Iain Dale, 59, has claimed political commentators have a tendency to “underestimate” Boris Johnson and warned Conservatives in the Commons not to attempt to oust their leader from Number 10. The Brexit-backing broadcaster, whose LBC show airs Monday to Thursday at 7pm, said it would be “unwise” for Tory MPs to “be seen to be trying to topple” Boris Johnson.
Speaking to Express.co.uk before Wednesday’s Cabinet reshuffle, Mr Dale argued: “He’s not just popular in the country, he’s still popular in the Conservative Party, despite what ConservativeHome polls might tell you at the moment.”
“It would be ridiculous for anyone to do that,” he said.
The Prime Minister has recently faced a backlash from some of his Thatcherite MPs and many voters over the 1.25 percent hike in national insurance contributions.
Despite some discontent on his backbenches, Dale claimed Boris Johnson, whom he described as a socially liberal “Tory wet”, has overseen yet another transformation of the Conservative Party.
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“The task of any Conservative leader now is to make sure that the Conservative Party can come to terms with the fact that the Thatcherite, small state, low taxes era has gone,” he said.
When asked whether Mr Johnson’s fall in support could be long-lasting, the LBC presenter said: “It’s a bit of a cop-out answer but it’s far too early to say.”
YouGov’s opinion poll suggested the Tories had lost much of their support to Richard Tice’s Reform UK and to undecided voters.
But Mr Dale, who edited the award-winning book ‘The Prime Ministers’ and penned the chapter on Mr Johnson, said the Prime Minister has the advantage that the Conservative Party is the “only one on the centre-right” and claimed the fear of a “rampant” lefty Remainer as his successor could push wavering Tory voters to back Boris.
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“I don’t think that there is any appetite amongst people on the right of the Conservative Party to make trouble for Boris,” he said.
However, the author did warn the Tories that they could face some short-term struggles in the opinion polls and described the announcements made by Boris Johnson as a “perfect storm for huge political unpopularity”.
“It wouldn’t surprise me”, Dale said, “if in the short-term there were a few bad opinion polls.”
Dips in the polls are not uncommon for incumbent Prime Minister’s.
During the Iron Lady’s Downing Street days, the Tories found themselves trailing behind Labour and the SDP just two years before Mrs Thatcher returned to power with an enlarged majority of 144 seats.
Mr Dale said: “I think people do underestimate Boris Johnson in all sorts of ways and I’d probably include myself in that in some ways.”
The Prime Minister defied expectations to become London Mayor in 2008, shocked the whole of Europe as the face of the successful Vote Leave campaign in 2016 and led the Conservative Party to their largest victory since 1987 – painting large swathes of formerly Labour-voting England blue in the process.
But the broadcaster went on to claim the Tory leader would have to “demonstrably prove” that he has delivered upon his levelling-up agenda if he wanted to retain his Red Wall seats.
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He added: “Putting tax rises on the lower paid doesn’t exactly help the levelling up agenda nor does taking £20 a week off the lower paid because 40 percent of the people that that applies to will be the working poor, many of whom are in those [Red Wall] seats.”
The LBC presenter added the Prime Minister needs to “talk a really good game in the next 18 months” and suggested Mr Johnson alter his top team in this week’s reshuffle.
“He’s got to be a little bit more serious, look the part a bit more,” he said.
Just a few weeks ago, following ISIS-K’s suicide bomb attack on Kabul airport, Mr Dale berated a “bumbling” Boris and called for the scarecrow-looking Prime Minister to comb his hair.
Speaking before the Cabinet reshuffle, Dale told Express.co.uk: “This reshuffle will need to promote people who have an air of competence about them and know how to do media interviews.”
The Prime Minister has replaced Robert Jenrick with Michael Gove as Housing Secretary, axed Robert Buckland at the Justice Department for the demoted Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, removed Gavin Williamson as Education Secretary for Nadhim Zahawi and axed Amanda Milling as Conservative Party chair.
Despite his demotion, Mr Raab has taken on the role of Deputy Prime Minister, Liz Truss has succeeded him at the Foreign Office, Anne-Marie Trevelyan has made a Cabinet return as International Trade Secretary, Oliver Dowden has been moved to party chairman, Nadine Dorries has filled Mr Dowden’s place as Culture Secretary and the ex-Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay has succeeded Michael Gove as the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office.
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