We last asked our members’ panel about Coronavirus strategy in May, putting to them the three main policy options open to the Government.
These are: track-and-trace (Ministers’ preferred one); state-regulated lockdowns (currently widespread because track-and-trace isn’t doing the necessary job, at least yet), and voluntary social distancing.
Back then, just over half of the respondents backed track-and-trace (53 per cent), roughly a third voluntary social distancing (31 per cent) and just over one in ten state-regulated lockdowns (13 per cent).
The first approach has been followed in Europe by Germany, the second is being pursued by Sweden, and the third – if we stick to Europe for examples – is that of, say, France and almost everywhere else.
(These are simplifications – so for example, Germany had a national shutdown earlier this year – but they do sum up the broad choices available to Ministers.)
Our survey today finds a significant shift. The proportion backing a track-and-trace-led policy has fallen from over half to about two in five (38 per cent).
That opting for lockdowns has comes down slightly to under one in ten (from 13 per cent to eleven per cent). That looks like a floor.
Meanwhile, the cohort supporting a strategy that stresses voluntary social distancing now hovers just below half (49 per cent) – having risen, as we say, from 31 per cent.
The two main factors accounting for the change will be frustration with Government policy and delivery, and the support for a Swedish-type option in the papers that Party members read, notably the Daily Telegraph.
This shift is mirrored in the replies to the survey’s question about the speed at which lockdowns and restrictions should be lifted.
In June, 10 per cent wanted it lifted more slowly and 38 per cent faster, while 50 per cent said that the Government was proceeding in the right speed and way.
Now, those proportions are 14 per cent, 52 per cent and 29 per cent. So half of our respondents now believe the Government should be lifting lockdowns faster, not that it’s operating in the right way and at the right speed.
So Boris Johnson will enter the Conservative Party Conference with support among Party members for his Covid-19 policy having deteriorated sharply, if our survey is anything to go by.
This decline in confidence echoes that seen in polls of the public as a whole, though support for the Government is obviously higher, and reflects the fall in the Prime Minister’s own rating that our recent surveys have found.