Boris Johnson's teflon political career is facing a growing challenge from Labour under Keir Starmer – Ian Swanson

Fuel shortages at the pumps, sparsely filled supermarket shelves, fears over toys and turkeys for Christmas, soaring gas prices and a £20-a-week cut in support for the poorest in society – there are plenty reasons why Boris Johnson's government should be unpopular at the moment.

Tuesday, 5th October 2021, 4:55 am

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Yet, as the Conservatives meet in Manchester for their annual conference, a weekend poll by Opinium put the party four points ahead of Labour.

The last two prime ministers paid the price for their shortcomings – David Cameron quit after wrongly thinking he could win the Brexit referendum and Theresa May was forced out after failing repeatedly to get her deal for leaving the EU through the Commons.

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Boris Johnson was labelled 'a trivial man' by Sir Keir Starmer (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

But as crises mount and the opposition remains behind in the polls, the question has to be: is Boris Johnson the Teflon Tory?

Nothing seems to stick to this prime minister. His unacceptable comments about Muslim women and gay men are brushed aside.

A unanimous supreme court ruling against him over his attempt to prorogue parliament was followed three months later by an 80-seat victory in the general election.

The poor handling of the Covid pandemic which saw the UK with one of the highest death tolls seems to be forgotten amid relief that the vaccine roll-out has gone well.

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Meanwhile his record of dishonesty, his chaotic private life, dodgy arrangements to finance redecoration of his Downing Street flat and so much more are "priced in" to people’s view of the Tory leader.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer got good reviews for his speech to his party’s conference in Brighton last week, in which he labelled Boris Johnson “not a bad man, but a trivial man” and suggested that, after delivering Brexit, the Prime Minister was “a showman with nothing left to show, a trickster who has performed his one trick”.

And he was seen as having faced down the left of the party, winning a rule change to make it more difficult to deselect sitting MPs and stop anyone like Jeremy Corbyn getting onto the ballot in future leadership elections.

The weekend Opinium poll suggests Labour failed to get a bounce from their fraught few days at the seaside.

But another survey by the same polling company immediately after the conference, for Sky, had some more encouraging figures for Sir Keir.

It found 63 per cent of respondents agreed with what the Labour leader had to say, 57 per cent thought he came across as strong, 62 per cent said it showed him as competent and 68 per cent said it showed he cares about ordinary people – all higher scores than Mr Johnson got for his first conference speech as leader in 2019.

And perhaps even better news for Labour – new YouGov modelling of poll results from 50 so-called “Red Wall” seats in the Midlands, Wales and Northern England which the Tories won from Labour at the last election showed the two parties effectively neck and neck.

Tory support there was now lower than for Theresa May at the 2017 election and suggested the party would lose 18 seats to Labour, with a further 14 too close to call.

Sir Keir and his party will be hoping these are signs that before too long Boris Johnson’s shortcomings will catch up with him after all.

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