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2021-November-28  16:27

Alarm Bells for UK PM as Another Poll Shows A Labour Lead in Wake of Sleaze Row, Tory Infighting

TEHRAN (FNA)- UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid on Sunday insisted Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still a "winner" despite another poll underlining the damage from the sleaze chaos and Tory infighting.

The Health Secretary said there is no doubt the prime minister will lead the Conservatives into the next election as research by Opinium gave Keir Starmer's party a two point lead, consolidating the one-point advantage from a fortnight ago, The Daily Mail reported.

The Labour leader's own ratings have also improved dramatically - turning positive for the first time in six months while the prime minister remains in the doldrums.

Some 32 percent approve of Keir's performance, with 31 percent disapproving. But for Johnson the figures were 31 percent and 48 per cent - a net negative 17 points.

In a crumb of comfort for Johnson, he still has a narrow lead when voters were asked who they preferred as prime minister, by 29 percent to 27 percent. But the highest score was for "none of the above".

Asked on Sky News's Trevor Phillips on Sunday programme if Johnson would lead the Conservatives into the next election, Javid replied, "Yes".

Pressed on whether Johnson is still an election winner, Javid said, "Yes, absolutely, and let me tell you why: Because we are delivering on our promises."

The Conservatives have endured a torrid time in the wake of the premier's abortive bid to save ally Owen Paterson from punishment for lobbying.

The resulting outcry and U-turn sparked fury in Tory ranks, with demands for the bungling No10 machine to be overhauled.

Johnson also faces deep splits over his social care plans, with a revolt on moves to water down the cap on costs. 

And Red Wall MPs were livid about the decision to downgrade promises on NS2 and Northern Powerhouse rail links. 

Long-running tensions have resurfaced between the prime minister and Chancellor Rishi Sunak over Johnson's free-spending approach and tendency to blunder.

There are claims that some MPs have sent letters of no confidence to the powerful 1922 committee, although the chairman Graham Brady never reveals details and there is a high bar of 54 letters needed to trigger a contest.

Tory MP for North Dorset Simon Hoare today declined to say if Johnson has his support, although he insisted "now is not the time" to be talking about a leadership change.

"The Prime Minister is the leader of our party, he won a very commanding mandate amongst the Conservative Party electorate and then amongst the electorate in the general election," Hoare told Sunday Politics on BBC Northern Ireland.

"I think now is not the time to be talking about changes in leadership or leadership challenges or letters to the chairman of the 22, but that comes with a health warning, that Number 10 as an operation needs to pull its socks up, get its act together, start talking to the parliamentary party far more than it has been doing up until now," Hoare added.

"That's, of course, been difficult because of COVID and the restrictions being there … I don't think we've gone past the point of no return but the act needs to get better," Hoare said.

The warning signs for the Tories came as Johnson faces another major crisis, with two cases of the Omicron COVID variant having been detected in the UK.  

At a hastily-arranged Downing Street press conference last night the prime minister painted a grim picture of the potential threat from the new "super-mutant" strain - admitting he cannot guarantee Christmas will go ahead as hoped.  

Johnson put unlocking in reverse as he extended travel bans, enforcing day-two PCR tests for arrivals in Britain, and making facemasks compulsory in shops and on trains.

He declared that all arrivals to the country must self-isolate until they get a negative result from a gold-standard test - which can identify those carrying Omicron. 

All contacts of people infected with the variant must stay at home for 10 days.       

Flanked by medical and science chiefs Chris Whitty and Patrick Vallance, Johnson also announced that facemasks on public transport and shops will be compulsory - although struggling bars and restaurants will be spared for now.

But extraordinarily despite the alarm at the new peril the government has yet to work out when most of the new restrictions will come into force.

Javid is expected to clarify the timeline over the next couple of days, with No10 suggesting they will be introduced "next week".