“They’re debating issues I never cared about”: my focus groups in Middlesbrough and Bolton

  • 23 February, 2024
  • Politics
  • Polling

In my last poll, a 2019 Conservative voter’s average likelihood of voting Tory again at the next election was 48 out of 100. The first in my series of regular 2024 focus groups – in Bolton West and Middlesbrough South & East Cleveland – included those who put their own chances of repeating their Conservative vote at 3 to 5 out of 10, on the reasoning that if anyone is going to bolster the party’s poll numbers in the coming months, these will be the people. Judging by what they had to say, a recovery is not yet imminent.

The groups took place as the week’s parliamentary procedural drama had fully unfolded (not that most voters care about parliamentary procedural dramas or even notice them). However, people had certainly clocked Keir Starmer’s Gaza quandary and even detected a readiness to shift his position under pressure. Some appreciated his stance: “He stood by Israel for quite a while, I liked that. They’re all pro-Palestinians in Labour and he was for Israel, saying it was terrible what had happened;” “I had the same feelings, that Israel had a right to do what they did after the attacks, but it’s gone on and on and on and now I think the same as him, let’s just have it stopped.” Some, though, felt that rather than acting on principle Starmer was “playing a very careful game” on the issue: “He’s scared because the rest in his party are saying ‘look, we’ve got millions of Muslims that vote Labour, just be careful what you say’. And he’s going along with what they want.”

Read more
Related Stories