doubts that their support will not change between now and then.
*Change from the last poll two weeks ago, 3-5 August
Our further polling this week shows that pessimism is increasing regarding the likelihood of the negotiations between the UK and the EU concluding successfully before ‘Brexit Day’ on 29 March 2019. Since April, the proportion of those that think Brexit will be concluded satisfactorily has fallen from 3 in 10 (28%) to under 1 in 5 (18%). For the first time since we polled this question, the percentage of respondents who think that the negotiations will not conclude successfully in time is above half, with 60% now thinking this way (up from 47% in April).
Worryingly for the Conservatives, this swing is particularly pronounced amongst Leave voters and those who intend to vote Tory at the next general election. Whilst, back in April, ‘Leavers’ were evenly split on whether the negotiations would be successful (36% yes, 36% no), these figures now stand at 23% and 54%, respectively. The story is much the same for those who intend to vote Tory at the next general election, with 44% now thinking that the talks will not be resolved satisfactorily (up 12 percentage points) and around a third (32%) thinking that they will (down 13 percentage points).
These dramatic shifts would seem to back up the narrative that the Chequers plan has not gone down well with the public, and perhaps also reflects exasperation at the stasis with the EU and disagreement within the governing Tory party that has characterised the four months since this question was last asked. Ironically, the results of this question are likely to hearten both UKIP and the proponents of a second referendum.
|Negotiations will conclude satisfactorily||30||28||18|
|Negotiations will not conclude satisfactorily||45||47||60|
The Tories after May
For the final additional question on this week’s poll, we ran an updated form of a question that we last asked in October 2017. This question reveals what respondents think would be the impact of different Tory leaders if Theresa May were to be removed.
Unsurprisingly, Boris Johnson proved to be the figure that divided opinion the most. While a higher proportion of respondents (27%) said that the Tories chances would be better with Boris at the helm than with any other of the named candidates, a higher proportion (45%) than any other (save Gove – also 45%) thought that Boris would worsen the Conservatives chances of success at the next general election.
Following Trump’s victory and the unexpected performance of Jeremy Corbyn in the last general election, Boris may not be too concerned about his divisiveness. The consensus and triangulation techniques of the late 1990s and the early 2000s seem to have been replaced by bombastic confrontation and inflated rhetoric. If this is a route to electoral success, Boris may well find himself in as good a position as any to capitalise.
Within these top-line findings, the difference between those who intend to vote Labour and those who intend to vote Conservative is dramatic. Only 14% of those who intend to vote Labour think that the Tories chance of success in the next general election would be improved with Johnson in charge, compared to over 2 in 5 (41%) of those who intend to vote Conservative.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, like Johnson, is a candidate whose impact is judged positively by a much higher proportion of Conservatives and UKIP voters than of those who intend to vote Labour or Lib Dem. 65% of those who intend to vote UKIP think that Rees-Mogg would boost the Tories chances, as do just under a quarter (23%) of Conservative voters. This compares to only 7% of those who intend to vote Labour and 11% of those who intend to vote Lib Dem.
But could the Conservatives be led at the next general election by someone who has not fully emerged yet? Despite the (potentially preventative) differences in the political systems of the UK and France, the dream of a Macron-esque figure taking the political scene by the scruff of the neck still holds appeal for some voters who currently feel politically homeless. The results indicate that there is some optimism regarding the effect of a quite young and able person who is not currently in government. A quarter think that s/he would improve the Tories chances, and a relatively low 1 in 5 think that such a leader would worsen the chances. Results are not consistent across parties, though. Whilst 31% of those who intend to vote Labour and 38% of those who intend to vote Lib Dem think that such a Tory leader would have a positive effect on the Conservatives’ chances, Tory voters themselves are much more restrained, with only 16% thinking chances would be improved.
Ultimately, though, when it comes to the net scores, current Prime Minister Theresa May will be able to take heart. None of the named candidates have positive net scores, suggesting that the public do not think that any of the current crop of potential leadership contenders would improve the Tories’ chances at the next general election if s/he led the party rather than May. Only Ruth Davidson comes out with a modest deficit (-7), with Boris (-18), Rees-Mogg (-19), and Javid (-18) all grouped behind her. Gove (-38) and Hunt (-34) fare even worse, with the public judging them electorally toxic even compared to Theresa May. Only the unidentified ‘young and able’ outsider has a positive net score (+5). These figures make worrying reading for the Tory party, suggesting that an improved electoral performance on June 2017 is currently not within reach.
ICM Unlimited interviewed a representative online sample of 2,021 adults aged 18+, between 17th and 19th August 2018. Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.