UK Politics: Six months has been a long time for Boris Johnson

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Six months on from their election victory Boris Johnson's Conservatives are losing support and their next election price is drifting reports Max Liu...

"The price on the Tories winning another majority at the next election is [3.15] – exactly the same as you can get on Labour – after drifting for months during the covid-19 pandemic."

This week it will be exactly six months since the Conservatives won an 80 seat majority at the 2019 general election. It was a stunning victory and their best result since 1987. Boris Johnson, whose delight was evident in pictures of him punching the air amid bottles of Budweiser as the exit poll was published, said he wanted to govern Britain for a decade.

Many Labour figures - appalled at the way Jeremy Corbyn had lead them to their worst seat total since 1935 - conceded that a long Johnson premiership was inevitable and the next general election - [1.56] to be in 2024 - was a lost cause too.

Today that all seems a long time ago and the price on the Tories winning another majority at the next election is [3.15] - exactly the same as you can get on Labour - after drifting for months during the covid-19 pandemic.

Johnson's victory in December was supposed to mark the end of a turbulent half-decade for British politics but the past six months have arguably been more eventful than anything in living memory. The Tories [1.81] are still favourites to win most seats, with Labour [2.2], but they might not be for long.

Government continue to lose support

The pandemic is the obvious reason for the government's problems. No government has had to face anything like it since World War Two. At least, that's what the Tories will tell you, along with "Nobody could have seen it coming" and "No other government would have done any better."

Both claims are debatable which might be one reason why the government is haemorrhaging support. Last week, polling from Opinium showed the biggest drop off in support for the Tories since 2017. This week, Survation show significant gains for Labour to within two points of the government, and other firms post similar margins:

Remember that governments tend to lose most support after a crisis. That was the pattern during the financial crisis of 2008, when polling showed support for Gordon Brown's government followed by a dramatic backlash amid the fallout.

Toxic personalities and Starmer's start are both factors

But even before the pandemic, it was obvious we were in for a rocky ride with this government. In February, Sajid Javid resigned as Chancellor of the Exchequer, after clashing with chief government adviser Dominic Cummings, and was succeed by Rishi Sunak. It was a clear sign that, with personalities like Johnson and Cummings at the highest levels, the government's course would be far from straightforward.

The other factor is Keir Starmer's solid start as Labour leader. He only took charge in April and, when it comes to assessing him so far, it's more a case of pointing to what he hasn't done than what he has done. Starmer has let the government make mistakes, offering cooperation and constructive criticism, before exploiting Johnson's weaknesses at PMQs.

Starmer is [3.0] to be Britain's next prime minister, although that price looks a little short and there are good reasons - Johnson's unpredictable nature, his ruthless opponents within the party, their commanding majority in parliament - that could mean we see another Tory in number 10 before the next election.

Hancock a good price for cabinet exit

Epidemiologist John Edmunds, who is a member of Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), said on The Andrew Marr Show this morning that the UK had gone into lockdown too slowly and that had cost lives.

Health secretary Matt Hancock denied this, saying the government "made the right decisions at the right time."

Matt Hancock 956.jpg

This is likely to be the government line for the next four-and-a-half years. But whether Hancock, who looks as isolated and beleaguered as Steve McCLaren during the dying days of his reign as England manager, is around to utter it is another matter.

The Sportsbook market on who will be first to leave Johnson's cabinet is a rogues' gallery, with over-promoted liabilities like Priti Patel 4/1 and Gavin Williamson 12/1, who both have form here, and even Johnson himself 12/1.

At 14/1 I like Hancock. Mercy sacking, sacrificial lamb - call it what you will, but that's a generous price on the health secretary being first out the door.

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