Will Boris Johnson be ousted as UK Prime Minister soon?

Speculation last week that Johnson would face a full Conservative confidence vote has so far come to nought. Also: US redistricting, French, Portuguese and Chile elections.

Guest post by Adrian Beaumont, who joins us from time to time to provide commentary on elections internationally. Adrian is an honorary associate at the University of Melbourne. His work on electoral matters for The Conversation can be found here, and his own website is here.

For a UK Conservative leader to be ousted, the first step is for 15% of the party’s MPs to send letters expressing no confidence to the chair of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady. As there are currently 359 Conservatives in the House of Commons, 54 letters expressing no confidence in Boris Johnson are required.

If this first threshold is met, there is a secret ballot of all Conservative MPs. If the leader wins this confidence vote, they cannot be challenged for another year, although this rule could be amended. If the leader loses, they would be expected to be a caretaker PM until the next leader is elected.

Last week there was speculation that an announcement that Brady had received the 54 letters was imminent, but it did not occur. Johnson’s danger is due to the parties that were held while the UK was in COVID lockdown at Downing Street. This caused a slump for the Conservatives in the polls in December. The Conservatives regained some ground in early January, only for even more party revelations to crash their vote again. Some Conservatives may be waiting for Sue Gray’s report into the parties, expected next week, before moving against Johnson.

It was bad timing for Johnson that these party revelations came when the UK was suffering another COVID wave due to Omicron. This made people’s memories of past lockdowns more vivid, and so the parties resonated more than they would otherwise. In good news for Johnson, the Omicron wave is subsiding, with cases way down from their peak and hospitalisations also starting to fall.

I am dubious that ousting Johnson would be in the Conservatives’ electoral interests. While Johnson is very unpopular now, voters tend to move past non-recurring issues. The parties occurred in the last two years, and are unlikely to cause voters additional pain in the future. As the UK COVID situation improves, voters are likely to move past the parties.

Another argument against removing Johnson is that he “got Brexit done”. At the 2019 election, non-uni whites swung strongly to the Conservatives over Johnson’s promise to “get Brexit done” – see my Conversation article last May. Will these voters remain Conservative under another Conservative PM?

Democrats gain in US redistricting, but Biden’s ratings remain poor

A US Census is held every ten years, with the boundaries of Congressional Districts set for ten years by that Census. Most states have completed redistricting of their CDs from the 2020 Census. The FiveThirtyEight tracker says that there are 129 Democratic-leaning seats, 124 Republican-leaning seats and 21 highly competitive seats in the new maps so far. The changes from the old maps are Democrats up seven, Republicans up one and competitive down six.

While some states use nonpartisan commissions to draw their maps, in most states redistricting is up to politicians. If one party holds the governor and both chambers of the legislature in a state, that party can gerrymander. Republican-controlled Florida (28 CDs) and Democratic New York (26) are the two biggest states still to complete redistricting. A Republican gerrymander in Ohio was rejected by the state courts, and this could also occur in North Carolina.

Biden’s ratings in the FiveThirtyEight aggregate are currently 53.5% disapprove, 41.9% approve (net -11.6). They have worsened recently owing to the recent COVID surge. There has been no recent progress with the Democratic legislative agenda. Inflation over the full 2021 year was 7.0%, the highest since 1982. A recent CBS YouGov poll indicates voters think Biden is not focussed enough on combatting inflation.

French, Portuguese and Chile developments

The first round of the French presidential election is on April 10, with a runoff between the top two on April 24. Conservative Valérie Pécresse has slipped behind the far-right Marine Le Pen in the race for second with incumbent Emmanuel Macron well ahead in first. Macron easily beats Le Pen, but it’s closer against Pécresse.

A Portuguese election will be held on January 30, with 230 seats elected by proportional representation. Polls indicate a close contest between the overall left and overall right. Portugal currently has a left government.

At the December 19 Chilean presidential runoff election, left-wing Boric defeated the far-right Kast by 55.9-44.1.

Morgan: 56-44 to Labor

A second pollster emerges to suggest the summer break has done little to improve the situation for the Morrison government.

Roy Morgan has become the second pollster to emerge from the summer break, maintaining its recent form in crediting Labor with a 56-44 two-party lead, out from 55.5-44.5 in the previous poll. As before, this is souped up by a much stronger flow of respondent-allocated preferences than Labor managed at the 2019 election. Both the Coalition and Labor are steady on the primary vote, at 34.5% and 37% respectively, with the Greens up half a point to 12% (strong support for the Greens being another feature of the Morgan series). One Nation is down a point to 3% and Clive Palmer’s United Australia Party is steady on all of half of a point, whereas it managed 3.4% in 2019.

The “previous poll” used for the basis of comparison here wasn’t actually published at the time, as noted by a keen-eyed observer on Twitter. Morgan’s last published poll from last year was from the last weekend in November and the first weekend in December, whereas the results tables on the website include a further result for the two weeks subsequently.

The state two-party breakdowns credit Labor with leads of 58-42 in New South Wales, a swing of around 10%; 59-41 in Victoria, a swing of around 6%; 51-49 in Western Australia, a swing of around 6.5%; 60.5-39.5 in South Australia, a swing of around 10%; and 60.5-39.5 in Tasmania, a swing of around 4.5%. However, the poll has the Coalition ahead 51.5-48.5 in Queensland, which is still a swing to Labor of around 7%. Whereas Morgan’s past polling combined results from two weekends, here we are told that polling was conducted between January 4 and 16.

Resolve Strategic: Labor 41, Coalition 31, Greens 11 in Victoria

A new poll finds Labor in Victoria steaming to another commanding victory, albeit that it mixes signals from November and last week.

The Age has published the latest state voting intention result for Victoria, which as usual combines results for the latest poll and the previous, a little awkwardly in this case since there was no monthly poll in December. It’s a strong result for the Andrews government, with Labor up three on the primary vote to 41%, the Coalition down three to 31% and the Greens up one to 11%. Resolve Strategic does not publish two-party results, but based on a typical preference flow this would come out at around 56.5-43.5 to Labor, a swing of barely 1% compared with Labor’s landslide win of 2018. Daniel Andrews’ lead over Matthew Guy as preferred premier has widened from 45-32 to 47-30.

The poll also features some incomplete detail on the various leaders’ handling of pandemic management. I’m unclear if this combines the results of multiple polls, but I believe the question was posed for Scott Morrison and the premiers of the three largest states and not limited to respondents from the relevant jurisdictions. Unfortunately, the report does not provide the negative result on this occasion, which makes it hard to say exactly how bad the positive results are for Dominic Perrottet in particular, who as a newcomer presumably has a high undecided rating. For what it’s worth, Daniel Andrews had a positive rating of 46%, down from 57% in August; Annastacia Palaszczuk had 45%, down from 51%; Scott Morrison had 35%, down from 38%; and Dominic Perrottet had 31%, which compares with Gladys Berejiklian’s 26%.

The Victorian results come from a sample of 1039 combined from polling in November and January, the latter of which was conducted Tuesday to Sunday.

New South Wales by-elections: February 12

The New South Wales government fires the starter’s gun on a short by-election campaign, despite suggestions it might have been an idea to hold off.

It is now confirmed that the four looming by-elections in New South Wales will be held on February 12, despite reports overnight that they might be delayed until March 19 — which would have been inconvenient from my point of view, since that is the day scheduled for the South Australian state election. The New South Wales Electoral Commission has pleaded that its iVote digital voting system is not currently fit for use, after problems encountered in last month’s local government elections, and last night’s Sydney Morning Herald report said a February 12 by-election would require “an adequate alternative to in-person voting can be achieved, such as postal voting”.

I now have election guide pages in place: Bega, Monaro, Strathfield and Willoughby.

The Liberals and Nationals now have candidates in place in each seat, following the weekend’s preselection upset in Willoughby. This saw Tim James, executive director of the Menzies Research Centre and former chief-of-staff to Planning Minister Anthony Roberts, defeat former Willoughby mayor Gail Giles-Gidney in the final round by 58 votes to 52. Excluded in the first round was former television reporter Kellie Sloane, with 31 votes to Giles-Gidney’s 41 and James’s 37. While the success of the male candidate was inevitably widely noted, it would appear most of Sloane’s supporters swung behind James in the second round, despite James being of the hard right and both Giles-Gidney and Sloane being identified as moderates.

With its preselection of Bryce Wilson, Queanbeyan-Palerang councillor and adviser to federal Bean MP David Smith, Labor now has candidates in place for each seat except Willoughby, which it will presumably not contest.

Resolve Strategic: Coalition 34, Labor 35, Greens 11

What had previously been the Coalition’s best poll series opens its account for the year looking just as bad for the government as the others.

The new year polling drought has been brought to an end by Resolve Strategic, courtesy of the Age/Herald, which produces a particularly grim result for the government in view of its record as the Coalition’s strongest poll series. The Coalition primary vote is down fully five points since the last poll in mid-November to 34%, with Labor up three to 35%, the Greens steady on 11% and One Nation steady on 3%. The pollster’s already high ratings for independents and “others” are up still further, by two points to 11% and one point to 6%. As ever, no two-party preferred result is provided, but applying 2019 preference flows produces a Labor lead of around 53-47.

The breakdowns provided for the three largest states suggest the damage has been spread pretty evenly on two-party preferred, but the Queensland figures are notable in that the major parties are down 12% between them while both the Greens and One Nation are up five. The results are worse for the Coalition among women than men, their primary vote dropping respectively by six points and three.

Scott Morrison’s personal ratings are nonetheless little changed, with approval and disapproval both up a point to 41% and 50%. However, Anthony Albanese records a solid improvement, with approval up three to 34% and disapproval down four to 41%. Morrison’s lead as preferred prime minister has narrowed from 40-29 to 38-31.

The poll was conducted Tuesday to Saturday from a sample of 1607. The Age/Herald’s Resolve Political Monitor display is yet to be updated at the time of writing, but more of the details are provided in the accompanying report. I have updated my BludgerTrack poll aggregate, but I always advise a bit of caution when the first poll is added after a break, as the result tends to weigh heavily on the end point of the trend measure.

Novak and Nicholls

A poll supports suspicions that the federal government was following the public’s lead in deporting Novak Djokovic. Plus preselection news, though not very much of it.

Another week of the sillier-than-usual season goes by without a great deal to report, with the only new poll result I’m aware being a Painted Dog Research poll for The West Australian finding 81% out of 1224 WA respondents surveyed around a week ago believed Novak Djokovic should be deported. Lest anyone doubt the international reach of this particular story, a British poll by YouGov found 62% believed Djokovic should not be allowed to play in the open, with only 18% believing he should. (UPDATE: And now a national poll by Resolve Strategic for the Age/Herald finds 71% believe he “should not be allowed to stay and play”.)

The biggest preselection news of the week related to Gladys Berejiklian’s former seat of Willoughby, which I’m holding off on doing a post about until a date is set for state’s looming quartet of by-elections. At federal level, both the Nationals and the Liberals now have candidates for the rural Victorian seat of Nicholls, to be vacated with the retirement of Nationals member Damian Drum. These are, respectively, Sam Birrell, an agronomist and former chief executive of the Committee for Greater Shepparton, and Stephen Brooks, a Cobram high school teacher and farmer. Also in the field as an independent is Greater Shepparton deputy mayor Rob Priestly.

Utting Research WA poll, Morrison leadership ratings and more

“More” being the Liberals’ slow-motion Dobell preselection and declining prospects for a March federal election.

As the silly season reaches its apex, such news and relevant information as I have to offer:

• A poll by Utting Research on federal voting in Western Australia, published yesterday in The West Australian, is broadly in line with other polling from the state in crediting Labor with a lead of 55-45, a swing of 10.5% compared with the 2019 election. The primary votes are Labor 46%, Coalition 39%, Greens 7%, One Nation 3% and UAP 1%. The poll also has Scott Morrison at 28% approval and 46% disapproval (which is quite a bit worse than his 45% approval and 51% disapproval from the state in the last quarterly Newspoll) and Anthony Albanese at 21% and 44%, while Mark McGowan has 75% approval with no disapproval rating provided. The poll was conducted last Wednesday from a sample of 650.

• US pollster Morning Consult’s monthly tracking polling for various international leaders’ personal ratings has Scott Morrison at 43% approval and 51% disapproval, respectively down three and up five on a month ago.

The Australian reports the dispute over the New South Wales Liberal Party’s highly incomplete federal preselection process rumbles on, with St Vincent’s Hospital cardiologist Michael Feneley winning the endorsement of John Howard in his bid for preselection in Dobell – putting him at odds with Scott Morrison, who favours Jemima Gleeson, who owns a chain of coffee shops and a preacher at the HopeUC Pentecostal church in Charmhaven.

David Crowe of the Age/Herald reports that “the Omicron wave has wiped out the idea of a snap election campaign as soon as next month”, hitherto rated “an outside chance for some Liberals who believed it was safer to go to an election in March than to wait until May”.

Poll relativities and the state of New South Wales

How the federal pollsters are differing, and an update on New South Wales by-elections likely to be held on February 12.

Past time for a new thread, though inevitably given the time of year there is not a lot to report. Polling fans might care to take note of Mark the Ballot’s latest update of a poll aggregate that tracks a three-point increase in the “others” vote over the past six months of last year, which came cleanly at the expense of the Coalition, and a neat display of pollster house effects that calibrates what close observers will have already noticed: that Resolve Strategic is (relatively speaking) high for “others” and low for Labor, Essential Research is high for both major parties, and Roy Morgan is high for the Greens.

Then there’s the New South Wales state by-elections, which deserves a thread of its own but won’t get one until the date is formally announced. The Speaker, Jonathan O’Dea, has strongly indicated it will be February 12. A milestone was reached last week when four of the departing MPs finally lodged their formal resignations. Not among them was Holsworthy MP Melanie Gibbons holding out until she is confirmed as the federal candidate for Hughes, if indeed that occurs. That leaves:

Strathfield (Labor 5.0%): Both parties now have candidates in place for the seat being vacated by Jodi McKay. Labor’s is Jason Yat-Sen Li, a former lawyer who worked for a time for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and is now executive chairman of Vantage Asia Holdings. Yat-Sen Li was Labor’s candidate for Bennelong in 2013 third on the Senate ticket in 2019. The Liberal candidate is Bridget Sakr, who has gained prominence as a victims support advocate after her daughter and three of her cousins were killed in a car crash in Oatlands in February last year.

Bega (Liberal 6.9%): The Liberal candidate to succeed Andrew Constance is Fiona Kotvojs, a beef farmer who has twice been narrowly unsuccessful as the Liberal candidate for Eden-Monaro: in 2019, when she fell 0.8% short of unseating Mike Kelly, and at the by-election following Kelly’s retirement in July 2020, when Kristy McBain retained the seat for Labor by 0.4%. Labor’s candidate is Michael Holland, an obstetrician-gynaecologist at Moruya District Hospital and lecturer at the Australian National University medical school.

Monaro (Nationals 11.6%): The Nationals have had their candidate to succeed John Barilaro in place since October: Nichole Overall, a local historian, communications consultant and freelance writer. Conversely, Labor initially planned to forfeit before a rebellion by local party branches prompted a change of heart.

Willoughby (Liberal 21.0%): The Liberals are yet to conduct a preselection that has attracted three candidates: Willoughby mayor Gail Giles-Gidney, who is reportedly backed by Gladys Berejiklian, Paul Fletcher and Andrew Bragg; former television journalist Kellie Sloane, who is backed by Mike Baird; and Menzies Research Centre executive general manager Tim James, a factional conservative. Labor will not contest the seat, and in the absence of a strong independent emerging, of which I’ve seen no indication, the winner should have an easy time of it.