Tories lost a fifth of their voters in the last year, poll reveals


Voters deserted the Conservatives during a punishing year for the party as it dropped almost one-fifth of its electoral support, The Independent’s latest poll of polls can disclose.

As 2013 begins, the Tories’ popular support has yet to recover from a slide that began during a troubled spring, including George Osborne’s “omnishambles” Budget, leaving Labour with ratings that, if repeated in a General Election, could be enough to put Ed Miliband in Downing Street with a majority of more than 100. To add to the new year gloom for the Prime Minister, the UK Independence Party achieved record levels of popularity.

The poll underlines the challenges facing David Cameron as he attempts to seize the political initiative in the new year with a long-awaited speech laying out his vision of Britain’s place in Europe.

A weighted average of last month’s polls puts the Conservatives on 32 per cent (down seven points since December 2011) while Labour is on 41 per cent (up three). The Liberal Democrats’ support has held up better than their coalition partners this year (now 11 per cent, down one), but the party began 2012 at a low ebb and ends the year struggling to reach double figures. It is now in danger of being overtaken by Ukip, which polled an average of eight per cent, compared with three per cent at the turn of last year.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who calculated the averages, said the turning-point for the Tories had been in March/April when the Tory rating fell below 35 per cent and has not recovered.

The party’s support appears to have been hit by the ill-received Budget as well as controversies including the handling of the petrol tankers’ strike and confusion over the deportation of the cleric Abu Qatada.

Alarm is also growing in Conservative ranks about the steady advance of Ukip both in the polls and in by-elections (the party came second in the contest in Rotherham last month and third in Corby in November).

Prof Curtice said that Ukip was disproportionately attracting support from Tories and had become “a convenient and acceptable vehicle of protest for disillusioned Conservative voters”.

Mr Cameron and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will shortly move to reinvigorate the Coalition by setting out plans for its next two years in office as well as listing its achievements since its creation in May 2010.

However, the Coalition’s immediate fortunes could depend on whether the recent tentative economic recovery – accompanied by falling unemployment – continues into 2013. Its problems in winning back voters could be exacerbated by the publication of the next Comprehensive Spending Review, which is likely to extend austerity measures.

Labour has edged up slowly in support over the last 12 months and has been consistently around the 40 per cent it needs for a convincing election victory for most of the year.

It will face a key test in May in elections to English shire counties. Labour fared disastrously the last time the seats were contested in 2009, so its performance will be a measure of whether it is rebuilding support in areas alienated by Gordon Brown’s government.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk