Tories doomed at next election because of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, says pollster John Curtice

John Curtice says Boris Johnson’s No 10 lockdown parties and Truss’s economic catastrophe have made it impossible for Rishi Sunak to cling on to power

Archie Mitchell
Sunday 28 April 2024 11:25 BST
Liz Truss says she was 'completely blindsided' by disastrous mini-budget

The Conservatives are doomed to lose the election because voters will not forgive the behaviour of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss, according to Britain’s top pollster.

Professor Sir John Curtice said Mr Johnson’s No 10 lockdown parties and Ms Truss’s economic catastrophe have made it impossible for Rishi Sunak to cling on to power.

The prime minister threw away his only hope of mending the electoral damage caused by Mr Johnson and Ms Truss when he failed to condemn their conduct sufficiently strongly, said Prof Curtice.

John Curtice says Boris Johnson and Liz Truss ruined the Tories’ reputation
John Curtice says Boris Johnson and Liz Truss ruined the Tories’ reputation (Getty)

Mr Johnson and Ms Truss each helped to ruin the reputation of the Tories, a party that has now been in power for 14 years, in the space of just weeks, he claimed.

The claim came amid reports desperate Right wing Tory MPs are plotting to replace Mr Sunak with Penny Mordaunt in a last ditch bid to avoid defeat at the general election, it is claimed.

They are said to have hatched a “100 Days To Save Britain” plan whereby Ms Mordaunt, best known for wielding a ceremonial sword at the King’s coronation, would become PM.

The extraordinary idea is reportedly in response to fears that the party could suffer massive losses in this week’s local elections.

Tory jitters have also been heightened by the shock defection of one of their MPs, ex-health minister and serving GP Dan Poulter to Labour.

The Conservatives’ ratings fell six points in six weeks after the scandal of Mr Johnson’s Downing St lockdown parties was exposed, and another six points in the six weeks following the collapse of Ms Truss’s economic policies, said Prof Curtice, who is a professor of politics at Strathclyde University.

Asked if the Tories could reverse their slide in popularity ratings in time for the election this year, Prof Curtice said: “The ships have probably sailed so long ago that it’s difficult for them now to do much about it.”

He explained: “If you look at the timeline as to why we are where we are now, there are two crucial events in about 12 weeks.”

The first calamitous six-week period for the Tories was when the revelations emerged about lockdown parties in No 10; the second followed Ms Truss’s chaotic short term in office.

The Conservatives’ opinion-poll ratings slumped to 25 per cent after Ms Truss was ousted, and have barely moved since, standing at approximately 24 per cent now.

Prof Curtice said: “These are two things that the Conservative Party needed badly to distance themselves from.”

But it has failed to do so, because Tory MPs, including Mr Sunak, failed to vote en masse against Mr Johnson when parliament held a vote on whether he had lied to the Commons about the parties.

“Mr Sunak didn’t vote, and such progress as he’d made in the polls literally disappeared overnight,” the top pollster told The Daily Telegraph. “Equally, it’s only very recently that the government has started to distance itself directly from Liz Truss.

“The problem the government has is that, basically, once we start any debate about the economy, all the opposition has to say is ‘Liz Truss’, [and it is the] end of [the] argument.”

The Conservatives could generally rely on support from voters worried about immigration, said Prof Curtice. However, he went on: “But if it’s compounded with concern about the economy, the ethics of Boris Johnson, the economy, Liz Truss, incompetence – then you’re going to go elsewhere.”

He said that all the main party leaders suffer from a woeful lack of star quality.

“Rishi Sunak – unpopular, uncharismatic, can’t do the vision thing. Keir Starmer – boring, uncharismatic, can’t do the vision thing. Ed Davey – nice bloke, little impact, can’t do the vision thing. Humza Yousaf – nice bloke but has all sorts of political troubles... and can’t do the vision thing.”

Voters are “nothing like as enthusiastic” about Sir Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, said Prof Curtice, as they were when Tony Blair’s New Labour won power in 1997. This means that a hung parliament, where Labour wins most Commons seats but not an overall majority, cannot be ruled out, said the professor.

But the Conservatives would be wasting their time if they got rid of Mr Sunak in an attempt to revive their fortunes.

Prof Curtice said: “The idea of the Conservative Party dumping Mr Sunak... I mean, look, guys, do you really think that you’re going to persuade the electorate to vote for you by saying, ‘We’re terribly sorry. We’ve dumped three prime ministers who in the end didn’t prove to be very good. But could you please vote for us again, because we’ve now found you yet another fourth one?’

“It’s not going to work. The Conservatives are certainly, for good or ill, for all practical purposes, stuck with Mr Sunak, limited as his options are.”

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