A new Market Research Poll (MRP) by Savanta places the Conservatives in electoral turmoil, predicting a huge swing to the Labour Party. According to the said poll, if an election were called tomorrow, the Labour Party would control 482 seats, with the Tories languishing on a mere 69 seats. Not only would this see the governing party lose 296 seats, but it would see Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Richmond seat flip to Labour, with other prominent Tories such as Dominic Raab also potentially losing their position in Westminster.
This is the latest in a series of disheartening polls for the PM and his party, with a YouGov poll from December 6-7 indicating a paltry voting intention of 24% for the Conservatives, whilst the Labour Party could enjoy a 48% share of the vote. The Tories have not managed to achieve higher than 25% of the vote in any of YouGov’s last three polls, with Ipsos Mori indicating that only 20% of people look favorably upon the Conservative Party; 52% view them as unfavorable compared to only 38% who think the same of Labour.
The newly released Savanta poll suggests that the Tories would only win 28% of the vote should an election occur tomorrow, with Labour predicted the take 48%. This is a huge change from the last vote in 2019, within which the Tories achieved 42.4% of the vote, showing a potential loss of up to 14.4% of votes across the country. In real terms, this would mean the Conservatives could lose around 7 million votes.
Sunaks’s popularity, standing at 29%, is not drastically low when compared to Leader of the Opposition Keir Starmer, whose likeability stands at a modest 32%. Clearly, then, the Prime Minister himself is not the issue, something which spells danger for the Conservative Party en masse should things not change in time for the next General Election campaign.
We can see this from the relative unpopularity of other prominent Conservative MPs and Cabinet Ministers. Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, has just a 13% approval rating, with 48% of those polled actively disliking her as a politician. Her bold and widely unpopular plan to send refugees and asasylum seekers to Rwanda, her breaking of the ministerial code through the use of a private email to conduct private government business, and her frankly unhinged rant in the House of Commons about the “tofu-eating wokerati”, have left both her and her government colleagues in a precarious position.
Of course, we cannot blame all of the Tories’ misgivings on just one minister, but her seemingly out-of-touch priorities are representative of problems that many people have with the current government. In a cost of living crisis, one which has seen inflation hit 11% and the economy slide into recession, many citizens feel that the government are not driven by the needs of the public, with 6 in 10 believing the country to be heading in the “wrong direction”.
It is important to note that, whilst this poll is certainly worrying for the Conservatives, it is hardly positive news for Labour. The disastrous figures for the government are based on just how poor a job they are perceived to be doing, rather than because of a widespread belief in Keir Starmer and his political plans. Whilst YouGov trackers suggest that voters tend to believe that Labour would be better at dealing with unemployment and housing than the Tories, they are only marginally ahead about improving the economy and are still behind in the areas of defense, security, and the handling of the ongoing issues and negotiations surrounding Brexit.
Possibly more worryingly for Starmer and the Shadow Cabinet, however, is that a staggering 43% of those polled did not know or were unclear as to what the Labour Party stood for, whilst another 35% of people thought the party to be incompetent. 39% of people believed that the Labour Party was out of touch with the people, and 43% did not believe either that Keir Starmer looked like a Prime Minister in waiting or that the Labour Party was ready for government.
The Labour front bench are unlikely to get too bogged down in the details of such polls, however, with the general consensus being that they are likely to win the next General Election should the Tories continue to self-destruct.The Savanta poll is not only positive for Labour, but also for the Scottish National Party (SNP). Should voting follow predicted patterns, the SNP would find themselves with 59 seats and only four short of total control of all Scottish constituencies.
This would not only wipe out the Conservatives north of the border but also massively increase the likelihood of another referendum on Scottish independence. Currently, there is little appetite for an imminent vote on Scottish independence, with deputy first minister, John Swinney, today announcing that £20 million previously earmarked for a vote in 2023 was instead to go to battling fuel poverty during what has so far been a bitterly cold winter across Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Any potential referendum on independence must be agreed to by both the Scottish and English parliaments, meaning Westminster must give the go ahead, and so the SNP are unable to call a vote whenever suits. Should the Savanta poll’s predictions be realised, however, it would certainly leave the UK government in a precarious position were they to continue to block SNP attempts for a second independence referendum.
In many ways, ceding a vote to the SNP could bolster the position of the UK government, with the majority of Scottish voters still not being convinced of the proposed benefits of independence. Whilst it is true to say that support for Scottish independence is on the rise, Dr Fraser McMillen of the Scottish Election Survey believes this to have more to do with “diverging perceptions of UK and Scottish government performance than more abstract procedural arguments”. Allowing an independence referendum would, most likely, silence the issue for another ten years and give the government an upper hand and might produce a boost in the polls.
Notoriously, polls can be wildly inaccurate, with it being difficult to properly calculate turnout and subsequently to say with any real certainty how an election will play out. In the run up to the 2017 General Election, within which Labour managed to come very close to a shock victory, prominent pollsters at Ipsos MORI, YouGov, and BMG, all failed to predict that Labour would perform as well as they did.
We must, then, take these new findings with a pinch of salt; a swing of this magnitude would be unheard of within British politics and doesn’t take into account social and cultural factors such as tribal voting that persist even within such trying times as today. Nonetheless, this poll will surely be a wake-up call for Rishi Sunak and his government, with the next few weeks before the New Year surely being crucial for an administration that has struggled to find its feet in a context of economic recession and strikes across the public sector.
Labour will be buoyed by these new figures, but whether they can capitalise on such gains by providing a clear and engaging plan for the country remains to be seen. It is an uncertain time for both the British people and its politicians, we can only hope that stability can be found as we enter 2023.
Cover image available from Bloomberg.com
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