Recent polls have seen the Prime Minister and the Conservative party’s popularity tumble after revelations of a series of Downing Street parties during the UK’s Covid lockdowns. James Johnson, co-founder of J.L. Partners, shared damning results from focus groups with Tory voters which see the Prime Minister blasted as a “coward”.
Mr Johnson, also former Senior Opinion Research and Strategy Adviser to the Prime Minister between 2016 and 2019, posted a thread on Twitter about focus grouped Tory voters.
Polling first-time Tory voters in Bolton North East, Mr Johnson found those who turned in the Red Wall in 2019 think the Prime Minister is a “coward”.
One Bolton voter said: “ I quite liked him at the beginning. I felt confidence during the pandemic, and that he was doing the best for all of us.
“Now, it’s like, we’ve been made a fool of.”
Another said: “He seemed like a bit of a character. I thought give him a chance. But it’s definitely changed my opinion.”
The pollster also found that all those in Bolton surveyed had voted Tory in 2019, but when “asked if they would vote for Boris again now, not one person put their hand up”.
Speaking to long-time Tory voters in Bolton, and also Cheltenham, a southern marginal constituency, Mr Johnson also found mass anger at the Prime Minister.
One voter said to the pollster: “If there was an election now, and Boris is still here, I wouldn’t vote Conservative. It’s appalling.”
Another added: “He was maybe the right person to help us through Covid and Brexit, but now – now we’ve got inflation, and all these economic pressures – we don’t need Boris now, we need someone with a bit more of a steady hand and some gravitas. I think he’s lacking gravitas.”
One more voter said: “For me, it really hurt. I had to work on a Covid ward, it wasn’t my usual job, I was frightened to death.
“And to find they were doing that, it’s just disgusting.”
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Mr Johnson noted that while “focus groups are not intended to be representative”, “they do tell us what might be behind the movements we see in the polls” which have seen the Tories and the Prime Minister’s support spiral.
The pollster noted: “Criticism of lockdown parties is now spreading into a general view of Boris and his fitness to govern – perhaps irreversibly so.
“This applies to both people who voted Tory for the first time in 2019 (a key group for the Conservatives to win) and long-term Tories.
“Words that were usually the reserve of Boris’ critics like ‘liar’ are now being used regularly by these voters.
“The almost-universal call for him to resign is coming from different angles. For some it’s anger, for others, it’s a calmer case of ‘do the right thing’.
“Other Tory figures & the broader party are now getting sucked into the unpopularity for defending the PM.
“For most, cover-up rather than the deed itself has done the most damage to Boris’ personal brand.
“This means the current defence (blame others / work party excuse) is unlikely to work with the public – and may even make things worse.”
It comes after an Opinium Research poll, carried out from January 12 to January 14, sees Labour out ahead of the Tories by ten points.
The poll surveyed 1271 likely voters, with Opinium saying of the results: “The latest poll is not just the largest Labour lead we have recorded this parliament, but the largest Labour lead in any Opinium Research poll since October 2013.”
It was carried out as the Prime Minister apologised for attending a Downing Street party on May 20 2020.
At the time, Covid rules meant it was an offence for people to leave their home “without a reasonable excuse”, such as shopping for essentials, legal obligations, medical assistance and “to access critical public services” among other specific circumstances.
Mr Johnson apologised for the May 20 Downing Street party in parliament on Wednesday but added he was outside for 25 minutes and believed it was a work event.