Tories fall behind Labour in shock poll amid National Insurance tax raid backlash

·3-min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson listens as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks in the debate on the motion to approve regulations related to public health, covering the Government's coronavirus tiered system, in the House of Commons, London. (Photo by House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's Conservative party has slipped behind Labour in the polls for the first time since the height of the pandemic (House of Commons/PA Images via Getty Images)


The UK government has fallen behind the opposition in a popularity poll after a week of backlash against broken manifesto promises.

The latest YouGov/Times voting intention figures see the Conservative party lose its lead for the first time since January. 

The Tories now have 33% of the vote - down five points from last week, while Labour have 35%, a rise of one point.

The data, published on Friday, came after Boris Johnson announced a tranche of tax increases on Tuesday in a move set to provide funds for a COVID-crippled NHS and social care system.

The prime minister faced a widespread backlash to the plans from opposition politicians, social care providers and economists.

Justifying a hike in National Insurance payments, Johnson told MPs: "This breaks a manifesto commitment which is not something I do lightly, but a global pandemic was in no-one’s manifesto."

Labour has taken the lead in voting intention after a week of backlash against the Tories (YouGov)
Labour has taken the lead in voting intention after a week of backlash against the Tories (YouGov)

However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer attacked the plan, saying: “The pretence that the prime minister is only here because of the pandemic is not going to wash.

“He is putting a sticking plaster over gaping wounds which his party inflicted.

“He made that commitment on social care before the pandemic and he said he would pay for it without raising taxes before the pandemic.”

MPs voted by 319 to 248 to approve the 1.25 percentage point rise in national insurance contributions on Wednesday, but Johnson's working majority of more than 80 was reduced to 71, with a number of Conservatives apparently choosing to abstain.

The YouGov poll also suggests the policy has undermined the Conservatives’ reputation as a party of low taxation without giving them the credit for increased investment in the NHS and social care.

Watch: Johnson's £12bn national insurance hike clears the commons

Six in ten voters did not think Johnson or his party cared about keeping taxes low compared with about two in ten who thought he did care. Just under a quarter of all Tory voters believe the party now supports low taxation.

Less than a third of voters think Johnson and the Conservatives care about improving the NHS compared with more than half who do not, despite the fact the health service will receive the bulk of the £36 billion raised by the tax over the next three years. Only 1 per cent of voters — including the over-65s — believe the plans to fund an overhaul of social care will leave them better off.

Anthony Wells, political research director at YouGov, said: “We should be cautious of leaping to too many conclusions from a single poll but . . . it looks as if the government may have sacrificed their reputation for low taxes amongst Tory voters without actually getting much credit for helping the NHS.”

The results will alarm Conservative MPs before their party conference next month and increase anger among those on the Tory right who spoke out against the plan. The findings will also be met with concern in Downing Street, which carried out extensive polling in the run-up to the decision.

The poll also reveals a stark generational divide. Less than half of those under 50 now believe that the taxes they pay fairly reflect the public services they receive compared with 60 per cent of those past retirement age.

Watch: Daily Politics Briefing 10 September

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