Strong support for the Conservatives in seaside towns has collapsed, new research has found, as Rishi Sunak was warned of a “red wave” on the coast.
Adam Forrest www.independent.co.uk
A new study by YouGov and the Fabian Society revealed a major slump in Tory support since 51 per cent of voters in “sea wall” seats backed Boris Johnson’s party in 2019.
Support for Rishi Sunak’s party is now on just 32 per cent – a 19-point fall – with Labour now ahead in seaside seats on 38 per cent.
“The tide has turned in the Tory-dominated sea wall,” said The Fabian Society’s Ben Cooper – who said Sir Keir Starmer should be aiming to make sure “a red wave becomes a tsunami” at the general election.
Researchers looked at a group of 108 coastal constituencies in England and Wales, with deprivation often higher than the national average and many voters saying they felt “left behind” by Westminster.
Despite Mr Johnson’s success in capitalising on the resentment, a clear majority of voters in coastal towns now believe the Tory party “does not understand people in their local area nor share their values”, according to Mr Cooper.
The senior researcher said Labour now has a 22-point lead in 54 especially important seaside seats – 24 which they must hold and 30 identified as winnable marginals.
“Labour is now on the path towards a broad national mandate at the next election. Coastal towns are often overlooked, but they will be a key part of Labour’s election-winning coalition,” he said.
Warning against complacency, Mr Cooper added: “Labour still has to work hard to secure the votes of key coastal towns at the next election.”
The demographics of sea-wall constituencies still pose a major challenge to Labour. They have a larger proportion of voters over 55 and non-graduates – voters who have moved away from the party in recent elections.
The Fabians said the party should appeal to financial security, stability and family to appeal to voters in the seaside constituencies, many of which voted by a large majority to leave the EU during the Brexit referendum.
Many people in coastal towns told pollsters that their area is now worse off on the affordability of housing and opportunities for young people, as well as healthcare and access to public transport.
“Labour needs a unifying, ‘one nation’ platform and must address specific concerns in coastal towns,” said Mr Cooper. “The good news is, it can do that without losing ground in other marginal seats across the country.”
The findings come as a major study by Savanta and Electoral Calculus forecast that Labour would win 482 seats and the Tories just 69, a massive 314-seat majority.
The Tories would lose all seats north of Lincolnshire – including Mr Sunak’s own Richmond constituency in Yorkshire – if current polling was replicated at the election.
Labour is up three on 48 per cent, the Tories down five on 28 per cent, and the Lib Dems up one at 11 per cent, the latest Savanta voting intention survey found.
It would mean the Tories facing an almost total wipeout in red-wall seats in the north of England and Midlands, while losing plenty of blue-wall seats in the south to the Lib Dems, according to detailed analysis of new poll findings.