Kuenssberg questions PM about partygate during Ukraine presser
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A poll conducted by The Constitution Unit and published today showed that 32 percent of Britons surveyed “strongly distrust” Boris Johnson. Asked about satisfaction in democracy, trust in politicians and integrity of politicians, respondents attached great importance to the honesty of those in public life.
The poll, conducted in July 2021 and therefore well before the partygate scandal involving Downing Street, showed that Britons would rather politicians acted by the rules than do whatever it takes, including breaking the rules, to deliver their promises.
Satisfaction with democracy appeared to be higher than a few years go.
A YouGov poll ahead of the 2019 election found that only 38 percent were satisfied, against the 58 percent of the Constitution Unit poll.
But the report added: “That trust in the current Prime Minister and in the political class more generally is low is well known.
“Indeed, the most recent iteration of Ipsos Mori’s long-running Veracity Index found that politicians and government ministers were jointly the second least trusted professionals to tell the truth, just ahead of advertising executives.”
They continued: “Our findings on the public’s appetite for greater integrity in politics, even at the expense of delivery, are more novel.
“They contrast not only with the current government’s rhetoric that what people want is delivery, but also with some previously well-publicised findings. The 2019 Hansard Audit found that 54% of people agreed with the statement, ‘Britain needs a strong leader willing to break the rules’.
“One reason for this difference may be timing: Hansard’s fieldwork was conducted in late 2018 during the paralysis of the Brexit parliament, when respondents may have placed greater value on a decisive executive.
“Another factor may be the structure of the survey questions. Our questions about integrity asked respondents to choose between competing characteristics, conceptions, or actions. In contrast, Hansard’s question asked respondents how far they agreed or disagreed with a single statement.
“The latter kind of question is vulnerable to ‘acquiescence bias’, whereby respondents tend to agree with a statement that is presented to them. By asking our respondents to think about and then choose between two options, we sought to remove that danger.”
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The report comes as the Prime Minister is refusing to say whether he will resign if he is fined by police, as former prime minister Sir John Major accused him of having broken lockdown laws.
The Conservative grandee criticised the “brazen excuses” about the events in Downing Street and said Mr Johnson must go if he deliberately lied to Parliament.
The Prime Minister is expected to be among the more than 50 individuals in No 10 and Whitehall who will receive legal questionnaires from officers working on Operation Hillman.
But he deflected questions about whether he will quit if Scotland Yard issues him with a fixed penalty notice over any possible breach of coronavirus regulations.
In a scathing speech at the Institute for Government in London, Sir John said “deliberate lies to Parliament have been fatal to political careers” and “must always be so”.
“At No 10, the Prime Minister and officials broke lockdown laws,” he said.
“Brazen excuses were dreamed up. Day after day the public was asked to believe the unbelievable. Ministers were sent out to defend the indefensible – making themselves look gullible or foolish.
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“Collectively, this has made the Government look distinctly shifty, which has consequences that go far beyond political unpopularity. No Government can function properly if its every word is treated with suspicion.”
Sir John, a longstanding critic of Mr Johnson, said trust in politics has hit a “low ebb, eroded by foolish behaviour” while “too often, ministers have been evasive, and the truth has been optional”.
The Prime Minister has already resisted calls to resign, but these are expected to grow louder if he is issued with a fixed penalty notice.
Asked at a press conference with NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg to discuss Russian aggression against Ukraine, the Prime Minister said he would not outline how he will respond until the police investigation concludes.
“That process must be completed and I’m looking forward to it being completed and that’s the time to say more on that,” he told reporters in Brussels.
Pressed a second time, Mr Johnson responded: “I understand but we’re going to wait for the process to be completed.”
Further Conservative MPs are poised to call for a vote of no confidence in the Prime Minister if he is fined, or further damaging details emerge from the Sue Gray inquiry.
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