Since taking over the Home Office brief, James Cleverly’s popularity has plummeted among the party membership. 

In a recent opinion poll by the website Conservative Home he has slid down the ministerial leaderboard – from first place to 11th.

The membership is one thing, but how is he faring on his home turf in Braintree, where he has been an MP since 2015?

It’s a staunch Conservative seat, so he should have a sympathetic audience.

However, people here are frustrated. The nearby RAF Wethersfield airbase has been housing asylum seekers since the summer, and locals are not happy.

Their MP initially opposed it, but he’s now in charge of the department overseeing it.

It’s given rise to the accusation that he’s more interested in his personal advancement than the needs of his constituents.

At the Finchingfield Lion pub, one parish councillor told Sky News that Mr Cleverly was no longer quite as “noisy” on the issue of the airbase. Another said that her opinion of Mr Cleverly had fallen in tandem with his professional rise.

They described him as a “shadowy” figure who appears for “meets and greets” but is never really around.

However, just showing his face is enough for some Braintree residents.

On the local high street, the pet shop owner said the MP often comes in and asks: “How is business going… is there anything we can do?”

“That goes a long way,” he said.

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Most agreed that Mr Cleverly is a nice enough guy – but in a community where immigration is a divisive political issue, they are sceptical of how effective their MP will be in the Home Office.

Most are frustrated by the government’s failure to deliver on the issue, but few are flirting with the Opposition parties either. A sense of resignation looms large.

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