Public prefer Starmer in ‘best PM’ poll as embattled Johnson rocked by scandals

Elliot Chappell
© UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor

the “direction of travel” on the economy and over Covid measuresA greater proportion of the public have preferred Keir Starmer to Boris Johnson as their choice for ‘who would make the best Prime Minister’ in a new poll, after a month in which the Conservative government has been rocked by multiple scandals.

Starmer overtook Johnson for the first time on the question that forms part of the Savanta Comres political tracker, published this afternoon, as 33% (+3) opted for the Labour leader, while 31% (-8) backed Johnson. 36% (+4) said they did not know.

Johnson’s score has dropped eight points since last month and 17 points on his best ever performance on the ‘best PM’ metric, recorded in May 2021. Just three in five 2019 Conservative voters (60%) said he would make the better Prime Minister.

Among the 2,096 UK adults interviewed online between December 17th and 19th for the poll, 33% picked Starmer, which represents a three-point rise on last month. This is his second highest score, only behind the 35% he received in September 2020.

The research published today also found a drop in the perception that Johnson embodies the seven Nolan principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. The largest fall, of 13 points, was recorded for the leadership characteristic.

46% said in April that the Prime Minister embodies the leadership principle while just 33% said he personifies the quality in the most recent poll. There were also double-digit drops for honesty (33% to 22%), accountability (38% falling to 27%) and integrity (dropping from 33% to 23%).

Savanta Comres found that, at -27, both Johnson and the government’s net favourability ratings are at their lowest ever levels, dropping 13 points and 11 points respectively since the last political tracker research in November.

The Prime Minister has repeatedly been accused of dishonesty over the last month. Allegations levelled at Johnson include more than one party and a Christmas quiz that Johnson appears to have hosted, in contravention of Covid rules.

He came under further pressure after the publication of a photo on Saturday evening, showing the Prime Minister and his wife and baby in the Downing Street garden with a number of staff enjoying wine and cheese on May 15th.

Labour has also retained its lead over the Tories in terms of headline voting intention. 37% reported they would vote for the Labour Party in a general election (-1) against 32% who said they would back the Tories (-2) and 13% the Lib Dems (+3).

Commenting on the poll published this afternoon, political research director at Savanta Comres Chris Hopkins said: “The winter of discontent goes on for Boris Johnson and the Conservatives.

“I make this the 19th consecutive poll lead for Labour among all pollsters, and we haven’t seen that number of consistent poll leads for years – even when Labour were regularly in the lead in the middle of 2019, there was always the odd level-pegging poll to break things up a bit.

“However, voting intention aside, analysts always look at other metrics to give a more nuanced assessment of which way the country may vote, and the fact that Boris Johnson has relinquished his ‘best PM’ lead for the first time in our tracker probably says more than consecutive Labour leads.”

As well as accusations of dishonesty and Covid rule-breaking, the Prime Minister has also been rocked by several other stories in recent weeks – including the resignation of his Brexit chief, the loss of the previously safe Tory seat North Shropshire, and the Tory Party being fined over donations.

Lord Frost, the man overseeing Brexit, resigned on December 18th. His departure from the government over the “direction of travel” on the economy and Covid measures has been seen as a sign of deepening divisions within the Conservative Party.

Starmer criticised Johnson last week for what he described as an “obsession with party management” amid growing concerns over the spread of Covid and debate over further public health restrictions being introduced over Christmas.

The Commons recently passed increased Covid restrictions, including measures such as extending mask wearing requirements, but the strengthened rules only passed with the support of the opposition as more than 100 Tories rebelled.

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