Boris Johnson is under fresh pressure to sack Dominic Cummings as a new poll shows that more than two-thirds of voters – including more than half of Tories – want him thrown out of Downing Street for breaching lockdown rules.
The survey by Opinium for the Observer shows a massive 81% think Cummings broke the rules. It also finds that support for the Conservatives is collapsing, with the party now just four points ahead of Labour, having had a commanding lead of 26 points just two months ago.
In the past week alone, the Tory lead has fallen by eight points, the largest weekly drop Opinium has recorded since 2017.
After several days in which the news has been dominated by the row over Cummings’ trip from London to Durham with his wife and child, and his refusal to apologise, public anger is laid bare by the poll. Some 68% think Cummings should resign. If he does not, 66% believe he should be sacked by Johnson.
As he stood by his adviser, Johnson said he would ultimately leave the public to make up their minds. The poll, and a petition calling for Cummings to be dismissed that has attracted over a million signatures, show where the balance of opinion lies.
Johnson also tried to blame the media for the story. But the poll finds that only 29% of people believe journalists have been unfair to Cummings.
By contrast, 67% do not believe Cummings’ explanation of what happened, spelt out in his unapologetic appearance in the Downing Street rose garden last week. People are particularly sceptical about the reasons he gave for a trip to Barnard Castle on 12 April after recovering from illness, with 72% saying they do not believe that he wanted a trial drive to see if his eyesight was good enough for the 250-mile trip back to London.
Just over half (52%) think Cummings’ actions will have damaged the fight against coronavirus, as the government tries to launch the track and trace system.
Opinium conducted its survey on Thursday and Friday after Johnson said he believed it was time for the country to “move on” from the the controversy: 41% agreed that the country should now “move on”, but a large minority (37%) said it should not – including almost a fifth (18%) of 2019 Conservative voters. Two-thirds (65%) said they believed Johnson was wrong to be still supporting Cummings – including almost half (48%) of 2019 Conservative voters. Just over two in five (43%) UK adults said they had lost respect for the government over its backing of Cummings – of which 45% voted Conservative in 2019.
The Tory lead of 4 points is the lowest since Johnson became prime minister. The Tories are down four points on last week, to 43% (two points below their figure at the general election). Labour is up 4 points, to 39%.