There are either 12 or perhaps fewer months to the General Election, and the Labour lead in the polls seems solidly in the mid to high teens. The recent Autumn Statement seems to be having no real effect on that lead. Is it possible for the Tories to close that gap? One possibility mooted is that Reform Party (REFUK) voters will switch to the Conservatives when that GE focuses minds. It does seem as if REFUKs predecessor The Brexit Party voters did at GE 2019, and the Brexit Party did stood aside in Conservative seats, so an area worth exploring.
Initially we need to understand how many of these REFUK voters actually exist. Pollsters vary in how they report the party, but generally these are in the range 3-11%, so a significant chunk of the electorate. There has been a suggestion that this figure is inflated by over representation on online pollsters panels, as discussed in this excellent article:
Certainly the lack of performance REFUK candidates in the byelections and local elections supports this view. Alastair Meeks summarises this eloquently here:
YouGov have also done some interesting more detailed polling on REFUK voters, summarised in these tweets:
REFUK have announced that they plan to run in all seats this time, unlike their predecessor the Brexit Party in 2019, but REFUK voters are mostly realistic about the party’s prospects:
But if REFUK were not standing only 31% would switch to the Conservatives, though vanishingly few to other parties. Most are “Don’t Know” or “Will not Vote”.
It does seem as if these REFUK voters in 2023 are different to Brexit Party voters in 2019, being much less kindly disposed to the Conservative Party or its leader.
Quite why these REFUK voters dislike Sunak so much is unclear. Is it because they have a Nadine-like unrequited love for Boris Johnson and despise Sunak for his role in deposing their idol?, or is it something else? Certainly REFUK polling had a noticeable and sustained uptick after the defenestration of Ms Truss.
My conclusion is that the REFUK vote is smaller than online pollsters find, as antipathetic to Sunak as Corbynites are to Starmer. Most will stick with REFUK and only a third to a half will be willing to vote Conservative on GE day. There is likely to be a modest boost to the Con vote share of perhaps 2% from this source. This is not enough to close the gap, nor an easy group to win over for Britain’s first Prime Minister of Indian ethnicity. He needs to look elsewhere for votes.