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2020 was the year Boris Johnson threw away public trust | James Johnson

The public’s goodwill was sacrificed on the altar of Barnard Castle – and will be incredibly difficult to recover

In the spring of this year, Boris Johnson was World King. A Morning Consult poll in April found that he was the most popular leader in the western world. In January, at a focus group I ran in Darlington, first-time Conservative voters described him as “strong”, “decisive” and “his own man”. He was a leader who would get things done and was one of the first politicians they could remember who seemed to care about the long-ignored place in which they lived. And, for that first portion of the year, there was a flash of something not seen since Tony Blair’s election win in 1997: a remarkable sense of public trust, with voters willing to believe that Johnson’s Conservatives might actually deliver what they had promised.

Now Johnson sits near the bottom of the world leader rankings. “Weak”, “confused”, “out of his depth” are the words that come out of focus groups today. Voters, especially those in the so-called “red wall”, describe the prime minister as a “puppet”, controlled by his advisers. Though they tend to think he is trying his best, they question his competence. He does not attract the same hate that one sees on Twitter, but he is seen as a figure to be pitied as he drags himself to the podium of yet another press conference. Getting a Brexit deal may seem to have given him a Christmas boost, but – given the low salience of the issue to many voters – it is unlikely to permanently change the public’s view of him. He is no longer world king, but seen to be a lost man.

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