Britons would prefer Boris Johnson rather than Keir Starmer to be in charge of the rest of the Covid-19 pandemic and also the subsequent economic recovery, an exclusive poll reveals today.
The Ipsos MORI research for the Standard also finds the Conservatives have pulled ahead of Labour by four points amid overwhelming public acclaim for the vaccine rollout.
The findings are a boost for the Prime Minister, suggesting that Sir Keir Starmer’s campaign to blame him for Britain’s record death toll has failed to translate into a clamour for Labour to take over.
The detailed survey will also fuel worries in Labour circles that Sir Keir has yet to set out a compelling case to voters. Although almost half the public see Sir Keir as “decisive”, they are divided on whether he has a “clear vision” or has given people reasons to vote Labour. And while nearly half say he has “changed Labour for the better”, his party is seen as less united and his front bench team less qualified to deal with Britain’s problems than the Conservatives.
Sir Keir has scores better on leadership qualities than either Jeremy Corbyn or Ed Miliband, his immediate predecessors.
Gideon Skinner, head of political research at Ipsos MORI, said: “The public are still to make up their mind about him … But it’s not just about the leader – the public still have questions about the party itself and whether it is ready for government. Although these are showing signs of slow improvement, there is a long way to go before they match election-winning Oppositions.”
Key findings include:
- If an election was held tomorrow the vote shares would be: Conservative 42 per cent (one point higher than in December); Labour 38 per cent (-3); Liberal Democrats 7 (+1), Greens 8 (+3).
- Some 44 per cent of the public think Mr Johnson will respond better to the pandemic from now until the end of the crisis, compared with 27 per cent who think Sir Keir would do better. Sir Keir was preferred by six in 10 Labour supporters.
- Asked which of the pair would be better at managing Britain’s recovery after the pandemic, 29 per cent picked Sir Keir, while 44 per cent still chose Mr Johnson.
- Some 48 per cent say Labour has changed for the better under Sir Keir, who took over last April. Just four per cent said Labour had got worse and 35 per cent said he had made no difference. Over-35s, graduates and white collar workers were more positive, while younger voters were more likely to say he had made no difference.
- Some 36 per cent think he “has what it takes” to become PM, which is down two points from August, while 33 per cent think he is ready to be PM now. His scores as a potential PM are higher than either Mr Corbyn or Mr Miliband, the previous two Labour leaders, achieved during their near-decade of opposition. Sir Keir is seen as decisive by 46 per cent and indecisive by just 28 per cent.
- Labour is trailing behind the Conservatives for having the “best team of leaders to deal with the country’s problems” by 41 per cent to 21. Only 16 per cent think they are the most “clear and united” party, compared with 32 per cent for the Conservatives. Some 32 per cent think Labour are ready to form the next government, which is up from 29 per cent in August.
- Vaccination rollout is an unalloyed success with the public. Almost nine in 10 (86 per cent) think the Government is doing well at obtaining vaccines for Britain, including 84 per cent of Labour voters. Some 78 per cent approve of the pace of rollout.
- Three quarters think the Government chose the right order of priority groups to be vaccinated, with priority going to elderly people, frontline NHS staff and carers and the clinically vulnerable. A majority of younger people also support the choices, despite them being last to get the jab.
- Almost half, 46 per cent say the Government is handling the pandemic badly overall, while 38 per cent think it is doing well.
- Pessimism about the economy has eased only slightly despite the vaccine rollout, with 60 per cent believing things will get worse in the year ahead, an improvement from 63 in December.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has soared in the public’s estimation, with 40 per cent saying he is handling the pandemic well, up from 26 in October, and 41 per cent saying he is handling it badly. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is well ahead of Cabinet rivals, with 55 per cent saying he is handling it well and just 20 per cent badly. Mr Johnson trails them both with 39 per cent well and 46 per cent badly.
The only thing worse than starting something and failing… is not starting something.