‘After almost six years, the economy is no longer the most important issue facing Britain today’
This is the headline finding from the Ipsos Mori issues index published today.
The polling, which asks voters which issues are the most important to Britain, has found that issues around race and immigration are now seen as the singular most important issue. The economy moves to second place, for the first time since August 2008.
These latest figures are part of a trend that has shown concerns over the economy slipping since 2011 from the notable spike that came soon after the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.
The problem for Labour is that they have rallied around their ‘cost of living crisis’ campaign assuming that the economy will remain top of the list of voter concerns (as it had done for the last 6 years). This continued decline in importance to voters is bad news for Labour’s prospects in 2015.
Labour had established a good campaign on the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ with strong messaging. Had the economic recovery been slower, or voter concern more consistent, then this would have provided a strong basis on which to campaign on in the run up to the General Election in 2015. As it stands however, it feels as though Labour are struggling to find their voice on other issues important to voters such as immigration let alone setting out a left-wing alternative that also addresses voters’ concerns.
If they fail to get this sorted this might well be the difference between government or opposition after May’s elections.
And of course, what is bad news for Labour is good news for the Conservatives who have been desperately trying to peddle the message that ‘they took hard decisions’ but that the economy is ‘back on track’ now they have cleaned up ‘Labour’s mess’.
The campaigns team in Tory HQ will be delighted with these Ipsos Mori findings. However, the rise of the immigration/race issues that have traditionally played into Conservative hands may also fuel the continued rise of UKIP with their no-nonsense ‘standing up for Brits’ messaging.
These opinion polls are pulling all the major parties to the right, each trying to out do each other to sound ‘tough on immigration’. This phenomena has led to what some commentators are calling a bidding war on trying to sound tough on immigration.
Once again though this plays into Tory hands rather than Labour’s. The risk of Conservatives loosing votes by sounding too harsh on immigrants is small, for Labour this is a real possibility.
In short then, it might be a time for a re-think for Labour. How, with just over 300 days until the election, are they going to set out an attractive alternative that answers voters concerns on issues such as immigration, unemployment and the NHS?
I’m not sure they will be able to which is why at this stage I would put money on a Conservative minority government in 2015.