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Has Boris Johnson lost his grip?

In Review

Questions over whether the prime minister has lost his grip have been circulating online and in the media since his bizarre, rambling speech at the CBI. PM Boris Johnson has been hit with many crises since taking office and have led to questions around his competency and health. 

Despite No 10 insisting the PM was ‘well’ and not ‘losing his grip’ very few appeared to agree. The speech in question – where the PM referenced Peppa Pig World, compared himself to Moses, imitated the roar of a car engine and lost his place in his speech for a staggering 21 seconds – has been met with warnings of a threat to his leadership in the new year. It has also spawned memes. Many memes. 

Boris Johnson Peppa Pig - Boris Johnson speech - Boris Johnson unwell - Boris Johnson approval rating
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A series of policy mishaps has brought the UK prime ministerial operation into focus

Drift and division: inside Boris Johnson’s Downing Street

Financial Times says when former aide Dominic Cummings sensationally and abruptly quit last year, No 10 “heralded an era of harmony and competence”. The end of the Cummings era was supposed to be the end of the “factional infighting that undermined the UK prime minister’s first 18 months in office.” 

But one year on, the troubles at the heart of the British government remain. 

Speaking to FT, multiple insiders (cabinet, officials and MPs) told them that a “sense of drift has developed” in Boris Johnson’s government. 

FT says a “series of policy missteps” clearly show the dysfunction in No 10. They say it started with a botched attempt to save Tory minister Owen Paterson. 

MPs are blaming Johnson and believe his No 10 lacks political experience and is struggling with a series of major challenges this winter – including the cost of living crunch involving rising energy prices, supply chain disruption in the run-up to Christmas, and increasing pressure on the NHS, partly due to Covid-19.

The government has faced rebellions from Tory MPs – in a crucial Commons vote on social care reform, the government’s majority was slashed. And senior Conservatives “are divided” on if this is a sign of deeper issues regarding the PM and how his government operates. 

One cabinet minister said: “It’s just a bump.” Some believe there are “structural problems behind the dissent” while others point to the PM’s personality. 

Officials who spoke to FT and work closely with the PM say the atmosphere has improved since the Cummings-led Vote Leave faction departed. 

“They say there is a greater feeling of unity, despite the emergence of different camps,” writes FT. 

Whilst some say it’s got better since Dominic Cummings left, the U-turns have not stopped. A senior government figure said: “Everything does feel quite scrabbly and scratch. The Peppa Pig incident [at Johnson’s CBI speech on Monday] was a vector to pick up on wider unhappiness about the operation.”

FT says No 10 is roughly divided into 4 groups – each with “distinct priorities” all vying for the PM’s ear. “ The dominant camp is made up of senior aides who have close ties to levelling up secretary Michael Gove. The “Gove gang” counts among its member’s key advisers who have the most access to Johnson.

Critics say the PM’s inner team is incohesive and lacks traditional Tory voices that would challenge him. But others say “the focus on the Downing Street operation is a red herring and MPs must come to terms with Johnson’s unique style of governing.” 

“Everyone talks about the Number 10 team, but fundamentally this is all about the boss. He’s a celebrity, not a conventional Tory, and people need to let Boris be Boris,” one cabinet minister said.

Few believe a serious leadership challenge is on the table but even if the leadership whispers fizzle out, the PM and his team are braced for a difficult period. 

Read the full story, Drift and division: inside Boris Johnson’s Downing Street, by Sebastian Payne and Jim Pickard on FT. 

 

Boris Johnson Peppa Pig - Boris Johnson speech - Boris Johnson unwell - Boris Johnson approval rating

The prime minister’s disastrous CBI speech might prove the catalyst that turns the party against his leadership style

The Tories now see that although Johnson can win elections, he simply can’t govern

The Guardian columnist Martin Kettle’s article says the PM’s shambles of a speech might be a moment that “damningly defines a prime minister in the public mind” and it might be one they can bever shake off. 

Boris Johnson approval ratings have plummeted and he has never been less popular during this premiership. Beyond the polls the clearest evidence things are not going well for the PM can be found at Westminster and in Whitehall. 

From the U-turn on MPs’ outside earnings, the HS2 rail scandal and the launch of the social care cap – all three big issues have been bungled.  “There is a lot of concern in the building … It’s just not working,” said a Downing Street source. 

Sources say if the PM and his government are to survive “a winter dominated by the cost of living, Covid and the Channel migration crisis,” changes are required. 

Good government requires strategy, rules, hard work and, perhaps above all, a team. It can be enforced by terror and force, or through trust and ethos. The former is thankfully not available to Johnson; the latter is something he does not do.

Britain’s embrace of “Johnsonism” is now confronted by “Johnsonism’s in-built unworkability in practise.” 

The PM’s character means he will respond with denial and distractions, a recent example has been his unveiling of a new law to give automatic life sentences on killers of emergency service personnel, writes the paper. And the Channel crisis will “probably generate more” and “arguments with Europe will also be escalated.” 

But the government’s need to make progress on delivery cannot be postponed forever.

Boris Johnson’s problem is that his preferred way of governing is on the extreme end of the spectrum of possibilities. Few of those he has appointed have lasted in the job long. Johnson’s way has been tested to the brink of destruction.

The article says the PM should’ve looked at and taken a lesson from Angela Merkel who is about to step down after 16 years as Germany’s chancellor. Merkel can credit her “long and remarkable reign” to her calm mastery and the system she built around her. She governed through “ a team of six highly trusted advisers and officials who offered solidity, strategic thinking, professionalism and complete discretion.” 

They have no public profile and their loyalty and competence are legendary, writes the Guardian. 

While Germany prepares to make a seamless transition to Olaf Scholz’s chancellorship, Britain faces a governmental emergency. 

“No 10’s lack of a team, a structure and a shared ethos adds up to a humiliating verdict on this country’s politics. Solving the problem posed by the chaotic Johnson court is the priority of the day. The question is whether, in the light of the way that Johnson has governed since 2019, it is even remotely possible to solve.”

Read the full story, The Tories now see that although Johnson can win elections, he simply can’t govern, by Martin Kettle on The Guardian.

Boris Johnson Peppa Pig - Boris Johnson speech - Boris Johnson unwell - Boris Johnson approval rating
Boris Johnson Peppa Pig - Boris Johnson speech - Boris Johnson unwell - Boris Johnson approval rating
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Conservatives lose their lead over Labour as Prime Minister’s rating plummets

Sleaze-hit Boris Johnson loses opinion poll lead

Nicholas Cecil, Political Editor for the Evening Standard writes the PM’s “good Prime Minister” rating has dropped to its lowest level since he entered No 10 – as ! a sleaze storm rages at Westminster.” 

An Ipsos MORI survey for the paper says the Tories are on 35 per cent – down four points on September. Labour remains unchanged on 36 per cent, the Green party is up to 11 per cent and the Lib Dems remain unchanged on 9 per cent. 

The results from the poll suggest for the first time since becoming PM the majority of adults in Britain do not believe Boris Johnson has what it takes to be a good prime minister. 

The paper calls the findings “grim” but notes Labour have not had any dramatic breakthrough in winning over voters. 

The poll was largely conducted before the Owen Paterson sleaze scandal exploded at Westminster.

An emergency anti-sleaze debate was held after the government looked to tear up the disciplinary system and block a 30-day suspension for Paterson for breaching lobbying rules. 

It came amid a string of other controversies – the PM’s free holiday, funding for his Downing Street flat, and the Tory peerage scandal. 

The poll also showed unease over the government’s handling of the pandemic and perhaps a positive swaying by the COP26 summit as the Green Party recorded its best results on record. 

Boris Johnson Peppa Pig - Boris Johnson speech - Boris Johnson unwell - Boris Johnson approval rating

Boris Johnson approval rating and other key findings 

  • Fifty-five per cent of adults disagree that Mr Johnson has what it take to be a good Prime Minister, with 34 per cent saying he does, giving him a net score of -21. This is a sharp drop from +2 in June, and the lowest score since June 2019, a month before he walked into No10.
  • Forty-one per cent do not believe Sir Keir has what it takes to be a good Prime Minister, with 25 per cent thinking he does, a net score of -16, up from -24 in June.
  • Sixty-one per cent of people say they are dissatisfied with Mr Johnson, and 34 per satisfied, giving a net score of -27, a big drop from -12 in September. It also equals his lowest satisfaction rating as PM, which was last October.
  • The Government as a whole fares even worse, with 62 per cent dissatisfied, and 29 per cent satisfied, a net score of -33, compared to -16 in September, the worst since last October.
  • Half of voters are dissatisfied with Sir Keir, with 29 per cent satisfied, a net rating of -21, slightly better than the -25 in September.
  • In a sign of divisions within Labour, 42 per cent of its supporters are dissatisfied with Sir Keir, and the same proportion satisfied, a net rating of zero, little better than the minus three in September.
  • In contrast, 72 per cent of Tory supporters are satisified with Mr Johnson, and 22 per cent dissatisfied, a net score of +50, down from +56 in September.
  • Forty-three per cent say “don’t know” when asked how satisfied they are about Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, with 37 per cent dissatisfied, 20 per cent satisfied, a net score of -17, compared to -14 in September.
  • Nearly half of adults (48 per cent) say the Government is handling the Covid-19 pandemic badly, up 12 points on September, and 36 say it is doing well, down eight points, the worst score since the end of last year.

The Tories are facing a series of challenges ahead. Despite the UK having significantly higher Covid cases and deaths than a lot of other European countries, ministers are reluctant to reimpose restrictions. 

Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “The pandemic is far from over with high levels of infections, while we are also seeing worries about the economy, the NHS, the knock-on effects of Brexit, and other issues, all leading to rising concerns about the direction of the country – even before any long-term impact of the standards row last week.

“Climate change is also in the news and in the public’s priorities, which may help to explain the notably good figure for the Greens.

“So the Conservatives are no longer in as strong position as they were over the summer – although the public are still not convinced by Labour as an alternative.”

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major has suggested the Johnson administration has engaged in “politically corrupt” activities.

Read the full story, Sleaze-hit Boris Johnson loses opinion poll lead by Nicholas Cecil on Evening Standard. 

Deep Dive

Quick Facts

Boris Johnson Peppa Pig

The prime minister told the CBI conference that “no Whitehall civil servant would conceivably come up with Peppa” as he praised the “power of UK creativity”.

Boris Johson referenced the TV cartoon pig as he talked about the UK economy as he asked delegates who else had been to Peppa Pig World.

Boris Johnson speech

Boris Johnson has been criticised after he lost his place in a speech to British businesses leaders and referred to the children’s cartoon Peppa Pig. Speaking to the CBI conference, the PM also quoted Lenin and performed an impression of a car.

Halting his speech led to an awkward 21 seconds of apologies and paper shuffling from the Tory leader.- BBC

 

Watch the speech here – ‘Who’s been to Peppa Pig World?’ Stumbling Boris Johnson stuns business bosses

Boris Johnson wife

Carrie Johnson (née Symonds; born 17 March 1988) is a British political activist, conservationist and the wife of British prime minister Boris Johnson. She works as a senior advisor to the ocean conservation charity Oceana.

Boris Johnson net worth

Currently Boris Johnson earns £157,372 a year, which is made up of his Prime Minister’s salary of £75,440 and MP’s salary of £81,932, although around £60,000 of that is paid in tax.

Mr Johnson also receives somewhere between £10,000 to £20,000 from book royalties.

He has an estimated net worth of around £3 million according to Celebrity Net Worth.

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