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

A Shropshire Star survey reveals just 10 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 63 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.

There is also support for more stringent measures on vaccines, with three quarters saying those without a jab should be banned from public events and bars.

After the surprise by-election defeat for the Tories in North Shropshire, just 37 per cent say Mr Johnson is the best prime minister for Britain, compared to 54 per cent for Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer.

Survey results:

The full results of the Shropshire Star survey

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 for 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 said that he will take on whoever leads the Conservative Party as he readies his shadow cabinet for an election in May 2023. He said there was “no plan for the future” under the Conservatives, 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 successor ... it 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.”

Conservative MP for the Wrekin, Mark Pritchard, said the Prime Minister deserved credit for the success of the UK’s vaccination programme and that it is easy for political opponents to criticise.

He said: “This survey clearly shows the government must do better.

“However, the UK has one of the most successful vaccination rollout programmes in the world.

“This is because of Boris’s leadership and him taking the right decisions at the right time. It is easy for any opposition leader to criticise a sitting prime minister.

“Boris has to take daily decisions, Keir Starmer takes decisions after the event and in retrospect.

“There is a huge political advantage to the latter.”

Shrewsbury and Atcham’s Conservative MP, Daniel Kawczynski, defended the Prime Minister, insisting he was the right man to tackle the challenges of the Covid crisis.

He said: “It is always easy to say someone else might do a better job, like Keir Starmer or someone else, but actually it is very difficult to compare because they are not doing the same job.

“They are not the prime minister. Sir Keir and Ed Davey are not sitting in Number 10 with all the responsibility, the difficulties, the complications, that can inevitably lap at the feet of a sitting prime minister.

“I think the tensions, the strains and the pressures involved in being prime minister are extremely difficult but are exacerbated during a national crisis.

“I have every confidence in the prime minister and he has done an excellent job in very difficult circumstances.

“I do not feel Sir Keir Starmer is the answer and I am quietly hopeful and confident people at the next election will support the Conservative Party over the Labour Party.”

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