Number 10 special advisor Dominic Cummings arrives home in London on May 25, 2020.
The U.K.’s ruling Conservative Party, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, has seen its lead in polls narrow further, as a battle over a top political adviser continues to dominate headlines and public debate in Britain.
A YouGov survey for The Times newspaper, published Wednesday, showed that the Conservative’s lead over opposition party Labour had slipped nine percentage points in a week. Support for the Tories fell four points to 44%, while support for Labour rose five points to 38%, compared with a week ago.
“Following a tough week dominated by the actions of the Prime Minister’s chief adviser, the Conservatives have seen their 15 point lead over Labour slip to just 6 points,” YouGov noted of the poll, which surveyed 1,629 adults between May 25-26.
Pressure is mounting on Boris Johnson as the political battle intensifies over his closest aide Dominic Cummings, who is accused of breaking U.K. lockdown rules.
Cummings, an influential and controversial figure at the heart of government, has refused to apologize for making a 260-mile trip from London to the north of England, at the height of coronavirus crisis after lockdown restrictions had been imposed.
Cummings has defended his decision to travel, saying the trip to stay with family in Durham was within the rules because he wanted to ensure childcare for his young son in case he and his wife fell ill with coronanvirus. His wife had displayed symptoms of the virus.
The visit was admissible under the “exceptional circumstances” allowed under the government’s lockdown measures, he said at an unusual press briefing dedicated to the matter on Monday.
Despite attempts to explain the circumstances around the trip, Cummings’ actions have angered the British public at a time when most people feel they have made great, and sometimes heartbreaking, personal sacrifices during the lockdown.
So far, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has defended his aide, yet the political storm surrounding Cummings and his refusal to resign has led to a revolt within the Conservative Party. On Tuesday, one junior minister resigned and now 38 Conservative members of parliament (MPs) are calling for Cummings to go.
Francis Maude, senior advisor at Covington and a former government minister, told CNBC that Cummings, a chief architect of Brexit, was unlikely to be removed from his position, however.
“I suspect the prime minister will conclude that he can continue with Dominic Cummings who’s been a very important part of his set-up in No.10 (Downing Street) and a very important support for him and I know he will want that to continue.”
The furor over the aide is not only damaging the government’s public standing — it is also seen to have undermined its messaging when it comes to the coronavirus lockdown, still largely in place. According to YouGov, 70% of the public believe that the Cummings crisis will make it harder for the government to get future lockdown messaging across to the public.
A separate survey on Tuesday, by polling firm Savanta, showed Johnson’s approval rating stood at -1%, down from 19% on Friday. It’s poll also showed approval in the government in negative territory, falling 16 percentage points in a day to -2%.