Good Thursday Afternoon,

It’s time to take a look at the polls! This week, we review Rishi Sunak’s attempted reset at the Conservative Party Conference.

This week, our research also covered:

  • Our latest Westminster polling
  • Do English voters support the idea of an independent football regulator?

If you would like to find out more about how Redfield & Wilton Strategies can help your organisation succeed through polling and strategic advice, click here.

Westminster Insights

Westminster Voting Intention (1 October):

Labour 43% (–)
Conservative 29% (+1)
Liberal Democrat 12% (-1)
Reform UK 7% (-1)
Green 4% (-1)
Scottish National Party 3% (+1)
Other 1% (–)

Changes +/- 24 September

Combined Net Approval Ratings (1 October):

Keir Starmer: +7% (-2)
Rishi Sunak: -10% (+4)

Changes +/- 24 September

Delay. Scrap. Block. Oppose. Stop.

These words are at the heart of Rishi Sunak’s policy announcements over the past two weeks, which culminated in his speech yesterday to the Conservative Party Conference, as he embraced a new motto: “Long-term decisions for a brighter future.”

Delay whose 2030 petrol car ban? 

Scrap whose HS2 plans?

Oppose the war on motorists being waged by whom

Change an “old consensus” fostered by whom?

Who has been Prime Minister for almost a year now? 

Who was Chancellor of the Exchequer for more than two years before that? 

Which political party has governed this country for the last thirteen years?

Who exactly has, in Sunak’s own words, “spent more time campaigning for change than actually delivering it”?

It is as if the roles have been reversed. Every policy announcement by Sunak has had the air of an Opposition leader outlining which of the Government’s unreasonable policies he would reverse or scrap if elected to power next year.

Keir Starmer, the actual Leader of the Opposition, could not have done a better job trashing the Conservative Party’s and Rishi Sunak’s own record in Government.

To be sure, Sunak’s new policy changes poll well in isolation. 

Last week (before the final decision was announced), a plurality of 40% of voters said they would support the scrapping of the Birmingham to Manchester section of HS2, on which construction had not yet started. Only 24% opposed that proposal. 

But it is Rishi Sunak’s Conservative Party (under successive Conservative Prime Ministers) that planned and oversaw construction of the now well over budget and behind schedule project. It was his party that stuck with the project and failed to intervene as problems emerged and costs soared, including when he himself was Chancellor.

Rishi Sunak thinks he will get the credit for scrapping an out of control project and saving valuable taxpayer money to be better reallocated elsewhere, as if voters will forget that HS2’s wastefulness was the fault of his own party in the first place.

The litany of new infrastructure projects cited by Sunak to be now funded with HS2 money serve as yet another indictment of his government and that of his predecessors. These new initiatives (in Sunak’s words: “what the North really needs”) only highlight the opportunity cost of having chosen to pursue HS2 in the first place. Why had they not pursued what the North really needs years ago?

Similarly, the Net Zero policy changes announced two weeks ago poll well by themselves. 60% of voters support the changes on boilers and heat pumps, while 54% also support delaying the ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars until 2035. 

But to merely delay an existing policy, modify another, and scrap a segment of a third is not a radical change from the “old consensus.” It is not doing anything really.

Even the permanent smoking ban for those born in 2009 or later, while likely to be positively received in a country in which 52% of voters in January said they would support an immediate, outright ban on the practice, will not have a meaningful impact for another four years, at a minimum.

The proposed changes to A-Levels, meanwhile, have an even longer time horizon. Number 10 officials themselves have briefed the media that the changes could take a decade to implement.

Taken as a whole, all the new initiatives skirt around a gaping void: What has Rishi Sunak actually done as Prime Minister? What is he doing for voters today?

In reality, all of this diversion will feed into a widespread perception that Rishi Sunak has accomplished little since taking office. Two weeks ago, as many as 66% thought Rishi Sunak had accomplished only a slight amount or nothing at all since becoming Prime Minister.

At the same time, 70% of voters thought the Government had made little or no progress on the five pledges Rishi Sunak made in January (the set of criteria against which the Prime Minister asked to be judged at the end of the year).

In stressing the importance of addressing the bigger “longer-term questions” over the more pressing short-term ones, Rishi Sunak missed what voters have been demanding since the pandemic ended: urgent action.

The worst aspect of Rishi Sunak’s Five Pledges was that they set a timeline of a year, not a daily regimen of action, action, action.

By contrast, whatever one thinks of the United Kingdom’s response to the pandemic, at least we had a government that was trying to do something.

Nearly every day, the then Prime Minister held a press conference, flanked by his advisers, in order to outline what his government was trying to do to help people at that moment.

You could argue that the Government made the wrong decisions, that they did too much or too little, that they acted too late or too impulsively, that they did not actually follow the science, and that they completely dropped the ball on multiple occasions. All these criticisms could be honestly debated and accepted as valid. 

But a good majority of this country has consistently said in our polling that they believe the government sought to meet the crisis with a great deal of urgency.

Rather than replicating this level of urgency, Rishi Sunak has instead attempted in his conference and net zero speeches to portray himself as a measured and proportionate agent of change, in an apparent rebuke to Boris Johnson’s boosterism.

Yet, that is the wrong lesson from Boris Johnson’s premiership.

In fact, the Conservative Party was rewarded in voting intention polling every time Johnson was seen to be acting with energy and vitality to meet the demands of the moment. 

The first lockdown saw their largest voting intention leads in years, the vaccine rollout saw their leads again widen to more than ten points, and the first weeks of the war in Ukraine saw a brief recovery amidst the party-gate furore.

And not to mention, it was Boris Johnson’s do-or-die approach to getting Brexit done that won the Conservative Party their majority in 2019.

In the end, it was a lack of urgency on nearly everything else that did Boris Johnson in.

Rishi Sunak should have defended this record, recognised its shortcomings, and promised to build on it. He should have treated his time as Prime Minister as yet another crisis in which the Conservative Party, not the Labour Party, would rise to the occasion.

Instead, he asked voters in January to judge him in a year’s time and then just… disappeared.

At the end of the day, none of Sunak’s new initiatives address what voters see as the most important and pressing issues facing the country right now: the cost of living, the economy, immigration, and the NHS. 

The public will ultimately ask what difference the policy changes announced yesterday will make to them when their mortgage repayments are rising, the cost of living is increasing, and they cannot see their doctor today.

Voters need help now. What is the Prime Minister doing to help them?

Still, there is no answer.

Chart of the Week

In recent years, growing concerns about the ownership structure at many English football clubs has led senior figures in the game (such as Gary Neville) to call for the creation of an independent regulator for English football.

Following the aborted attempt to create a European Super League of top clubs last year, a Fan-Led Review of Football Governance recommended the creation of such a body. The Government has recently accepted that proposal, and plans have been announced to shortly establish an independent regulator to oversee the running of men’s professional football in England.

This proposal is overwhelmingly supported by English voters generally, and by football supporters in particular.

61% of English voters would support the establishment of an independent regulator for English football. Among those who say they ‘absolutely’ consider themselves football fans, 77% would support the creation of such a body.

Hire Us: If you are a business, campaign, or research organisation looking to expand your understanding of public opinion, Redfield & Wilton Strategies has the tools to help. Get in touch to find out more.

R&WS in the Media

Each week we bring you the top stories from the media that have featured our research.

A Vote for the Conservative Party Would Be a Vote For…
ITV News | 2 October 2023

Suella Braverman’s tough talk on UK ‘migrant crisis’ wins public support
Daily Express | 30 September 2023

Worried voters want police to get tough to tackle shoplifting scourge – poll
Daily Mirror | 29 September 2023

Conservatives close the gap on Labour in ‘Red Wall’ seats but still on course to lose, poll says
iNews| 27 September 2023

Are you a journalist needing a stat for your latest piece? We can be your resource—our polling covers hundreds of issues in multiple countries each week. If you are working on an article on a topical issue, chances are we have already asked the public about it. Get in touch and we’ll share our polling data with you!

Numbers of the Week

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