Johnson losing support in rural heartlands, poll shows

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives are losing support in rural communities that were once their biggest supporters, according to new research by a landowners’ organisation.

The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) polled 1,000 people from 7-14 March across five of the UK’s most rural counties by population density – Cornwall, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Norfolk and Gwynedd in North Wales.

The Survation survey results showed that less than half (46%) voted Conservative in the 2019 general election, while 29% voted Labour and 13% Liberal Democrats.

See also: Farmer support for Conservatives on the slide, FW survey reveals

When asked how they would vote if there was a general election tomorrow, the findings revealed a major shift in political allegiances among rural voters.

Barely two-and-a-half years since the general election, more than one-third of the same voters (36%) said they intended to vote Labour, while only 38% said they would vote Conservative – a 7.5-point swing to Keir Starmer’s party.

Large gains were also seen for the Green Party, whose percentage share of the the rural vote grew from 3% to 8%. But the Liberal Democrats lost three percentage points, moving from 13% to 10%.

Almost three-quarters of countryside voters (71%) believe opportunities for young people in rural areas have either decreased or remain stagnant in the past five years.

And almost half of respondents (42%) stated there had been an economic decline in their community over the past five years. The vast majority (79%) blamed the lack of affordable housing in rural areas for driving people out of the countryside.

Housing ‘less affordable’

CLA president Mark Tufnell said: “Sensible, small-scale housing developments are often rejected out of hand and applications to convert disused farm buildings into office or workshop space can often take years.

“As a result, fewer jobs get created and housing becomes less affordable, so young people just move away.”

Julian Sturdy, Conservative MP for York Outer and chairman of the influential All Party Parliamentary Group on the Rural Powerhouse, added: “People rightly want a good job and an affordable home.

“The Levelling Up White Paper (PDF) was the perfect opportunity to uncover why they can be so hard to find in the countryside, but rural issues were largely absent.

“I think that’s been noticed by people and needs to be addressed urgently.”

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