The combined total of those believing that Theresa May should stand down as Party leader either now or before the next election hit 71 per cent last June – in the aftermath of the general election. It hit that total again in January, in the wake of the Cabinet reshuffle.
Today’s figure exceeds that by a single point – reaching 71 per cent. Last month, it was 65 per cent. There can be little doubt that the Prime Minister’s reported softening on the form of Brexit she wants is largely responsible for the hike.
Of course, we don’t yet know what will come out of the Chequers Cabinet awayday on Friday. It could be that May gets a coherent position together, then has a negotiating success, then obtains a firm trade deal – and the proportion of our panel members who want her to lead the Party into the 2022 election then goes up. And it’s worth bearing in mind that the last three opinion polls all show a Conservative lead.
None the less, the sense that the Prime Minister has, over many months, tiptoed away from a harder Brexit will do nothing to assist her ratings. Cabinet Ministers fighting covert war – in Gavin Williamson’s case, overt war – with the Treasury over public spending isn’t helping.
And the stark fact remains that each monthly answer to this question since the last election has found that over half the respondents want a new Party leader in place to contest the next one.