The Labour Party has opened up a commanding eight point lead over the Conservatives, according to polling which suggests both remaining Tory leadership candidates now trail Sir Keir Starmer as voters’ preferred prime minister.
According to Opinium, Labour’s lead has grown by five points in the past fortnight, after Sir Keir’s party proposed freezing the energy price cap in response to the cost of living crisis, a policy found to be supported by nearly two-thirds of voters.
Conversely, the polling period coincided with Boris Johnson taking two foreign holidays and Liz Truss –the frontunner to replace him in No 10 – dismissing the idea of further “handouts” for struggling households facing huge bill increases in less than two months’ time.
It is the largest lead that Labour has enjoyed since Opinium introduced a new methodology in February, and would potentially extend well into double-figure territory under the pollster’s previous system.
The findings also lend weight to those of YouGov, published in The Times on Friday, which gave Labour a dramatic lead of 13 points – its largest since 2013.
In results that will make grim reading for Conservatives, Opinium’s head of the polling, Chris Curtis, described “almost 1997 levels of switching” in their survey, with 13 per cent of those who voted Tory in 2019 now saying they will vote for Sir Keir’s party.
Ms Truss personally saw her fortunes shift significantly for the worse when placed head-to-head against the Labour leader, and now trails him 31-23 as voters’ favoured PM – despite leading him by 29-28 just a fortnight ago.
This drop in support for the foreign secretary was echoed among Conservative voters, falling from 52 to 43 per cent in the past two weeks, as her rival Rishi Sunak’s support grew by three points to 31 per cent.
However, Opinium warned that both Tory leadership candidates “seem to be falling flat with voters”, as 44 per cent said neither would make the best prime minister, compared with just 22 per cent who said Mr Sunak and 20 per cent who preferred Ms Truss.
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The findings come after Tory Cabinet veteran Michael Gove moved to endorse Mr Sunak on Friday night, attacking Ms Truss as taking a “holiday from reality” over the cost of living crisis and warning her tax-cutting plans would prioritise “the stock options of FTSE 100 executives” over the nation’s poorest.
At a hustings in Manchester on Friday, Mr Sunak warned refusal to intervene would be a “moral failure”, pledging further direct financial help for low-income households and the elderly.
The huge number of the British public appear to agree, with Opinium – whose polling was carried out on Thursday and Friday – finding that 67 per cent of people think the government should be providing just as much or almost as much support for those who are struggling as they did during the pandemic.
Forty per cent of respondents said that, if Ofgem’s price cap rises to £3,500 in October as expected, they will either not be able to afford their energy bills at all, or will have to forego other bills or cut back on essential spending.
Adam Drummond, head of political and social research at Opinium, said: “After four weeks of putting their case to the country, the Conservatives will be incredibly concerned that their two leadership candidates seem to be falling flat with the voters.
“Now not only do 44 per cent of voters believe neither Rishi Sunak or Liz Truss would be the best prime minister, but the cost of living crisis continues unabated with Labour starting to make an impact.
“Whoever the next prime minister turns out to be, they will have to work hard to regain the momentum from the opposition on dealing with the financial hit facing households this winter.”