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How support for the British Conservative Party is collapsing

How support for the British Conservative Party is collapsing
How support for the British Conservative Party is collapsing


The Conservatives dominated British politics for 14 years, retaining power through crisis after crisis, including some of their own making.

Now, as disaffected Britons prepare to go to the polls, the Conservatives face the prospect of losing relevance. Polls suggest they could win their lowest share of seats in Parliament in perhaps a century.

After five turbulent years of government, their base has fractured.

Some move left, with the party about 20 percentage points behind Labor. Others are responding to the appeal of the far right, with a third of Britons who voted Conservative last time now saying they would support the anti-immigration Reform Party, led by Nigel Farage.

Polls suggest the election results could be catastrophic for conservatives. Although poll numbers often decline as elections draw closer, the Conservatives' situation shows few signs of improvement.

Here are some main reasons why:

Voters believe the country's situation is worse

Many voters believe the Conservative Party has left Britain worse off than before it came to power.

The promise to finalize Brexit, which took Britain out of the EU, was a big victory for the Conservatives in the last election. The British now have other concerns. This time, they say, the most important issues are the economy and health care, followed by immigration. And voters think Labor is better prepared to handle all three, according to a YouGov poll.

Voters' major issues are no longer Conservatives' strong points

According to the British, the main problems facing the country

Source: YouGov survey of June 10, 2024 and December 1, 2019

Note: Crime and immigration were tied at 22% in the December 1, 2019 polls, but crime was on average a higher concern in the previous ten polls.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's predecessor, Liz Truss, triggered an economic crisis after announcing plans for tax cuts, deregulation and borrowing.

Seven and a half million people are waiting for elective care from the National Health Service, five million more than when the Conservatives took power in 2010.

And despite Conservative promises to reduce immigration, net migration hit a record high in 2023.

The loss of confidence in conservatives to solve these problems follows a period of intense change and turmoil.

The Conservatives oversaw sharp spending cuts after the 2009 financial crisis, arguing that austerity would restore public finances. Prime Minister David Cameron called a controversial Brexit referendum in 2016 and then resigned.

Since the last election, the government has had to deal with Covid-19, an energy crisis after Russia cut gas deliveries to Europe and high inflation. He also weathered a series of self-inflicted crises, passing through three prime ministers and five chancellors, responsible for economic policy.

The most reliable conservative voters are abandoning them

More than half of people who voted Conservative in the last election tell pollsters they are now considering voting for a different party.

Source: Average of YouGov polls from June 6 to 18, 2024

Among the voters who say they will abandon the Conservatives are some of the party's most reliable supporters.

In recent decades, age has replaced social class as the main indicator of political support in Britain, with the Conservatives winning over more older voters. In the last election, the age at which someone was more likely to vote Conservative than Labor was around 40 or over.

Today, polls suggest the Conservatives are ahead in only one age group: people over 65.

How party support has changed since the 2019 election

Source: YouGov survey of June 10, 2024 and December 17, 2019

Conservative candidates could be wiped out in Britain's youngest areas, according to the latest YouGov poll. And Labor also looks set to make a significant dent in older constituencies, with the centre-left Liberal Democrats eroding the Conservatives' control of seats across all age groups.

In the last election, some of the most deprived areas of the country, based on factors such as income, housing and health, voted for the Conservative Party for the first time.

When ballots are counted this time, polls suggest, the party's supporters could be far less economically diverse, given how Labor polls among low-income people.

At the same time, Labor leader Keir Starmer has ruthlessly moved the party towards the center since taking power, at the risk of alienating some of the party's more left-wing supporters. He reversed course from his promise to spend $28 billion a year on a green investment plan, saying the country could no longer afford it, and was less critical of Israel over civilian deaths in Gaza than many supporters would like. .

Polls suggest this approach is costing Labor support among 18-24 year-olds as they shift to smaller parties, notably the Liberal Democrats and Greens. The seat of Bristol Central, a town in southwest England with large numbers of young, educated voters, could be won by the Green party for the first time.

Losing seats in Labor's historic heartland and beyond

After a disastrous performance in the last election, Labor needs to win 120 more seats in Parliament than in the last election to come to power. This is an extraordinary figure and a daunting task. Mr Starmer, the party leader, is also unpopular, according to polls, although his position in the polls has improved throughout the campaign.

But the latest poll suggests Labor could win seats across the country and transform Britain's electoral map.

Labor could regain its historic heartland lost in the last election

Source: YouGov seat estimates

A key test for Labor will be whether it can win back the post-industrial heartlands of the Midlands and the north of England, traditionally known as the Red Wall. Many of these seats went to Conservative candidates for the first time in 2019 after voters backed Brexit.

The geography of each party's electoral base is crucial in this election, as the British electoral system rewards parties with highly concentrated electoral bases.

The Liberal Democrats are showing particular strength in a small number of wealthier, older seats in the south of England, where they compete with the Conservative Party for seats rather than Labor. Pollsters expect him to win 30 to 50 seats, almost all at the expense of the Conservatives.

Losing Brexit voters to the far right

One of the biggest unknowns concerns the performance of the far-right Reform Party.

Nigel Farage, who shook up the campaign in early June by taking over as leader of the Reform Party, hopes to capitalize on discontent among Conservative voters and growing concerns about immigration to win seats in Parliament. Longer term, Farage said he hoped to be a candidate for prime minister by 2029, when the next election would be scheduled.

His gamble appears to be paying off, with a recent YouGov poll revealing that the Reformers are outpacing the Conservatives by winning the support of almost one in five voters surveyed.

Where reform finds the most support

Source: YouGov seat estimates

It's the geography of this support that is so dangerous for the Conservatives, said Will Jennings, professor of political science at the University of Southampton. Unlike the Liberal Democrats, the Reformers' voting base is widely dispersed across the country and, while this makes it difficult to win seats, it could split the right-wing vote across the country and cause the Conservatives to lose more seats. for the benefit of Labor.

The fact that Reform got 15 to 20 points in some of these constituencies would potentially, even if they also picked up a few votes from Labour, overturn huge majorities, Mr Jennings said.




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