Only Two More Prime-Ministers To Go til Christmas..

‘I’ve simply never seen numbers like this before’ -Professor Matt Goodwin on the conditions that made the Liz Truss government untenable. Read his blog or watch on BBC’s Newsnight here.

Watch Professor Goodwin on Newsnight here.

‘Sometimes, there are moments in politics when you should push all the data, all the chatter, all the gossip, all the noise to one side and just listen to your instinct. I think we are in one of those moments. And my instinct is telling me what I suspect much of the rest of the country is thinking. This. Is. Not. Working. Liz Truss is not working.

Our new prime minister has already lost the confidence of financial markets. She has lost the confidence of members of her own cabinet. She has lost the confidence of more than a few backbench MPs. She is quickly losing the confidence of her party, which is now openly discussing how to replace her. And she has most certainly lost the confidence of the country, or perhaps never had it to begin with.

Here are the facts. There has been no honeymoon period, no bounce in the polls. For the first time in modern history we have a prime minister who has failed to inspire even an initial display of warmth from voters. And all the key indicators of how the prime minister and her government are performing are moving in the wrong direction.

The numbers are getting worse each week. Between the week before Truss walked into Number 10 Downing Street and today, the Conservative Party’s average share of the vote has continued to slide from an already low 32 per cent to just 23 per cent.

This is eight points below what the party polled in 1997 when, in the infamous words of Professor Anthony King, the scale of its defeat to New Labour was akin to “an asteroid hitting the planet and destroying practically all life on earth”.

In my own polling, conducted two days ago, I have Truss and her party on an even lower 19 per cent. This is lower than anything that was recorded during the mass resignations that culminated in Boris Johnson’s downfall or the Partygate scandal that preceded it. William Hague, Iain Duncan Smith, Jeremy Corbyn never fell this low.

The last time the Conservatives polled anything like this was in June 2019, in the aftermath of their humiliation at the hands of the Brexit Party at the European elections and Theresa May’s pledge to resign as party leader and prime minister.

Were these kinds of numbers replicated at an election then the Conservative Party would simply cease to exist in its current form. An entire generation of MPs — Theresa May, Jacob Rees-Mogg, David Davis, Sajid Javid, Andrea Leadsome, Penny Mordaunt, Iain Duncan Smith, Greg Hands, Grant Shapps, Kwasi Kwarteng, Therese Coffey, James Cleverly, among others — would be wiped out. Only five members of Truss’s cabinet would possibly survive the rout. So too would Rishi Sunak.

The American writer Cynthia Ozick once said that two things in life are irretrievable —time and a first impression. Truss has only been in the job for six weeks but has already made a terrible first impression. In my polling, just 9 per cent of voters like her. Nine per cent. And nearly two-thirds say they don’t. She is less popular than Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn ever were. She is in what I call Prince Andrew territory. And you don’t really come back once you enter Prince Andrew territory.

Much of the country see her as indecisive, weak, incompetent, untrustworthy and dislikeable. They blame her and her government —not global events— for the current crisis, partly because —as I said on Politics Live this week— she failed to explain to them what is driving the crisis and why she has chosen this particular course. She never really framed her premiership. She never came close to controlling the narrative.

In turn, most voters have already decided that her economic policies are the wrong ones and are damaging Britain -a view shared by a plurality of Boris Johnson’s voters. Only a small minority of the country believe the claim that lies at the heart of the Truss premiership —that tax cuts drive economic growth. And while voters think Truss is right to dump some of her policies (and maybe her chancellor?) such as a tax cut for the rich, they simultaneously see this as a sign of weakness. She is boxed in.

This is making life for Keir Starmer much easier than it ought to be. This week, when voters are asked who they think would make the best prime minister their list, in descending rank order, now reads: (1) Keir Starmer, (2) Neither of them, (3) I’m not sure, (4) Liz Truss. Only 13 per cent think she would make the best prime minister.

When it comes to all of the most important issues facing the country —who would deliver economic growth, manage the economy, tackle the cost of living crisis, manage the NHS, help people get on the housing ladder, tackle government debt, provide jobs and keep prices down —Starmer now holds comfortable if not commanding leads, despite saying remarkably little about how he would do any these things.

And nor is her own side on side. One of the most remarkable aspects of the Truss premiership is the extent to which it is also alienating the very people who voted for Brexit and then Boris Johnson. Like all voters, they do not see her as their preferred Prime Minister while only one in five of Johnson’s voters, only one in eight Brexit voters and only the same share of skilled working-class voters who have been key to the post-Brexit realignment say they like her. She has completely lost the room.

One narrative doing the rounds in Westminster is that this is about an electorate that is sick of a party that has now governed the country for more than a decade -that after the steady accumulation of austerity, Brexit, Maybot, Boris, Partygate and now Truss people have simply had enough. But this conveniently ignores the fact that only a year ago Boris Johnson and his party were still ahead in the polls, averaging 40 per cent.

No, this is about a prime minister who is pushing the wrong brand for conservatism for a new kind of conservative electorate. Voters have been on this ride before and they know how it ends. I won’t labour the point because I’ve made it before —the reason why so working-class voters, non-graduates, and pensioners cast a vote for the Conservatives in 2017 and 2019 is because they hold a very different vision of Britain than the one Truss is offering them. The same point was made to the prime minister at the 1922 Committee this week when Rob Halfon MP accused her of “trashing” the last ten years of Conservative government and the realignment by choosing to prioritise bankers’ bonuses, benefit cuts and reductions to affordable housing targets.

And what is now clear is that the longer this political experiment continues the more it is damaging not just Truss but wider perceptions of the Conservative Party. Those who argued not so long ago that Boris Johnson was toxifying the party brand and needed to be removed never pondered the possibility that somebody else might turn out to be far more damaging, dousing the party in petrol and dropping a match.

The image of the Conservative Party that briefly emerged after the Brexit referendum —a party that was willing to speak for workers, level-up the country, and rebalance the economy away from London and the south-east— lies in ruins. Ask voters today who they think the party is closest to and only 11 per cent say the working class and people in the north; meanwhile, 80 per cent say the rich and 76 per cent say business and the City. This toxic brand, this ruined project, alongside a potentially historic election defeat, now look set to be the main legacy of the Truss premiership. And so for all these reasons, for the sake of itself and the country, the Conservative Party would be well advised to listen to its instinct.’

Repurposed from Matt Goodwin’s Weekly Newsletter: subscribe here

The U.K. has “lost its prestige of being a leader of consistency, a model of predictable, consensual moderate politics” Matt Goodwin comments in the Los Angeles Time here. 

Why was Liz Truss Prime Minister for only six weeks? Goodwin comments in Vox

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