Boris Johnson’s self-styled image as a ‘defender of the people’ is in trouble after a snap YouGov poll revealed the public view the desperate efforts to force through Brexit as ‘undemocratic’.
The survey of 1,533 voters ound Johnson’s suspension of parliament was viewed as undemocratic by an overwhelming 46% to 32%, while the prime minister’s decision to throw 21 of his MPs – including two former chancellors and the grandson of Sir Winston Churchill – out of his party is also viewed as undemocratic by 45% to 32%.
Barely a fifth (22%) of voters think people voted in 2016 to leave with No Deal, reinforcing claims by Johnson’s opponents that he has no mandate to impose this on the British people now. But only 21% think a General Election is the right way to settle Brexit. Instead, a majority – 53% excluding don’t knows – say they support a new public vote.
Johnson has defended his hardline stance by claiming he’s seeking to negotiate a new deal but fewer voters (39%) think he’s serious about this than think he’s not serious (42%).
By a margin of two-to-one, voters think Johnson cares more about his personal interests (42%) than the national interest (21%), while another 5% think his main concern is the Conservative Party rather than the nation.
The poll also shows that voters believe by three to one that No Deal will be bad for their family’s living standards (40% to 13%), that by two to one will leave Britain’s economy weaker (46% to 24%) and will see the NHS get worse (41% to 21%).
Peter Kellner, former president of YouGov and one of the UK’s most respected polling commentators, said it shows that the government’s attempt to present itself as “defenders of the people versus the politicians is already in trouble”.
He said: “By large margins, people believe Boris Johnson has behaved undemocratically by suspending parliament and sacking MPs who disagree with him. Barely a fifth believe that the UK voted for No Deal and a clear majority think his plan for a General Election is no way to solve this crisis. Perhaps most worrying of all for a PM launching a populist election campaign, voters say – by a margin of two-to-one – he is motivated more by own his own interests than the national interest.
“The poll shows that Boris Johnson has not got a mandate to impose No Deal because barely a third believe this is what the country voted for in 2016. It reveals deep pessimism about the prospects for living standards, the NHS and young people if it goes ahead. This is not a poll that will instil confidence in Conservative election strategists.”
Guto Bebb MP, former Conservative defence minister and leading supporter of a People’s Vote, said Boris Johnson’s premiership is turning into a “political humiliation”.
He said: “Boris Johnson last night decisively destroyed the Conservative Party’s majority in parliament by expelling those who voted with their conscience – a policy which if it had ever applied to him would have left him in the wilderness a long time ago. He and his administration’s contempt for democracy and accountability could hardly be clearer and this poll shows the public knows it.
“His decision to decimate the Conservative ranks in the Commons may leave him feeling he has no choice but to call an election, but he is risking turning one night’s political humiliation into a permanent personal political catastrophe, ending his premiership in record time as voters turn against not just his policies on Brexit but also his attack on democracy.”
“No Deal has no majority in parliament or the country and is not an election winning platform. Voters do not trust Boris Johnson to do the right thing on this. He might want to fight an election on the economy or the NHS but he won’t be able to escape from the Brexit trap. That is why it is time the Conservative Party learnt to trust the people and gave the public the final say on Brexit. It’s the only democratic way forward.”