Rishi Sunak plays down significance of polling suggesting he is on course to lose election by landslide – UK politics live | Politics


Sunak plays down significance of polling suggesting he is on course to lose election by landslide

Rishi Sunak was asked about the YouGov poll suggesting Labour is on course for a landslide election win (see 9.29am and 9.56am) while on a visit in Essex this morning. Rolling out a time-honoured formula used by politicians facing similar polling numbers, he said the only poll that mattered was “the one when the general election comes”. He went on:

There have been lots of polls over the last year, there will be hundreds more polls.

The choice at that election is clear, it’s stick with our plan that is working, it’s delivering change for people, ensuring they can have the peace of mind that there is a brighter future for their children and we can have renewed pride in our country.

This morning, asked whether the Tories could turn things round, Grant Shapps, replied:

Absolutely. Look, the reason I think we can turn it around is because at least people know we have got a plan and we are working to it. There isn’t a plan under Labour.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak Photograph: Sky News

Updated at  12.52 CET

Key events

Sunak refuses to say if Lee Anderson will be sacked as Tory deputy chair if he votes against government on Rwanda bill

In his pooled TV clip this morning, Rishi Sunak refused to say whether he would sack Lee Anderson as the Tory deputy chair if he votes against the government on the Rwanda bill. Asked if Anderson and government frontbenchers might be sacked over this, Sunak claimed the Conservative party was “united in wanting to stop the boats”, but he avoided the question about potential disciplinary action.

Asked a second time what might happen to Tory rebels, he replied:

I’m talking to all my colleagues. I know everyone’s frustrated, I’m frustrated about the situation, and they want to see an end to the legal merry go round. I’m confident that the bill we’ve got is the toughest that anyone has ever seen and it will resolve this issue once and for all.

Anderson is not a government frontbencher but, as a party deputy chair, he is considered part of the payroll vote and is expected to vote with the government as a condition for keeping his job.

Updated at  12.51 CET

Sunak plays down significance of polling suggesting he is on course to lose election by landslide

Rishi Sunak was asked about the YouGov poll suggesting Labour is on course for a landslide election win (see 9.29am and 9.56am) while on a visit in Essex this morning. Rolling out a time-honoured formula used by politicians facing similar polling numbers, he said the only poll that mattered was “the one when the general election comes”. He went on:

There have been lots of polls over the last year, there will be hundreds more polls.

The choice at that election is clear, it’s stick with our plan that is working, it’s delivering change for people, ensuring they can have the peace of mind that there is a brighter future for their children and we can have renewed pride in our country.

This morning, asked whether the Tories could turn things round, Grant Shapps, replied:

Absolutely. Look, the reason I think we can turn it around is because at least people know we have got a plan and we are working to it. There isn’t a plan under Labour.

Rishi Sunak

Rishi Sunak Photograph: Sky News

Updated at  12.52 CET

And here is some more comment on the YouGov poll on X from experts and commentators.

From Will Jennings, an academic and psephologist

At last, details of the @YouGov MRP. Bad for the Conservatives (unsurprisingly), but this is curious to say the least: “In constituencies across England and Wales, the Labour vote is up by an average of just four per cent compared to 2019”. https://t.co/iv0Zev31Ij

— Will Jennings 🦋 (@drjennings) January 14, 2024

At last, details of the @YouGov MRP. Bad for the Conservatives (unsurprisingly), but this is curious to say the least: “In constituencies across England and Wales, the Labour vote is up by an average of just four per cent compared to 2019”.

These results are actually *way better* for the government than the most recent standard YouGov poll, which would produce a 334 seat Labour majority according to Electoral Calculus. So something quite peculiar is going on…

From John Rentoul from the Independent

The poll, which saturated my part of Twitter last night, suggests a Lab majority of 120
Uniform swing on current polling averages: Lab majority 182@ElectCalculus model on current polling averages: Lab majority 228

From Patrick English, director of political analytics at YouGov

More details from us on this tomorrow, including seat shares. For now:

– Yes, new boundaries 🗺️
– Yes, really, 14,000 interviews 📋
– Yes, I’m confident this is the best possible model of vote intention, given our data, at this time 🤓

Look forward to hearing all your thoughts! https://t.co/s2wI1ldjrA

— Patrick English (@PME_Politics) January 14, 2024

More details from us on this tomorrow, including seat shares. For now:

– Yes, new boundaries 🗺️
– Yes, really, 14,000 interviews 📋
– Yes, I’m confident this is the best possible model of vote intention, given our data, at this time

(Couple more points, for now… since these are becoming points of discussion it seems!)

– the MRP model does have provisions for tactical voting
– the implied national vote share for Lab isn’t 36%, we’ll publish something on this tomorrow

From Luke Tryl, UK director for More in Common

🧵 thoughts on this. No doubt that Reform pose a headache to the Conservatives, they are, on (our) polling taking about 13% of the Tory 2019 vote – about the same that is going direct to Labour. They also cause problems with internal party dynamics. But 3 things worth remembering https://t.co/z2dV2LotiA

— Luke Tryl (@LukeTryl) January 15, 2024

thoughts on this. No doubt that Reform pose a headache to the Conservatives, they are, on (our) polling taking about 13% of the Tory 2019 vote – about the same that is going direct to Labour. They also cause problems with internal party dynamics. But 3 things worth remembering

1. In the absence of Reform not all their voters go Tory. We found 25% of Reform voters would, the rest wouldn’t vote or go elsewhere. As @anthonyjwells points out YouGov find a similar (31%). Our model suggests it is closer to 30 seats Reform could cost the Tories not 100.

In qual with Reform voters last week for the Guardian, was clear many are ‘anti-system’ immigration is a big part, but so is corporate greed, cost of living, state of the NHS. They are angry with status quo – hard to see Tory incumbents reversing that

2. You can lose voters in both directions. Aside from Backbone Conservatives Sunak is most popular with our Established Liberal segment and Tories under him out performing with this group (much lower swing vs our Loyal National/Red Wall group).

Updated at  12.42 CET

Anthony Wells, head of European political and social research at YouGov, says the claim that, without Reform UK on the ballot paper, Labour would fail to win a majority (see 9.56am) comes from the Daily Telegraph, not YouGov. He thinks it’s wrong. And he has explained why in a thread on X.

I see a lot of people have twigged and already flagged this, but just for the avoidance of doubt. The MRP in the Telegraph today is YouGov’s, but the claim that it’s all because of Reform and it would be a hung Parliament without them is the Telegraph’s own claim.

— Anthony Wells (@anthonyjwells) January 15, 2024

I see a lot of people have twigged and already flagged this, but just for the avoidance of doubt. The MRP in the Telegraph today is YouGov’s, but the claim that it’s all because of Reform and it would be a hung Parliament without them is the Telegraph’s own claim.

As far I can tell, it’s the Telegraph running the sums on what you’d get if you add the Conservative & Reform party votes together, which isn’t a very good way of measuring their impact.

If the Reform party disappeared tomorrow, then it’s likely some of their voters would go to the Tories. But some of their voters would also go to UKIP & splinter parties, some to Labour & other parties, and some would stay at home.

(In fact, we’ve asked this in the past. If Reform did not stand, then only 31% of Reform voters say they’d vote Tory instead https://t.co/pvaeM5meTi)

— Anthony Wells (@anthonyjwells) January 15, 2024

(In fact, we’ve asked this in the past. If Reform did not stand, then only 31% of Reform voters say they’d vote Tory instead https://t.co/pvaeM5meTi)

Bottom line is that there are lots of former Tories voting Reform because they are unhappy with the Tories & feel let down by them. If Reform vanished, it wouldn’t magically stop those voters being unhappy and disappointed in the government.

I have amended the post at 9.56am to make allowance for these points.

Junior doctors, who have started a three-day strike, on a picket line at Cardiff's University Hospital this morning.

Junior doctors, who have started a three-day strike, on a picket line at Cardiff’s University Hospital this morning.
Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

Here are some comments from Tories on the YouGov MRP poll published by the Daily Telegraph.

Simon Clarke, the Liz Truss-supporting former levelling up secretary, says the poll shows why the party must deliver on small boats.

This result would represent a disaster for @Conservatives and our country.

The time for half measures is over.

We either deliver on small boats or we will be destroyed.

Nadine Dorries, the former culture secretary and diehard Boris Johnson loyalist, says the poll shows why the party should bring him back.

Rishi played key role removing ⁦@BorisJohnson⁩ but country must come first.

Time to reach out to only Tory to win London mayoral election twice and 80 seat majority.

Get Boris into a seat and out campaigning or consign us to socialism forevermore.

Rishi played key role removing ⁦@BorisJohnson⁩ but country must come first.
Time to reach out to only Tory to win London mayoral election twice and 80 seat majority.
Get Boris into a seat and out campaigning or consign us to socialism forevermore.
https://t.co/ERJ27st1Tr

— Rt Hon Nadine Dorries (@NadineDorries) January 14, 2024

Zac Goldsmith, the former Foreign Office minister and another Johnson acolyte, says much the same.

Thank God for those clever-clog ‘Tory grandees’ who got rid of Boris. Dodged a bullet there didn’t they! Genius

But Gavin Barwell, a former minister and Theresa May’s former chief of staff, says Johnson was a vote loser too.

Fact #1: party was on course to lose under Johnson

Fact #2: @ZacGoldsmith is right that replacing him with Truss made things even worse

By the time Sunak took over, the situation was probably irrecoverable

Fact #1: party was on course to lose under Johnson

Fact #2: @ZacGoldsmith is right that replacing him with Truss made things even worse

By the time Sunak took over, the situation was probably irrecoverable https://t.co/xVWv9vu8lC

— Gavin Barwell (@GavinBarwell) January 15, 2024

Updated at  12.55 CET

Kemi Badenoch reportedly urging Sunak to toughen Rwanda bill

In his Telegraph article about the YouGov MRP polling Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, says:

There is only one way to rescue the position and bring back those 2019 voters who have left us. It is to be as tough as it takes on immigration, reverse the debilitating increases in tax, end the renewables tax on energy costs – and much more.

(By my count, that it more than “one way” – but never mind.)

Frost is not the only rightwing Tory putting pressure on Rishi Sunak ahead of the votes on the Rwanda bill tomorrow and on Wednesday.

Lee Anderson, the Conservative party deputy chair, has reportedly said he will vote for the rightwing rebel amendments, as Aletha Adu reports here.

The Times quotes an MP who has spoken to Anderson as saying: “He has said to the whips that he will definitely vote for the amendments and that either the government must support them or lose him as deputy chairman.”

And, in the Times, Matt Dathan and Oliver Wright say Kemi Badenoch, the business and trade secretary, has told No 10 that she agrees with the rebels in wanting to amend the bill to limit the ability of asylum seekers to lodge individual appeals against orders deporting them to Rwanda. They say:

The Times also understands that Badenoch, the business secretary, urged the prime minister to harden up the legislation by stopping migrants lodging individual appeals against their deportation. She met Liam Booth-Smith, Sunak’s chief of staff, in No 10 last month to warn of the political consequences of failing to block individual legal challenges.

A source said: “Kemi was aware that the prime minister faced a serious rebellion and he had to try and accommodate them, so she went in to see Liam. She was trying to avoid the rebel MPs turning against the government.”

Badenoch is understood to have argued in favour of limiting individual appeals being lodged by migrants to only the most exceptional of circumstances.

Badenoch is the clear favourite to be the next Conservative leader, and it must help her chances for members to know that she sides with the rebels on this issue (even if there is no suggestion that she will rebel, or resign, over the issue).

Kemi Badenoch

Kemi Badenoch Photograph: Wiktor Szymanowicz/REX/ShutterstockUK ‘will wait and see’ before deciding on further Houthi strikes, Shapps says

The UK has no interest in taking part in any wider conflict in Yemen but is “waiting to see what happens” before deciding whether further military strikes against Houthi forces might be needed, Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, has said. Peter Walker has the story.

YouGov rejects claim its poll shows, without Reform UK standing in election, Labour would fail to win majority

Here is an extract from Gordon Rayner’s Telegraph splash reporting the YouGov MRP poll findings.

Although the publication of the poll seems primarily intended to pressurise Rishi Sunak into adopting a toughter stance on the Rwanda bill (see 9.29am), the Tories behind it may be hoping it encourages Richard Tice, the Reform UK leader, to think twice about his pledge to stand candidates in every constituency in Britain. The Telegraph says its analysis of the polling suggests, without Reform UK on the ballot, Labour would fail to win a majority.

Rayner says:

The Conservatives are heading for an electoral wipeout on the scale of their 1997 defeat by Labour, the most authoritative opinion poll in five years has predicted.

The YouGov survey of 14,000 people forecasts that the Tories will retain just 169 seats, while Labour will sweep to power with 385 – giving Sir Keir Starmer a 120-seat majority.

Every Red Wall seat won from Labour by Boris Johnson in 2019 will be lost, the poll indicates, and the Chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, will be one of 11 Cabinet ministers to lose their seats …

The poll exposes the huge influence that Reform UK is set to have on the election result. The Right-wing party would not win any seats, but support for it would be the decisive factor in 96 Tory losses – the difference between a Labour majority and a hung parliament.

The result would be the biggest collapse in support for a governing party since 1906, with an 11.5 per cent swing to Labour.

And here are three of the Telegraph graphics illustrating the figures in the polling.

Electoral map after 2019 election, compared with after 2024 election as suggested by poll

Electoral map after 2019 election, compared with after 2024 election as suggested by poll. Photograph: Telegraph/YouGov

How loss of seats might compare with previous Tory defeats

How loss of seats might compare with previous Tory defeats. Photograph: Telegraph/YouGov

Possible impact of Reform UK on election result, as suggested by polling

Possible impact of Reform UK on election result, as suggested by polling. Photograph: Telegraph/YouGov

UPDATE: YouGov says it does not agree with the Telegraph claim about Labour not being on course for a majority if Reform UK were to stand aside. (See 10.46am.)

Updated at  12.57 CET

Grant Shapps dismisses significance of Tory-backed poll suggesting Labour on course for landslide election win

Good morning. News organisations, including the Guardian, tend to be a bit wary of splashing on opinion polls. Polls are never 100% reliable, there is a good case for saying they constrain political reporting (because if journalists assume X can’t win, they don’t cover very seriously what X might do if they were to win), and in 2015, 2016 and 2017 most polls turned out in essence to be wrong, which delivered a big blow to the credibility of the industry.

But politicians have never stopped commissioning and studying them, and recently polling has had a much better record. Newspapers are still a bit cautious about using them, but today the Daily Telegraph is splashing on a YouGov MRP poll saying that Labour is on course to win by a landslide.

To anyone who has read almost any poll over the past year or so, and tried to work out what it would mean for a general election result (the Electoral Calculus seat predictor website is a good starting point) this does not count as news at all. The Telegraph’s YouGov poll says Labour is on course for a majority of 120. It points to Labour winning 385 seats, and many polls recently have suggested Keir Starmer will win by even more. Electoral Calculus’s own figure for Labour MPs after the election is currently 412.

But, still, this one is worth paying attention to, for three reasons.

1) The Telegraph argues it is “the most authoritative’” poll in five years. “Most authoritative” might be pushing it too far, but this seems to be a serious operation. YouGov is a very well respected polling organisation, and the polling is based on a survey of 14,000 people. MRP (multi-level regression and post-stratification) is a technique that uses polling to predict results on a seat-by-seat basis, using detailed demographic data and voting trends, and it is now seen as the polling gold standard. YouGov’s MRP poll before the 2017 general election was the best guide to the result from a polling company (although, because the technique was novel at the time, and untested, YouGov did not publicise it very aggressively). (Its final MRP poll before the 2019 election was less accurate, predicting a small Tory majority, not a near landslide.)

2) The Telegraph is, in effect, the Conservative party’s in-house newspaper, and today’s splash will puncture the “narrow path to victory” some Tory MPs convey about their election prospects (in public at least).

3) The poll has been published with an agenda. The Telegraph says it has been funded by a group of Tory donors called “the Conservative Britain Alliance”. No one has ever heard of them, but it seems fair to assume they are not Rishi Sunak supporters. The Telegraph also carries a front page article by David Frost, the former Brexit minister, in which he says he was “involved in shaping and analysing” the poll (there is no evidence that Lord Frost has any expertise in psephology). In his article Frost says the only solution for the Tories is to be “as tough as it takes on immigration”.

Tomorrow, MPs will start two days of debate on the Rwanda bill, which will see dozens of rightwingers try to toughen up the bill by making it even less compatible with international law than it already is. The Frost article implies the poll is part of a last-minute lobbying effort to get Sunak to comply with their demands.

All the signs, so far, are that he won’t. It is thought the Tory rebels do not have the numbers to vote down the bill at third reading, on Wednesday evening, but even if Sunak gets his bill through the Commons, he won’t have a united party behind him.

Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, was doing an interview round this morning. Asked about the Telegraph splash, he deployed the usual politician’s response to unfavourable polling, and claimed things might change by the time of the election. He told Times Radio:

If you take a poll now, you are not going to get the same answer as a poll when, for example, things like the tax cut – £450 for a person on the average salary right now – people are feeling that because they have then had it in their pay packet for several months, for example, with inflation at these much lower rates, with growth in the economy. With all of these factors, I think they take time to feed through.

Here is the agenda for the day.

Morning: Rishi Sunak is on a visit in Essex.

Morning: Keir Starmer is on a visit in north London.

9.40am: Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, gives a speech at Lancaster House.

10am: Chris Heaton-Harris, the Northern Ireland secretary, holds talks at Hillsborough Castle with the Northern Ireland parties about resuming power sharing.

11.30am: Downing Street holds a lobby briefing.

11.30am: Gillian Keegan, the education secretary, speaks about the government’s plans for post-15 educational reform at an event organised by the Bright Blue thinktank.

2.30pm: James Cleverly, the home secretary, takes questions in the Commons.

After 3.30pm: Rishi Sunak is due to make a statement to MPs on the missile attacks against the Houthis.

And in Wales, junior doctors are starting a three-day strike.

If you want to contact me, do try the “send us a message” feature. You’ll see it just below the byline – on the left of the screen, if you are reading on a laptop or a desktop. This is for people who want to message me directly. I find it very useful when people message to point out errors (even typos – no mistake is too small to correct). Often I find your questions very interesting, too. I can’t promise to reply to them all, but I will try to reply to as many as I can, either in the comments below the line; privately (if you leave an email address and that seems more appropriate); or in the main blog, if I think it is a topic of wide interest.

Updated at  12.41 CET



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