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Voices of dissent have been growing louder within the Tory ranks over the last few weeks with some MPs defying the Prime Minister and openly challenging his decisions. And with Parliament returning on Tuesday, the mood on the Tory benches will not have been helped by a new poll by an Opinium poll which shows Labour level pegging with the Conservatives for the first time since July 2019. The snapshot survey puts the Tories and Labour neck and neck on 40 percent.
It is becoming increasingly difficult for backbenchers now to promote and defend government policy
Sir Charles Walker
At the end of March, shortly after Mr Johnson imposed the full lockdown, the Conservatives were surging ahead on 54 percent of the vote with Labour languishing on 28 percent as the party awaited the result of it’s leadership election in the wake of the disastrous Jeremy Corbyn era.
The Prime Minister’s personal ratings were also very positive at the time as the country looked to him to lead it through the terrifying early stages of the coronavirus pandemic.
But Mr Johnson is now consistently trailing well behind the approval ratings Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Adam Drummond of Opinium said: “This is the first time Labour have drawn level since July 2019 when both main parties were in freefall and losing votes to the Brexit party and the Liberal Democrats.
“Since Boris Johnson became prime minister the Tories typically had a double digit lead, peaking in March/April this year when they were seen to be handling the pandemic and lockdown fairly well while Labour changed leader.
“In the five months since that peak, the lead has gradually declined from 26 percent to 0 percent now.”
The Liberal Democrats, who elected former Cabinet minister Sir Ed Davey as leader this week, stood at 6 percent in the poll.
Mr Johnson has been warned he could face a showdown with angry MPs when Parliament returns to work next week.
The handling of the coronavirus crisis – especially the fiasco over exam results – has provoked public concern from some Tory MPs throughout the summer.
A U-turn over whether English secondary-school pupils should wear masks in some situations also caused serious concern among some backbenchers over how the situation was being handled.
Mr Johnson was accused of ducking personal responsibility for the exams farce after sacking the senior official at the Department for Education and then blaming the debacle on a “mutant algorithm”.
Conservative MPs, including many ex-ministers with extensive government experience, are also becoming increasingly angry that their voices and concerns, and those of senior Whitehall officials with many years of service, are being ignored and dismissed.
Sir Charles Walker, vice-chairman of the powerful 1922 committee of Conservative backbenchers, said it was becoming increasingly difficult for MPs to defend Government action as policies can be abandoned quickly by ministers.
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Sir Charles, usually seen as a loyalist to the Prime Minister, said: “Too often it looks like this government licks its finger and sticks it in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.
“It is becoming increasingly difficult for backbenchers now to promote and defend government policy as so often that policy is changed or abandoned without notice.
“Whether this approach is by design or by accident, the climate of uncertainty it creates is unsustainable and erodes morale.”
Insiders said critics of Mr Johnson saw power and decision-making centred on a tight but inexperienced and unpopular group within Downing Street.
Opinium carried out an online survey of 2,002 UK adults between August 26-28.
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