Most voters want new government, says new poll as Rishi Sunak faces double by-election test

Rishi Sunak faces a tough parliamentary year as most voters tell think tank More in Common they want a change of government (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak faces a tough parliamentary year as most voters tell think tank More in Common they want a change of government (Dan Kitwood/PA) (PA Wire)

Three-quarters of people think the UK needs a change of government, according to a poll by the think tank More in Common.

The figures suggest a challenging year ahead for Rishi Sunak as he prepares for what many expect will be the last 12 months of the current Parliament.

Not only did 75% of people tell More in Common that they thought it was time for a change of government, that figure also included 47% of those who voted Conservative in 2019 and 79% of voters in the “Red Wall” that helped deliver Boris Johnson’s victory four years ago.

More than two-thirds of people said the last 13 years of Conservative government had been bad for Britain, while a majority blamed the government for both the cost-of-living crisis and long NHS waiting lists – voters’ two top priorities.

Luke Tryl, UK director for More in Common, said the figures were “really, really stark”.

He said: “We know that when there’s a ‘time for change’ mood in the electorate, it’s very hard to push against that.”

However, he added, voters were “not necessarily convinced that Labour would do a better job of running the country”, with 32% saying the opposition would do better and 27% saying Labour would do worse.

Mr Tryl pointed to recent focus groups in which voters had said they were “sick to death” of Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer criticising the Government and not setting out what he would do instead.

Focus groups also expressed doubt about Mr Sunak, with participants saying he had not achieved much as Prime Minister and describing him as “very unrelatable” because of his wealth.

Despite Conservative hopes that Mr Sunak would bring Tory polling numbers up into line with his own popularity, the Prime Minister has seen his standing decline, with the proportion of people saying he is an asset to his party falling from 39% to 29% in the four months since May.

Adding to the Government’s struggles, Mr Tryl suggested that parts of the electorate had “switched off” from politics and would not be receptive to Conservative messages unless they began to feel materially better off.

He added that the Raac crisis’s lack of impact on the polls could be a “worrying sign” for the Tories, suggesting news that things in Britain “aren’t working” had been “priced in”.

More in Common’s figures come from a poll of around 2,000 adults carried out between September 1 and 4.

It comes as Mr Sunak faces a double by-election test in October as a vote was triggered on Monday to replace former Tory whip Chris Pincher, who resigned as an MP after losing his appeal against a suspension for drunkenly groping two men.

Government chief whip Simon Hart asked for the writ to trigger the by-election for Tamworth, in Staffordshire, to be moved on September 14.

The by-election has to take place between 21 and 27 working days from the issuing of the writ, suggesting it will take place on October 19, the same day former culture secretary Nadine Dorries’ Mid Bedfordshire constituency will be contested.

Mr Pincher has comfortably won the seat for the Conservatives since 2010, with a majority of 19,634 votes at the last general election.

But despite Tamworth being seen as a safe seat for the Tories previously, Mr Sunak said “mid-term by-elections are always difficult” for the Government.

Mr Pincher had sought to reduce a potentially by-election triggering eight-week suspension recommended by the Commons Standards Committee for what was found to be an “egregious case of sexual misconduct” at London’s exclusive Carlton Club last year.

But Parliament’s Independent Expert Panel (IEP) dismissed his appeal last week.

Addressing his decision to resign, Mr Pincher said he had already decided not to stand at the next general election and did not want to put any “further uncertainty” on his constituents.

The Tories’ fight to retain the seat has been complicated by the fact the candidate they have lined up to fight the next general election in Tamworth is Eddie Hughes, the current Tory MP for Walsall North.

Mr Hughes ruled out contesting the by-election, saying he has a “commitment to my constituents until the next general election”.

The Conservatives have said they will carry out a selection process for the Tamworth candidate, but what will happen if the Tories win the seat is uncertain because Walsall North is effectively being abolished in the constituency boundary review.

Mr Pincher’s downfall also proved to be the final nail in the coffin of Boris Johnson’s time as prime minister amid anger at his handling of the affair last year.

Mr Pincher subsequently lost the Tory whip, meaning he has been sitting in the Commons as an independent.

The Standards Committee found in July that Mr Pincher’s conduct last summer was “profoundly damaging” and amounted to an abuse of power.

Mr Pincher appealed the punishment, arguing it was disproportionate, but the IEP said Mr Pincher’s arguments were “misconceived or erroneous” and backed the proposed sanction.