‘Beergate’ seems to have had no negative impact on Keir Starmer’s reputation

Connor IbbetsonData Journalist
May 12, 2022, 9:31 AM GMT+0

The leader of the opposition remains the preferred choice for prime minister

In a week that should have seen Keir Starmer celebrating Labour’s local election wins, the leader of the opposition has instead found himself at the centre of a police investigation.

Police in Durham are now re-investigating whether a shared meal of curry and beer after a day on the campaign trail in May 2021 was a violation of the lockdown rules. While indoor working was allowed at the time, socialising was not, leaving Starmer at risk of receiving a fixed penalty notice.

Given his calls for Boris Johnson to resign over his own ‘Partygate’ police fine, Starmer has pledged to hand in his notice if he is issued one himself. Much has been made by Labour politicians of Keir Starmer’s reputation for integrity, and his defenders have referred to him as ‘Mr Rules’ in regard to adhering to COVID laws. This does not appear to have gone unnoticed by the public, as new YouGov data shows 41% of the public think of Starmer as principled, while only 23% think of him as unprincipled. Of the six attributes we asked about, this is the one on which Starmer performs most favourably.

This is vastly different from Boris Johnson, who is seen as unprincipled by 65% to 14%. Even among 2019 Conservative voters, only 32% see the prime minister as a man of principle, with 45% saying the opposite. Indeed, these Tory voters are more likely to think Johnson is unprincipled than Starmer (37%).

Starmer’s standing with the public they do not seem to have worked. In fact, public opinion of Starmer has improved in some areas since mid-April.

The Labour leader still tends to be seen as competent (40%) rather than incompetent (32%), with the former up five points from 35% and the latter unchanged. These figures also put him well ahead of his rival, with only 25% of the public seeing Johnson as competent compared to 63% who say he is competent.

Despite the public leaning toward thinking Starmer is untrustworthy by 36% to 31%, accusations of lying over Beergate seem yet to stick, with these figures unchanged since the last survey. Furthermore, the public are substantially more likely to think Starmer is trustworthy than Johnson (12%), who is seen as untrustworthy by 72% of people, including half of 2019 Conservative voters (51%).

While the proportion of people who see Starmer as decisive has risen seven points, from 24% to 31%, Britons still tend (38%) to think he is indecisive. This compares with 28% who see Boris Johnson as decisive and 60% who think him unable to make a quick decision.

Strength is Starmer’s weakest attribute, with only 25% of Britons considering him so versus 43% who perceive him as weak. Britons are slightly more likely to see Johnson as strong (31%) but are also more likely to regard him as weak (52%).

While Starmer has seen no decline across the above attributes, the Beergate stories may be slightly eroding Britons’ belief that Starmer generally stuck to the lockdown rules. Last week Britons thought he did so by 42% to 28%. However, that gap has now narrowed, with the number who think he generally stuck to the rules dropping four points to 38%, and the number who think he did not increasing four points to 32%.

Finally, Starmer continues to be seen as the better choice for prime minister, by 33% to Boris Johnson’s 26%. While 59% of 2019 Conservative voters think Johnson is the better choice, one in eleven (9%) say Starmer would make the better leader.

See full results here

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