The charts that explain the problems facing Boris Johnson

·4 min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a visit at the Field End Infant school, in South Ruislip, following the local government elections. Picture date: Friday May 6, 2022.
Boris Johnson had a disappointing night at the local elections (PA Images)

After a collapse in support that saw the Tories shed a number of key councils to Labour and the Lib Dems, even the buoyant Boris Johnson admitted his party had had a "tough night in some parts of the country".

The local elections were the first time voters have been able to have their say on Johnson since he was hit by a series of scandals – the most prominent being the myriad allegations of rule-breaking in Downing Street during lockdown on the PM's watch.

According to grassroots Tories, the Partygate scandal was a regular topic on the doorstep, and it appears to have done damage.

A series of symbolic victories came early for Labour, who took control of Westminster, Wandsworth and Barnet councils in London.

With most votes counted and results confirmed in 131 out of 146 councils, the results were a victory for Keir Starmer – albeit a lukewarm one.

Labour's gains in London were not quite mirrored outside the capital, and the announcement of a police investigation into a possible lockdown breach on his part cast a further shadow.

The Lib Dems pulled off a significant upset, taking control of Somerset, as well as making gains in Oxfordshire.

For Johnson, it was a difficult night, with the Conservatives losing nine councils with 15 left to declare, and finishing with hundreds fewer councillors.

Labour have gained a number of key London councils from the Conservatives (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)
Labour have gained a number of key London councils from the Conservatives (Yahoo News UK/Flourish)

As the Partygate scandal continues to swirl, many Tory MPs have been waiting for the results of this electoral test before deciding whether to move against their leader and replace him in Number 10.

For some backbenchers, who have openly called for him to go, Johnson’s position has been untenable ever since he was fined for his attendance at a 56th birthday event during lockdown.

Others feel the crisis in Ukraine makes this the wrong time for a destabilising leadership contest.

Read more: Labour 'no hope' woken in middle of night after surprise win

The poor set of results for the Tories have not come out of the blue.

Polling of Westminster voting intention by YouGov has consistently put Labour ahead of the Tories since the beginning of the year.

In the most recent round, 39% of Brits said they would back Starmer's party, compared to 33% for the Tories and 9% for the Liberal Democrats.

Polls suggest Labour would win a general election (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ YouGov)
Polls suggest Labour would win a general election (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ YouGov)

For the prime minister himself, the polls make for grim reading.

Since April last year, more people have thought Johnson is doing a bad job as prime minister than good.

As further damning allegations of rule-breaking parties in Downing Street during lockdown emerged and warnings over the cost of living crisis began to intensify the PM's approval ratings collapsed, with 73% of people thinking he was doing a bad job in January 2022.

Read more: Tory council leader walks out of vote before results are announced

While his ratings have picked up somewhat amid positive reception of his handling of the Ukraine crisis, 65% of the public still think he is doing a bad job, compared to 29% who think he is doing a good job.

The public thinks Boris Johnson is doing badly (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/YouGov)
The public thinks Boris Johnson is doing badly (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/YouGov)

And on the question of who would make a better prime minister, Keir Starmer has overtaken Johnson by a significant margin.

Some 35% of the public think Starmer would do a better job as PM, compared to 26% for Boris Johnson.

This marks an about-turn from the position two years ago, when 46% of people thought Johnson would do a better job as PM, with just 22% backing Starmer.

Who would make a better prime minister? (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/YouGov)
Who would make a better prime minister? (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/YouGov)

For unhappy Conservative MPs, the question remains as to how damaging the Partygate scandal has been for their leader.

The scandal has coincided with tumbling approval ratings for Johnson, and campaigners have reported the issue being raised on doorsteps across the country.

The polling makes at least one thing crystal clear: the vast majority of people think Johnson has lied about the parties.

Most people think Boris Johnson has lied about Partygate (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/YouGov)
Most people think Boris Johnson has lied about Partygate (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/YouGov)

Some 78% of voters think the PM lied, with the number soaring to 95% among Labour voters.

Conservative voters are less likely to think the PM definitely lied, with 61% saying he did, and 22% saying they don't know.

What's more, the most significant damage from Partygate could be yet to come. The PM is facing the prospect of more fines, and the final report into lockdown parties by the senior civil servant Sue Gray is still to be published.

Watch: PM - Of course I take responsibility for election results

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