Labour surges in polls as ‘clown show’ economics turns off voters

Labour has surged to its largest poll lead over the Conservatives in more than two decades, with voters turning against Kwasi Kwarteng’s tax-cutting budget. A YouGov poll for The Times today puts Labour 17 points clear of the Tories — a level of support not seen since Tony Blair won his landslide victory in 2001.

Oliver Wright, Steven Swinford, Chris Smyth

The survey revealed widespread public opposition, including among Tory supporters, to the tax-cutting measures announced by the chancellor last week.

Kwarteng’s decision to scrap the 45 per cent rate of tax for those earning more than £150,000 was opposed by 72 per cent of voters including 69 per cent of those who backed the Conservatives in 2019.

The move to lift restrictions on bankers’ bonuses was rejected by 71 per cent of the electorate, including 67 per cent of Tory voters.

Just 9 per cent of voters thought that the measures outlined in the budget would make them better off, while only 15 per cent believed they would achieve the government’s aim of kickstarting economic growth.

Overall, 60 per cent said Kwarteng’s £45 billion tax giveaway was unaffordable for the country and 25 per cent thought that the government had a clear plan to manage the economy.

The poll findings will alarm Tory MPs coming on top of today’s market reaction to the government’s plans to increase borrowing in the short term to boost growth.

Just 19 per cent of voters thought Kwarteng’s budget was “fair” — the worst polling figure since YouGov began to ask the question in 2010.

One Conservative source said: “If your plan is unpopular with the markets but popular with voters, then that’s an OK place to be. But if you’ve spent all this money and it’s unpopular with everyone, then that is very dangerous.”

YouGov’s survey, which was conducted over the weekend, showed that Tory support had fallen by four points to 28 per cent in the aftermath of the budget while Labour’s had risen five points to 45 per cent and the Lib Dems were unchanged on 8 per cent.

It is the biggest Labour lead that YouGov has recorded since it began polling in 2001. In the election that year, Labour won 43 per cent of the vote and took 412 seats. The Tories won 30 per cent of the vote and 166 seats.

The decline in support for the party appears to be linked directly to the reaction of the public to last Friday’s “mini-budget”. Just 10 per cent of voters thought that Kwarteng was doing a “good job” while 68 per cent said that the government was managing the economy badly.

Despite announcing tax cuts and scrapping Rishi Sunak’s national insurance rise, only 9 per cent of voters said they felt they would be better off next year. The same proportion believed that Kwarteng’s growth strategy would make the country as a whole better off over the next 12 months.

Ministers will point to some of the specific measures in Kwarteng’s package that voters supported in the poll.

Jon Ashworth: Working people think Liz Truss has lost the plot

Some 60 per cent backed the move to cut the basic rate of income tax from 20 to 19 per cent while 59 per cent supported reversing the national insurance rise. About half backed the planned changes to stamp duty.

However, just 31 per cent supported the decision to freeze corporation tax while 11 per cent agreed with scrapping the 45 per cent tax rate for the highest earners.

They were also unconvinced by Kwarteng’s plan for new investment zones free from some planning restrictions and regulations, with only 34 per cent saying they were a good idea.

Labour reacted jubilantly to the market turmoil, with a senior frontbencher mocking the government’s “clown show” economics.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, called Friday’s statement a “kami-Kwasi budget”. He suggested that Liz Truss was still “a deep-state Liberal Democrat, deliberately crashing the Conservative Party — there is no other plausible explanation for the clown show we’ve seen last week”. The prime minister was president of Oxford’s Lib Dem society as a student.

Lord Mandelson suggested that the next election could be comparable to the 1997 victory by Tony Blair for Labour. He claimed that the mini-budget saw the Tories forfeit their reputation for competence on the economy and described the government as “exhausted and run out of steam”.

Huw Merriman, a senior Tory MP, said Labour’s largest poll lead over the Tories in more than 20 years suggested that Truss was losing voters “with policies we warned against”.

He tweeted: “Those of us who backed Rishi Sunak lost the contest but this poll suggests that the victor is losing our voters with policies we warned against.

“For the good of our country, and the livelihoods of everyone in our country, I still hope to be proven wrong.”