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Artillery Row

The big winner of recent opinion polling is despair

As we approach the next election, few people are optimistic about Sunak or Starmer

Last week, Lord Ashcroft published his latest polling on voter’s thoughts on the state of the UK and likely voting patterns in the General Election later this year. Many commentators will concentrate on the headline numbers but I think a deeper dive tells us much more about the state of the nation. 

Rather than simply asking people how they intend to vote, as other pollsters do, the Ashcroft pollsters also asked how likely the respondents were to end up voting for their chosen party on a 100-point scale. The advantage of such a scale is that it not just provides a snapshot of current popular feeling but also helps gauge how many vote(r)s are still to play for.

The data shows that unlike in the case of the Blair landslide in 1997 — which many commentators are comparing the forthcoming election to —  Starmer’s lead is soft. Indeed, of those saying they will vote Labour the mean probability of doing so is only 68 out of 100. Whilst that is indeed far better than the 47 out of 100 for the Tory party, it demonstrates two things — first that there is much to play for in this election, and second that a significant number of voters are not sold on either of the main parties or their policies.

This lack of support for either of the main two parties is also reflected in the polling for who would make the best PM (shown in the chart below).

When asked who would make the best PM, Sunak or Starmer, just 20 per cent chose Sunak. Yet only 33 per cent chose Starmer. The clear winner of the best PM vote is “don’t know/none of the above” which nearly half of respondents (47 per cent) voted for. Remarkably more 2019 Tory voters chose don’t know/none of the above than chose Sunak and a full third of 2019 Labour voters didn’t choose Starmer. (If only we could find this “don’t know/none of the above” fellow. He might make a great PM.)

These results are mirrored in the answers voters gave to the question “who would do a better job of running the economy”.  Just 24 per cent chose the Tories and only 34 per cent chose Labour. Once again the winner, with 42 per cent of the vote, was don’t know/none of the above.

In terms of voter’s priorities, according to the Ashcroft polling “stopping the boats” is ranked joint third for all voters, equal with “growing the economy”. Stopping the boats is apparently the single most important issue for 2019 Conservative voters. Whilst that in itself is an incredible statistic, even more incredible is that 58 per cent of all voters believe that neither party is likely to do so.

Indeed, voters are not just dismissive of the likelihood that either the Labour or the Tory party will deal with the boats. 35 per cent of voters also think that neither party would grow the economy or cut inflation, while a massive 41 per cent of voters think neither party would be able to cut NHS waiting lists or reduce Government debt.

The most important lesson we should learn from Lord Ashcroft’s latest polling? I think it is the fact that there is a large and growing proportion of the UK public that do not have faith in or support either of the mainstream parties or their leaders. A large and growing proportion of people who desperately want change but do not believe either mainstream party is capable (or willing?) to deliver it.

And I think the Lord Ashcroft polling gives us a pretty good idea of the size of this discontented populace too. From the data, it is clear that somewhere between a third and a half of the population would rather “none of the above” than Labour or the Tories. That somewhere between a third and a half of the population think neither party is capable (or willing?) to deliver their priorities.

That is a huge proportion of the electorate, but it really shouldn’t come as a surprise. The public are rapidly waking up to the fact that it doesn’t matter which mainstream party they vote for — they get the same tired old politicians and the same tired old policies. With Sunak and Starmer at the helm, voters know their choice is between parties controlled by people from the same small segment of society, who share the same values and beliefs (and despise the values and beliefs of the majority), and whose policies (despite some presentational differences) are fundamentally the same.

I have written about how the metropolitan progressive elite has gradually and firmly taken control of all UK mainstream parties, and the gradual emergence of a new electoral majority in opposition to this, and how the Tory party’s decision not to lead this new electoral coalition would not stop its rise.

The Lord Ashcroft polling confirms the existence and scale of this discontented population. It confirms that they want change — and not tinkering-around-the-edges change but systemic change. It confirms that they want a system that not just puts them first economically, but also reflects their values. A system run by and for the “somewheres” more than the “anywheres”

Now we wait to see who will rise to lead it.

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