The above chart shows our final Cabinet League Table of 2018. Given that last month saw the worst ever approval ratings in the history of this question on ConservativeHome’s Party members survey, it is unsurprising that this month’s picture is still pretty grim.
In total, 14 members of the Cabinet have net negative ratings – only two of last month’s record tally of 16 have managed to escape minus figures.
Andrea Leadsom, presumably on the back of her remarkable question to the Speaker over allegations of sexism, leaps from -16.3 to +34.2, a dramatic change of fortunes that I suspect illustrates how deeply many Conservative members dislike John Bercow as much as anything else.
The second Cabinet minister who escaped from the reputational dungeon in the course of the last few weeks is Liam Fox, who registers a rise from -11.8 in our November survey to +7.7 this month. That will no doubt be welcome news for the International Trade Secretary, but it’s somewhat cold comfort when you consider that in January’s survey he was in fourth place with a mighty +60.6.
At the top of the table, Jeremy Hunt sees his rating improve from +41.7 to +60.6, and leapfrogs Geoffrey Cox to seize the top spot. The Foreign Secretary has certainly been active, and has evidently been impressing the grassroots with his performance. Further announcements since the survey closed – of a review of policy on the oppression of Christians, and of his proposals for post-Brexit economic reform – are unlikely to have hurt him, either.
Jumping from fifth place to third is Penny Mordaunt, who almost doubles her rating from +19.2 to +37.9. Reports that she is campaigning within Cabinet for a Managed No Deal will have aided her in regaining some of the points which she lost when the Prime Minister’s proposed deal was published.
And that’s really what this month’s story is about – for those in positive territory, at least. Some ministers in the upper third are managing to recover lost ground faster than others, while several of those in the bottom third are continuing to sink.
Chris Grayling loses another 11.4 points – on the back of the drone farce – to overtake the Chancellor at the very bottom of the table. Hammond manages to slip another 1.3. Theresa May is essentially bobbing level at -41.6 from last month’s -42.
Meanwhile, the Chief Whip has lost 13.5 points, falling to -34.4, I’d suggest due in no small part to reports he had been talking to Labour MPs to secure opposition votes for the Prime Minister’s Brexit plan. David Gauke, too, continues to suffer further damage by association with the proposed deal, losing 19.2 points to plumb -25.5, following high profile comments criticising No Deal proponents in Cabinet for selling “unicorns”, which he pledged to “slay”.
While last month’s Cabinet League Table was pretty dire all round, this month’s is a more complex picture. Some are clearly recovering better and faster from the harm done to them by May’s deal than others – and the table overall is diverging. The top ten ministers saw their combined score rise from +206.1 to +339, while the bottom ten saw their combined score fall from -302.7 to -351.2.
Overall, that means the Cabinet as a whole benefited from a small rise in its total rating, from -140.5 to -16. However, that still makes this the second time ever that our survey has delivered an overall negative approval rating for the Cabinet. Putting this month in the context of the last year is quite stark: