Tuesday 24 March 2020 3:55 pm

High-spending Rishi Sunak proves a hit among Brits

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s approval ratings have turned positive for the first time as the public “rallies to the flag” during the coronavirus outbreak – but he’s still far less popular than chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The 39-year-old chancellor, who only took up the job last month, has surged in popularity as he oversees the largest one of the largest emergency economic packages in UK history to tackle the fallout from Covid-19.

Read more: Rishi Sunak: ‘Incredibly complicated’ to help self-employed during coronavirus outbreak

Johnson’s net favourability score is now 20 according to Yougov’s latest poll, the first time it has been positive since he became Prime Minister. It was languishing at minus two last week.

But Sunak’s favourability now dwarfs the PM’s, having skyrocketed to 49 from a score of eight two weeks ago. 

It is a remarkable rise in popularity for Sunak – who was recently unknown to all but political anoraks and had not held a full cabinet role before becoming chancellor.

Since taking up his role, he has made a number of unprecedented interventions into the economy, including promising that the government will pay 80 per cent of the wages of people who would otherwise lose their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak.

His high-spending approach has led to “remarkable” cross-party approval, polling company Yougov said. Twice as many 2019 Labour voters now have a favourable opinion of the Chancellor than those who have an unfavourable view, with 50 per cent in favour and 25 per cent against.

Yougov said some of the jump in Sunak’s popularity was simply due to the galvanising effect of a national crisis.

“It is worth noting that during times of crisis there is often a ‘rallying to the flag’ effect, with the public becoming more supportive of the government and its officials,” the polling company said. 

“There is some evidence of this in the ratings of other cabinet ministers, who despite having limited public involvement in tackling coronavirus, have also seen a boost in their favourability scores.”

Read more: Coronavirus wage bailout: Government to cover 80 per cent of workers’ salaries up to £2,500

Health secretary Matt Hancock’s popularity has risen, putting his net favourability score into positive territory for the first time.

Home secretary Priti Patel has also become more popular, although her net score was still deep in negative territory.