Ahead of the health secretary’s televised grilling on his performance, which could decide his chances of survival, a survey for The Independent found that those wanting Mr Hancock to lose his job include more than a quarter (28 per cent) of Conservative supporters.
Some 40 per cent said Boris Johnson should resign, but these were heavily skewed towards opposition party supporters, with less than one in seven (14 per cent) of Tories thinking he should go and 78 per cent saying he should stay.
The Savanta ComRes poll found that more than half (53 per cent) of voters believe Dominic Cummings’s central charge that the health secretary lied to the PM about hospital patients being tested for coronavirus before being discharged to care homes. Just 24 per cent accepted Mr Hancock’s denial.
More than a third (36 per cent) of Tory supporters agreed that Mr Hancock lied, compared to 39 per cent who believe he did not.
The health secretary will be confronted by Mr Cummings’s bombshell claim when he appears for questioning before a joint inquiry by the House of Commons health and science committees on Thursday.
His chances of escaping unscathed from the interrogation were improved when Mr Johnson’s former chief adviser – who launched a scathing assault on the government’s approach to Covid-19 to the same committees last month – failed to hand over documentary evidence to back up his allegations.
Cummings said on 26 May that both he and Mr Johnson’s top civil servant called on the PM to fire Mr Hancock as health secretary for “at least 15-20 things, including lying to everybody on multiple occasions in many meetings”. He said others advised the PM: “Don’t sack him now, he’s the person you sack when the inquiry comes along.”
Today’s poll found that voters broadly accept Mr Cummings’ account of the government’s response to the Covid-19 outbreak.
But crucially the figures suggest they do not regard the former aide as a credible figure, with just 26 per cent deeming Mr Cummings trustworthy, against 40 per cent for Mr Hancock and 45 per cent for Mr Johnson.
Some 67 per cent of those questioned agreed that Mr Cummings was right to say that Mr Johnson delayed the first lockdown in March 2020 for too long, with 19 per cent saying the charge was unfair.
Some 56 per cent said Mr Cummings was right to accuse the PM of ignoring scientists calling for a second “circuit-breaker” lockdown in September, against 24 per cent who said this was incorrect.
On perhaps the most personally damaging accusation against the prime minister, some 44 per cent said they believed Mr Cummings’ claim – which Johnson has denied – that the PM said he would rather see “bodies pile high” than order a third lockdown, while 34 per cent did not.
Large numbers of Conservative voters appeared to believe Mr Cummings’s description of events, agreeing that Mr Johnson delayed the first lockdown too long by a margin of 57-30 per cent. They were split 38-39 over whether the PM ignored scientific advice to order a shutdown in September, and were less likely to give credence to the “bodies pile high” comment, which was believed by just 25 per cent of Tories, compared to 70 per cent of Labour voters.
Some 38 per cent said Mr Hancock had been effective in his handling of coronavirus, compared to 42 per cent who said he had not. Forty per cent saw him as trustworthy and 40 per cent untrustworthy. And 38 per cent said he was fit for public office, against 42 per cent who said he was not.
Mr Johnson’s response was rated a little higher, with 48 per cent viewing him as effective in the crisis against 46 per cent not effective. He was viewed as untrustworthy by 47 per cent and trustworthy by 45. And he was deemed fit for office by 51 per cent, compared to 42 per cent who said he was not.
The public assessment of Mr Cummings – who was widely blamed for undermining the government’s “stay at home” message with his trip to Durham during the early weeks of lockdown – was far more negative.
A significant majority (62 per cent) said he was untrustworthy and the same proportion (62 per cent) said he was unfit for office, compared to just 25 per cent who said he was a fit person to serve in government.
Only the government’s official scientists won a comfortable show of backing for their performance in the crisis, with 57 per cent saying Professor Chris Whitty should keep his job as chief medical officer, against just 21 per cent who said he should resign, and 55 per cent support for Sir Patrick Vallance to stay as chief scientific adviser, compared to 21 per cent saying he should resign.
• Savanta ComRes polled 2,180 people between 28 and 30 May.
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