The Boris Bounce
by Chris Hopkins, Head of Politics

The first Savanta ComRes voting intention poll conducted after the election of Boris Johnson as Party Leader, published yesterday, gives the Conservatives their first lead over Labour since March. The question now is whether this ‘Boris Bounce’ is likely to be sustainable.

 

1. The phenomenon that most new leaders are likely to enjoy favourable poll ratings for the days, weeks and even months after their coronation is not a new one, and certainly Boris Johnson can be pleased that he hasn’t fallen foul, at least on the face of it, of anything unexpected in our latest polling.

2. However, the increase in Conservative Party support, seemingly at the expense of the Brexit Party, is not as great as some Conservatives may have wanted, and their lead over Labour at one point is well within the statistical margin of error.

3. Similarly, we have the Lib Dems up two points in our latest polling, the first since both Boris Johnson and the new Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson won their respective leadership contests. Is this evidence of a ‘Swinson Surge’? I wouldn’t hold my breath as Swinson’s name recognition will take time to build. Irrespective of their leader, though, the Lib Dems are occupying their own political space at the moment, rather than trying to latch onto the coattails of the Conservatives or Labour, and in Jo Swinson they have their most dynamic leader for years. Perhaps this latest #LibDemFightback will last longer than previous attempts.

4. Overall the figures still reflect the fact that, no matter who the leaders are, the political situation in Britain remains muddled and potentially volatile, more susceptible than usual to erratic changes in public perception of the picture in Westminster. Things are likely to calm down a little over the summer recess, before the dial turns to hectic again during party conference season and as the clock ticks down for the second time to a proposed EU withdrawal date.

5. Switching focus back to the man of the moment, Boris Johnson is unlikely to get much of a summer break; his every step will be scrutinised over coming weeks to see whether he tries to engage with EU leaders – who are also likely to be on holiday – in negotiating changes to the withdrawal agreement and/or political declaration. Parliamentary time to pass a deal is incredibly tight, and the swift, sweeping changes the new Prime Minister made to his first cabinet last week shows he’s not willing to dawdle.

6. Speaking of time, the public are at least willing to give Boris as much leeway as he has available to him to deliver Brexit. Nearly three quarters (72%) of the public agree that he should be given a proper chance to deliver Brexit before MPs try to bring down the Government and trigger a General Election.

7. But will MPs give him the breathing room the public think he should be afforded? The ERG appear embolded by getting a Brexiteer into No10, Labour MPs are unlikely to back a Boris Deal in any great number, and the wafer-thin Conservative/DUP majority could be even thinner come Friday morning when the Brecon and Radnorshire by-election results are announced, providing the Conservatives lose the seat, as expected, to the Liberal Democrats.

8. The last by-election in Peterborough didn’t exactly go according to conventional wisdom, however, with Labour producing an unexpected hold. The Conservatives will really have to go some to do the same, though, especially without the Momentum-backed ground game that helped Labour last time. All being well, we’ll have some by-election analysis posted Friday morning.

9. A few final thoughts on Johnson, then, and the challenge he faces; despite the fact the public feel he should be given time, a majority (55%) think he’ll make a “terrible” Prime Minister, although a significant proportion (45%) disagree. Who’d have thought that Boris Johnson would be dividing opinion?

10. Yet, divisive or not, he’s preferred to the alternatives; three in five (59%) disagree that they’d rather have Theresa May back, and two thirds (64%) think Boris will make a better Prime Minister than Jeremy Corbyn. Far from a ringing endorsement considering their respective popularity, but Boris has an opportunity now to take these encouraging numbers early in his premiership and try to improve them.  And, if he really can deliver Brexit, especially a relatively benign one, this current ‘Boris Bounce’ could pale into insignificance compared with what would come after 31 October.

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