Is Boris Johnson facing a ‘Nightmare before Christmas’?

The Prime Minister’s ineptitude has finally caught up with him. However, this time, it has raged through the media and across the front pages. Following the start of the ‘sleaze saga’, public approval of Boris Johnson has nosedived. The question on many minds is, will it have any real consequences? Or will ‘BoJo’ walk off scott-free, as he’s done time and time again?

Image credit: Jordhan Madec on Unsplash

Although Halloween had just ended, November saw the beginning of a horror month for the Prime Minister. The issue of a Government three-line whip to bail out fellow Tory MP, Owen Paterson, found guilty of “an egregious case of paid advocacy” by the Parliamentary Standards Committee, was met with fury by the public and the press, with The Mail and even The Express feeling that the Prime Minister had overstepped his bounds. This hostile reception caused a 5% Tory Poll lead to evaporate faster than you could say ‘Randox’.

Naturally, the Tory plummet in polling has benefitted Labour and Sir Keir Starmer, giving a rise in morale amongst the Labour activists nationwide, who have been worn down by a year packed with many low points. But does this boost in polling mean much? Obviously, it marks a stark contrast to polling earlier this year with the Party ten, twelve or sometimes even sixteen points behind the Tories, but we’ve seen Labour success in Westminster voting intentions diminish swiftly into those large Tory leads earlier this year.

So, what do Labour need to do to maintain their polling boost? With many polls showing an ever growing number of 2019 Tory voters switching to ‘don’t know’, it’s clear that they are the people upon whom Labour must make their mark, before yet another window of opportunity closes. Although, this time does seem different. The stigma around the demand for co-operative opposition during the pandemic has died down. With this constraint no more, Keir Starmer has a perfect opportunity to offer his clear, concise vision for Britain - to appeal to the masses of disenfranchised voters whilst offering his alternative to ‘Tory sleaze’.

If Starmer can convey an alternative voice strong enough to maintain the balance of power swinging in Labour’s favour, with two potentially intense by-elections on their way in December, Boris Johnson’s ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ could become a reality. December 2 will see Old Bexley & Sidcup’s by-election, triggered by the passing of James Brokenshire. This race should be a breeze for the Tories in normal times, as should the race in North Shropshire on December 16 be. However, if the Johnson tenure has normalised one thing, it would be the fact that times are quite clearly not normal.

Image credit: Elliott Stallion on Unsplash

Old Bexley & North Shropshire are two different kettles of fish - Old Bexley is a seat in suburban London, while North Shropshire dominates over rural land. But one key similarity is that they are both considered ‘true-blue’ seats that voted for the Tories by over 60% in 2019. If the party doesn’t perform strongly in either of these seats, more questions will be raised about Boris Johnson’s leadership and more fear within the Conservative Party will ensue. The stakes are high.

In Old Bexley & Sidcup, Labour and Reform UK have been hitting the ground hard. Both parties have been representing their campaigns as ones facing many angry 2019 Tory voters - some angry with local issues, some angry with the sleaze scandal and some angry at the Government’s economic policy.

Facing a seriously fired-up opposition, a telling fact arising from the campaign in Old Bexley & Sidcup trail is that, since the beginning of the ‘sleaze saga’, the Tories have sent in the Prime Minister, the Chancellor and former Prime Minister, Theresa May. This prompts one to question the nature of the Old Bexley & Sidcup campaign - if the Tories are certain of holding the seat with a strong result such as that of 2019, why would they bother sending numerous high-profile figures to assist with the campaign?

Meanwhile, over in North Shropshire, a faceoff is gaining momentum, which could have the recently resigned MP Owen Paterson looming over it. The Lib Dems have their by-election machine whirring once more, and like Chesham and Amersham, by throwing the kitchen sink at it, they will aim to show that they are the party that represent those in rural areas who are disenfranchised with the Conservative Party.

However, North Shropshire is no Chesham and Amersham. The Chesham and Amersham campaign was largely fuelled by the HS2 row. This will not be in the Lib Dems’ arsenal in North Shropshire. Here, they must start by proving that they are the alternative to the Tories, as opposed to Labour, who finished second in the seat in 2019. If the party can repeat their gains in Chesham & Amersham to some extent, fire up their chances and put the Tories under strain, they will likely have to rely upon reaching out to those who have been frustrated by the Tory sleaze row as they did over in Chesham and Amersham with HS2.

Although the polls show a tightening political climate in Britain, victory is still likely for the Tories in both seats - seats that were safe for the party in 2019. But narrow victories or even humiliating upsets in either of these ‘true-blue’ constituencies would result in an uncomfortable and fearful Tory party. And it seems the other parties realise this. Until both polling days, the opposition will continue to pile on the pressure. They, alongside the Tories, have many points to prove in both by-elections.

Image credit: The Demographica Network

Due to the unique nature of these by-elections, a lot is possible, and with campaigns energised under the current political climate, the pressure is on for the Tories to perform. If this year has taught us anything, it’s that Boris Johnson is slippery, and he has a tendency to bounce back from even the worst of scandals and Government farces, sometimes even stronger than before. That means that the opposition must be on their toes, especially over the course of the ongoing campaigns.

With nothing as monumental as a vaccine rollout shining on the horizon to bail out ‘BoJo’, is it possible that this time will be different from so many others? Will Boris Johnson finally face the punishing effects of his actions, enough so for him to face his ‘Nightmare before Christmas’?


Disclaimer: All views expressed in this piece belong solely to the author and do not reflect the views of Demographica Limited as a company.

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