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Boris Johnson extends poll lead despite sleaze allegations

Survey finds popularity slump for Labour’s Keir Starmer ahead of crucial elections

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
@andywoodcock
Thursday 29 April 2021 17:32
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Voters are not punishing Boris Johnson for the relentless wave of sleaze allegations washing around him, according to new polling for The Independent.

A week ahead of the crucial 6 May elections to local authorities and devolved assemblies, the BMG poll put Conservatives on 39 per cent to Labour’s 35, extending the Tory lead from two to four points compared to a similar survey in March.

Mr Johnson himself also saw his personal satisfaction ratings improve, and was picked as preferred prime minister over Sir Keir Starmer by a margin of 40 per cent to 24 per cent, compared to 35-28 in March.

Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party looked set for comfortable victory in next week’s elections to the Holyrood parliament, with 46 per cent of voters in Scotland backing them in the poll, against 21 per cent for Tories and 19 per cent for Labour. 

However, the intricacies of Scotland’s proportional electoral system mean that it remains far from certain that Ms Sturgeon will gain the overall majority in the Scottish Parliament which she hopes will provide her with a mandate for a fresh independence referendum.

BMG interviewed 1,500 adults across Great Britain between Thursday and Monday, 22-26 April. 

The poll came after weeks of headlines about David Cameron’s secret lobbying of ministers for finance firm Greensill and after questions were raised over the funding of Mr Johnson’s 11 Downing Street flat.

And a large portion of the interviews took place after Friday’s bombshell blog in which Mr Johnson’s former top adviser Dominic Cummings accused him of considering “mad”, “unethical” and “possibly illegal” actions.

Despite the relentless onslaught on Mr Johnson which has seen Labour accusing him of “lying” over the lavish refit of his apartment, the prime minister’s personal ratings held up strongly in the poll.

Overall, 41 per cent of those questioned said they were satisfied with his performance as PM, against 38 per cent who were not. The result amounted to a marked improvement on last month’s poll, when dissatisfied voters outnumbered the satisfied by 44 to 38 per cent.

By contrast Sir Keir’s satisfaction rating deteriorated from a positive finding of 29-27 per cent in March to a negative rating of 23 per cent satisfaction and 32 per cent dissatisfaction now.

Ominously for Starmer, among the strongest satisfaction with Mr Johnson was to be found in the northern England and Midlands areas where Tories won swathes of “red wall” seats in 2019.

In the northeast, the ratio of satisfaction to dissatisfaction with Johnson stood at 50-27 per cent, in the northwest at 42-35 and in the West Midlands at 41-39.

Starmer’s satisfaction rating in the traditional Labour strongholds was negative, at 16-38 in the northeast, 21-32 in the northwest and 21-33 in the West Midlands.

Only in his home city of London did the Labour leader enjoy a positive satisfaction rating, by 33 to 29.

And his 44-27 balance of satisfaction to dissatisfaction among Labour supporters compared poorly to Mr Johnson’s commanding 72-16 rating among Tories.

Andrew Price, pollster at BMG, said: “Despite the growing pressure mounting on Boris Johnson, our most recent polling suggests that it is not yet negatively impacting his satisfaction ratings or the Conservatives’ share of vote.  The Conservative vote share remains unchanged from March and satisfaction with his leadership is actually higher. 

“Whilst Boris Johnson may be able to sleep soundly at night, less can be said of Sir Keir Starmer.  He’s seeing his net satisfaction dropping and just 1 in 4 (24 per cent) say they would prefer him to be prime minister – much lower than the 2 in 5 who favour the current PM. 

“The great unknown in this, however, is what the Conservatives could have achieved.  With the vaccination campaign continuing to be successful, lockdown easing and the UK not seeing the same Covid spikes as other countries, they were probably hoping for a stronger growth in their share of vote than we are seeing.”

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