Public willing to overlook Boris Johnson scandals that would sink other politicians, says polling expert

The British public are willing to overlook Boris Johnson’s recent scandals and back him again at the upcoming local elections, one of the country’s top polling experts has said.

Lord Hayward said the prime minister had “a hold” on the electorate “like no other British politician in my lifetime” – saying Mr Johnson had the ability to defy terrible personal approval ratings at the May elections.

The Tory peer said Mr Johnson’s net favorability rating had plummeted over the partygate scandal which engulfed No 10 over the winter – as voters shared their anger at him with him polling companies.

But he pointed out that the Conservatives’ poll ratings have not been knocked quite so badly by comparison – and that the Tory leader does not fare so badly when voters are asked the question, ‘Who would make best prime minister?’

Lord Hayward said: “There is something about Boris, where it [disapproval] is built into the price. Things Boris has done or said impacts less on people’s willingness to support him than other politicians.”

Noting the slight upturn in Mr Johnson’s polling numbers since the Ukraine crisis moved partygate off the headlines, the elections guru added: “Some polling companies have assumed that recent events have broken Boris’s hold on the electorate.

“The slight change in his favorability and the slight uptick in Conservative ratings possibly shows that isn’t the case.”

Mr Johnson’s net favorability remains extremely low at –34, according to the latest Savanta ComRes monthly poll tracker, while Sir Keir Starmer has an equivalent rating of –6.

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However, when it comes to the question of would make the ‘best PM’, Starmer is only narrowly in the lead on 39 per cent, compared to Mr Johnson on 31 per cent. Savanta ComRes gives Labor a nine-point lead over the Tories.

Asked if many voters would vote for a Tory party led by Mr Johnson, even if they don’t like Mr Johnson personally, Lord Hayward said: “Yes. He has a hold on people … like no other British politician in my lifetime.”

He added: “For the opposition it’s a nightmare. Keir Starmer has to ask, given how unpopular Boris has been, why Labor hasn’t been able to make more headway.”

But Lord Hayward did warn that Mr Johnson would have to recover some of his personal standing – or more potential Tory voters could begin to ask themselves whether they would rather see Sir Keir at No 10.

The expert said: “People look at who is the best PM when deciding how to vote. You cannot afford to have ongoing bad favorability ratings without them ultimately impacting on the question of ‘who is the best PM?’

He added: “You can’t go on forever with that state of affairs [in net favourability] without it impacting on the question of ‘who is the best PM?’”

Lord Hayward suggested London should provide strong territory for Labor at the elections held on 5 May.

But he said Starmer’s party would have to show they can do well in so-called red wall areas in the north of England and Midlands where they lost further ground to the at the 2021 local elections.

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He also Tory success would judged on how far the party could contain losses in London and stem much of the tide back to Labor in red wall regions.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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