Labour open up six-point polling lead over Tories as sleaze row hits Boris Johnson

Prime minister maintains accusations will not affect party in upcoming by-elections

Rory Sullivan
Saturday 13 November 2021 01:08
Johnson insists UK 'not a corrupt country' amid various sleaze allegations

Labour has opened up a six-point lead over the Conservatives as a row over sleaze continues to damage the government, a poll has suggested.

Forty per cent of people would vote for Labour in an election today compared to just 34 per cent for the Tories, according to the latest Savanta ComRes data.

The survey, which was conducted on Thursday, signals a pronounced shift from last week, when pollsters gave the Conservatives a clear lead over their political rivals.

This is the third time in as many days that different pollsters have indicated the government had lost its lead over Labour.

The Savanta ComRes poll, commissioned by the Daily Mail, presents by far the largest swing away from Boris Johnson’s government of the three. Wednesday’s Redfield & Wilton poll put Labour two points ahead and Thursday’s YouGov poll had both parties level on 35 per cent.

The Tories’ decline in popularity has been attributed to the public’s concern over sleaze allegations which have engulfed Boris Johnson and his party over the past fortnight. Two thirds of voters now believe the Conservatives are “very sleazy”, according to YouGov.

This unflattering view comes after the prime minister attempted last week to let Tory politician Owen Paterson avoid a 30-day suspension for breaching the Commons lobbying rules. The MP resigned his position in the ensuing backlash.

The government was then beset by further accusations of sleaze, after it was reported that it gave peerages to nine former Tory treasurers, who had all donated at least £3 million to the party. The SNP matter referred the matter to the Metropolitan Police, but the force confirmed on Friday that it will not investigate the “cash for honours” claims.

Tory MPs’ second jobs have also been in the spotlight, particularly Geoffrey Cox, the MP for Torridge and West Devon, who has earned almost £1m working in the British Virgin Islands.

It has also emerged that MPs have claimed £1.3 million from the taxpayer to rent flats in the capital while letting out their own London properties.

Despite this string of sleaze accusations, Mr Johnson claimed on Friday the stories would not affect the Tory’s performance in two upcoming by-elections, which will be held following the death of Tory MP James Brokenshire and the resignation of scandal-hit Mr Paterson.

Culture secretary Nadine Dorries also dismissed a possible downturn in her party’s polling results in a WhatsApp message sent to Conservative colleagues this week.

In comments seen by The Times, she rubbished her colleague George Freeman’s assertion that it “will take a lot more than good words to repair” the damage caused to the Conservatives by the current sleaze row.

Instead, she pointed out that her party managed to win the 2010 general election despite the 2009 expenses scandal, which she described as a “billion times worse” than the latest debacle.

“Last week wasn’t great, but it was a long way from the worst,” she wrote.

The recent slump in the Conservative’s polling is still likely to worry some of its MPs. James Sutherland, the recently-elected MP for Bracknell, said: “The left are not in government, they want to be in government, and they’re looking for weakness.

“And I think in many ways, what has happened over the last week or so has provided that opportunity for them.”

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