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Rishi Sunak gains on Keir Starmer but Tories still far behind, new poll shows

Rishi Sunak gains on Keir Starmer but Tories still far behind, new poll shows

Exclusive: Two thirds of adults now believe it is ‘time for a change’ at the next election

Rishi Sunak has recovered ground on Sir Keir Starmer but the Tories are still trailing far behind Labour, a new poll revealed on Monday.

The Ipsos survey for The Standard showed Mr Sunak back neck-and-neck with the Labour leader as the “most capable Prime Minister”.

He has also seen a jump in backing among Tory supporters.

However, the Conservatives are still 23 points behind Labour, with two thirds of adults now believing it is “time for a change” at the next election.

Despite showing some signs of improvement, the Tories are still lagging behind Labour on being seen as fit to govern, having a good team of leaders, keeping promises and understanding problems facing Britain, while also being seen as more extreme and divided.

The findings suggest some voters are warming to Mr Sunak after the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland trade, moves to restore damaged ties with France, the Budget, his plans to deal with the “small boats” Channel crisis, childcare reforms and other steps.

But despite the decline in political turbulence, especially compared to the brief Liz Truss premiership, any revival in the Tory party’s overall electoral prospects appears to be in the early stages at best.

Economic optimism, which could be a key factor at the next election expected in 2024, is also flatlining, with 22 per cent expecting the general economic conditions in Britain to improve over the next 12 months, with 58 per cent saying get worse.

Key results include:

*  Labour is on 49 per cent (down two points on February), Conservative 26 per cent (up one point), Liberal Democrats 11 per cent (up two points) and Greens six per cent (up one point).

*  37 per cent say Mr Sunak would make the most capable PM, compared to 36 per cent for Sir Keir who was ahead by 39/33 in January.

*  Seven in ten of the public believe the Conservatives have done a poor job, just 21 per cent say they are a competent Government and 65 per cent think it is time for change at the next election, all figures little changed on January.

*  More people may be making up their mind about Sir Keir, with 39 per cent saying he is ready to be Prime Minister, up three points on January, but those who disagree has risen by the same amount to 40 per cent.

*  Thirty-two per cent are satisfied with the job Mr Sunak is doing as PM (up five points on February) and 54 per cent dissatisfied (down five point), with Sir Keir slipping back to a similar position, 31 per cent/51 per cent.

*  Three quarters of Conservative backers are satisfied with Mr Sunak, up ten points, and 15 per cent dissatisfied, down 11 points.

*  Labour supporters are less convinced by Sir Keir, with 48 per cent satisfied (down eight points) and 45 per cent dissatisfied ( up 16 points).
Seventy-seven per cent are dissatisfied with how the Government is running the country, unchanged from last month.

The detailed party image figures show Mr Sunak’s party making progress on a number of findings but still are grim reading for the Tories.

On being fit to govern, they are up eight points from a dismal 16 per cent in October, the month Ms Truss quit as PM, to 24 per cent but still significantly behind Labour on 38 per cent.

Similar improvements for the Conservatives from last autumn puts them trailing Labour on having a good team of leaders by 17 points to 26 points, on understanding problems facing Britain (27/45), looking after the interests of people like me (19/37), and on being concerned about people in real need in the country (16/53).

Six in ten adults believe the Tories are divided, compared to 42 per cent for Labour, and the respective split for being seen as extreme is 30/14.

Just over a third say Labour is out of date, with 54 per cent having this view for the Conservatives.

People have little faith either party will keep their promises, with just 21 per cent believing Labour will and 11 per cent the Tories.

Seven in ten believe Mr Sunak’s party will promise anything to win votes, and 58 per cent say the same for Sir Keir’s.

Forty-four per cent believe Labour is ready to form the next government, down three points on December, with those who disagree up six points to 37 per cent.

Twenty-eight per cent believe they would be better off under a Labour government, 16 per cent say a Conservative one, and 51 per cent do not believe it would make any difference, similar figures to the start of the year.

Ipsos Director of Politics Keiran Pedley said: “There are positives and negatives to take from these findings for Rishi Sunak but the overall political headwinds he faces are very challenging.

“On the one hand, he will be encouraged to see his personal poll ratings improve, both individually and compared to Keir Starmer.

“On the other hand, we see no meaningful movement in headline voting intention figures, with Labour still more than 20 points ahead.

“The public remain pessimistic about the economy, overwhelmingly think the Government is doing a bad job running the country and crucially two in three think it is time for change at the next General Election.

“All of which makes a Conservative victory at that election look improbable – for now.”

Any Tory attempt to seek to portray that Britain would be plunged into chaos if Labour wins power also looks unlikely to gain traction, as just 25 per cent believe this will happen, with 52 per cent disagreeing, according to the poll.

Two thirds of adults say they do not like the Conservative Party, up five points on November, with a quarter stating they do, down one point, with Labour more liked than disliked by 47 per cent to 42 per cent.

The two leaders are broadly equally liked, with 43 per cent positive towards Mr Sunak (down four points from November), and 49 per cent negative (up eight points), with those liking Sir Keir down two points to 37 per cent, and disliking up three points to 52 per cent.

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