Last month’s Cabinet League Table saw a reputational massacre, with every member of the Cabinet suffering thanks to the Chequers proposals. This month’s shows no sign that that was a mere blip – there are some individual changes for the better of worse, but the League Table as a whole remains in the doldrums. As we have found in the policy-specific questions, among the 1,338 Party members who took part, dissatisfaction with the Government’s new Brexit position appears to be lasting.
At the top of the table, the three leading the pack remain the same. Sajid Javid’s approval rating slides from +67.2 to +61.9, but he retains his lead over second-placed Penny Mordaunt, whose rating climbs slightly from +50.8 to +53.1. Esther McVey remains in third place with a modest gain from +40.8 to +44.1.
Michael Gove, who led the table for quite some time (reaching giddying heights as recently as the spring) continues to slide down the rankings. From top in May, then second in June, down to fourth in July, he is now in seventh place. Interestingly, his actual rating has not deteriorated any further since he lost a massive 34 points after Chequers – he scored +38.9 this month, compared to +39 last month – rather some of his colleagues have overtaken him by raising their own numbers.
Gove’s leap-froggers are Liam Fox (up 12.3 points to +42.8), Jeremy Hunt (up 8.9 points to +41.8) and Dominic Raab (up 14.2 points to 41.1). That’s an interesting performance by Raab, in particular – this is his first full month in post, and despite the unpopularity of the Chequers policy he appears to be being judged on his personal performance – perhaps the energy he has brought to the process, and some public displays of toughening up the Government line (for example on withholding money in the event of no deal) has impressed some Party members. Notably his rating is now almost at the level that David Davis received from our panel in his final month, pre-Chequers, in the DEXEU hot seat (+43.4, in June).
There is very little change in the middle of the table, but some interesting movement at the bottom. Seven Cabinet ministers now have the misfortune to receive a net negative rating from our panel. Greg Clark’s rating has improved from -8.8 last month, up to -4.1 this time. Julian Smith, too, has gained some ground, up from -30.5 in July to a mere -14.3 today – though an unkind observer might think that a Chief Whip’s job is perhaps a bit easier when the Commons is not sitting. Theresa May has gained a little, too, from last month’s -48.1 to -41.3, managing to escape the ignominy of bottom place.
That crown is regained by the Chancellor, in her place, as Philip Hammond’s rating falls from -42 down to -54.4, a record low, presumably on the strength of the continued Treasury criticisms of Brexit. His department’s Brexit forecasts were notably scorned on television recently by Raab and Fox, who gain points as Hammond sheds them.
Chris Grayling also now has a worse rating than the Prime Minister, sinking from -39.5 to -43.9, as the problems on the railways persist. His last positive score was +0.1 back in May, and the issue shows little sign of going away.
Meanwhile, Gavin Williamson drops from positive territory (+7.9) down into negative (-11.5). There have been the occasional bits of negative coverage of the Defence Secretary, but he has not been the focus of an obvious row or bad story during August – perhaps this is simply the price of defence itself being a febrile topic, and general dissatisfaction at the continued lack of progress on the question of military spending.
Finally, there are two particularly large losses in the table, which appear to be linked. Brandon Lewis, who was as high as +46.6 in June, loses a further 31.2 points this month, falling from -2.7 to -33.9. That is a brutal verdict from Party members on their chairman, and seems to be directly linked to his handling of the Boris Johnson burka row and the ensuing investigation. Similarly, Ruth Davidson’s normally quite unassailable rating has suffered, dropping from +54.4 to +33.8, I suspect due to her intervention in the same dispute, when she compared wearing a burkha to wearing a cross.