Swing voters most worried about Labour’s cost of living plan, poll finds

Exclusive: Voters also say they are unsure what Labour stands for and are concerned party will raise raise taxes once in power

Matt Mathers
Friday 02 June 2023 17:48 BST

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Swing voters’ main concerns about Labour are revealed in new polling that shows nearly a third are worried the party will not do a better job of tackling the cost of living crisis than the Tories.

Other reasons why members of the public say they are hesitant about backing Keir Starmer’s party included not knowing what the opposition stands for (24 per cent) and concerns it will raise taxes (22 per cent) if it wins the next general election.

More than 2,000 voters were surveyed for think tank The New Britain Project between 12 and 15 May in the exclusive poll.

The government has implemented a number of financial assistance packages aimed at helping households cover the cost of their bills and has set a target of halving inflation, which eats into household budgets, by the end of the year.

Despite the help, large numbers of people believe ministers are not doing enough to help them through the financial squeeze as support for middle-income households draws to a close.

Labour has said it would introduce a “proper” windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas giants to help people with their energy bills and to fund a freeze on council tax for cash-strapped households, some of whom face hikes of up to 6 per cent.

But critics have pointed out that the party has used the policy, which it initially said would raise around £13bn, to fund other pledges which one estimate put at £40bn.

And some 31 per cent of swing voters are not convinced Labour can improve the cost of living crisis and improve their personal finances, according to polling carried out by More in Common for The New Britain Project.

Of those who were most concerned about the cost of living, 20 per cent were male and 32 per cent were female.

Nearly a third of swing voters are not convinced Labour can improve the cost of living crisis

Baby boomers, those aged 56-74, were the most represented group in this category at 38 per cent, with “silent gen” (75+) in second at 36 per cent. Some 19 per cent were Gen Z (18-24), 23 per cent were millennials (25-40)  and 34 per cent were Gen X (41-45).

The survey was carried out after the Bank of England hiked interest rates for the 12th consecutive time to 4.5 per cent, heaping more misery on mortgage holders with tracker deals and renters potentially facing rises from landlords passing on the additional costs.

Despite Labour commanding a double-digit lead in the polls, critics of Mr Starmer in Westminster – some of them within his own party – have accused the leader of not setting out a wider vision for how he wants to govern the country.

Mr Starmer has pushed back on those claims by insisting that he has taken a three-pronged approach to Labour’s electoral strategy since taking over the leadership in April 2020: detoxify the brand after an anti-semitism scandal; expose the government as “unfit to govern” before setting out his own vision.

The Labour leader has also set out five national missions he says will form the core of the party’s manifesto ahead of the next general election, which will be held by January 2025 at the latest but is widely expected in the autumn of next year.

Food prices are set to overtake energy bills as the focus of the cost of living crisis

In recent weeks, following the party’s largely successful local election results in May, Labour has made a number of policy announcements aimed at winning over voters.

The party has vowed to give local authorities more power to build on the green belt in a bid to tackle the UK’s crippling housing shortage and promised to stop new North Sea oil and gas projects. Reports on Friday morning said the party is also looking at changes to the student loans system which would see graduate repayments cut.

Earlier this year the party proposed increasing income tax for the 1.3 million people with taxable income over £80,000.

Anna McShane, director of The New Britain Project, said: “To understand the challenge facing Keir Starmer you need to understand the profound public disillusionment that has taken root. The vast majority of people feel nothing in Britain works anymore and they just don’t think any politician can fix it.

“He knows he needs to both articulate a blueprint for Britain’s recovery and re-establish that vital trust with voters. He has faced a lot of criticism, but recent policy announcements on housing and the NHS indicate a readiness to take some risks and start developing a vision he can take to the country in 18 months’ time.”

Labour was contacted for comment.

Other key polling findings include:

  • 22 per cent worry Labour will raise taxes
  • 22 per cent worry they will increase national debt
  • 22 per cent concerned party won’t grip illegal migration
  • 20  per cent said they didn’t like Mr Starmer
  • 21 per cent worried they are too influenced by unions
  • 11 per cent said they were worried Labour doesn’t know “what a woman is”
  • 15 per cent were worried party would be soft on crime
  • 7 per cent said they were worried the party wasn’t leftwing enough
  • 15 per cent said they were worried Labour wouldn’t stand up to Russian aggression
  • 14 per cent said they had no hesitations and would definitely vote Labour
  • 13 per cent said they would never vote Labour under any circumstances
  • 4 per cent gave another reason for being hesitant

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