UK Politics Latest Odds: Boris Johnson gets defensive as Tories lose faith

  • Max Liu
  • 3:30 min read
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Can Johnson relaunch his premiership?

With the Conservatives' next election odds drifting Boris Johnson faces a tricky conference says Max Liu. Meanwhile, Labour may get a by-election opportunity in Scotland...

"Raab is 12.5 to succeed Johnson as leader, while Gove is 6/17.2 Sunak’s nearest challenger in the betting, but Truss, who has served in three consecutive Tory governments, is perhaps one to watch at 84/185.0."

Boris Johnson is only a 40% chance on the Exchange to survive as Conservative leader until 2024 as he faces an unexpectedly tricky party conference. The prime minister is 7/52.42 to leave no sooner than 2024 - the year when the next general election is scheduled to take place.

When Johnson lead the Tories to an 80-seat majority last December he looked unassailable and talked about being PM for a decade. Now, as Johnson prepares to address his party's virtual conference on Tuesday, a poll of Conservative members has revealed that they're losing faith in his leadership.

We know Johnson's approval rating with the general public has fallen dramatically in the last six months. It's more surprising, however, to see him slip to -10 with Tory party members and learn that only one in three think he's handling the pandemic well.

To keep things in perspective, Theresa May's approval rating with her party's members sank to -74 in April 2019, a month before she announced her resignation.

But Johnson's numbers are not good, especially coming so soon after the party's best election result for 30 years. Fraser Nelson, editor of the Tory-supporting Spectator magazine where Johnson was previously editor, said today: "The people who backed his premiership had higher hopes for Boris."

Tories still odds-on to win next election

An anonymous senior Conservative politician claimed this weekend the challenges facing the Johnson government were graver than those faced by either John Major or Margaret Thatcher's administrations.

We have no idea how long those challenges will last. But another Tory thought Johnson could get through his current difficulties: "By the spring, if Covid is looking better, the economy is picking up and the Bond movie is finally out, things could look very different."

The Tories are 5/61.85 to win the most seats at the next general election. The odds on them winning a majority, however, have drifted to 9/43.25.

Today, in an interview with Andrew Marr, Johnson said things would be "bumpy until Christmas and maybe beyond."

Of those who have criticised his handling of the pandemic he said: "Nobody has offered any better proposals."

Johnson came across as defensive in his interview with Marr and rejected concerns about his health as "balderdash". He will need to give a more confident performance if he is to relaunch his premiership in his conference speech.

Sunak way ahead in next Tory leader betting

It was no surprise to see Rishi Sunak get the top approval rating from Tory members, with +81.5%. That's consistent with the Betfair Exchange where Sunak is the clear favourite to be the next Conservative leader and has been for since the spring.

More surprising is Liz Truss's approval rating of +69.7% ahead of both Dominic Raab and Michael Gove.

Rishi Sunak 956.jpg

Raab is 12.5 to succeed Johnson as leader, while Gove is 6/17.2 Sunak's nearest challenger in the betting, but Truss, who has served in three consecutive Tory governments, is perhaps one to watch at 84/185.0.

By-election opportunity for Labour in Scotland?

It can only be a matter of time before Margaret Ferrier resigns as an MP after she broke coronavirus rules in a manner until now unprecedented among UK politicians.

Ferrier spoke in parliament while awaiting the result of a coronavirus test then travelled by train from London to Scotland after testing positive.

She has had the SNP whip removed, so now sits as an independent, and has been told to resign as an MP by Nicola Sturgeon.

Last year the SNP won Ferrier's Rutherglen and Hamilton West seat by just over 5,000 votes from Labour. If Ferrier goes, and there's a by-election, it should be a fascinating contest as the constituency has at recent elections swung between the two parties - going to the SNP in 2015 then to Labour in 2017 before the SNP took it back in 2019.

New Labour leader Keir Starmer would see the by-election as an opportunity to show that his party can rebuild their popularity in Scotland.

UK - Party Leaders: UK - Party Leaders (Exit Dates - Boris Johnson)

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Tuesday 31 December, 11.59pm

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