It's by-election day in Batley and Spen tomorrow. The only constituency polling done in the West Yorkshire seat suggests that the Tories stand a good chance of grabbing it off Labour, with the intervention of George Galloway threatening to turn the seat blue for the first time since 1997.
In recent weeks there has been much commentary on how the Conservative party can balance its delicate electoral coalition between the red wall in the north and the home counties in the south, following the Chesham and Amersham upset. Mr S therefore thought it worthwhile to commission some polling on the attitudes of 2019 Conservative voters towards the government. Conducted by Redfield and Wilton with a sample size of 1,000, the polling took place last Thursday on 24 June – the fifth anniversary of the Brexit result being declared but a day before the Matt Hancock scandal broke.
There was little sign of buyers’ remorse among those Boris backers surveyed with 87 per cent claiming to be happy with how they voted in December 2019. Not all of the Tories’ success should be pinned on the Prime Minister however; more than half – 58 per cent – said they would be 'neither more nor less likely' to vote Conservative at the next election with a different leader. Mr S suspects some in Number 11 will be happier than those next door to learn that 26 per cent would be more willing to vote Conservative if the Prime Minister was replaced, compared to just 10 per cent who would be 'less likely'.
There is however bad news for members of the Covid Recovery Group: 2019 Tories are largely positive about the government’s handling of the pandemic. An impressive 62 per cent approve of the government’s efforts, with just 20 per cent disapproving and the remaining 17 per cent indifferent. Only a quarter (26 per cent) are opposed to leaving the current coronavirus restrictions in place beyond 19 July if infection rates have not fallen with more than half – 56 per cent – willing to extend it.
Two-thirds (66 per cent) of Conservative voters say the extension of coronavirus restrictions for the entire population supports the government’s effort to persuade Britons to get themselves vaccinated, as the extension shows the cost of not enough people being vaccinated. Alternatively, 24 per cent think it undermines the government’s vaccination efforts, as the extension shows that restrictions may still exist even if most people are vaccinated.
Mrs Johnson might also be cheered to hear that whilst only 38 per cent of Conservative voters think the party’s current focus on environmental issues is about right, a further 30 per cent believe it should focus on them more. But those worried about their tax bills increasing or gas boilers being sacrificed in the pursuit of ‘net zero’ should take heart: nearly half or 49 per cent of those polled disagreed that higher energy bills were a price worth paying for reducing carbon emissions, with 47 per cent opposing financial penalties on those who avoid scrapping their gas boiler. Considering the Chancellor’s interview on GB News earlier this month, Mr S suspects this is one issue that will only gain in political salience.
On two other hot topics, it is good news for those wanting a home and bad news for transgender athletes. A majority (53 per cent) of Conservative voters support converting vacant shops and restaurants on their local high streets into new homes, with only 22 per cent opposing. But the news that Laurel Hubbard, a 43-year-old weightlifter who transitioned from male to trans woman in 2012, to compete in the forthcoming Olympic Games against female competitors has not gone down well with Tory voters – 60 per cent oppose transgender athletes being allowed to compete in women’s sports at this summer Tokyo’s Olympics, with only 17 per cent in favour. Not for nothing was Number 10 reportedly polling attitudes on transgender rights before the last election.
If such polling keeps up, Mr S suspects Batley and Spen won't be the only red seat at risk come the next election.