Theresa May Mark One buried UKIP. Theresa May Mark Two is digging it up. That is the only conclusion one can reasonably draw from today’s Opinium poll for the Observer, which shows Labour on 40 per cent, as last month, the Conservatives on 36 per cent, down six points, and UKIP on eight per cent, up five points. The movement from the second to the third could scarcely be clearer.
That rise in support for what many will still think of, wrongly, as Nigel Farage’s party isn’t because of rebooted support for him. Nor will voters be enamoured with the charms of Gerald Batten, of whom most of them will never have heard. The driver of this result is plainly the Government’s new Brexit policy.
25 per cent of those polled approve of the way that the Prime Minister is handling Brexit, down from 30 per cent last month, while 56 per cent disapprove, up from 45 per cent last month. Her net approval rating was minus eight per cent last month; it is 24 per cent this month. The percentage of those who believe that Brexit is one of the most important issues facing the country is at its highest ever recorded by Opinium – 51 per cent this month (it was 42 per cent last month). Overall, 32 per cent of those surveyed supported May’s Brexit plan and 31 per cent opposed it.
The EU referendum result killed UKIP. After all, what was the point of supporting a party which aimed to make Britain independent once the British people had voted for precisely that? The cause of Brexit was handed overnight to the governing party, which now had an instruction from the electorate to deliver it. During the period between the referendum and last summer’s general election, Theresa May presented herself as the woman who would fulfil that mandate for “citizens of somewhere”: “Brexit means Brexit”.