This survey sees a slight overall rise in the Cabinet’s standing with the grassroots. Only five ministers have scores under 30, for example, compared to nine in January, and ten score above 50 compared to seven last time.
As it was conducted after the Party’s truly historic victory in the Copeland by-election, but before this week’s controversial Budget, these results provide us with a useful snapshot against which to measure the impact of the National Insurance row on ministers’ standings.
It also provides one case in particular that illustrates how badly a mishandled tax can damage a minister in the grassroots esteem:
- Sajid Javid becomes the first member of the Cabinet to record a negative score with party members. This is a very sharp fall: in January he was bumping along in the middle of the table with a fairly comfortable positive score of 38.5. The Communities Secretary has been at the centre of the ongoing row over business rate rises, and been accused of misleading his colleagues over the matter, and this has clearly gone down very poorly with the grassroots.
- Theresa May, on the other hand, is on a roll. At 91.8 her score is more than seven points higher than last month and she’s once again in the gold medal position. In fact this is the Prime Minister’s second-highest ever score in our survey, topped only by the 92.6 she recorded upon first taking the job. Clearly the members are giving May a lot of the credit for the Party’s buoyant poll standings and the Copeland win – but will they also hold her responsible for her Chancellor’s tax rises?
- Philip Hammond’s score has barely moved at all – at 74.3 it is down a mere 0.3 points compared to January. This suggests that, at least prior to the Budget, the Chancellor’s yo-yoing scores had settled down somewhat. If so, it will make the impact of the National Insurance row all the easier to measure when next month’s survey results are in.
- David Davis is still doing well, and remains the second most popular politician on the table. Of course the real work of his Department only begins after Theresa May triggers Article 50 and the negotiations with Brussels begin in earnest, and it will be interesting to see the effect this will have on his consistently high standing with the grassroots.
- It’s another bad month for Liz Truss: following a precipitous fall from 40.9 to 8.1 in last month’s survey, February has seen another gentle slide in her score which now, at just 2.4, teeters on the edge of the negative.
- Finally, there’s a return to form for Ruth Davidson: in the month of her bullish Conference performance the Scottish Conservative leader has put on 10 points and is back on the podium, behind only May and Davis as one of the most popular Tory politicians with the party membership.