Overall scores have deflated somewhat in our latest Cabinet League Table. Where last month only five ministers scored below a net score of +30, this time it was 15, and where ten ministers had scores of +50 or higher then only four do now.
However, we said last month that those figures – taken after the astonishing win in the Copeland by-election and before the Budget – would provide an ideal basis from which to measure the impact of the Budget on the rankings. And, well…
- There has never, in the history of our Cabinet League Table, have been a fall from grace as dramatic as Philip Hammond’s. The Chancellor’s standing has tended to yo-yo on a fairly regular basis, but the National Insurance fiasco seems to have done him real damage. From third place in the Cabinet and a net score of +74.3 last month he’s now third from bottom on +9.8 – an astonishing slump of 64.5 points. He thus out-drops David Cameron’s 54 point fall in the wake of his EU renegotiation deal last year. Going after a core Conservative constituency was never going to play well with the grassroots, but it looks as if even the partial u-turn wasn’t enough to redeem Hammond in members’ eyes. It’s a testament to the overall popularity of the Cabinet that he’s still in positive figures, unlike…
- Liz Truss was probably fortunate not to become the first Cabinet member to record a negative score – the row over business rates saw Sajid Javid claim that dubious distinction last month. But where he’s recovered from a relatively mild -3.3 to regain a positive score, Truss has now fallen to a more serious -22.2. The Justice Secretary surely faces an uphill battle to turn public perceptions around if her standing even with our respondents is so low.
- Ruth Davidson seems to have been insulated from the general deflation of ministers’ scores this month. Her own score has remained almost static in the low 80s, and that’s been enough to lift her back into first place. Next month she faces a significant test at the Scottish local government elections, so her score is one to keep an eye on.
- Theresa May and David Davis hold position at the top of the Cabinet, the Brexit Secretary staying a respectful 6-7 points behind the Prime Minister as both of their scores slip down into the 70s. Despite Brexit being by far the most significant challenge facing the Government, thus far the slings and arrows of political fortune appear to be leaving them be. Can this winning streak continue once negotiations with Brussels begin in earnest?
- Liam Fox has slipped a place to sixth as two ex-Remainers overtake him. Michael Fallon may have been lifted slightly by all the noise over Gibraltar, but for David Lidington, the former Europe Minister, to overtake the International Trade Secretary suggests a gentle erosion of the tight grip the ‘Three Brexiteers’ enjoyed on the top end of our table.
- Finally, take note of Boris Johnson’s score. This survey was conducted before his ill-fated bid to lead the charge against Russia at the G7. Hammond’s score shows how quickly members’ attitudes can turn when presented with a serious misstep – will Johnson’s diplomatic fiasco cost him, or will his status as darling of the grassroots carry him through?