A crisis of trust in our politics spells trouble for the government

The morning after the 2019 general election, Boris Johnson pledged to people in the North East who had voted Conservative for the first time that he and the party would "repay your trust".

That year was the Brexit election, and the Conservatives ultimately won because they and Mr Johnson were trusted to "get Brexit done" - Jeremy Corbyn was not.

Five years on, exclusive polling by YouGov for Sky News finds that since then, the number of people saying they "almost never" trust the British government to place the needs of the nation above the interests of their own party has nearly doubled - from 26% to 49%.

This spiralling level of distrust has been greatest for the bedrock of the Conservative's electoral coalition - those who voted to leave the EU in 2016.

The percentage of Leavers saying they "almost never" trust government has leapt by 33 points (from 23% to 56%) since the last election - twice as much as the increase for Remainers.

It is the sort of people who live in places like Grimsby and Cleethorpes, which voted heavily to Leave the EU - by nearly 70% - who have lost most trust in British politics since 2019.

Read more:
'A worse position': People in Grimsby and Cleethorpes describe post-Brexit views

A disconnected politics

Our polling reveals a deep loss of public faith in British politics since the last election.

This is all the more remarkable given the "rally" in public trust enjoyed by the government at the height of the pandemic.

Nearly three-quarters of voters believe politicians don't care what people like them think - this has risen from 51% to 73% over the past five years.

There has been a similar rise in the number of people who feel politicians in Westminster ignore the issues they care about - up from 50% to 67%.

A geography of discontent

Despite Mr Johnson's pledge to repay the trust of new Conservative voters in the North, and promises of "levelling up", there is a widespread view outside London that politicians in Westminster don't care very much or at all about their part of the country.

The percentage of people saying politicians don't care "at all" about their region is highest in Wales at 47% and the north of England at 39%.

This feeling is higher among Leave voters - 42% - than Remain voters -24%.

Five years of Conservative government has not delivered the legacy of trust hoped for by Mr Johnson.

'They are all the same'

Perhaps most telling of all, the public currently see the parties as more like each other than at any election since 1964 - when polling records began.

Voters are more likely than ever before at 40% to say there is not much difference between Labour and the Conservatives, and less likely than ever to say there is "a great deal of difference" between them at just 12%.

This contrasts with 2019 when 47% of people said there was a great deal of difference between the parties.

Trust is about delivering on promises

Our research has found that across the world, one of the most important things needed for voters to consider politicians to be trustworthy is that they stick to their word and do what they say - so we asked whether the parties try to keep their promises.

Some 71% of people think the Conservative Party do not try to keep their promises, notably including 61% of 2019 Conservative voters.

Views on Labour are more mixed, with 47% of people saying they don't try to keep their promises and 27% saying they do.

For the government, this deep public antipathy spells trouble for the next election.

In many parts of the country, voters feel politicians don't care what they think or care about their area, ignore the issues that matter to them, and don't offer a meaningful choice at the ballot box.

If Labour does benefit from a prevailing mood of public distrust at that election, its honeymoon may not last long as it will soon face the same winds of discontent.