With mixed results from May’s local elections in England and Wales—including the loss of key seats to the Conservatives in its traditional north-eastern heartland—the Labour Party has been facing increasing pressure to clarify its future direction. The release of its policy review last month, with a focus on jobs, community safety, and the environment, came amid ongoing accusations of disunity and calls for the Party to better define its values. The latest research by Redfield & Wilton Strategies surveys Britons who voted Labour at the 2019 General Election and finds widespread approval for the position and performance of the Party on most policy areas, yet substantial scepticism regarding Keir Starmer’s Party leadership.
Looking at his overall rating, a plurality (46%) of 2019 Labour voters approve of Keir Starmer’s job performance since he became Party Leader in April 2020. Meanwhile, 32% neither approve nor disapprove, and 18% disapprove.
However, we continue to find that Keir Starmer is noticeably less popular with Labour supporters than Boris Johnson is with Conservative supporters, with the latter currently recording 65% approval among 2019 Conservative voters.
We also observe division in voter opinion as to the overall suitability of Keir Starmer to the Labour leadership. Pluralities say both that he is the right leader for the Labour Party at this point in time (43%) and that the Party under his leadership is capable of winning the 2024 General Election (45%). Nevertheless, a substantial proportion—32% and 35% respectively—disagree with these statements, while levels of indecision on these questions—25% and 20%—are also conspicuously high, suggesting that Starmer has failed to mobilise widespread voter confidence.
In fact, half (50%) of 2019 Labour voters say they would support Keir Starmer being replaced before the next General Election in 2024. 28% say they would neither support nor oppose this prospect, and 18% say they would oppose it. These proportions have remained largely the same as May, when 49% of Labour voters said they would support and 16% said they would oppose replacing Starmer.
Interestingly, majorities or pluralities in every age bracket would support Starmer being replaced, with the exception of those aged 65 and over. Among this latter demographic, the plurality (36%) would oppose this prospect, despite this age bracket not otherwise recording noticeably higher support of Starmer across our polling.
Replacing Starmer has the potential to improve the Labour Party’s popularity among its support base, especially among young voters. Although the plurality (49%) of 2019 Labour voters say they would be neither more nor less likely to vote Labour at the next election if the Party had a different leader, a significant proportion (40%)—and the plurality (47%) of 18-to-24-year-olds—say they would be more likely to do so. By contrast, only 7% indicate that a change in leadership would make them less likely to vote Labour.
Despite these concerns over leadership, our research suggests that Labour voters are, on the whole, happy with the track record and policy platform of the Labour Party as a whole. A sizable majority of 2019 Labour voters (70%) agree that Labour has the ideas and policies the country needs, including 20% who agree with this statement strongly. 19% neither agree nor disagree, and only 7% disagree with this statement.
Labour voters seem most impressed with the Party’s position and performance on the NHS, with 61% approving. In fact, there appears to be a degree of bipartisan recognition of Labour’s strength with regard to the NHS, with 20% of 2019 Conservative voters also approving of the Party’s stance and performance in this regard, the highest of any policy area.
Majorities from all age brackets of 2019 Labour voters share this positive view of Labour on the NHS, but approval does increase significantly with age, from 54% of 18-to-24-year-olds to 78% of those aged 65 and over. With the plurality of Labour voters (19%) identifying healthcare as the issue which would most determine how they would vote in an upcoming election—a figure that increases to 36% among those aged 65 and over—it seems that the Labour Party is delivering on policy where it carries the most weight.
We also observe majorities of 2019 Labour voters in approval of the Party’s position and performance on the economy (54%), crime and policing (53%), and housing (53%).
Furthermore, around half approve of the Party’s stance and performance on environmental issues (51%), an area of importance to Labour voters: the environment is the second-most cited issue which voters say would most determine their vote in an upcoming election (12%), and the most-cited issue among 18-to-24-year-olds (15%).
Half of Labour voters approve of the Party’s position and performance on cultural issues (51%) and on the coronavirus pandemic (50%), whereas pluralities approve of the Party’s performance on immigration (45%) and foreign policy (45%).
The lowest levels of voter approval pertain to the Party’s policy and performance on Scotland. Overall, 40% of 2019 Labour voters approve of the Party’s stance and track record in this area, 40% neither approve nor disapprove, and 8% disapprove, suggesting a high degree of indecision about Labour’s stance in this policy area.
Altogether, it appears that the Labour Party’s support base is broadly content with the Party’s policy platform and delivery to date, but that considerable scepticism exists regarding Keir Starmer’s position as Party Leader, especially among young people. Only fourteen months after Starmer took to this role, around half of 2019 Labour voters would support him being replaced by the next election.