This month’s survey shows some movement in the Cabinet League Table compared to October, both in general and in the changing rankings of individuals. First to note is the fact that every single figure featured retains a positive ranking – not something we were always able to say when ranking the previous administration.
The Prime Minister retains the top spot by a clear 11 points, though her net approval has slipped slightly on last month. Second place is taken by Michael Fallon, who has enjoyed a remarkable rise of 15 points since October – it isn’t clear whether this relates to a specific announcement or the collective impact of regular statements such as his defence of NATO, criticism of an EU army and new ship-building on the Clyde.
Enjoying an even sharper up-turn is Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who is up almost 18 points and climbs from eighth to fourth. Perhaps he’s getting some of the credit for infrastructure decisions, like Heathrow – Transport Secretary Chris Grayling also enjoys a rise of seven points.
On the topic of Heathrow, the brief suspension of collective responsibility appears to have successfully sheltered Cabinet critics like Boris Johnson (who saw a slight rise in his rating) and Justine Greening (up three points), despite concerns that they might suffer for staying in their jobs after opposing the new runway.
While David Davis slips from fourth place in the ranking to fifth, that’s through no fault of his own – his approval rating rose by 0.8 points, reflecting his steady defence of the Government’s line on the Brexit process, but he was leapfrogged by Clark and Fallon. His fellow Brexiteers, Fox and Patel, both put on a few points, too.
Two members of the Cabinet have seen sizeable falls in their approval rating this month. Amber Rudd lost 12 points and fell five places, suffering the effects of the troubled Child Sex Abuse Inquiry and the blowback from first launching and then abandoning a poorly-conceived proposal to make companies report the number of foreign workers they employ. This is now a pattern – she was 11th in the table two months ago, and has fallen to its bottom.
But it is the Chancellor who has suffered most, losing a painful 21 points and falling from second place all the way down to 14th, well below his low after a similar fall back in September.
The reasons for Hammond’s woes might be discerned from the fact that his score yo-yos in a way unlike any of the other people in the league table. Most ministers have a particular brief and push at it in one clear direction. They may rise as they gain traction, or suffer a sudden fall due to a blunder or a scandal. By contrast, I suspect Hammond’s up-down-up-down ranking reflects his split role in the Government.
On the one hand, he is seen as a bastion of economic dryness against some of the Prime Minister’s more interventionist instincts, but on the other he is reportedly an advocate of a relatively Soft Brexit – being particularly concerned about financial passporting, Single Market membership and so on. It’s unusual to have a politician who simultaneously pleases and outrages the sizeable share of the Party’s grassroots who are economically dry but anti-EU. That conflicting role produces conflicted approval ratings – so the good news for the Chancellor is that he could very well rise up again next month if his Autumn Statement goes well.