The impact of coronavirus on British politics

Last week, Jeremy Corbyn told the BBC that the outbreak of coronavirus across the United Kingdom proved he was “right” in making unprecedented pledges to increase public spending.

Supporters of the outgoing leader sense that this may be electorally favourable. Ian Lavery, Labour’s party chairman, described the coronavirus as a “great opportunity” for the party, despite the virus resulting in 1,408 UK deaths already.

Lavery is joined by the associate editor of The Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire, who is demanding a Covid-election in order to resolve the issues that the pandemic is creating.

However, this blind confidence is not supported by any quantitative data. In fact, Boris Johnson’s People’s Government have received growing support throughout Britain amid the current crisis.

The BBC’s Andrew Neil questioned Maguire’s assessment of the current political landscaping tweeting that: “The Tories are 26 points ahead in the polls, Labour is about to pick an untested leader… and Mr Johnson has wrapped himself in the NHS.”

If these polls were to be emulated in an election, then Johnson would be the first Prime Minister since Stanley Baldwin to amass more than half of the support from the British electorate.

This growing support may come from the introduction of popular draconian measures, including national lockdown.

Almost three in four voters support the government’s policy including around two-thirds of those who backed the Liberal Democrats and over half of Labour voters.

The Number Cruncher Politics poll commissioned for Bloomberg highlighted that the approval of voters from across Britain’s political divide is a driving factor in the Tories poll boosts.

Around 10 per cent of 2019 Labour voters would now back Boris, as would almost one-in-six of those who opted for the Europhile party then led by Jo Swinson.

The war-like narrative that all Britons are in this struggle together has also enhanced the respectability of this One Nation Conservative government in the celtic corners of the United Kingdom.

According to recent polls show Johnson, who gained eight Welsh seats from Labour last December, now leads Labour in Wales. Even in Scotland, where the SNP command a massive majority, the Tories are establishing themselves as Sturgeon’s natural opposition.

Nonetheless, government ministers are also experiencing growing levels of approval. For the first time in his premiership the Prime Minister has a positive approval rating with a net score of 20 per cent.

But it is the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak is the undoubted political winner from within Cabinet ranks. The Chancellor’s competent performances have helped increase his approval rating from -6 per cent when he was promoted to Number 11 to a staggering 49 per cent.

However, the government should learn from history when the virus is abated. As much as Boris admires Winston Churchill, the wartime leader’s politicisation of the Second World War helped ensure a massive Labour majority in 1945. Any attempt to explicitly politicise the coronavirus could lead this government to the very same fate.

By J Walters

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