After a July dominated by the fall-out from the three by-elections held towards the end of the month, Westminster fell quiet for much of August as MPs broke for their summer recess.
Despite the respite from normal parliamentary politics, both the Conservatives and Labour put forth new policy proposals throughout the month, testing out messaging in what was probably the last summer recess before the next election.
In the wake of the Uxbridge by-election, which was won by the Conservatives in large part due to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s planned expansion of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), Prime Minister Rishi Sunak told the Daily Telegraph, “I am on motorists’ side” and promised to review low traffic neighbourhoods and other car-related green initiatives. The Government also announced new efforts to stop small boats crossing the Channel and a plan to relax EU-era environmental rules in an effort to increase house building.
For its part, Labour announced a (so far unspecified) plan to reform the tuition fees system in England, while Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves ruled out wealth taxes if Labour were to enter Government after the next election.
With much of the country tuned out of Westminster politics, none of these announcements have had an appreciable impact on the polls, with the overall picture remaining unchanged from last month.
Labour ends August holding a lead of 16% over the Conservatives nationally, up one point from our last poll of July. Labour’s lead in their traditional heartland ‘Red Wall’ seats has grown by nine points since the end of July, with the party now holding a 25% lead, back to the level it was at in early July. Such a result, if repeated at an election, would be more than sufficient for the party to regain all the ‘Red Wall’ seats it lost to the Conservatives in December 2019, when Labour finished almost nine points behind the Conservatives in these seats.
Labour’s advantage over the Conservatives in the ‘Blue Wall’ constituencies in southern England has narrowed to 1%, down from 4% at the end of last month. For context, the Conservatives won these seats with 50% of the vote in 2019, a full 29-points ahead of Labour (21%), who were beaten into third place by the Liberal Democrats (27%).
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approval rating is down by one point nationally to -15%, while his Red Wall rating has risen to -9%. His Blue Wall rating, meanwhile, holds steady from last month at -3%.
On the question of who would be the better Prime Minister, Keir Starmer now leads Rishi Sunak in all three of our tracker polls. Starmer’s nationwide lead over Sunak is 10% (44% vs 34%), up one point from the end of July, while his lead in the Red Wall holds steady at 9% (42% vs 33%). The Labour leader has also taken a 1% lead over Sunak in the Blue Wall (36% vs 35%).
Nationally, the Government’s net competency rating of -23% is up three points from late July (-26%), with 45% (-3) of voters in Great Britain now saying they see the Government as incompetent, against 22% (–) who see it as competent. The Government’s net competency rating in the Red Wall and the Blue Wall stand at -33% and -13%, respectively.
On policy delivery, the Government continues to struggle on the three key issues of the economy, the NHS, and immigration. On the economy, the Government’s approval rating is up from last month nationally (-18%, +5) and in the Blue Wall (-11%, +16), while falling by nine points in the Red Wall (-30%). The Government’s ratings on both the NHS and immigration have fallen in both the Red Wall and Blue Wall, while improving nationally by nine points (-26%) and three points (-29%) respectively.
For Keir Starmer, August has been another good month, with his personal approval ratings recovering from the reverses he suffered in July and improving in all three trackers from last month.
Nationally, his net approval is up by five points from last month to now stand at +12%, while his ratings in the Red Wall improves five points to +5%. His rating in the Blue Wall is also up by one point to +8%.
On policy, Labour holds leads over the Conservatives in all three polls as the party most trusted on the key election issues of the economy and the NHS, with Labour’s leads on those two issues ranging from as high as 27-points nationally on the NHS (45% vs 18%) to a four-point advantage over the Conservatives in the Blue Wall as the party most trusted to manage the economy (28% vs 24%). Labour also leads both nationally and in the Red Wall as the party most trusted to handle immigration, although the Conservatives have extended their lead by two points over Labour on this issue in the Blue Wall to now lead by 3% (25% vs 22%).
The NHS remains Labour’s most trusted issue, with voters in each of the Blue Wall (29%), the Red Wall (34%), and the country at large (36%) all selecting the NHS/Healthcare as the issue they most trust Labour to deliver on.
In short, as normal Parliamentary business prepares to resume in September, Labour remains in a dominant polling position. With possibly only a year to go to the next election, Rishi Sunak faces a massive task to unite his party and provide a compelling policy agenda to a public fast losing patience with him and his Government. Barring such a reset, Keir Starmer and his party look well-placed to win Government when British voters next go to the polls.