Sunday Blog15: May 17 2010: Is The Government Losing Support?

In the election sense no it is not. Opinion polls continue to show a comfortable lead for the Tories and Labour has a lot of work to do to establish itself as a potential alternative government. But there will be no general election for another four years, so these polls are of little importance.

However on specific questions of how well the government is handling the pandemic issues, too late to lock down, lack of PPE, arguments and confusion about lifting restrictions, polls show widespread dissatisfaction over the government’s performance. Any inquiry will reinforce that anxiety and connect to the outcome of more people dying as a result. Once confidence in a government is lost at a time of national crisis, its majority, however big, counts for nothing. Change has to be made. At the top. Neither of the two world wars ended with the same prime minister as they began it.

Boris bungled his address to the nation last Sunday, demonstrating, since it was recorded and therefore edited before transmission, systemic incompetence among his inner circle of Brexit junkies. Everybody was confused afterwards by a blizzard of contradictory statements and wild announcements like go back to work in the morning if you can.  Most of the political week has been occupied in cleaning up the mess, with the four nations embarked on separate programmes and the English regions, whose R rate is higher than London, up in arms.

Boris is a unique brand in modern UK politics.  A left wing Tory who connects to ordinary people, who feel he is on their side, including many habitual Labour voters. He wins elections and career politicians will follow any party leader who wins elections for them. Yet in spite of all these strengths, there are the issues of accuracy and detail. Winning elections, sadly, needs little of either. Running a pandemic crisis and orchestrating recovery from the biggest financial shock in 300 years, requires a mastery of both.

So Boris needs to get a grip, not only of the pandemic response, but especially of himself. His brand of blustering populism which tells everybody what they want to hear is fine while it lasts. But once it turns sour and people turn away, Boris  as prime minister will be over. Not for the first time in its vivid political history,  the nation has identified a likely replacement working next door.


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