Our first survey of the New Year sees a sharp overall fall in scores across the board. Whilst at the top this is simply a fall from the high 80s to the low 80s, simply comparing the shape of the chart to our end-of-year survey illustrates how much more sharply positive views taper off.
Whereas that survey had only six ministers below 45 (of whom five are still in the bottom six), this month we find only eight above that level. That this has happened whilst the Government maintains its dominant polling position against Labour suggests how irrelevant the Opposition presently are to the national debate.
However, the Cabinet do all at least continue to command positive judgements overall, even if by increasingly slender margins, which was not the case under David Cameron.
- Theresa May continues to lead the pack, albeit with a slightly reduced score compared to last time out. It’s worth remembering how unusual it is for the Prime Minister to top this survey: as our editor noted, the first survey after May took office was the first time it had happened. That she has regained pole position, and suffered so comparatively small a fall in support compared to her Cabinet, suggest that the Prime Minister currently enjoys the particular confidence of the grassroots.
- David Davis has yielded the top spot to May, but despite a fall of about eight points he remains comfortably in second place. The Brexit Secretary appears to have avoided most of the blame for the Government’s struggles with the Supreme Court (not all his colleagues were so lucky, see below), and the skillful manoeuvring of the ‘Brexit bill’ through the Commons won’t have hurt. It will be interesting to see how he fairs once the negotiations are actually underway.
- Boris Johnson and Liam Fox, the rest of the ‘Three Brexiteers’, have each slipped from about 80 to the low to mid-60s, yet due to the overall fall in popularity this 15-point tumble sees them losing scarcely any ground and they continue to make sure Leavers are well-represented at the very top of the rankings. They were only overtaken by…
- Philip Hammond, the Cabinet’s yo-yo, strikes again: in a month when pretty much everybody saw their standings fall, the Chancellor puts on 6.6 points and rises into third place. The small rise itself is less interesting than his sidestepping a near-universal fall in popularity with members by the rest of the Cabinet. He’s actually knocked Ruth Davidson off the podium for the first time since last August.
- In the month when the Government suffered defeat in the Supreme Court over its ability to trigger Article, we ought perhaps not to be surprised to find the two ministers most closely related to legal issues at the bottom of members’ rankings this month. Both Liz Truss and Jeremy Wright were in the bottom six in December, but this month’s falls are both quite dramatic: 38.5 to 14.7 for the Attorney General and an eye-watering 40.9 to 8.1 for the Justice Secretary.
- Ruth Davidson drops just short of 11 points, losing a position on the members’ podium for the first time since the very first month of Theresa May’s Government. Andrew RT Davies, her Welsh colleague, suffers a very similar fall in support.