OPINION - Tories face collapse at general election as voters worry about ‘bread and butter’ issues

A poll by Ipsos put the Conservatives on just 20%, the party’s worst score on record and 27 points behind Labour (PA Wire)
A poll by Ipsos put the Conservatives on just 20%, the party’s worst score on record and 27 points behind Labour (PA Wire)

There is no sugarcoating these figures for Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives.

More than 8 in 10 are dissatisfied with how the government is running the country, public dissatisfaction with Rishi Sunak’s job performanceis at its highest level yet and the Conservatives vote share of 20% is the lowest ever recorded by Ipsos – going back to 1978.

In other circumstances, Rishi Sunak might be fearing for his future as Conservative leader.

Some Conservative MPs have already concluded a change as the top is needed but it is unclear that enough have the stomach fora fourth leadership change this parliament.

Maybe another leader would do no worse. But would they do any better? One suspects Conservative MPs will hold fire in an election year.

Mr Sunak himself made a significant intervention late last week.

Taking to the steps of Number 10 to fire back at what he called extremists ‘trying to tear us apart’. It is indeed a febrile atmosphere in Westminster right now.

Parliamentary rows about Gaza, the Speaker’s conduct, concerns about MPs  safety, Lee Anderson’s comments and the Rochdale by-election have all added to the tension.

Of course, these are important issues. And yet there is a nagging feeling that the conversation in Westminster does not reflect the onebeing had in the country on the issues most likely to decide the next election.

Take the health service for example. Our latest Ipsos Issues Index shows the NHS, cost of living, economy and immigration remaining the top public concerns, with the NHS now in first place. Foreign affairs and extremism barely feature.

It’s not unusual for the NHS to be a top tier issue for voters of course. But there is something about the intensity of feeling about it todaythat Britain’s leaders would be wise not to ignore.

The state of public services more generally could be a real Achilles heel for the Conservatives at the coming election. 78% told us last yearthat public services had got worse in the last 5 years.

In today’s poll the public think that Labour has the best policies over the Conservatives ‘for public services generally’ by an almost 4 to 1 margin. Perhaps this why the Conservatives would rather not talk about them – but at some point they will need to.

This week’s Budget offers a chance for the Conservatives to do so and to try and reassert some control of the political narrative more generally.With Labour more trusted on the economy and public services, time is running out for the Conservatives to win the argument on the issues that matter most to voters.

Talk of unity and combatting extremism is important but it will be bread and butter kitchen table issues like these that decide the Conservatives’fate later this year.

Keiran Pedley is director of politics at Ipsos