The UK Labour Party has edged ahead of the Conservatives in an opinion poll for the first time since Boris Johnson became prime minister in July 2019.
According to a survey by Opinium, published on 26 September, 42 per cent of those polled voiced their intention to vote for the party led by Sir Keir Starmer compared to 39 per cent ready to cast their vote with the Conservatives.
The results feed into a recently manifested slump in fortunes for the Tory Party that enjoyed a 26-point lead over their rivals at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March.
By August, however, Labour had already eroded that lead, with a YouGov poll putting Labour neck and neck with the Tories on competence, with the two parties also level-pegging according to an Opinium poll for the Observer.
The latter survey put the two main parties on 40 per cent of the vote, with analysts suggesting that Keir Starmer has had considerable success in driving the narrative about Boris Johnson’s government failing in its duty during the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats are on 5 per cent, down by one point, failing to garner increased support since choosing Sir Ed Davey as their new leader.
The recent poll also seems to suggest that Keir Starmer’s game plan to boost the image of his party, tarnished by a spate of defeats, has enjoyed success, with 40 per cent of voters believing that Labour is ready to form the next government and 55 per cent believing Sir Keir is ready to be prime minister.
The results of the poll show Starmer leading Johnson as “best prime minister” by 36 per cent to 32 per cent.
As to the issue of the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, the Opinium survey shows 50 per cent disapproved of the COVID-19 response, while 57 per cent disapproved of the handling of testing.
While a majority of those polled voiced approval of the measures set in place to tackle the respiratory disease, 60 per cent believe more restrictions will be needed to ward off a second wave.
When questioned about their compliance with the introduced measures amid the health crisis, a vast majority (86 per cent) admitted they were strictly or generally following the rules.
‘Detoxifying’ Labour Brand
Labour’s success in the polls comes after a protracted slump, with the last time the party led in surveys dating to July 2019, when it was still headed by Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May’s time in office was drawing to an end.
“Starmer’s personal polling is very good, [but] this still isn’t yet translating into a detoxifying of the Labour brand, particularly among more socially conservative Tory voters,” Chris Curtis, research manager at YouGov, was quoted as saying by POLITICO.
Experts, nevertheless, acknowledge that Starmer’s team may feel satisfied that they have laid good foundations for rebuilding the Labour vote ahead of the next election in 2024, in the hopes that one day their leader might hold the keys to Downing Street.
“First and foremost, the public need to see that Labour is changing and that’s what we’re trying to demonstrate” — a senior Keir Starmer aide was cited by the outlet as saying.
The Labour party lost 60 seats in December 2019 in its worst general election results in over 80 years, receiving the lowest vote share since 2015 and lowest number of seats since 1935, writes the publication.
The result led to Jeremy Corbyn's announcement that he would stand down as Labour leader.
The data from the current polls had former Labour leader Corbyn’s supporters suggesting that “any other leader would be 20 points ahead”, in a reference to a comment made by ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair about the former Labour leader in 2017.