New Times,
New Thinking.

Why the Tory right is talking up Reform UK

Conservative rebels hope to use an apocalyptic poll to force Rishi Sunak to make concessions over the Rwanda bill.

By Freddie Hayward

The YouGov survey of 14,000 voters puts the Tories on 169 seats and Labour on 385, which would hand Keir Starmer a 120-seat majority. This should not come as a surprise because Labour’s lead in the polls since Sunak became Prime Minister has been solidly 20 points. The Lib Dems will be pleased with 48 seats (which seems quite high). The survey used a multi-level regression and post-stratification (MRP) method which, the Telegraph adds, predicted the 2017 and 2019 results.

Some caveats: the polling tables from YouGov are not yet published. Against YouGov’s voting tracker – which has Labour on 45 per cent against 22 per cent for the Conservatives – the results actually look quite good for the government. You would expect the Conservatives to lose even more seats on those numbers. The fact that tactical voting is also not taken into account means the real result could be worse for the Tories if some Lib Dem and Labour voters sort themselves into an anti-Tory coalition.

Most interesting is the Telegraph’s report that Labour has Reform to thank for its majority: it assumes that if the Nigel Farage-founded party didn’t stand, its votes would go to Conservatives. “This is nonsense,” in the words of one pollster I spoke to this morning. Why might the Telegraph have published this extra piece of analysis?

The answer probably lies in the House of Commons. The return of what was originally billed as “emergency legislation” to get the Rwanda scheme started has become a catalyst for party dissent. The Times understands that Kemi Badenoch (read Rachel’s great profile of the leadership contender) told the PM that the legislation needs toughening up. And the right of the party is laying down a series of amendments to make the bill more restrictive. Meanwhile, the One Nation caucus is clear it won’t support any hardening of the bill.

The YouGov poll was funded by a group of Tory donors called Conservative Britain Alliance; the former Brexit negotiator David Frost was also involved. In a piece for the same paper, Frost calls for the party to become more restrictive on immigration to stave off Reform’s advance. Those behind this poll clearly hope it will force the Conservative Party to make the Rwanda bill more stringent for migrants by, for instance, removing the right for individual appeals. We will have a better understanding of whether they’ve been successful when MPs vote on Wednesday.

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[See also: Sadiq Khan’s Brexit baloney won’t fix the economy]

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