Attempt of Rishi Sunak to rebrand the Conservative Party as the party of “change” at their annual conference in Manchester last week has not yielded any positive bounce in the polls. Instead, Labour has seen an increase of three points since the previous weekend, now standing at 42%, extending its lead to 13 points.
Despite significant media coverage of Rishi Sunak and the Tories during the conference, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer shows that the Conservatives have remained unchanged at 29%. Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats have dropped by one point to 11%, and the Greens and Reform have both seen a one-point decrease, bringing them to 6%. Tory strategists had hoped that the conference would mark the moment when Sunak could begin closing the gap between himself and Keir Starmer’s Labour.
The poll results suggest that Sunak’s strategy, which included a combination of attention-grabbing new policies and dramatic reversals, has not worked as he had anticipated.
During the Manchester conference, Sunak attempted to position himself as a strong leader capable of making long-term decisions in the national interest, even if they were unpopular. These decisions included abandoning the Birmingham to Manchester leg of the HS2 high-speed rail line, proposing the abolition of A levels in favor of a new system requiring students to study English and math until the age of 18, and efforts to prohibit young people from smoking.
The survey indicates that Labour is perceived as a more united party than the Conservatives, with 47% of voters believing that Labour is united, while only 29% see it as divided. In contrast, 50% of voters view the Tories as divided, with just 30% considering them united.
Although Keir Starmer often faces criticism, even from some of his own MPs, for lacking detailed policies, he fares better than Sunak in terms of public perception of policy. Forty-eight percent of respondents believe that the Tories have poorly thought-out policies, compared to 38% who say the same about Labour.
Furthermore, 52% of voters anticipate that Labour will be the largest party in the next general election, while only 26% believe the Tories will hold that position.
Many Tory MPs acknowledged at their conference that Sunak’s attempt to portray himself as a leader of change would be a tough sell after 13 years of Conservative government.