Blow for Rishi Sunak as Tories lose poll lead on taxation

·4-min read
Blow for Rishi Sunak as Tories lose poll lead on taxation

Labour has jumped ahead of the Tories as the best party for tax as Rishi Sunak comes under growing pressure to do more to help families struggling in the cost-of-living crisis, a poll has revealed.

The Ipsos survey for the Standard showed Sir Keir Starmer’s party has reversed the lead that Boris Johnson’s Conservatives had on taxation before the 2019 general election. Now, Labour is seen as the best party on tax by 32 per cent of adults in Britain, with the Tories trailing on 25 per cent.

This is a turnaround from the Conservatives being on 38 per cent and Labour on 26 per cent in December 2019 and is the latter’s best result since September 2012. The findings came just weeks after the Chancellor increased National Insurance contributions by 1.25 percentage points and just days before town hall elections. Many households are now also seeing their weekly budgets hit by soaring energy bills, rising food prices, other inflation and the high cost of petrol.

Significantly, the poll found the cost of living was the stand-out issue which people would see as very important if they voted in the May 5 local elections. This was cited by 67 per cent of adults, far higher than climate change — and asylum policies — both on 47 per cent, followed by the pandemic, 43 per cent, levelling-up, 42 per cent, Ukraine, 38 per cent, and Downing Street parties, 37 per cent.

On the latter, it was highlighted by just 10 per cent of Tory supporters, compared with 58 per cent of Labour backers.

As the cost-of-living crisis grows, Mr Sunak, right, has opened the door to a windfall tax on energy giants if they fail to invest sufficiently to boost supplies. This would be a major change in policy.

The Chancellor has already announced a rise in the NI contributions threshold to £12,570, a 5p-a-litre cut in fuel duty and a £9 billion package to help people with energy bills. He has also hinted there could be further help for families struggling with energy bills in the autumn, if they rise even higher.

On managing the economy, the Conservatives still have a six-point lead but this is down from 24 before the December 2019 election and is the lowest lead they have had since March 2013 when the two parties were neck and neck.

In other key findings:

  • Labour is on 40 per cent, up one point, with the Tories on 35 per cent, Liberal Democrats, 10 per cent, both unchanged on last month.

  • Record low findings for Boris Johnson as Prime Minister earlier this year have improved slightly, while Sir Keir’s scores are marginally down.

  • 55 per cent think the Conservatives should change their leader, compared with 61 per cent in January, but still worse than Mr Johnson’s scores in 2019-2021, and worse than for Theresa May and David Cameron.

  • 31 per cent believe Mr Johnson has what it takes to be a good premier but 56 per cent disagree, better than in January when partygate re-erupted but only back to his scores in November.

  • 34 per cent say Sir Keir is ready to be Prime Minister, with 44 per cent disagreeing, slightly worse than in January when these scores were 38 per cent to 40 per cent respectively.

  • A third say Labour is ready to form the next government, with 46 per cent disagreeing, similar to the 32 per cent who believe the Conservatives deserve to be re-elected, with 51 per cent having the opposite view.

Gideon Skinner, head of political Research at Ipsos, said: “The next few months could be crucial for the Prime Minister and his Chancellor. With inflation at the top of voters’ agenda amid a pessimistic outlook on the economy, Rishi Sunak will want to act on concerns about his handling of the cost-of-living crisis if he wants to rebuild the lead the Conservatives had at the last few elections on the economy and tax.”

Economic optimism remains very low, if not quite as bad as last month. Seventy per cent expect the economy to get worse over the next 12 months, with just 14 per cent saying better, giving an Economic Optimism Index of -56.

Ipsos interviewed 1,006 adults across Britain between April 20 and 28. Data are weighted. Questions on local elections referred to where they are taking place or if not, if they were happening in people’s area.

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