Tories still failing to make progress in Scotland

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  By a Newsnet reporter

On the eve of the Conservative party conference, an analysis of recent polls has made clear the lack of progress the party has made in shaking off its toxic tag in Scotland.

The regional breakdown of recent polls shows that across a number of measures, David Cameron and the Westminster coalition are significantly more unpopular in Scotland than in any other part of the UK.

While 59% of people across Britain think that David Cameron is doing badly as Prime Minister, in Scotland the Prime Minister performs even more poorly.  A damning 76% of people in Scotland believe he is doing badly.  When the totals who think he is doing a good job are subtracted from these figures, his overall approval rating is -25% across Britain but a dismal -55% in Scotland.

People in Scotland are also significantly more likely to believe that the coalition government is ‘bad for people like you’ than those in the rest of the UK.  Just 10% of Scots believe that the coalition government is good for them with 69% saying it was bad, giving the UK government a rating of -59%.  Across the UK as a whole, the UK government has a rating of -41%.    

Scots are also considerably more disapproving of Westminster’s handling of the economy than voters across the UK as a whole.  73% of Scots believe that the UK government is handling the economy badly, with just 20% approving of Government economic policy, a rating of -53%.  Across the UK, the Government has an economic approval rating of -41%.

Writing in Saturday’s Guardian newspaper, Neil O’Brien of the Conservative think-tank Policy Exchange said that the Tories were still tainted by a popular view of the party as out of touch and representing only the better off in society.

Mr O’Brien said:

“Today the Tories urgently need a new round of renewal. While progress has been made, Tory modernisation has not healed the party’s worst wounds. It is still seen as the party of the rich. It does badly in urban areas, particularly outside the south-east.”

He added:

“Polls show the answer to the ‘party of the rich’ label is not to whack the rich but to focus ruthlessly on driving down unemployment, helping people earn more, and cutting the cost of living.

“Further welfare reform is an important part of the answer. But so is more help. Because chronic worklessness in Britain first became established during the Thatcher years, the Tories have a special responsibility to fix Britain’s unemployment blackspots.”

To add to the Conservatives’ polling woes, in a survey published on Saturday by the Mirror newspaper, on the eve of the Conservative party conference, Mr Cameron topped a list of politicians people dread getting stuck in a lift with, making him even less popular than Chancellor George Osborne.  

The Prime Minister’s and the Conservatives’ dire polling figures have boosted supporters of London Mayor Boris Johnson, whom many within the party see as a more credible leader than Mr Cameron.

Speaking to the Mirror, a Conservative source said:

“There is sheer panic in Number 10 over conference week. They are obsessed with Boris but refusing to do anything that will stop it.”

Commenting, SNP MSP Kevin Stewart said:

“This latest polling analysis makes devastatingly clear just how much more unpopular the Tories are in Scotland compared to the rest of the UK.

“The Tory brand has been utterly toxic in Scotland for many years and these figures make clear that nothing is being done to alter that fact.

“It is a damning reflection of the leadership of David Cameron and Ruth Davidson that their party simply cannot connect with people in Scotland.

“As long as the Tories continue to stand on a platform of limiting Scotland’s ambitions and obstructing efforts to secure economic recovery, people in Scotland will never be able to trust them.

“Instead of being subjected to a Tory Government making decisions on our economic future despite being overwhelmingly rejected in Scotland, we need the normal powers of an independent Scotland. That way decisions will be made by people entirely elected in Scotland, who by definition will always put the interests of people in Scotland first.”