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  2. Brexit
12 July 2018updated 24 Jun 2021 12:21pm

With Labour ahead in the polls, is Theresa May feeling the effects of her unstable cabinet?

Voters appear unhappy with the Prime Minister’s handling of the Chequers deal and its fallout.

By Stephen Bush

England’s World Cup run ends in the most timely way possible: defeat in the semi-final and a third place play-off against Belgium. There can be no better sporting analogy for the Brexit talks than the third place play-off: whatever result you get, you’ve still lost.

Speaking of losing… is Theresa May suffering the after-effects of the Chequers deal and its fallout? The latest Times/YouGov poll suggests she might be. Labour have their first lead since March with YouGov – they aren’t up (they’re still on 39 per cent) but the Tories are down (on 37 per cent), and the underlying figures show voters aren’t pleased with May’s handling of things.

The changes in voting intention are within the margin of error and it is just one poll, so all the usual caveats apply. But it would be astonishing if the last few days haven’t done damage to the Conservatives generally and May personally.

Even most politicos haven’t read May’s Chequers deal and to most people the words “Chequers deal” are essentially meaningless. This far from an election people tune out, and even in the run-up to an election or referendum people take their cues from trusted actors on “their” side. And the cues haven’t been good – bits of the government keep falling off and two of the most prominent Brexiteers (Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage) keep talking about Brexit being sold out, while the Brexit press is similarly angry.

So all things being equal, we would expect the pattern in this YouGov poll to be borne out in polling over the next week or so. That will panic Conservative MPs in marginals – but what should really trouble them is that no matter what the final Brexit deal looks like, enough trusted actors, on both sides of the Leave and Remain divide, will have a vested interest in portraying the Brexit deal as unsatisfactory and the government’s handling of it as poor – and the smell of failure won’t easily be expunged simply by removing Theresa May.

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