Boris Johnson has two big advantages: the ability to drive his opponents quite mad, and strikingly low expectations. Pick up a newspaper recently and you might have read that Britain is ‘mortified’ to have such a bozo foisted upon the nation by a handful of retired Tories. If that were the case, the opinion polls would show the Tories plunging in popularity. But instead, the reverse has happened. The Conservatives, so recently trailing the Brexit Party, are now comfortably ahead of everyone else. The honeymoon has begun.
Three different sets of fresh polling conducted by YouGov, Opinium and Deltapoll (commissioned by the Sunday Times, the Observer and the Mail on Sunday) has recorded a large bounce in the Conservative party’s ratings. YouGov has the Tories on 31 per cent (up six since Boris took over), Labour are on 21 per cent, the Lib Dems 20 per cent and the Brexit party have fallen to 13 per cent. This is the highest percentage the Tories have reached since April and the biggest lead they’ve had over the other parties since February, before Britain missed the first Brexit deadline.
Of course, we’re in volatile times and the polls will likely be all over the place for some time to come. Nonetheless this is the clearest sign yet that Johnson’s strategy of pledging to take Britain out of the EU by 31 October ‘do or die’ is successfully siphoning voters away from the Brexit party. This matters because there is also the prospect of a general election: anti-Brexit MPs are less likely to threaten one if they think it would lead to a Tory majority. An opinion poll lead will, in this way, strengthen the government’s authority in parliament.
If Boris actually does what he says he will do, then it would – or at least should – spell the end for the Brexit Party and Nigel Farage’ s promises to create a ‘political revolution’ that goes beyond Brexit. Some might argue that the Farage revolution is already taking place, in the shape of the new Boris Cabinet. But the converse is also true: Brexit failure will boost Farage in a heartbeat. According to YouGov/The Sunday Times, if the UK fails to leave the EU by Halloween, a majority of voters now say that it will be Boris Johnson’s fault, not the EU’s.
For now Nigel Farage’s party may have to be content to act as a pressure group, which forces Boris Johnson to stick to his pledges made during the leadership campaign, especially on taking Britain out of the EU without a deal. And if he does renege on those pledges, it’s almost certain the Brexit party will be waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage. But it seems that a good many Brexit voters are willing to give the Tories the benefit of the doubt. For now, at least.