It’s just one poll, and all that. Nonetheless, the news that the Conservatives have fallen to their lowest recorded result since the 2019 election – and thus, behind Labour – will be doing nothing for the mood of the Tory Party in the aftermath of the Prime Minister’s manifesto-busting tax hike.
But fun as it is to read the future in the entrails of chickens, it is far to soon to tell what precisely lies behind this shift – or even whether its a sustained fall, as opposed to a blip. Indeed, another poll out yesterday finds a four-point Tory lead.
After all, the Politico poll of polls finds that the gap between the Government and the Opposition has been gradually closing for some time. It may simply be that as the sense of crisis around Covid-19 recedes, we’re returning to something more like politics as normal, when we’d expect Labour to be doing better at this point in the cycle.
Even assuming that there has been an acute fall in support, it might not owe directly to this week’s events. Perhaps the shambolic exit from Afghanistan, and the spectacle of the Defence and Foreign Secretaries taking lumps out of each other in public, has affected voters’ perceptions of the Government. Perhaps it stems from George Eustice’s bloody-handed resolution of the Geronimo circus.
More plausibly, several days of stories about the Government’s failure to get a grip on Channel crossings, and the Home Office’s apparent helplessness in the face of French intransigence, won’t have helped.
And despite all the hue and cry from the conservative papers about the National Insurance hike, we shouldn’t rule out the fall actually owing to Rishi Sunak’s entirely correct decision to break the pensions triple lock rather than hand older voters an unmerited eight per cent increase arising from the collapse of wages during the pandemic.
Even if people are angry about the tax rise, the question remains: why are they angry? Is it simply an aversion to high taxes? The fact that it breaks a manifesto commitment? The fact it purports to be ‘solving’ social care but will in fact mostly be swallowed up by the Charybdis that is the NHS budget?
From this close, it is simply impossible to say. And as Twitter wags enjoy pointing out, commentators who get too caught up in the moment risk looking foolish a year out. Can you remember which event in 2020 was billed by one as Boris Johnson’s ‘Black Wednesday moment’? No, nor I.