The gargantuan 40-point Labour lead over the Conservatives in London found in a new YouGov poll for the Evening Standard is the largest since the company began tracking the capital’s voting intentions back in 2010. The question asked was about general election, not mayoral election, voting intentions. Even so, YouGov’s findings underline how very uphill indeed is the Tories’ task of removing Labour Mayor Sadiq Khan from City Hall next May.
The detail of the YouGov poll elucidates the depth of Londoners’ rejection of the Tories. Female respondents prefer Labour to them by 45 points and men by 35. The only age group favouring the Tories is the over-65s and Rishi Sunak’s party trails Labour among the 18-24 group by no less than 71 points to just seven. Labour are more popular in inner than outer London, yet even there they lead the Tories by 55 points to 21.
Even if allowances are made for pollsters putting Khan further ahead of his Tory opponent in the 2021 mayoral race than he ended up being in the actual vote, and even recognising that different factors will come into play in the mayoral race, the poll provides shattering evidence that the Tories are profoundly out of step with a huge majority of Londoners.
Despite Sunak’s premiership helping them recover a bit nationally, at least to where it was before Liz Truss’s disastrous spell at Number 10, the Tories still trail Labour badly in the country. That means it is unlikely that the next general election will be held before the next mayoral battle, so unless there is some truly cosmic turnaround in national Tory fortunes before this time next year the Conservative mayoral candidate – who hasn’t even begun to be selected yet – will have the unpopularity of his party holding him or her back.
Are there any rays of hope for the Tories in the YouGov poll? In what may be a reflection of the way support for political parties has become more aligned with values and less with social class in recent times, Labour’s London lead is larger among the occupational grades AB and C1 than among C2s, Ds and Es.
That, combined with London Tories’ onslaught against Khan’s planned enlargement of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone majoring on claiming it will hurt the poorest most, might encourage them to believe they have significant traction with that section of the electorate on that particular issue.
But that’s about the only straw they can clutch at. Not far away from outer London, there are reports of Home Counties Tories facing local elections next month attaching the prefix “local” to their party name. It’s a thin old ploy designed to suggest distance from their unpopular national leadership. That said, London’s Tories ought to follow their example but add some serious substance to the gesture.
For years, a few largely isolated London Tory voices have argued for creating a distinctive London Tory identity, different from and, at times, critical of that of the national entity. Precious little progress has been made in that direction. This new poll screams loud and clear that such a change is essential for London Conservatives. It still remains to be seen if many of them are listening.
Image from YouGov.