Advertisement

Rural Right-wing voters abandon Tories in huge switch to Reform UK

Auctioneers at Longtown Mart in Cumbria
Auctioneers at Longtown Mart in Cumbria - CHRIS STRICKLAND FOR THE TELEGRAPH

Right-wing voters in the countryside are deserting the Conservatives in droves and flocking to Reform UK, polling has found.

The Tory vote share among voters dubbed the “Rural Right” has collapsed by more than half since the 2019 election.

Last year, Labour Together – a think tank aimed at making Labour electable – carried out an analysis with YouGov segmenting voters in England and Wales into six groups based on their social and economic views.

The analysis identified a group of older voters primarily living in the countryside who are “firmly conservative on social issues and to the economic Right” – the Rural Right.

The group has been an important component of the Tories’ core vote, with 69 per cent backing the party in the 2019 election.

However, polling carried out by YouGov last month of 202 people within the group reveals that support for the Tories has now collapsed to just 27 per cent, with voters shifting their allegiance to Reform.

While just 4 per cent of the Rural Right backed the Brexit Party in 2019, the now-renamed Reform UK is supported by 36 per cent of people within the segment.

Reform UK spring rally at Doncaster race course with Richard Tice, the party leader, giving a speech
Richard Tice, the party leader, giving a speech at the Reform UK spring rally at Doncaster race course - DAVID ROSE FOR THE TELEGRAPH

Patrick English, YouGov’s director of political analytics, told The Telegraph that Reform represented a “major problem for the Conservatives”.

“They are eating into what you would call a lot of the core Conservative vote,” he said.

Mr English said the shift seemed to begin last year when “the Conservatives started talking a lot more about immigration” and the topic rose “higher in public consciousness and discourse”.

A lot of previous Tory voters appeared to have concluded that the party was doing a “terrible job on immigration” and had moved to Reform instead, he said.

Even though the Brexit Party did not run candidates against Conservative MPs in 2019, the party was still estimated to have cost the Tories about 25 seats in that election.

Mr English said that while it was difficult to make predictions at this stage, if Reform maintained its current polling – roughly double what the Brexit Party achieved in 2019 – it could potentially stop the Tories winning in as many as 50 seats.

“The impact could be very big and way beyond what the Brexit Party impact was in 2019,” he said.

The Tories have recognised the threat posed by Reform, with Rishi Sunak writing in an article for The Telegraph earlier this month that “a vote for anyone other than the Conservatives will just help [Keir] Starmer”.

Labour Together said that a rumoured return to frontline politics by Nigel Farage – currently Reform’s honorary president – could increase the party’s lead over the Tories among the Rural Right still further.

The think tank carried out separate polling of 2,014 adults in Great Britain last week which suggests that Mr Farage is significantly more popular with the group than Mr Sunak.

The polling, which was conducted in line with British Polling Council rules, found that 31 per cent of the public overall believe that Mr Sunak would make a better prime minister compared to 24 per cent opting for Mr Farage.

However, among the Rural Right, 51 per cent opted for Mr Farage compared to 30 per cent who thought Mr Sunak would be better.

Among those who had voted for Brexit, 40 per cent thought that Mr Farage would be a better prime minister with 26 per cent opting for Mr Sunak.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak visits Maes y Groes Farm in Wales with James Davies MP.
Polling found 51 per cent of the Rural Right opted for Nigel Farage as the better prime minster compared to 30 per cent who chose Rishi Sunak - STUART GRAHAM

Labour Together said that the Tories had also lost support among another group dubbed “English Traditionalists” – older voters who are socially conservative, relatively financially secure and who lean slightly to the Right on economics.

While 58 per cent backed the Tories in 2019, this has now fallen to 28 per cent according to the YouGov polling.

However, neither Labour (14 per cent) nor Reform (10 per cent) have made significant inroads with these voters, with 41 per cent saying they are undecided or will not vote.

Josh Williams, Labour Together’s strategy director, said: “The fortunes of Reform UK will be the political story of this year.

“Our new polling shows that the Conservative coalition, solid for decades, is splintering. The Faragists are on the rise, and Farage isn’t even at the helm yet.

“Amongst those who voted Leave in 2016, essential to the Tory victory in 2019, Nigel leads Rishi for best prime minister with a 14-point lead.

“Tory strategists will be terrified about the return of Nigel.”