Labour targets NHS – as it outranks tax or migration among Tory voter concerns

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The NHS is a higher electoral priority for voters who backed the Tories in 2019 than tax and immigration, new figures reveal as Labour ratchets up campaigning on its healthcare plans and attacks on the Tory record.

A senior figure at a leading Labour campaign group said the figures suggested the Tories’ focus on “phony tax cuts” and seeking to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda rather than issues like the NHS meant they were on a “hiding to nothing”.

Some 50% of 2019 Tory voters told pollsters healthcare ranked in their top three priorities in deciding how to vote at the next general election, in research carried out last week by Redfield & Wilton and analysed by LabourList. That compares with 40% who said the same for immigration and 16% for taxation.

Rishi Sunak has put considerable focus on immigration during his time as Prime Minister, having promised to “stop the boats” as part of five key pledges he set out in his 2023 new year speech.

Tax cuts have also been seen as a potential focus for the coming election campaign, with Sunak saying at the weekend his “priority going forward” is “to make sure that we control spending, control welfare so that we can cut people’s taxes”.

Josh Williams, director of strategy at Labour Together, told LabourList: “When a country is in the state that Britain is, after 14 years of misrule, the issues that affect one place affect every place.

“Labour is out today talking about the NHS – the single most important issue for almost every group of voters at the next election. By talking up Rwanda and phony tax cuts, the Tories are on a hiding to nothing.”

Healthcare was identified as a top three issue by the greatest number of respondents to Redfield & Wilton’s survey across the party spectrum, with 53% of those surveyed saying it would be a a key factor in deciding how they vote.

The economy was the second most important issue for the 2,000 people polled, with 52% saying it would be a top three priority for them ahead of immigration on 29% and education on 27%.

Of the voters who backed Labour in 2019, 58% identified the economy as a top three issue – higher than the proportion of 2019 Tory voters who said the same, at 55%. Healthcare polled the highest among 2019 Labour voters at 63%, while housing came in third on 28%.

The findings come as Labour unveils its ‘child health action plan’, intended to tackle “plummeting child health outcomes” with a pledge to secure the healthiest generation of children ever.

Much of the policy included in the plan has previously been announced, including free breakfast clubs in every primary school and a supervised toothbrushing programme for young children.

Speaking ahead of a visit to a children’s hospital today, Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “The biggest casualty of the short-term ‘sticking plaster’ politics of the last 14 years are our nation’s children. My Labour government will turn this around.”

“Labour will end the scandal of children being held back by poor health and regional inequalities, by slashing waits for mental health treatment and hospital appointment, putting prevention first and fixing NHS dentistry,” he added

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