After a grim few weeks for Theresa May and her government – which has seen the Prime Minister lose two Cabinet ministers, another put under investigation and calls for Boris Johnson to resign – today’s ICM/Guardian poll certainly makes for interesting reading. Rather than the Conservatives falling behind, it shows that Labour and the Tories remain neck and neck. While the Conservatives have gone down by one-point after last week’s shenanigans, May can take heart that so has Corbyn’s Labour:
— AndrewSparrow (@AndrewSparrow) November 15, 2017
It’s a recurring theme. A poll on Friday suggested a beleaguered May is the more popular choice for Prime Minister – actually gaining a point following last week’s shenanigans. According to the YouGov poll, when asked who would make the best Prime Minister, 34 per cent of voters said Mrs May, up from 33 per cent a month ago. And remember YouGov are the pollsters who were the first to predict a hung Parliament in the snap election.
So, what is going on? In today’s i paper, I write that the answer could be found in the 92′ election. For all the comparisons that are drawn between May’s minority government and John Major’s in the 90s – sleaze, weak leadership and a row over Europe – one big difference remains. In the November following the 1992 election which handed Major a wafer-thin majority, Labour managed a 20-point lead. It’s mid-November, and at best Labour boast a 3-point-lead.
It follow that Jeremy Corbyn is yet to properly capitalise on May’s shortcomings. This could be for a number of reasons – most voters don’t follow politics as if it were a (blood) sport and in Jeremy Corbyn there isn’t a moderate candidate grumpy Tory voters can swing to. But if you look back to this time following the election in 1992, it’s the economic situation that is most different.
The moment when Labour managed to get ahead – and Major’s ratings dropped never to recover – was Black Wednesday, when the government was forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Interest rates rose to 12 per cent and the Tories never came back. As things stand, voters still say the Tories lead the way on economic competence – even if the DUP deal and Brexit complicate things. There’s a thought for Philip Hammond to take in as he puts the final touches to a Budget that has Whitehall worried…