Boris warning: Star poll gives damning verdict on PM's handling of Covid crisis

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is running out of time – as the public runs out of patience.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had a difficult year and may yet face a challenge to his leadership in 2022
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had a difficult year and may yet face a challenge to his leadership in 2022

An Express & Star survey reveals just 13 per cent believe he has dealt with the Covid crisis well.

And eight out of 10 believe Mr Johnson broke lockdown rules with Downing Street parties.

A total of 54 per cent also say they feel “pessimistic” about the future, a reflection on a torrid year in which Covid and rising prices have taken their toll.

But the task for Labour is also laid bare in the E&S survey of more than 2,300 readers. While we are fed up with Mr Johnson, almost half of us say he is the best prime minister, with only 35 per cent backing Sir Keir Starmer.

Survey results:

The survey results in full

More than 2,300 people took part in the online survey to mark the turn of the year.

The results act as a warning shot to Mr Johnson as he faces a possible challenge to his leadership in the new year.

The poll was carried out in the fortnight after the North Shropshire by-election, where Liberal Democrat Helen Morgan overcame a majority of more than 23,000 to take a seat considered as true-blue as they get.

Mr Johnson’s strength in the Tory Party has always been his ability to win votes. If that magic starts to disappear then he is in big trouble.

The survey shows general discontent with the Prime Minister, both in his handling of the coronavirus crisis and his association with parties that took place in Downing Street last Christmas. Mr Johnson has always maintained that gatherings were either work meetings or held virtually and within rules at that time. The survey shows that the vast majority don’t believe him.

Allies of the Prime Minister will be hoping he comes back reinvigorated after the Christmas break, but he appears to have a mountain to climb to get both his party and the public back on side.

A number of influential backbenchers have already hinted that, unless he gets a grip of his premiership, a stalking horse candidate may come forward as part of a plot to remove him.

Coronavirus continues to loom of course, and Mr Johnson will hope his booster vaccine drive will stave off any major crisis from Omicron. The vaccination programme is one positive of his time in Downing Street and most readers responding to our survey believe there should be more steps brought in to ban those without a jab from public indoor spaces.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer still has his own battle to convince the electorate that he has what it takes to become Prime Minister. His party came second in North Shropshire in 2019, but fell away in the recent by-election as voters rallied around the Lib Dems.

Sir Keir sais he will take on whoever leads the Conservative Party as he readies his shadow cabinet for an election in May 2023.

Sir Keir said there was “no plan for the future” under the Tories, adding: “I don’t care who they put up – we will take on whoever is the Tory leader.

“Whoever the leader is, whether it’s Boris Johnson or his is clear that we’ve already had 11, going on 12, years of Tory government, and it’s been a complete failure on any terms.”

Sir Keir said Labour would build a “new Britain” and that he had moved the party away from the Jeremy Corbyn era.

He said he had told his top team to prepare to fight an election as early as May 2023.

He said: “We also have to show we’re a government in waiting.

“I think already people are beginning to see that.

“We have better answers, clearer answers, and more confidence than the Government going forward.”

He added that Mr Johnson was now “being seen for what he is, which is a leader who over-promises and under-delivers; a leader without a real plan for government or strategy for government; an unserious leader rather than a serious leader”.

Sir Keir said he would force Mr Johnson to resign right now if he could, but said that was an issue for the Tories to decide.

He said: “They’re in the middle of absolute infighting in their party, as he hides from public scrutiny and those around him circle to see whether they can be his successor.

“In the middle of the pandemic that is the worst of all situations, because here we are with the variant on the increase, and people really concerned about what’s going to happen ... and we’ve got a Prime Minister who is so weak and his party so divided.”

Mike Wood, MP for Dudley South, said he felt that without the Prime Minister’s personal intervention, the country wouldn’t be where it was in terms of vaccinations and the lack of restrictions.

He said: “Without Boris Johnson’s personal intervention during this pandemic, we would not have had the successful rapid roll-out of the vaccine, which has been quicker than almost anywhere else in the world.

“We also would not now have more booster jabs than another other large country in the world and that’s why we are able to have fewer restrictions this year than Wales, Scotland and most European countries, because of the success of the vaccination programme.

“That is, to a huge extent, down to Boris Johnson personally and the approaches taken in Cabinet, so I think he’s absolutely made a massively positive difference during this pandemic and I think he is the right man to lead us through the pandemic.”

Mr Wood also said he felt the next year would be better than the previous two and agreed with the 46 per cent feeling optimistic about 2022.

He said: “I think we can look forward to 2022 being better than 2021 which, in turn, was a little bit better than 2020.

“I think next year will be better in terms of the pandemic, in terms of the economy and in terms of people being able to get back to their everyday lives and actually getting back to creating the opportunities I was elected to create two years ago.

“I think there’s a lot to be optimistic about in 2022 and while there is still reason for caution about this pandemic and future variants, I think we’re in a much better place than we were 12 months ago.”

When asked about the Downing Street parties, Mr Wood said if the rules were found to be broken, then the necessary penalties should apply.

He said: “The same rules have to apply to everyone, wherever they work and whoever they are.

“That’s why the investigation is happening and if the investigation has found that rules were broken, then the same penalties need to apply as would anywhere else.”

Suzanne Webb, Conservative MP for Stourbridge, added: “We have a world beating vaccine roll-out and booster programme that has kept the economy moving, saved lives and has allowed us to have the fastest growth in the G7 group of countries. We have record levels of employment opportunities and rising wages despite all the challenges of the last 20 months.

“The Government has consistently balanced those needs with the need to protect the NHS while doing what it can do to keep our freedoms. I happen to think this is good work.”

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