Our Cabinet League Table. Raab plummets from third from top in July to fourth from bottom last month.


  • Last month, Dominic Raab was third from top in our Cabinet League Table, on 73 per cent.  This month, he drops by 21 places to fourth from bottom, coming in at 6 per cent and narrowly avoiding negative ratings.  It’s one of the biggest falls ever in our table – almost on the scale of Theresa May’s dizzying fall from top of the table into negative territory in the wake of the bungled 2017 election.
  • Meanwhile, Ben Wallace moves up from ninth, on 51 per cent, to fourth, on 64 per cent.
  • The Westminster story of the last week or so has concentrated on Raab v Wallace – and this finding seems to show Conservative activists taking sides.  Our take is that it’s more of a verdict on how British servicemen and the Foreign Office have reacted to events in Afghanistan; and on Wallace’s robust take on Joe Biden and, perhaps, Pen Farthing.  The Defence Secretary seems to be morphing into a politician who, like the Prime Minister himself, is seen by many people outside Westminster as authentic.
  • Boris Johnson drifts up from fourth from bottom on three per cent to seventh from bottom on 13 per cent.
  • Otherwise there’s little change in the table, but it’s worth closing by having a look at Priti Patel.  Last month, she was tenth from bottom on 26 per cent.  This month, she is eight from bottom on 18 per cent.  As recently as May, she was among the top members of the table: sixth from top on 64 per cent.  You will have your own view on the reasons for her fall.  Ours is: channel boats.





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Our survey. Members overwhelmingly back only small, carefully-targeted intervention in Afghanistan.


This month, the lead topical question in our survey was about under what conditions Conservative members would support militarily returning to Afghanistan. Aside from ‘None of the above’ and ‘Don’t know’, these were the four options:

  • ‘We should attempt large-scale military intervention in Afghanistan in concert with our allies, with the aim of installing a government allied to the West’
  • ‘In the event of Afghanistan-based terror attacks on the UK, we should attempt large-scale military intervention in Afghanistan with our allies, with the aim of installing a government allied to the West’
  • ‘In the event of Afghanistan-based terror attacks on the UK, we should attempt smaller-scale military intervention with our allies, through special forces with air support, aimed at terrorist bases’
  • ‘We should not attempt military intervention in Afghanistan of any kind’

As the above charts makes clear, there is little appetite for another full-scape campaign with regime change as the goal: intervening now secured fewer than four per cent of the vote, and doing so in response to another terror attack just under seven per cent.

Likewise, just 12 per cent supported the proposition that the United Kingdom should hold back from any intervention in Afghanistan, even in the event that terrorists trained or sponsored by the Islamic Emirate (or tolerated by the same) launch an attack on British soil.

Instead, almost three quarters of our panellists agree that in the event of a future attack, the UK should respond by deploying special forces and aerial attacks to target bases and other infrastructure inside the country, without resorting to a wholesale invasion.

That’s an overwhelming result, especially in light of the fact that only two per cent picked ‘None of the above’, which suggests the panel were content that we had presented a reasonable range of options. It also seems likely to be about where the public are: no time for the old neocon dream, but little truck for the idea that this country should not defend itself if attacked.





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Our survey. Johnsons’s rating for dealing with Covid moves back up.


Last month’s survey went out during the “pingdemic” – and in the aftermath of Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak’s original decision not to self-isolate when pinged themselves.

That context of hesitancy, mass pings, confusion and sense of one-law-for-them-and-another-for-us will have been responsible for lowering the Prime Minister’s score.

In July, 44 per cent of respondents believed he was dealing with Covid well, and 48 per cent badly.  That was his third lowest rating since we started asking the question in March 2020.

This month, he’s back up to 59 per cent – during this lull between the end of the pingdemic, the aftermath of the main vaccine programme to date, and the start of the school year.

That’s actually a somewhat indifferent score – Johnson’s sixth-lowest to date. Meanwhile, 79 per cent of those polled said that they support the Chancellor’s plans (last month, that figure came in at 78 per cent).

The Prime Minister’s previous ratings for this question have been as follows:

  • July 2021: 44 per cent.
  • June 2021: 65 per cent.
  • May 2021: 74 per cent.
  • April 2021: 75 per cent.
  • March 2021: 74 per cent.
  • February 2021: 74 per cent.
  • January 2021: 65 per cent.
  • December 2020: 45 per cent.
  • November 2020: 37 per cent.
  • October 2020: 42 per cent.
  • September 2020: 30 per cent.
  • August 2020: 49 per cent.
  • July 2020: 61 per cent.
  • June 2020: 64 per cent.
  • May 2020: 72 per cent.
  • April 2020: 84 per cent,
  • March 2020: 92 per cent.

 





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Party members believe Johnson is performing poorly. But they expect the Tories to win the next election – a source of strength for him.


The latest ConservativeHome Cabinet League Table saw Boris Johnson all but plunge into the black – another of the ups and downs of his scores over the years.

These have ranged from a 93 per cent positive rating in the wake of the 2019 general election to an actual negative rating last autumn.  As in other respects, life with the Prime Minister is never dull.

It may be worth putting our lastest finding in perspective, by considering it alongside an aspect of the survey neglected recently – namely, the proportion of panel members who believe that there will be a Conservative led government after the next election.

Here are the figures for the year to date:

  • July: 86 per cent.
  • June: 91 per cent.
  • May: 91 per cent.
  • April: 87 per cent.
  • March: 90 per cent.
  • February: 87 per cent.
  • January: 83 per cent.

Each result breaks down into three categories: those who expect a Conservative majority; a Tory minority government, and a coalition. The last figure hovers at around three per cent; the second one at about seven per cent.

Some 70 per cent of respondents expect the first (with the remainder expecting Labour to form an administration of some kind.

The variation in these findings are so small as to leave an obvious point in their wake: activists’ present exasperation with Johnson is balanced by a steady expectation that the Conservatives will win the next election.

In most cases, we believe that respondents expect him still to be Prime Minister then, though perhaps we should run a check.

There are many weaknesses in the Government’s position, not least post-Covid challenges, divided views on tax and spending, emerging problems on net zero and lingering ones on social care, and the shapelessness of parts of the levelling up programme.

But Johnson’s strategic position remains a source of real strength for him.





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Sunak leads our first Next Tory Leader survey in two years


By the time the next Conservative leadership election takes place, the winner may not be in the list above, some of whom may not even be in Parliament.

Nonetheless, we believe that it’s worth bringing back our Next Tory Leader survey question (though quarterly rather than monthly).  Here is its first finding since Boris Johnson was elected to the post two years ago.

Only three people make it into double percentage figures.

The first and the clear front-runner in this list is Rishi Sunak.  The Chancellor has returned a consistently high score from our panel when asked about his handling of the pandemic.

He will doubtless gain from being presentable and new: unlike, say, Michael Gove, Dominic Raab and Sajid Javid, he hasn’t fought a leadership election before, and there is about him a vague but powerful sense of being the coming thing.

Besides, some will ask, who else is there?

One answer is Liz Truss, although her percentage score is the best part of three times less than Sunak’s.  The International Trade Secretary has topped our Cabinet League Table for the last eight months.

This being so, it would be surprising were she not to feature prominently in the poll.  Her supporters will see her 12 per cent as a total that she can build on.

Meanwhile, the third person in double figures is not even a Cabinet Minister.

It’s worth keeping an eye on Penny Mordaunt, who polls a bit better than a mass of her seniors in this trial canter.  How has she done so while being neither at the top table, nor a prominent backbencher with an independent profile?

Our best guess is a mix of some aggressive Commons performances, a new book, Leave credentials (which still count) and a breezy, no-nonsense, military style.

That her views are more socially liberal than those of many Party members may matter less than her actually having some.

Authenticity counts for something in modern politics, and Mordaunt has a dash of it. No-one else makes it into double percentage figures.  We’ll have another look at the Next Tory Leader question in the wake of the autumn’s Conservative Party Conference.





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From self-isolation to score annihilation – Johnson drops 36 points in our Cabinet League Table.


Last month was a trying month for the Government, featuring as it did two unexpected by-election defeats and the resignation of the Health Secretary. How does this month compare? Badly.

  • Both Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak u-turned over trying to avoid self-isolating – but with very different results. The Chancellor’s score is down a bit but he still enjoys his silver-medal position. The Prime Minister, on the other hand, has shed more than 35 points, and is only just in positive territory.
  • Another minister who’s had a bad month is Priti Patel. The Home Secretary has lost 20 points, almost half her June score. The ongoing failure to stem the flow of boats across the Channel seems the most likely explanation.
  • Liz Truss and Dominic Raab round out the podium, in exactly the same positions they held last month and with basically the same scores. Lord Frost is again in fourth place. The UK’s external policy seems to be broadly popular with the grass roots.
  • Although the explanation could simply be broader stability at the top, as Sajid Javid and Jacob Rees-Mogg also hold their positions.
  • At the bottom of the table, Gavin Williamson continues to burrow his way into the depths, whilst Amanda has dropped properly into the red too. Robert Jenrick’s efforts to get some houses built, on the other hand, are (just) a net positive for a change.
  • Overall, the air has gone out of the rest of the scores a bit – unsurprising in a month which has seen a fair amount of political wear-and-tear and a row over vaccine passports.





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ConservativeHome to bring back its Next Tory Leader survey


From near its start in 2005 to Boris Johnson’s election in 2019, this site ran a monthly poll on who the next Party leader should be.  We halted it because the question seemed otiose – especially after the Prime Minister’s substantial general election win that year.

The Conservatives have led in Politico’s poll of polls, with one brief period where the main parties were level, since shortly before Johnson won the leadership.

The big picture still is that Labour is in the doldrums and the Tories riding higher.  The odds are that the Prime Minister will gain a second term when the next election comes.

We don’t believe that there should be a leadership change before then, and doubt whether there will be a challenge in any event.  However, we aren’t sure, for two main reasons.

First, because either lockdown will return in the autumn, or else politics is resuming as normal.  In either case, Conservative MPs will be more restive than they were during the suspension of ordinary politics caused by the pandemic.

Second, because, since the departure of Dominic Cummings, Johnson has been acting as his own political strategist.  This makes him unique in recent years: even Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, strong leaders both, worked closely with a few senior colleagues.

This combination is fissile, and one is never quite sure, in any event, whether the Prime Minister will end up having pubs named after him or, like his great-grandather, end up being lynched by his colleagues. Possibly both.

For better or worse, we think that, while it would be excessive to bring back the Next Tory Leader question monthly, ConHome should no longer just let it be.

So our plan is to ask it say four times a year: as Parliament breaks up for the summer; in the wake of the annual Conservative Party Conference; in our end of year survey, and at Easter or thereabouts.

It will therefore be bunged in to our July survey, which will go out towards the end of next week.  Feel free to suggest below which Tory MPs should be listed in it.





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Our survey. Johnson’s rating for dealing with Covid dips.


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Boris Johnson’s fall from 11th to 17th in our monthly Cabinet League Table, and the eight in ten panel members backing the end of all lockdown restrictions on July 17th, help to explain the result above.

After four months in the mid-70s, he is back where he was in January, before the vaccine effect kicked in to raise his score.

Party members believe that inoculation is doing its work, because death and hospitalisation figures haven’t taken off, and that the Prime Minister should lift the restrictions – at least if our survey is anything to go by.

That’s the most natural explanation of this noticeable though relatively small fall.  Here’s a record of his score on this question:

  • May 2021: 74 per cent.
  • April 2021: 75 per cent.
  • March 2021: 74 per cent.
  • February 2021: 74 per cent.
  • January 2021: 65 per cent.
  • December 2020: 45 per cent.
  • November 2020: 37 per cent.
  • October 2020: 42 per cent.
  • September 2020: 30 per cent.
  • August 2020: 49 per cent.
  • July 2020: 61 per cent.
  • June 2020: 64 per cent.
  • May 2020: 72 per cent.
  • April 2020: 84 per cent,
  • March 2020: 92 per cent.

The Government’s score on the same question, at 67 per cent, is essentially the same.  Rishi Sunak’s response to the virus gained an approval rating in this latest survey of 81 per cent.





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Two by-elections and one Health Secretary – losses see Johnson fall by 16 points in our Cabinet League Table


It’s been a month in which the Prime Minister lost two by-elections and his Health Secretary. We are also now past the point at which England was supposed to unlock, which is testing the patience of the grassroots. What impact has this had on our league table?

  • Boris Johnson’s score falls from 55 to 39, putting him back in the lower half of the table. Has the shine come off, or will a successful unlocking on July 19 put him back in our panel’s good books?
  • There’s little change at the top, with Liz Truss, Rishi Sunak, and Dominic Raab holding on to their podium spots, albeit with the latter’s scores falling back a little. Lord Frost likewise holds on to fourth place as he continues to square off with the EU over the Northern Irish Protocol, although for some reason none of the glory seems to have reflected on Brandon Lewis.
  • Sajid Javid is straight in at fifth place. Is this because members expect great things from him on thorny issues such as social care reform – or simply due to his public commitment to ending lockdown?
  • Our anti-podium is also stable, albeit still sinking. Robert Jenrick and Amanda Milling both slip into negative territory, which is perhaps not surprising after two by-election defeats one of which is being pinned on opposition to (urgent and necessary!) planning reform.
  • Gavin Williamson’s tanking score perhaps reflects anger at the Government’s refusal to end the self-isolation regime causing huge disruption in schools – but Javid’s one-for-one appointment means the reshuffle to replace him has likely been delayed again.





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Our survey. Party members overwhelmingly back scrapping ‘all lockdown restrictions’ on July 19.


One side-effect of Matt Hancock’s fall from grace (apart from apparently obliging Sajid Javid to at least pretend to quit smoking) is that it has made it all but impossible for the Government to miss the July 19 unlocking deadline.

Even with a new Health Secretary in place, the danger of reinforcing the toxic ‘one rule for them’ narrative that Labour has finally latched on to would be too great, and it looks as if the overwhelming majority of the rules will be set aside in a few weeks.

In our latest survey, more than four respondents in five agreed with the proposition that Boris Johnson should scrap “all lockdown restrictions”, versus fewer than 12 per cent who disagreed.

However this seems unlikely, with this morning’s Sun reporting that the Prime Minister is digging in on the question of testing and self-isolation in schools. It can’t be ruled out that other individual restrictions may also persist.

There are also worrying reports that public health officials are drawing up plans to reintroduce lockdowns for years to ‘protect the NHS’ from future waves. These results suggests Conservative members do not support making such heavy-handed tactics a normal policy response.





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