We wrote last month that progress in our Next Tory Leader table is invariably linked to media coverage. This month’s result suggests that it ain’t necessarily so, at least in these unprecedented times at Westminster.
Dominic Raab is a Brexiteer; so are most Party members; his resignation was courageous; it was well-reported; he is plainly very able. But his total is up by only four points.
Boris Johnson has had what, for him, counts as a quiet month. Theresa May is clocking up over an appearance a week in the Commons at present – not counting PMQs. Johnson has got to his feet to question her in two of her past four performances, fewer times than some of his fellow Brexiteering MPs, and has otherwise been largely restricted to his Daily Telegraph column, to which the paper has been devoting declining space. But his rating is up by five points.
What is going on? As ever, your reading may be as good as ours, but we tentatively advance the following line of thought.
First, David Davis remains in double figures, drifting down from 13 per cent to ten per cent. He is taking a slice of the pro-Brexit vote, which blurs an already inchoate picture. Second, resignations are coming so fast that they are perhaps of declining value – at least as far as this survey question is concerned. Third, other answers show a clear anti-deal pattern, and Johnson is a familiar, known, anti-deal quality among Party members – a kind of comfort blanket, perhaps.
Finally, a paradox may be at work.
Never before in what has become an increasingly besieged premiership, turbulent even by the standard of some recent Prime Ministers, has Theresa May’s leadership been so fragile. But it may be, in the aftermath of the failure of the push to depose her by Jacob Rees-Mogg and Steve Baker, that our respondents now somehow assume that her position is stronger than the facts suggest that it is – and that she will simply go “on and on and on”, regardless of the toppling buildings and collapsing masonry around her.
As we say, that’s just one reading of this result: that the main Brexit drama is so compelling that the Conservative leadership sub-plot is a sideshow by comparison. (And, for all Johnson’s improved rating, he has only a quarter of the total.)
Sajid Javid is down from 19 per cent to 12 per cent. His boat is being rocked by the anti-deal feelings of Party members. Other than Johnson, Raab, Davis and Javid himself, no-one else reaches double figures.