The Conservatives have been fantastic in the polls, even though there have been many criticisms over party financial issues, possible ministerial code breaking, and evidence from Dominic Cummings. There have been a lot of questions regarding how the Conservatives have been consistently ahead, and comfortably ahead in the polls, though some of them do say they may lose seats. Obviously they are just polls, and not results, but we saw in Hartlepool that the “Tory sleaze” argument appeared not to work, especially looking at the results. So let’s ask the question: why are the Tories immune to criticism in the eyes of polling?
The first poll conducted after Dominic Cummings gave evidence to Parliament showed +6% to the Conservatives and -5% to Labour, putting the Tories with an 11% lead. This would have the Conservatives lose two seats on net, and Labour gain two seats on net. The stark increase of 5.5% swing to the Conservatives after this is an interesting revelation. Many would have supposed that the Conservative support would have gone down with such damaging words from the former aide. Moreover, polling subsequent to this shows a plurality of support for Hancock to be sacked.
So the question then becomes, why have the Conservatives done so well. Well first off all, a YouGov poll stated that only 14% of people trust Dominic Commings compared to 38% people trusting Boris Johnson. Of course, Johnson’s numbers are in no way good, but it is leaps and bounds above Cummings, who appears to have destroyed his public reputation since in the infamous Barnard Castle incident. Moreover, due to more evidence to be given by Matt Hancock and others, perhaps the public are waiting to see what Hancock says, or maybe they just see Cummings as bitter after the breakdown of the relationship between Johnson and the former Chief Advisor. This appears to be an insightful factor in why Cummings’s comment has bounced off the tories.
Tory Sleaze refers to many of the campaigns from Labour in the Hartlepool by-election and possibly since then. It is specific to the claims, at the time, that Tory donors paid for renovations 10 Downing Street, which brought a lot of criticism, and Starmer infamously had a photo taken of him looking at curtains as a way to make humour out of the situation, but also make people aware of the controversial claim. This appeared to have possibly given the Conservatives a hit, with polling showing that Labour was climbing back after the Tories surged ahead following the success of the vaccine programme. Therefore, it became one of the main issues Labour campaigned on in the local election and the Hartlepool by-election. It was seen to be a weakness in the Conservative armour that Labour were hoping to expose to show how the tories were unfit for office.
This, as you already know, was a massive failure with Labour losing hundreds of councillors to the Tories, Lib Dems and Greens along with many councils and, of course, the by-election in an emphatic fashion. Clearly this means, that the people did not, and do not care about this. Labour appeared to undervalue the greater importance to what governments will actually do, and with 42% of healthcare workers voting Conservative and 32% saying they intended on voting Labour, compared to 82% voting for Labour in the 2019 general election, it appeared their tactics of putting this issue at the forefront did not work in the slightest. Instead of putting across policy ideas, other than the usual “Tories are bad for the NHS”, it delivered a lackluster campaign which many said lacked any real vision or alternative plan to the Conservatives when people appear to have become accustomed to the status quo if the latest results in Scotland, England and Wales have anything to say. Moreover, more people with working class backgrounds being more inclined to voting Tory, it appears that Labour trying to smear the Tories, much the the Conservatives tried to do to Labour in 2017 which ended in dramatic failure as it appeared to bounce back onto them.
Hancock breaking Ministerial Code
This is the latest attack on the Conservatives as a result of a claim that Matt Hancock gave a contract to a company that his sister worked for, and allegedly did not inform the cabinet about this. This would mean the that he would have broken ministerial code. This, on the surface, appears to have an effect; in a Survation poll, 41% of people said that Hancock should be sacked, and in a YouGov poll, 36% said he should resign compared to 31% who said he should not be sacked. The immediate polling aftermath showed Labour closing in, with Opinium giving a 3.5% swing to Labour from the Conservatives and YouGov giving Labour a 2% swing. However, the next poll after these two showed a 1% swing from Labour to the Conservatives, and an extension of the Conservative lead.
Moreover, the stat about Matt Hancock generally could be a result of the whole pandemic. YouGov’s approval ratings for Hancock show 46% having a negative opinion and 26% having a positive opinion. In other words – he has got better ratings on if he should resign then he does for his actual approval ratings. Unfortunately, there is not much data why this has appeared to not have taken hold on the people’s consciousness, as there are not many polls on this topic, but it’s likely a similar story to all the rest of them: people are unaware and do not care.
What this indicates is firstly people do not seem to care about the issues concerning the Conservative Party, and polling has suggested this. At the end of the day, people can’t care about what they don’t know. This could be a result of the fact there was a seven-hour inquiry, and the average person is not going to be watching something like this for that long, especially considering the pubs and shops are now open. What is possibly alarming though is it could be a result of lack of trust in the news we consume.
Polling suggests that we are consuming more sources of news we do not trust any more, which means that even if we see criticism, we find it hard to trust. It’s important to find sources that present news fairly, though the average person might not be likely to do that.