Most Britons ready to vote for new centre-ground party amid Tory and Labour chaos, new poll finds

Exclusive: Proportion of those who would consider backing a new group has grown rapidly over the summer 

Joe Watts
Political Editor
Thursday 20 September 2018 15:20 BST
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A majority of Britons would now consider voting for a new centre-ground political movement amid soaring dismay at the state of the main parties, an exclusive poll has revealed.

The exclusive research for The Independent found the number of those ready to back a new party has leapt in just four months after a summer in which Labour’s antisemitism crisis raged and the Tories tore themselves apart over Brexit.

In a particularly worrying development for Jeremy Corbyn, the BMG Research survey showed that a third of voters – including a third of those who backed him at the 2017 election – would support Labour splitting up as a party.

Data indicated that burgeoning dissatisfaction with the main parties is at the root of the phenomenon, with a major jump in those saying they are not well represented by any of them.

It comes as party conference season kicks in this weekend, with Vince Cable taking his Liberal Democrats to Brighton where he will try to seize the political centre-ground for his own.

The febrile atmosphere in the Labour party has been underlined by reports that a handful of Labour MPs are said to be considering breaking away and sitting as an independent group in the commons, while a string of Tory MPs have vowed to quit their party if the increasingly-populist Boris Johnson becomes leader.

In April BMG asked some 1,500 people whether they were ready to think about voting for a new party, with 43 per cent saying they would consider voting for a new centre-ground party, while 34 per cent said they would not.

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But this month pollsters recorded a stark change. A majority of 52 per cent – an increase of nine points – said they would now think of giving their vote to a new group, and just 25 per cent said they would not.

People were also asked if felt well represented by the current political parties, with 40 per cent saying in April that they felt very or fairly well represented, while 41 per cent said they were not very well or not represented.

But by September a significant shift had occurred, with just 35 per cent saying the felt represented and 48 per cent – almost half – saying they felt isolated from the parties currently campaigning for votes.

It comes after months in which Labour has been consumed by a discrimination crisis, with Jeremy Corbyn being forced to apologise after the party sought to alter part of the internationally recognised definition of antisemitism.

Frank Field MP resigned the party whip after 39 years amid the row, citing allegations of bullying among members, while just last week ex-prime minister Tony Blair said: “This is a different type of Labour Party. Can it be taken back? I don’t know.”

Other MPs are also said to be considering resigning the whip, believing that the left is now so firmly in control of Labour that its dominance cannot be challenged.

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Asked if people would support a Labour split, 33 per cent said they would to some extent, 30 per cent said they did not feel strongly either way, 20 per cent said they did not know and just 18 per cent said they opposed it.

For those who voted for Mr Corbyn’s party at the 2017 general election, 32 per cent backed a split and 33 per cent opposed it, with 24 per cent not feeling strongly either way and 12 per cent not knowing.

Asked whether people would consider voting for an ‘independent Labour’ MP, who disagreed with Mr Corbyn on key issues, 35 per cent said they would, and 42 per cent said they would not and 23 per cent saying they did not know.

At his party’s conference Mr Cable will flesh out a call for Liberal Democrat supporters to be able to vote in the party’s leadership contests for free as part of a plan to turn it into a “movement for moderates”.

The Lib Dem leader wants his party to adopt a “registered supporter” system that would allow non-members to help decide who takes over from him.

In a sign that Brexit divisions have left the Tories creaking at the seams, a handful of MPs including former ministers Dominic Grieve and Anna Soubry, and Heidi Allen have said they will quit if ex-foreign secretary Mr Johnson becomes leader.

Source note: BMG Research interviewed a representative sample of 1,533 GB adults online between 4 and 7 September. Data are weighted. BMG is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules

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