The government’s approval rating over coronavirus has plunged as regional anger mounts at Boris Johnson’s handling of the pandemic.
A new Opinium poll shows 39% approve of the government’s handling of the crisis, while 42% disapprove.
That is the first time more people have disapproved than approved of the government’s response in an Opinium poll.
And it is a massive drop from a peak just after lockdown – when 65% of people approved of the government’s response, compared to 23% who disapproved.
The survey of 2,005 UK adults on May 13-14 was the first since Boris Johnson spelt out his plan to ease the lockdown in England.
It showed more than half were left confused by the government’s new slogan to “stay alert” and “control the virus”.
A quarter said it was “very unclear” and a further 28% said it was “somewhat unclear”. Just 19% said it was “very clear”.
Boris Johnson admitted today: “I recognise what we are now asking is more complex than simply staying at home.
“But this is a complex problem and we need to trust in the good sense of the British people.
“If we all stick at it, then we’ll be able, gradually, to get rid of the complexities and the restrictions and make it easier and simpler for families to meet again. But we must move slowly, and at the right time.”
Despite the findings, the poll found 44% still approve of Boris Johnson’s performance compared to 37% who disapproved.
It comes as Boris Johnson is warned he could fracture national unity by failing to listen to regional leaders.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham blasted the “premature” decision to drop the key slogan to “stay at home”.
He wrote in The Observer: “If the Government carries on in the same vein, expect to see an even greater fracturing of national unity. Different places will adopt their own messaging and policies.”
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Burnham added the government must publish a regional breakdown of the scale of the infection.
Modelling last week suggested R – the average number of people who catch coronavirus from each person who has it – varies massively.
It is said to be 0.8 in the north east and Yorkshire but just 0.4 in London. Yet the government has not given an official estimate.
Mr Burnham said: “People do not have the R information at the moment. They can get it, but it’s not formally published by the Government.
“There’s a very different picture in the north, particularly in the north east, where the R is the highest, so I can understand concerns [about lifting lockdown measures].
“Let’s get back around the table, look at the evidence and have some flexibility in terms of how [children] return to school because it will be different for different places.”
It comes amid a furious row over plans to reopen primary schools in England from June 1 onwards.
Leading unions say they cannot yet support plans to bring back schools that early – until there is more scientific evidence it will be safe.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have all refused to back England’s plans – while Liverpool and Hartlepool have told schools to stay shut.
Talks on Friday between union reps and government scientific advisers were meant to provide assurance about the proposals.
But they ended with union leaders saying the advice had raised more more questions than answers.
Today Michael Gove “guaranteed” teachers would be safe – before then backtracking and accepting no one could be 100% protected from the virus.
Meanwhile, the Government announced a £93 million investment to bring forward the opening of a new vaccine-manufacturing centre – ready to begin production if a coronavirus vaccine is found.
The not-for-profit facility – located on the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxford – will open 12 months earlier than planned in summer 2021.
It will have the capacity to produce enough doses for the entire UK population in as little as six months, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said.