Why has Boris Johnson’s popularity suddenly plummeted?

The prime minister’s opinion-poll ratings have taken a turn for the worse. John Rentoul takes a closer look

Sunday 01 August 2021 21:30 BST
Has the weather of public opinion turned for the prime minister?
Has the weather of public opinion turned for the prime minister? (AP)

Something is happening to public opinion. Labour is closing the gap on the Conservatives, and the prime minister’s ratings have dropped even more sharply. James Johnson, who was Theresa May’s pollster, described it as “a real shift” a week ago, and said: “Going by this week’s focus groups it is the Boris/Rishi self-isolation ping story that’s done it.”

I was surprised, because I thought the U-turn happened – on Sunday morning two weeks ago – before most people even knew about the story. On the day before the stage four lifting of coronavirus restrictions on Monday 19 July, it was reported that Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak would be part of the pilot scheme that would allow them to avoid 10 days’ isolation after they had had a meeting with Sajid Javid, the health secretary, who had tested positive.

Two hours and 38 minutes later, Sunak announced that they would not after all be using the pilot scheme and would go into isolation, while Johnson said it was “important that everybody sticks to the rules”.

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