Anything less than a modest rally in the polls for the Conservatives next week could plunge the party further into crisis
Analysis by Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent
You have to go back to Tony Blair’s honeymoon period after his landslide victory in the 1997 general election to find a Labor opinion poll lead as massive as 33 points.
All those critics of Sir Keir Starmer – mainly from the left-wing Corbynist party, who have argued that with the Tories in turmoil, Labor should be 20 points ahead – now have their answer.
Even after a successful Labor conference, the YouGov poll results for The Times are staggering. “You’re kidding! It’s an annihilation! a senior Tory MP told Sky News.
One estimate suggested that in a general election the Tories would be down to just 61 seats in the Commons. It’s fantasy, though. This is a very, very crude calculation. So dream, Labor MPs!
Let’s not rush. Opinion polls are a snapshot and it’s just a poll and the next general election could be over two years from now.
But YouGov’s findings are damning for Liz Truss and Kwasi Kwarteng. They will also bring smug smiles to Rishi Sunak’s supporters, who will no doubt say privately, “I told you so.”
When asked whether Mr Sunak would have made a better or worse prime minister than Mrs Truss, 44% said better and 13% said worse. And among Conservative supporters, 36% said better and 29% worse.
The Times reports that support for the Conservatives fell seven points from 28% to 21% amid fears the government’s plans could lead to a spike in interest rates.
And it appears to be largely those ‘red wall’ voters who gave Boris Johnson victory in the 2019 general election who are now abandoning his successor Liz Truss.
Some 17% of those who backed Mr Johnson in 2019 said they would now vote Labor and just 37% of 2019 Tory voters said they planned to stay with the party, suggesting Tory annihilation if elections were taking place now.
But it won’t happen now. And veteran Tory MP Sir Roger Gale correctly pointed out on Sky News that even if Mr Kwarteng’s ‘growth plan’ were defeated in the Commons in a major backbench mutiny, the Truss government would not automatically fall. .
That’s because, wisely, Mr Kwarteng insisted that despite his tax cuts, his statement last Friday was not a budget. Thus, the constitutional convention that a defeat on a budget means the fall of a government does not apply.
In a big boost for the Labor leader, Sir Keir Starmer’s allies will be delighted that nearly three times as many voters said he would make a better prime minister than Ms Truss. Its support has dropped ten points in four days.
The poll, based on a survey of 1,712 voters on September 28 and 29, was released shortly after Mr Kwarteng made a desperate appeal to Tory MPs to back him.
“I understand your concern,” he said in a letter to his backbench MPs after failing to reassure many of them in a phone call earlier this week. “We are one team and we have to stay focused.”
He concluded: “We need your support to do this because the only people who win if we divide are Labor.”
Well, Labor is winning right now. And this devastating opinion poll will spark more demands from apoplectic Tory MPs for a policy U-turn.
But for now at least, Ms. Truss and Mr. Kwarteng remain defiant. Margaret Thatcher said in her speech to the 1981 Conservative conference: “Turn around if you wish. The lady is not made to turn.
This lady Prime Minister is not to turn either. But there may come a time — if money markets continue to plunge and interest rates soar, putting thousands of families at risk of losing their homes — when a turnaround might be the only way out. the crisis for the Prime Minister.
In one of her regional television interviews, Ms Truss was called out to by an interviewer who claimed she seemed to be saying: ‘Crisis, what crisis?’
She replied, “I’m not saying that at all.
“I think we are in a very serious situation.”
That’s as close as she’s likely to admit she’s facing a crisis. While the polls are indeed just a snapshot, there is a trend now, with Labour’s poll lead reaching alarming levels for the Tories.
Political parties usually get a boost in the polls from the publicity their conference brings, as Labor has spectacularly done this week.
Anything less than a modest upturn in the polls for the Tories after their conference in Birmingham next week will plunge the morale of Tory backbenchers to potentially dangerous levels for the PM and its chancellor.