In his ConservativeHome interview yesterday about levelling up, George Osborne said that the Government “has hit what all governments hit, which is that kind of mid-term moment when people think, you know, is the focus there, is the direction there, are they going to deliver?”

Since our last monthly survey, three issues in particular have illusrated what the former Chancellor was talking about.  They are: the Owen Paterson affair and its aftermath, small boats, and the developing cost of living crisis.

For party activists, there is an additional dimension.  As I wrote last month, many of them “think that the Government is too left-wing”

Let’s look at those matters in order.

  • Cost of living and Government economic policy. Last month, Rishi Sunak was twelfth in the table on plus 45.  This month, he drifts up slightly to ninth, on plus 53.  Are his self-proclaimed belief in classic economic conservatism, and the publicly-aired tensions between Number Ten and Number Eleven, shoring his position up a bit?
  • Small boats.  Priti Patel is in no man’s land, falling from ninth from bottom on 25 points to third from bottom on nought.  Her drop will have been driven by the small boats problem.  I suspect that her rating would be even lower, were it not for some recent blame deflection on Home Office civil servants.
  • Owen Paterson.  Jacob Rees-Mogg falls from ninth on plus 54 to 14th on plus 34.  And Mark Spencer tumbles from 17th, roughly mid-table, to bottom on the table on -27.  The Paterson debacle will be largely responsible for both.  This may be harsh on the Chief Whip, whose options boiled down to: obey orders – or resign.
  • So no wonder Boris Johnson is in negative ratings… Big government, small boats, Paterson: he has clearly been marked down for all three, and his chaotic recent speech to the CBI probably hasn’t helped.  That’s the second time he’s slipped into the red with the panel since the last election, the first being during the autumn of 2020.
  • …As Liz Truss celebrates a year at the top. She has now led since last November’s survey.  Otherwise, there’s a bit of movement either way which is mostly too small to matter – Alok Sharma’s rise from bottom on plus six to twelfth from bottom on plus 29 being a bit of an exception.  That will reflect a sense that he is managing COP26 with integrity.