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The number that should worry the Tories

December 6th, 2019

Andrew Neil’s attack on Johnson goes viral

By 5am this morning, as my screen grab shows, there had been 3.3m views of the Andrew Neil video attacking Johnson for chickening out of doing an interview with him. That is a staggering number which doubt will increase during the day.

No doubt the calculation in Number 10 was that the potential negative of being subject to 30 minutes of forensic scrutiny by Neil was worse than the downside of not taking part. At some stage, with Johnson’s evasiveness becoming the main campaign narrative, that judgement might turn out to be wrong.

No doubt it will play a key part in tonight’s final TV debate.

The problem, of course, is that the forensic questioning that we’ve seen Neil do with Corbyn, Swinson and Farage is exactly what could highlight Johnson’s weaknesses and he knows it. The PM likes the big broad brush without relying too much on the true facts. Neil would have pinned him down.

Now I don’t know how this will play amongst voters in the key marginals that the Tories are hoping to take next Thursday and, of course, in the seats where they are hoping to fend off the SNP and the LDs. My guess is that it could at the margins impact on Tory turnout and reinforce tactical voting.

I’d expect the pollsters carrying out the final weekend surveys will try to add a question on Johnson’s refusal the results of which will only continue the story.

Mike Smithson