PMQs: Sunak challenges Starmer on ‘out of date’ NHS plans
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Rishi Sunak is facing an uphill battle to reverse Labour’s massive lead in the polls with two thirds of voters (65 percent) saying they have made up their minds and will not change ahead of the next election expected sometime in 2024. Just one in five voters (21 percent) are willing to change their minds, the exact same proportion as Labour’s current lead in the tracker poll.
After the Conservatives went through 2022 with three Prime Ministers with chaos over Boris Johnson and Partygate as well as Liz Truss’s disastrous mini budget, Mr Sunak appears to be struggling to persuade voters that the Conservatives should be given another go.
While so-called swing voters always make a small proportion of the electoriate, the 21 percent willing to change their minds represents a narrow margin for the Prime Minister.
It comes as Sir Keir Starmer today tried to press home his advantage by insisting that he can make Brexit work instead of trying to reversee it as he aims to win back the Red Wall seats which collapsed to the Tories in 2019.
Sir Keir also laid out plans to reform the NHS including allowing patients to refer themselves to specialists, bypassing the bottleneck created by having to go to GPs instead.
When the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg challenged him over changing his mind on a range of issues, he responded: “I’m not sure you’re right to assume the public will say that they prefer someone who dogmatically insists whatever the position was before can never change.”
But after Mr Sunak had a strong performance against a wooden Labour leader in Prime Minister’s questions (PMQs) last week Tory MPs who backed him are quietly confident he can turn things around whatever the polls suggest.
One senior backbencher told Express.co.uk: “As we get closer to the election people will look at the alternative with Labour and Starmer and see that he [Starmer] is very uncharismatic and offers no new ideas or vision going forward.”
But other Tory MPs are giving Mr Sunak until May and the local elecitons with plots to try to bring back Boris Johnson if he has failed to make a dent in the polls.
Another senior Tory MP said: “Really only Boris has the cut through what we need. These figures suggest that Rishi just does not have the personality needed to change people’s minds.”
Mr Johnson last week urged people to back the Government led by Mr Sunak when he unveiled a portrait of himself at the Carlton Club last week in an event billed as a relaunch.
There is some good news for Mr Sunak that voters aged under 44 are the most likely to change their minds with a quarter saying they could vote differently than their current intentions.
At the momentLabour has a strong lead in the 18-to-44-year-old age group of 53 percent to 20 percent as well as 52 to 23 percent in the 35-to-44-year-olds age group, so they are voting groups where the Tories need to make up ground.
The least likely to change their minds are those aged 64 and above with 72 percent decided.
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There is also some hope of winning back many 2019 Conservative voters where 23 percnt dsay they could change their mind while one in three (33 percent) currently have switched to Labour or Reform UK.
As things stand with Labour on 47 percent and the tories on 26 percent, Sir Keir would be returned as Prime Minister with a majority of 232 according to the Electoral Calculus website while the Conservatives would have their worst ever return on 115.
For the Conservatives to achieve what seems to be an unlikely majority, Electoral Calculus suggests Mr Sunak would need to engineer a 12 percent swing from Labour with the current position.
The Tories would also still be the biggest party with a 10 percent swing from Labour but in those circumstances the SNP could hold the balance of power.
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