Most Tory voters don’t care about Sunak’s ‘anti-woke’ crusade, poll shows

Three in four Tory voters say more important issues that culture war clashes

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Monday 21 August 2023 16:51 BST
Rishi Sunak urged to concentrate on economy over ‘anti-woke’ crusade
Rishi Sunak urged to concentrate on economy over ‘anti-woke’ crusade (PA)

The vast majority of Conservative voters do not think tackling “woke” politics should be a priority for Rishi Sunak’s government, new polling has revealed.

Almost three in four people who voted Tory at the 2019 election (72 per cent) said there were more important things than challenging political correctness and fighting other “culture wars”.

Mr Sunak has appointed a free speech tsar over “cancel culture”, launched a crackdown on gender-neutral toilets and has promised to be on the side of motorists when it comes to net zero policies in a bid to create clear dividing lines with Labour.

But the results of a new survey of 2,000 adults by the More in Common group suggest the PM may wish to steer away from a full-blown anti-woke crusade as part of the Tory election campaign.

By a 73 per cent to 27 per cent margin, the UK public feel that there are many more important issues for the government to focus on.

More in Common – set up in the wake of the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox – conducts public opinion research and aims to build more united communities.

The group’s poll also found voters disapprove of anti-woke Tory Lee Anderson’s recent use of the F-word, after he told asylum seekers to “f*** off back to France”.

Around 71 per cent said that it isn’t appropriate for the Tory deputy chair politicians to use the f-word, though voters who voted Tory in 2019 were a bit more likely to say it was okay to swear.

It comes as a group of 50 Tory MPs and peers – including Dame Priti Patel and former PM Liz Truss – urged the government to “distance itself” from a group allegedly leading the “cancel culture” among woke-conscious businesses.

They urged Mr Sunak to intervene after a document issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) suggested that the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN) were helping offer “brand safety”.

Liz Truss (right) has pushed Sunak to act on woke ‘brand safety’ issue (PA Wire)

But More In Common’s UK director Luke Tryl said the public was “split” on whether politicians should challenge businesses supporting woke causes – though the majority want the government to keep out of such issues.

“Overall the public think politicians should stay out of which causes businesses support 59-41 per cent, but Tory 2019 voters are more likely to say they should challenge those businesses,” he tweeted.

He said liberal Tories from the blue wall tend to want the government to stay out of what businesses do, reflecting their more “free market outlook”, but red wall Tory voters are more split on the issue.

Labour leader Sir Keir is preferred over Mr Sunak when it comes to tackling climate change, offering solutions to the debate on trans and women’s rights and crime and anti-social behaviour, according to survey results first shared with the i.

But the poll shows that Mr Sunak has a narrow lead over Sir Keir when it comes to tackling small boats in the English Channel, leading 28 per cent to 26 per cent.

The survey follows the row over the closure of Nigel Farage’s Coutts account, after the bank admitted it assessed the “significant reputational risks of being associated with him”. Mr Sunak promised a crackdown on banks denying accounts to customers based on political opinions.

Despite denying a so-called “war on woke”, Mr Sunak and his equalities secretary Kemi Badenoch pledged this summer to halt the growing use of gender-neutral facilities – vowing to make sure that all new shops and offices must offer single-sex toilets for women and men.

Government sources have made clear that the prime minister intended to have “crunchier” political arguments around areas such as immigration when parliament returns next month.

But senior Tory moderates have urged Mr Sunak to focus on improving the economy to claw back the party’s standing with voters. Some fear a raft of “dog-whistling” on culture war issues will prove divisive in the run-up to the election.

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