The latest YouGov poll gives the Conservatives a ten point lead. So does a new Opinium survey. Deltapoll shows a three point Tory lead. Politico’s most recent chart shows the Tories on 34 per cent, Labour on 24 per cent, the Liberal Democrats on 18 per cent and the Brexit Party on 12 per cent. Punch those figures into the Electoral Calculus calculator, and one gets a Conservative majority of 96. A summary of ten recent polls shows the Tories leading in all of them.
For all their transcience and unreliabilty, one should start, if thinking about British electoral politics this morning, with these polls’ findings rather than Amber Rudd’s resignation. They suggest that after a week which saw Boris Johnson defeated over the Benn Bill in the Commons, back off over it in the Lords, lose 21 Conservative MPs, his majority, and his brother, and fail to gain a general election too…the Tory ratings, if anything, have gone up.
This points to a divergence between the Westminster Village’s take and the British public’s view. The Village is focused on the drama of the moment: votes, whiplessness, Bercow, Cummings, fratricide, Ambercide. The voters don’t follow the SW1 arcana in detail, but may see the Brexit landscape more clearly. And what many conclude is that the Government wants to honour their instruction in the EU referendum but that the Commons doesn’t.
On this site today, Jonathan Clark writes that two different ideas of democracy are striving for mastery here: representative democracy, which holds that authority is delegated to MPs, and direct democracy, which counters that what is delegated is lent and not owned, and that authority, and therefore sovereignty itself, resides with the people. Neither take is perfect; both have flaws.
It is a nice high political take on the lower political clash that we see taking place. It may be that many of the voters who back him lose faith in Johnson if his Government can’t deliver an election and is proved to be powerless. But it also may be that they stick with him as long as he sticks to this word – to deliver Brexit by October 31 or try his best to: to “do or die”.
In which case, the effect of Rudd’s resignation will be here today, gone before tomorrow. We wondered if Johnson had gone too far in excluding some of his internal opponents from his Cabinet during his first reshuffle. Rudd’s departure makes us think that he may not have gone far enough. The Prime Minister seems to have believed that their friendship – the two have been matey for a long time – would keep her onside.
If so, he was wrong: friendship has turned out to be no more powerful an agent than family – even, in this case, than ambition to stay in the Cabinet and the urge to serve the public. Rudd says that Johnson is making no real attempt to get a deal. Others on the same wing of the Party, some with more experience in the Brexit negotiations than hers (which is negligible) say otherwise. You must make up your own mind.
Certainly, Rudd has balked at the intensity with which the Government is pursuing No Deal preparations. But it was always bound to do so. Getting ready to go is an intrinsic precondition to negotiating to stay, at least as far as Johnson is concerned. If she thought otherwise, she shouldn’t have stayed in his Cabinet – and he shouldn’t have asked her to do so.
At any rate, Rudd’s resignation tells us little we didn’t know already. The expulsion of 21 MPs really has ended the Conservative Party as we have known it – in terms of the balance between left and right, appeal to north and south and pitch to establishment and anti-establishment, to use some crude but necessary terms. If the withdrawal of the whip hold and Johnson endures, the Soft or Anti-Brexit 22 will be replaced by a Hard and Pro- Brexit 22.
Internal Tory debate is now moving on to whether or not the Party should form an electoral pact with Nigel Farage. Even the possibility of such a deal may drive further left-of-Tory-centre MPs from the front bench; cause more to retire (Clare Perry, Nick Hurd, Jeremy Lefroy – all are off), perhaps persuade some to follow Phillip Lee and company into the Liberal Democrats. Expect more of Johnson’s Ministers to follow Rudd, whatever happens.
We repeat: as long as Johnson sticks to his last, and doesn’t agree to extension, his support is likely to hold up – which will give him at least a shot at winning an election. That may mean defying the Benn Bill if it is legally permissible to so so. It may ultimately leave no alterantive to resignation. In the meantime, given the polls, no wonder Dominic Cummings, echoing Pulp Fiction, advises Brexiteers to stay “cool like fonzies”, however medieval Remainers may be getting on Johnson’s ass.