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The Labour Party is now more trusted than the Conservatives in the ‘Red Wall’ seats responsible for the Party’s 2019 election victory, new polling data has found.
Examining 40 Red Wall seats, all of which with the exception of Hartlepool were won by the Conservatives in the 2019 election, polling firm Redfield and Walton Strategies has found that Labour lead the Conservatives by 24%, an increase of 8% since the most recent poll. Meanwhile, the Conservatives have slumped to 26%, their lowest vote share in a Red Wall constituency since June 25th, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s approval rating registered at -21%, its lowest since early July.
Redfield and Wilton strategies found that the 10% of respondents that were undecided as to who they would vote for comprised 12% of 2019 Conservative voters, yet just three per cent of 2019 Labour voters. 84% of those who voted Labour 4 years ago said that they would do so again compared to just 50% of 2019 Conservative voters, as Labour led the Conservatives by 21% with the inclusion of undecided respondents.
Trust in the Conservatives is Waning
The data found that 45% of Red Wall respondents did not trust the Conservatives to manage the economy, an increase of four percentage points compared to the most recent poll, while just 12% significantly trusted the Party, down 5% from October 22nd. Indeed, Labour are now more trusted than the Conservatives to tackle crime and immigration, issues typically prioritised by traditionally – minded voters, as Keir Starmer’s Party has amassed a 13% lead on both issues.
Indeed, Redfield and Wilton strategies found that respondents trusted Labour more than the Conservatives on every policy issue listed; Labour led by more than 25 percentage points in supporting the NHS, where 45% of voters trusted them compared with 16% for the Conservatives, and tackling poverty, where 40% of respondents trusted Labour and 15% trusted the Conservatives. Labour also led by 23% on addressing the housing crisis and by 24% on ‘representing the interests of the North’.
The data, which was published on November 19th, shortly before Chancellor Jeremy Hunt announced the recent Autumn Statement, arguably reflects a broader regional realignment, as Red Wall respondents were significantly more likely to trust Labour in addressing regional disparities. Despite the Conservatives having promised to deliver “higher wages, a higher living wage, and higher productivity” in the aftermath of the 2019 election, the Party has further entrenched regional inequities, as the Redfield and Wilton poll found that 65% of Red Wall respondents did not believe that the Conservatives had taken adequate measures to address the cost of living crisis.
Yet the Autumn statement has been criticised as a measure which may further widen regional inequalities; think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has found that “for every £100 Jeremy Hunt spent on personal tax cuts, £46 will benefit the richest fifth of households. Only £3 of every £100 of tax cuts will go to the worst-off families,” arguing that Hunt’s tax cuts “will mainly benefit people in London & the South East of England”. Indeed, those living in London and the South East of England stand to gain an average of £319 and £290 per working age person per year from the Chancellor’s National Insurance reductions, while those in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber and Wales will accrue just £192, £214 and £211 respectively.
A Widening Regional Gap
IPPR’s principal economist and head of quantitative research, Henry Parkes, stated that the cuts would “disproportionately benefit the richest areas of the country most – the opposite of levelling up”. “More broadly these tax cuts are accompanied by plans to make deep cuts in public services and investment in the future – an approach that commands very little support from the public and will make it harder, not easier, for the UK economy to grow as it needs to,” he added.
Analysis published by the Resolution Foundation concluded that households across the country will be, on average, £1,900 worse off than at the beginning of this Parliament, as real disposable household incomes reset to decline by 3.1% between December 2019 and January 2025.. Meanwhile, the richest fifth of the population are set to gain, on average, 5 times more than the bottom fifth from the Statement’s tax and benefit measures, while the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities will see its budget cut by 14%, the equivalent of £17 billion, between 2022/3 and 2027/8.
Moreover, according to OBR estimates, living standards are set to be “3.5% lower in 2024-2025 than their pre-pandemic levels,” representing “the largest reduction in living standards since ONS records began in the 1950s”.
The tax cuts and benefit measures outlined in the Autumn Statement are unlikely to address broader trends indicating widening regional economic disparities, which have been highlighted by Redfield and Wilton’s polling data. Stagnating real wages, which are not due to recover to pre – 2008 levels until 2028, and sluggish business investment, which has increased by less than 1% in real terms since 2016, have ensured that even the £4.5 billion worth of investment in advanced manufacturing guaranteed by the Chancellor is unlikely to rejuvenate economic activity, particularly given declining disposable incomes.
Hannah Peaker, Director of Policy and Advocacy at think tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF) described the Statement as a “living standards disaster,” arguing that “a small cut to National Insurance will provide little relief, and it will benefit the wealthiest households and regions the most – at the same time as forcing further cuts to our already fragile public services.”
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“In the long run, any plan to tackle these issues needs to grasp the fundamental drivers of regional inequalities, which will require giving local areas the powers and funding to make long-term investments in things like housing, transport and places,” she added.
The NEF’s research situated the Autumn Statement within the context of broader regional economic stagnation, concluding that average incomes in the North East have fallen by more than £1,300 since 2015, a figure which stands at £1,000 for all incomes across Northern households.
Redfield and Wilton’s research has shown that following prolonged wage stagnation and declining regional investment, the same Red Wall areas which largely voted for the Conservatives in 2019 are rapidly losing trust in the government, regarding Labour as more competent on a series of issues including those traditionally prioritised by Conservatives. Viewed within the context of the recent Autumn Statement, the polling suggests that prolonged regional underinvestment and the inequalities it has generated may incur severe electoral implications for the government.
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