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Don’t be fooled by the polls, Boris

Daniel Leal-Olivas/WPA Pool/Getty Images

Have we reached “peak Johnson”? It may seem an odd question, says Robert Shrimsley in the Financial Times. The Tories are comfortably ahead in the polls and Boris’s personal rating is “far higher” than Labour leader Keir Starmer’s. Given his “imperviousness to political gravity”, calling peak Boris is risky. But the cracks are starting to appear: missteps over reopening, by-election defeats, last weekend’s rapid U-turn over whether or not he should self-isolate. No 10 is back to “infighting and counter-briefing”, and the PM’s “levelling up” speech was a flop. 

He doesn’t need “new converts”; he just needs to keep the supporters he has. But knowing this makes him “more risk-averse”, delaying or diluting important decisions that might upset his base, and leaning into divisive “wedge issues” around culture. He has failed to spend any of the political capital from the vaccine success on building support for tough decisions on crucial issues such as climate change and funding social care. Yet, while struggling to tackle Covid aftershocks, he still has expensive “big ambitions”, tricky for a PM who “fears new taxes”. And “there is no tribe of Johnson loyalists”. His standing with MPs is shallow and based entirely on his ability to win. Boris’s stock is still high, but if he wastes the opportunity to do the “political hard yards” now, he will regret it. 

Read the full article here (paywall).