Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
  2. The Staggers
5 August 2021updated 27 Aug 2021 2:28pm

A series of polls show the Prime Minister’s approval rating in decline

A big part of the Conservative Party's political success over the past year was that most voters saw ending the lockdown as the biggest challenge facing the UK.

By Stephen Bush

It’s striking how, in the spring, even hearing about others getting their vaccination felt like an almost religious experience, and the mood of euphoria carried through into politics, too. Boris Johnson’s approval rating soared and the Conservatives enjoyed a fantastic set of results in the local elections.

Now, a series of polls show the Prime Minister’s approval rating in decline, as the pandemic recedes as an issue of concern among British voters and the feel-good factor around the vaccine rollout dissipates.

A big part of the Conservative Party’s political success over the past year (and indeed, a big part of the success of Labour in Wales and the SNP in Scotland) is that most voters saw ending the lockdown as the biggest challenge facing the United Kingdom, and the vaccine roll-out as the way to do so. How the next year and new parliamentary term plays out will largely depend on what replaces it.

You can see from Labour’s summer campaigning what Keir Starmer wants the next year to be about: quality jobs (or the lack thereof), fighting crime (or the impact austerity has had on the state’s ability to do so), and the climate crisis (in part as a way of wooing people who dislike robust messages about crime).

And you can see what Rishi Sunak wants the next year to be about: spending money (or rather, not spending money), the risks of inflation (and therefore, the need not to spend money): essentially the same argument that worked for the Conservatives in 2015. In many ways, the big question in the new parliamentary term is going to be which one of them is right – and whether or not Boris Johnson’s own instincts prove to be a variable that his Chancellor can’t control.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. A weekly newsletter helping you fit together the pieces of the global economic slowdown. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How to create a responsible form of “buy now, pay later”
“Unions are helping improve conditions for drivers like me”
Transport is the core of levelling up