We didn’t publish the Cabinet League Table from the end of March at the time, so this post serves to release the data for that month and for our latest survey of 1,119 Party members, which was carried out last week. Indeed, they function quite well as a pair, showing the trend in members’ opinion of those at the top table first just before the Brexit postponement, and then a couple of weeks after.
Here are the key points to note:
- The Brexit delay has been disastrous for the Cabinet as a group. At the end of February, the Cabinet’s net approval rating was -1.2 – essentially neutral, though almost 1000 points down on a year before. By the end of March that had fallen to -159.6, and it has now deteriorated even further to -325. That is a whole lot of disapproval.
- It has been particularly disastrous for Theresa May. For obvious reasons, the Prime Minister is bearing particular blame from Party members – both, one suspects, for her Brexit failure in particular and for the more general problems her continued leadership brings with it. Her rating wasn’t fantastic in February, when it sat at -40.8, but the prospect of postponement pushed it down to -51.2 in March, and the reality of that broken promise has pushed her numbers off a cliff, plummeting to -73.5 in April. I’ve searched our archives and so far as I can see this is the worst rating awarded to any Conservative ever in this question. The only Cabinet League Table numbers I can find which were worse were Vince Cable and Chris Huhne at their respective nadirs during the Coalition years, which are not people a Tory Prime Minister would want to rival in the grassroots popularity stakes.
- Chris Grayling is down again. Having plumbed new depths in February, the Transport Secretary fell again in March, down to -71.6, then held at that undesirable level in April. Ordinarily that would be the major story, but the Prime Minister has stolen both his thunder and his record by being even more unpopular. Cold comfort, but it does at least keep him off the bottom of the table.
- Liz Truss rises to second place (by maintaining her score). As most of the table are dragged down by the general malaise, just about the best any Cabinet member can hope for is to maintain their score. This is exactly what Truss has managed to do. Back in February she was in sixth place with an approval rating of +39.9. Two months later that is at +38, but is sufficient to take second place. Those who were above her have fared far worse: in two months, Hunt lost 9.3 points, Leadsom 14 points, Mordaunt 18.4 points, Cox 23.4 points and Javid 30.7 points. It seems her energetic campaigning on small-state ideas has helped to shelter her from the wider conditions.
- The Cox bandwagon has stalled. Having gained a lot of publicity following his conference speech, the Attorney General became a repository for Brexiteer hopes early in the year, as he refused to varnish the realities of May’s deal. Some even saw him as someone who might manage to hold the Government to its No Deal promise, or fix the backstop via ‘Cox’s Codpiece’. Sadly those dreams came to nought, as the decline in his rating from +44.7 in February to +21.3 today reflects.