Our monthly panel of Party members has become very knowing. It seems to me increasingly to use the Cabinet League Table to upscore and downscore Ministers on the basis of the month’s events. And so –
- Ben Wallace’s vigorous response to the crisis in eastern Europe, coming relatively soon after his mature conduct during the Afghanistan debacle, propels him upwards from 62 points to 80 points – and he displaces Liz Truss after her year-long reign at the top of the table. The Defence Secretary’s name has crept into the margins of future Party leadership speculation. It will now advance further.
- Truss herself is down from 74 points to 67 points. That’s a small drop and of almost no significance, but it may indicate that the Foreign Office, with its multilayered challenges, is a tougher proposition for the occupant than International Trade in the wake of Brexit, in which she was able to roll over a series of deals.
- Boris Johnson is still in negative ratings, but his score must be seen in the context of a positive total on Covid handling, and a change of mood about the toxicity of “partygate”. Last month, his rating was -34 points, a record low for him. This month, it is heading in the right direction.
- Another interesting Johnson indicator is the fall in support for his most vocal critic in this table – Douglas Ross. Last month, the latter was on 30 points. This month, he is in the black by a slender margin of six. The Prime Minister has his supporters as well as his critics. And they have marked the Scottish Tory leader down.
- Elsewhere, the movements tend to follow publicity, good and bad. So it is that Mark Spencer plunges even deeper into the red. That Jacob Rees-Mogg, ninth last month, plunges to fifth from bottom. That Sajid Javid gets a Covid bounce from twelfth to sixth. And that Michael Gove, who has had a quieter month, recovers to mid-table.
- Rishi Sunak’s score at 39 points is his lowest as Chancellor. One can cite individual reasons for this, such as the coming National Insurance rise. But it’s the big picture that matters. Many panel members clearly believe that the Government is taxing and spending too much, and pin at least some of the blame at the Chancellor’s door.
These results came in over the weekend, and so don’t take into account the Sue Gray report and yesterday’s Parliamentary statement. My best guess is that neither will help to improve the Prime Minister’s rating.