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Tory Focus On Immigration Has Little Appeal For Voters Moving To Labour

Rishi Sunak risks losing voters concerned about the cost of living by focusing on migration (Alamy)

4 min read

New polling shows how little voters currently undecided or leaning towards Labour care less about immigration compared with the cost of living and the National Health Service.

The survey shows how a focus by the Conservatives in the election campaign on tackling high levels of migration to hold off the rise of Nigel Farage’s Reform party risks failing to win over the huge proportion of the public focused on the economy instead.

Exclusive polling for PoliticsHome by strategy firm Charlesbye shows 48 per cent of people said the cost of living was their top concern heading into the General Election on 4 July, while 24 per cent said the NHS. Immigration, meanwhile, was third at 11 per cent.

Only 22 per cent of respondents said they trust the Tories to make the right decisions to fix the cost of living, compared to 43 per cent who backed Labour as the best-placed party to tackle it.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has made tackling both legal and illegal migration a central plank of his campaign to stay in Number 10, and earlier this week vowed to "halve migration" and then reduce it every year afterwards if re-elected.

His party is threatened to the right by Farage, who has been highly critical of the government’s failure to end the small boats crisis in the Channel, with 51 per cent of those cuttingly backing Reform saying it is their top issue, according to the new polling.

Conservative figures fear that a strong Reform performance on 4 July will cost Sunak's party swathes of seats nationwide by splitting the right-wing vote and helping Labour and the Liberal Democrats come through the middle.

Sunak will face even more pressure to win over people who currently intend to vote for Reform after a YouGov poll published on Thursday night put Farage's party one percentage point ahead of the Tories with three weeks to go until polling day. 

The Conservatives were on 18 per cent, while Reform was on 19 per cent. A result like this would spell electoral disaster for the Tories.

But for the Conservatives to prevent Labour leader Keir Starmer from entering No10 they need to win back millions of voters set to switch to Labour. Among who those were polled, however, just 2 per cent said they thought stopping the boats and immigration was their top concern.

Even among Conservative supporters it is the top issue for 17 per cent of voters, compared with 44 per cent for the cost of living.

Lucia Hodgson, partner at Charlesbye, told PoliticsHome immigration falling way behind cost of living was not a surprise, adding: “But the really interesting thing is the low percentage who chose immigration as their priority — just 11 per cent.

“For Labour voters this was as low as 2 per cent, yet the Conservatives have decided to fight it out for the right wing vote and really push their Rwanda rhetoric. 

“This risks alienating the much larger number of voters currently looking to Labour.”

Nigel Farage appearing on LBC
The threat from Nigel Farage's Reform party has seen the Tories focus further on illegal migration in the election campaign (Alamy)

Hodgson added: “There are undoubtedly many more votes to be won by focusing on the concerns of Labour voters — the top two of which are the cost of living and the NHS. 

“Even if all 51 per cent of respondents intending to vote for Reform on the basis of immigration switched to Conservatives, the Tories would only pick up roughly 5-7 extra points

“Will it be worth it?”

Sunak has also made turning the economy round after his predecessor Liz Truss’ term in Downing Street a key part of his offering to the electorate, but the polling shows only 21 per cent of people think the economy is doing quite or very well, while more than half of respondents (52 per cent) felt it was doing quite or very badly.

The survey shows Brits overwhelmingly think their personal cost of living has become more expensive since the beginning of 2024, with 71 per cent think that the cost of living has got worse since the beginning of the year, compared to just 2 per cent of those who say it has become cheaper.

And the public overwhelmingly thinks the cost of living crisis has worsened since the beginning of 2024, despite Sunak’s claim the country is “turning a corner”.

 

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