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Tories will find it ‘extremely difficult’ to win next General Election, says polling expert

02 Nov 2022 3 minute read
Professor Sir John Curtice . Photo Jeff Overs/BBC

The Conservatives will find it “extremely difficult” to win the next general election despite some signs of a recovery under Rishi Sunak, the polling expert Professor Sir John Curtice has said.

Sir John, who is president of the British Polling Council, said that while the new Prime Minister is significantly more popular than his party, voters were unlikely to forgive the Tories for the financial crisis which his predecessor Liz Truss unleashed.

“No government that has presided over a financial crisis has eventually survived at the ballot box. Voters don’t forget governments being forced to do a U-turn by the financial markets,” he said at a briefing for Westminster journalists.

Sir John said that at the height of Ms Truss’s unpopularity, the Conservatives had been trailing Labour by more than 30 points in the polls, suggesting they could have been left with fewer than 60 seats if that pattern had been repeated at a general election.

He also said that support for rejoining the EU has been growing steadily over the past year, with the latest polling suggesting 57% would favour rejoining with 43% against.


Sir John said Ms Truss had been “virtually unique” as a new party leader in failing to secure “honeymoon bounce” in the polls when she was chosen to succeed Boris Johnson.

By the time she left Downing St in the aftermath of Kwasi Kwarteng’s calamitous mini-budget, the Tories were on average 31 points behind Labour with a deficit at least as great as at any point in Sir John Major’s premiership.

“I think arguably this is as bad as it ever was for a government,” Sir John said.

While there has been some recovery under Mr Sunak, he said the Conservatives were still 25 points behind while it appeared Labour now has a “half decent chance” of securing an overall majority at the next general election.

Mr Sunak is, however, “relatively popular” and has overtaken Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer as who is the strongest on the economy, even though his party continues to trail on the issue.

“The real question is to what extent is Sunak going to be able to transfer his personal popularity into popularity for his party. Certainly, when it comes to people’s willingness to vote for the Conservative Party, there is still a lot of work to do,” Sir John said.


Sir John said that while the polling on Brexit remained inconclusive, it appeared clear that the 2016 referendum had come no closer to settling the issue than the last public vote on the issue in 1975.

“Despite the fact the opposition parties – leaving aside the SNP – don’t want to talk about Brexit, within the public the debate is still there,” he said.

“At the moment, it looks as though the 2016 referendum is going to be as unsuccessful as the 1975 one was in proving to be a permanent settlement of this debate.

“We are as a country divided down the middle on this subject and it looks as though we are going to continue to be so for the foreseeable future.”

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