It’s likely the Conservative leadership hustings has done considerable damage to the party over the past month. Regional and national news outlets have given the race extensive coverage. As Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have fought to win over Conservative Party members, the contest has provided viewers with an undiluted view of the two candidates.
We reported a few days ago that Labour is consistently well ahead in national polling. The latest is a GB News ‘People’s Poll’ conducted by People’s Polling, with the results first shown on their Breakfast Show this morning. The poll not only not only confirms the Labour lead, but shows the public would prefer Sir Keir Starmer as Prime Minister to either of the Tory contenders by a wide margin.
The GB News People’s Poll found that 40% of voters would vote Labour in a general election, while 26% would vote Conservative, 11% for the Liberal Democrats, and 6% for the SNP. These results, when compared to the poll of polls on the Electoral Calculus website, show the Labour result is close to average, while the Tory’s is almost six percentage points below the 31.8% average, making that result an outlier.
The two leadership contenders have travelled around the country, visiting 11 of the 12 venues – the final one is in London next Wednesday. As the contest has worn on, it has given the public an insight into who Truss and Sunak are as politicians and what their policy priorities are if they win.
Matthew Goodwin, Professor of Politics and International Relations at the University of Kent, said: “The wheels are coming off. A 14-point lead for the Labour Party is essentially a Labour majority – were that to be replicated at the next general election.”
He believes the results show that the public is “tuning out” and that if the numbers don’t change, then Labour will win the next election by the kind of landslide it had in 1997 and 2001.
When Goodwin was asked how much the Tory leadership election might have affected people’s views, he said: “If you ask people what are the top issues in the country, they say, I want to talk about the cost of living, I want to talk about ambulances, GPs, public services, but I also want to talk to some extent about things like migration, but they also want to talk about things that the candidates haven’t really gone anywhere near.”
This point is underscored today. Despite the newly-announced energy price hike, which has been anticipated for weeks, there has been near silence from either the Truss or Sunak camp on what they would do to tackle it. October’s 80% increase is far greater for the average household than the £400 discount the government is providing via its Energy Bills Support Scheme. That’s without the further huge increases expected in January and April.
Liz Truss, who is MP for South West Norfolk and the Tory leadership front-runner, has an additional ‘image’ problem.
When people were asked what word or phrase first came to mind about her, the top result was “untrustworthy”, closely followed by “useless”, “idiot” and “liar”.
The poll also asked who the best Prime Minister would be. In a match between Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, 40% opted for Starmer and 23% said Sunak. Given the alternative choice, 41% said Keir Starmer while only 22% said Liz Truss.
Goodwin believes the Tory party are in trouble with voters. “They’re not not lining up behind the Conservatives,” he says. “Keir Starmer and Labour are comfortably ahead in the polls and this really is going to pile pressure on whoever becomes the next leader of the party and whoever becomes the next Prime Minister. The Labour Party, what’s striking to me at least, is they are 14 points ahead despite doing very little at all.”