Boris Johnson’s lavish wallpaper spending might have been a scandal in Westminster and media bubbles yet it failed to truly enrage large swathes of the country. The same cannot be said for his illegal lockdown partying.
The latest polling puts the Tories on 30 per cent, five points down from a week before. Labour has shot into the lead with 43 per cent (+4). The lib Dems are on 9 per cent (-3), Greens on 7 per cent (+2), with Reform UK on 4 per cent (-).
Tory voters partaking in J.L. Partners’ focus groups, were asked for their views on the once Teflon-coated PM in light of the fresh scandals which emerged over the past week. Their cutting remarks, and the level of rage expressed, suggest his clown-like charm has worn very thin indeed – and his premiership may well be doomed.
Are voters in the former Red Wall who “lent” the PM their vote in 2019 starting to regret their decision? Quite possibly, if one focus group in the former Labour stronghold of Bolton North East is anything to go by.
When first-time Tory voters from this seat were asked if they would vote for Boris again now, not one raised their hand.
“He seemed like a bit of a character. I thought I’d give him a chance. But it’s definitely changed my opinion,” said one.
Another said: “I don’t really see how he can carry on, he’s offended so many people doing this, so many people.”
“He’s a liar”, “we’ve been made a fool of” and “he can’t be trusted” were all recurring themes.
One voter appears to have forgotten what school the PM attended, but insisted nonetheless that they would no longer stand for his deception: “I liked him because he was a bit different to the David Cameron, Eton-educated typical Tory. There was something about him that made him a bit more personable to me. It’s gone now, because we’ve lost that trust in him. Now he’s just a buffoon.”
Events of late haven’t just been a blow to Boris Johnson’s personal brand. Other Tory figures are losing popularity for defending his misdemeanours: “My concern is, if all the Conservatives are now standing behind him, do we have the confidence in them? Are they just going to sweep it all under the rug too?”
And it’s not just Tory newbies who are turning on the PM. Focus groups in both Bolton and Cheltenham, a southern marginal held by the Conservatives, suggest long-term Tory voters have had enough of Johnson too.
“If there was an election now, and Boris is still here, I wouldn’t vote Conservative,” said one.
“For me it really hurt. I had to work on a Covid ward, it wasn’t my usual job, I was frightened to death. And to find they were doing that, it’s just disgusting,” said another.
“There are better qualified people in the party to run it, with better credibility.” Ouch…
A number of these long-time Tories remarked that the PM was no longer fit to govern. And for some of those voicing this opinion, partygate was the least of his problems: “He was maybe the right person to help us through Covid and Brexit, but now – now we’ve got inflation, and all these economic pressures – we don’t need Boris now, we need someone with a bit more of a steady hand and some gravitas. I think he’s lacking gravitas.”