Boris has much to prove say Star readers as Labour urged to leave Corbyn behind
Boris Johnson may not be able to deliver Brexit by the end of next year, according to people in Shropshire uncertain whether he is the man to end the deadlock.
The Prime Minister has made sorting Brexit his key priority and will see a path towards achieving it now he commands an 80-strong majority in the Commons, but Shropshire Star readers do not think it will be that easy.
A survey of more than 1,300 readers was launched to gauge the mood of a county weary after three elections in less than five years and endless rows over Brexit.
But despite the latest vote delivering a clear victory for the Conservatives, people remain unconvinced that Brexit will be delivered next year.
The Tories strengthened their grip on Shropshire and Mid Wales at the election. The region remained blue but majorities were increased in every constituency, as voters backed Mr Johnson over Jeremy Corbyn.
But despite the clear victory for the Tories, many of those who took part in the survey are not sold on Mr Johnson and almost half do not believe he will do a good job as Prime Minister. Readers were also split in terms of how optimistic they feel now the election is done.
More than half – 51 per cent – said they did not believe the UK would be better off after Brexit.
The survey suggested that interest in Brexit in Shropshire and Mid Wales is also waning. Only 27 per cent said it was the most important issue to them now the election was over, compared to 41 per cent who say the NHS matters most.
Shropshire readers were also clear that for Labour to have any chance of beating the Tories they will have to move away from Jeremy Corbyn’s politics.
County split over what happens next
The story of the election was the shift in traditional Labour heartlands towards the Conservatives, which secured historic gains for the Tories in places they would previously have thought unwinnable.
The Conservatives’ national dominance was reflected in Shropshire and Mid Wales where the party strengthened its grip as it held all seats with increased majorities.
But despite that, not everyone is comfortable with Mr Johnson being in Number 10 and there also doubts about his ability to deliver Brexit. Nearly half – 49 per cent – said they did not believe he would make an effective Prime Minister, compared to 46 per cent who backed him.
A total of 57 per cent believe there will be more Brexit delay beyond the end of 2020, despite Mr Johnson’ pledge to get it done as quickly as possible.
The county is also split on how they feel about the future, with 48 per cent more optimistic about Britain’s fortunes following the election and 47 per cent less optimistic.
The results show Mr Johnson still has work to do to win some people over, even in a region that traditionally votes Conservative.
It was perhaps unthinkable that constituencies in parts of Shropshire would ever vote for Mr Corbyn but it appears not everyone was totally sold on Mr Johnson either.
The NHS was the other big issue, aside from Brexit, which dominated the pre-election coverage. And many people who took the survey – 41 per cent – think the NHS is now the most important issue facing the country, compared to 27 per cent who chose Brexit.
The Tories came under constant attack over their record on the NHS and with controversy surrounding the Future Fit review of health services in Shropshire, this may be a reason why some don’t support the Prime Minister.
With Labour now at a crossroads over where it goes next following a chastening defeat, Shropshire Star readers say the party must move back to the centre ground.
A huge 72 per cent of voters said there needed to be a shift to the centre compared to 28 per cent who said Labour should stick to Jeremy Corbyn’s socialist ideals. It chimes with the warnings from the likes of Tony Blair and Wolverhampton’s one remaining Labour MP. Pat McFadden, that Mr Corbyn’s policies mean the party is not electable in modern Britain.
Interestingly, although it was billed as the Brexit Election, nearly half of those who took the survey – 48 per cent – blamed Mr Corbyn for Labour’s defeat. This compared to 19 per cent who said Brexit was to blame for the party’s poor performance. Almost a quarter – 23 per cent – believe negative media stories had an impact on the result.
A total of 18 per cent said they changed the way they voted at the election.
The question now for Labour is ‘who next?’ but it appears readers are also underwhelmed by the shortlist of candidates preparing to take over from Mr Corbyn. Forty per cent said none of the current favourites should become leader, and that the job should instead go to someone else.
Of those in the running, the most popular choice is Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer, who took 24 per cent of the vote, followed by Birmingham MP Jess Phillips on 11 per cent – hardly convincing numbers for someone who will be tasked with transforming Labour into a party that can be taken seriously at the ballot box.
Emily Thornberry and Rebecca Long-Bailey, both allies of Mr Corbyn, took only five per cent and seven per cent of the vote respectively.
Finally, a majority of Shropshire Star readers would sacrifice closer economic ties with America because of suspicions about Donald Trump.