The Tories are still riding high in the polls. The prime minister’s personal ratings remain outrageously positive, as do the numbers reflecting faith in the government. So, it would be highly logical for you to rubbish the idea that the rally round the flag affect is on the wane at all. But I believe at a grassroots level, something is starting to shift. A lot of normally faithful Brexiteers are beginning to not only question some of the current lockdown strategy, a lot of normally faithful Tories are as well.
Sweden is starting to become a problem for Boris. I want to repeat before I go any further that I have no expertise in the science of this and it is very complicated. I am more than willing to believe that what has worked relatively well in Sweden would not have worked in the UK for many reasons. Yet the “Scandinavian model” here is starting to attract the political gravity, while at the same time the exact opposite idea, that the UK waited too long before going into lockdown, exerts the precise opposite pull, threatening to tear the consensus across most of the country around the government’s CoVid strategy to pieces.
Another problem is the combination of lockdown fatigue and the economic impact of the lockdown starting to feel widely felt. Again, this would happen even if the government’s strategy was the exact right one, but that doesn’t matter. Sometimes, even though the experts are right, the public decides a different way – as Boris should know all too well.
What can the government do at this point? Probably not a lot. Their bed has been made. I could talk here about something that is completely in their hands, what to do about the Brexit extension, but even there, every choice is a bad one. I’ve read a lot recently about how the government can choose to extend the transition and the public won’t mind. Yes, most of the public won’t mind, but a crucial slice of the electorate that voted Tory last time in key seats will mind, a lot. Then again, going for no deal at the end of this year, possibly when we’re just starting to really economically recover from the CoVid crisis, is the largest political gamble of all time. Boris would be betting his entire legacy that the WTO Brexit crowd were at least mostly right.
What next? The government is announcing something on next steps this Sunday. I think this needs to be substantive or else these trends could actually begin to become a problem for Boris.
I have a new book out now. It’s called “Politics is Murder” and follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. The plot takes in Conservative Party conference, a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
It’s available here: