Leaders’ ratings: Polls suggest changes are unlikely

Leaders’ ratings: Polls suggest changes are unlikely

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Boris Johnson are in very similar, but entirely different, positions this morning.

Mr Varadkar and Fine Gael can begin the week with a frisson of anticipation. A weekend opinion poll records that Fianna Fáil’s support has dropped four points, while Fine Gael’s has increased by three, opening an eight-point gap.

Despite abundant domestic challenges, Mr Varadkar and Fine Gael seem in a comfortable position, though, as they know, there is many a slip between cup and lip.

British opinion polls shine as brightly on Mr Johnson, but he begins the week as a supplicant, more reliant on confidence than substance. He hopes he can bluster the House of Commons into accepting a December 12 election.

Unlike Mr Varadkar, Mr Johnson is not free to dictate when a divided Britain might vote. He is constrained by the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, which decrees a two-thirds majority of the House of Commons is required to deviate from an established schedule.

A majority of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour may withhold that sanction, arguing it will not be used to entrench a Johnson premiership, but their reality is far starker.

The Labour leader has the poorest poll rating of any leader of the Commons opposition since records began. Corbyn’s net satisfaction rating is minus-60, below the mark set in 1982 by Michael Foot.

Mr Corbyn is less popular than Mr Johnson among men and women of all socioeconomic groups and, surprisingly, of every age group. Over-65s opt for Mr Johnson by 62% to 8%.

Among the most idealistic voters, aged between 18 and 24, Corbyn is less popular than Mr Johnson, albeit by three points.

Jeremy Corbyn
Jeremy Corbyn

Mr Varadkar’s frisson of anticipation might become something less manageable if he enjoyed a similar advantage over Micheál Martin and Fianna Fáil, but because our politics remain — in the most general terms — tribal, rather than ideological, that possibility is remote.

Labour is, no matter how the pill is honeyed, unelectable under the MP for Islington North, but that is only one subplot in the drama. The self-inflicted destabilisation of the People’s Vote campaign is another.

Riven by infighting, it is less and less relevant, which is the fate that awaits the DUP, too.

Speaking at its Saturday conference, DUP leader Arlene Foster pledged that without a revised Brexit deal, the party will not support Mr Johnson’s administration.

“We will use our votes to defeat them,” she declared. The conference was attended by around 350 people, a crowd more in keeping with a moderately interesting jazz festival matinee than a vibrant political party conference.

That conference, caught between last year’s jamboree, when Mr Johnson was the enthusiastically welcomed bill-topper, and the imminent publication of the cash-for-ash report, which could be career-ending for Ms Foster and crushing for the DUP, seems a perfect example of how fleeting political influence can be.

And all the while, EU leaders look on, increasingly frustrated at the energy consumed trying to placate those who do not know what they want.

One person who does know what he wants is Mr Varadkar — he and his party want this weekend’s poll to be made real come election time.

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