After the dramatic events last night Parliament has officially been prorogued, and will now be suspended for the next five weeks. The move has been controversial, with the Government claiming it was intended to allow them to hold a new Queen’s speech and set out a fresh domestic agenda, but opposition MPs claiming it was designed to frustrate efforts to stop a No Deal Brexit.
Either way, the public oppose the plan. In our latest polling for the Sunday Times nearly half the public (48%) said the move was unacceptable, compared to 32% who thought it was acceptable.
Most of this opposition comes from Remain voters, over three quarters (78%) of whom find it unacceptable. However, whilst most Leave voters thought the move was acceptable, there is a sizeable minority (22%) who think the decision just isn’t cricket.
So how much should Boris be concerned about a public backlash? Probably not that much.
Firstly, the public are never paying as much attention as those who work in politics think they are. The arguments around proroguing Parliament may have been big news in Westminster last night, but process stories like this never change as many minds as politicos expect.
Secondly, despite being an unpopular policy, it still may not have the anticipated effect. When it comes to views on Boris Johnson specifically, there are some signs that making these firm decisions could actually be having a positive impact. Six in ten (62%) now think he is decisive, up from just 38% at the end of July. A majority also now think he is strong, compared to just 41% who said the same earlier in the summer.
These numbers also compare favourably to Jeremy Corbyn, who just 16% describe as decisive, and just 18% describe as being strong.
Finally, as we have seen over the past few weeks, the key strategy amongst Boris Johnson and his advisers is to max out their support amongst Leave voters by proving they are willing to do whatever it takes (“Do or Die”) to deliver Brexit by October 31st. They hope this will win them back the Leave voters that Theresa May lost to the Brexit Party after the previous Brexit extension back in March, and then stand them in good stead to win a subsequent election.
And that strategy still seems to be working. Our latest poll shows the Conservatives hold a 14 point lead on 35%, ahead of Labor on 21% and the Lib Dems on 19%. Their lead is built on the support of Leave voters, with a majority (58%) backing the Tories, as opposed to the Remain vote, which is much more divided between Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens.
This does mean that the biggest risk to Boris Johnson over the coming weeks, now that he has built a voter coalition that is so reliant on Leave voters, is that they will lose faith in his abilities to deliver the Brexit that they want. So far that isn’t the case, with most (58%) of Leave voters thinking it is Boris Johnson who is most in tune with the public on Brexit, as opposed to just 4% who think the same of MPs in Parliament.
However that doesn’t mean it still couldn’t if, for example, the Prime Minister is forced by Parliament to go to Brussels and ask to delay Brexit.
So whilst the public may not like the current suspension, Boris thinks that the only thing that matters is ensuring that Leave voters continue to see him as the best man to deliver Brexit. The current polling shows they haven’t yet changed their minds.