Speaking to voters in Wakefield shows trust in politicians remains a key issue

Elliot Chappell
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“All of a sudden, it’s a massive great hurdle once again – and I’m concerned for my immediate family, my extended family and for everybody around me.” 2019 Tory voters, who are considering backing Labour in the Wakefield by-election, have shared their concerns about the cost-of-living crisis and their views on the Labour Party in a focus group commissioned by LabourList. The session was dominated by anxiety over spiralling prices and the sacrifices people are having to make – revealing a Covid-weary group, shouldering the burden of yet another crisis.

There was no love lost for the Conservatives, or for Boris Johnson. The group of eight, including four who have voted Tory in every general election since 2010, struggled to identify any action the government is taking to tackle rising prices. The mandatory £200 loan was described as “laughable”. Meanwhile, there was little positive to be said about the Prime Minister, with Johnson being branded a liar and an “absolute disgrace”. Worryingly for Labour, however, the group were uncertain that any other party would be doing better – and of Johnson one said: “Better the devil you know.”

“I’m open to Labour. I just feel like I’m looking for somebody with some conviction, some passion, some of their own authentic ideas,” one woman told the group. But Labour is not that option right now, she added. After showing those present a short clip of Keir Starmer pledging to resign if fined by the police for breaching Covid rules, they warmed to him – saying the commitment was “genuine and heartfelt”. But several made clear a need for Labour to be more distinctive from the Tories. “They’re playing again at the minute where all they’re doing is just, you know, the polar opposite to what was Conservatives,” one said. “They’re breaking the Conservatives’ toys so that their toys look better.”

Perhaps most interesting was the response to Labour’s proposal for a windfall tax. Mentioned unprompted by the researcher, the policy demand had clearly cut through with this particular group of people. Asked what they thought of the idea, one replied enthusiastically: “Crack on. £600? Yeah.” “Who’s gonna say no?” Another chimed in. Another said: “Yes, absolutely.” But, concerning for Labour, is that there was heavy scepticism about whether the party would actually deliver the policy.

This is exactly the response that Boris Johnson has been working for his entire career. Starmer has often described the Prime Minister’s approach to politics – a Trump-style barrage of lies aimed to confuse and distract – as one that fundamentally undermines trust not just in him or in the Conservatives, but in politics as a whole. As one participant summed it up: “I think this is 12 years of being told something that is just hot air. It’s just words for words’ sake. Once that’s ingrained in you, you see something and you just think, yeah more lying politicians. We’ll see.” Read the full write-up here.

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