Sunak and Starmer Monthly Polling Report Card (July 2023)

August 1, 2023
R&WS Research Team
Approval Rating | Conservative Party | GB Politics | Keir Starmer | Labour Party | Rishi Sunak | UK Elections | Voting Intention

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Following another bad month of polling for the Government in June, Westminster politics in July was dominated by the three parliamentary by-elections that were held on the 20 July.

The Liberal Democrats overturned a Conservative majority of nearly 20,000 to win the seat of Somerset and Frome, formerly held by disgraced Conservative MP David Warburton. In an even more dramatic reversal, 25-year-old Keir Mather became the Labour MP for Selby and Ainsty in Yorkshire, overturning a Conservative majority of 20,137 from the 2019 election, the largest ever majority to be overturned in a UK by-election. 

However, a surprise victory for the Conservative Party in the contest for Boris Johnson’s old seat of Uxbridge and South Ruislip, fuelled by opposition to London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s planned expansion of London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), has provided some (false?) comfort for the Conservatives on an otherwise grim night for the party.

Despite the unanticipated Conservative victory in Uxbridge, the by-election results, taken together, still point to a Labour majority being the most likely outcome of the next election at this point. Nor, despite a narrowing in our national and Red Wall voting intention polls, does anything in our July polling suggest anything other than a Labour win at the next election is likely.

Nationally, Labour’s lead in our final July poll was 15%, three points down from our last poll of June, but still more than enough of a lead to deliver Labour an overall majority if it was repeated at an election. Three weeks earlier, on 9 July, Labour’s lead had been as high as 21%, the widest lead the party had held over the Conservatives since 19 March.

Labour’s lead in their traditional heartland ‘Red Wall’ seats narrowed by nine points in July, with the party ending the month with an 18% lead, their smallest lead in these seats since late-May. However, this figure still represents a dramatic reversal from December 2019 when Labour finished almost nine points behind the Conservatives in these seats.

Labour has opened up a 4% advantage over the Conservatives in the ‘Blue Wall’ constituencies in southern England, having at one stage held a 7% lead earlier in the month. It is worth recalling that, at the last election, the Conservatives won these seats with 50% of the vote, 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 in all three of our tracker polls, with the Conservative leader seeing three-point drops in his approval rating both nationally (-14%) and in the Blue Wall (-3%), in addition to a four-point fall in his approval rating in the Red Wall (-20%).

Starmer’s nationwide lead over Sunak is now 9% (40% vs 31%), up two points from the end of June, while his lead in the Red Wall holds steady at 9% (42% vs 33%). Rishi Sunak has meanwhile lost the five-point lead he held last month in the Blue Wall, with the Conservative and Labour leaders now tied at 36% each. 

Nationally, the Government’s net competency rating of -26% is up two points from late June (-28%), although nearly half (48%) of voters in Great Britain see the Government as incompetent, against only 22% who see the Government Rishi Sunak leads as competent. The Government’s net competency rating is also up in both the Red Wall (-23%) and the Blue Wall (-19%), by twelve and seven points 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 down from last month nationally (-23%, -1) and in the Blue Wall (-27%, -3) while improving by 12 points in the Red Wall (-21%). The Government’s ratings on both the NHS and immigration have also improved in the Red Wall and Blue Wall.

For Keir Starmer, July has been another good month, with the Selby and Ainsty result boosting the Labour leader’s claim to be on the path towards winning the next election.

Despite the positive trends for his party, Starmer’s personal approval ratings went into reverse in July. Nationally, his net approval is down by two points from last month to now stand at +7%, while his ratings in the Red Wall fell a dramatic 11 points to 0%, ending the month with his lowest approval rating in these seats since 4 September last year. His rating in the Blue Wall is, however, up by one point to +7%.

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 20-points both nationally and in the Red Wall on the NHS (39% vs 19% in both) to a one-point advantage over the Conservatives in the Blue Wall as the party most trusted to manage the economy. Labour also leads both nationally and in the Red Wall as the party most trusted to handle immigration, although it now trails the Conservatives by one point (21% vs 22%) on this issue in the Blue Wall.

The NHS remains Labour’s most trusted issue, with voters in each of the Blue Wall (24%), the Red Wall (33%), and the country at large (34%) all selecting the NHS/Healthcare as the issue they most trust Labour to deliver on.

In summary, as parliament prepares to rise for its summer break, the Conservatives, despite gaining some ground in our national voting intention poll and winning a morale-boosting victory in the Uxbridge by-election, remain in a distant second place to Labour. Keir Starmer maintains a healthy lead over Sunak as preferred PM nationally, and the Prime Minister, for his part, has seen his own personal ratings fall further into negative territory across all three of our tracker polls.

The Prime Minister, and his party, enter the summer recess in desperate need of a reset, while Labour and Keir Starmer can enter the holidays holding a strong poll advantage.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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