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James Cleverly’s popularity has plunged – but what do voters in his constituency think? | Politics News

Since taking over the Home Office brief, James Cleverly’s popularity has plummeted among the party membership. 

In a recent opinion poll by the website Conservative Home he has slid down the ministerial leaderboard – from first place to 11th.

The membership is one thing, but how is he faring on his home turf in Braintree, where he has been an MP since 2015?

It’s a staunch Conservative seat, so he should have a sympathetic audience.

However, people here are frustrated. The nearby RAF Wethersfield airbase has been housing asylum seekers since the summer, and locals are not happy.

Their MP initially opposed it, but he’s now in charge of the department overseeing it.

It’s given rise to the accusation that he’s more interested in his personal advancement than the needs of his constituents.

At the Finchingfield Lion pub, one parish councillor told Sky News that Mr Cleverly was no longer quite as “noisy” on the issue of the airbase. Another said that her opinion of Mr Cleverly had fallen in tandem with his professional rise.

They described him as a “shadowy” figure who appears for “meets and greets” but is never really around.

However, just showing his face is enough for some Braintree residents.

On the local high street, the pet shop owner said the MP often comes in and asks: “How is business going… is there anything we can do?”

“That goes a long way,” he said.

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Most agreed that Mr Cleverly is a nice enough guy – but in a community where immigration is a divisive political issue, they are sceptical of how effective their MP will be in the Home Office.

Most are frustrated by the government’s failure to deliver on the issue, but few are flirting with the Opposition parties either. A sense of resignation looms large.

Conservatives losing more 2019 voters to Reform UK than Labour, poll suggests | Politics News

Only one in 10 voters who supported the Tories in 2019 have switched to Labour, according to a major new poll for Sky News.  

The exclusive YouGov survey of 5,621 voters found 11% of 2019 Tory voters would now vote for Labour while slightly more – 12% – have switched to Reform UK, a party to the right of the Conservatives.

The fact that Labour is attracting fewer former Tory votes than Reform shows the difficulty Sir Keir Starmer’s party is having in getting Tory switchers.

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Graphics for Sam Coates polling story 1/11/23

Less than half – 40% – of 2019 Tory voters say they are sticking with the Conservatives if there was an election tomorrow, while 23% don’t know and 7% would not vote.

Former Tory voters from the 2019 campaign are perhaps the most important battleground for Conservative strategists at the next election, and their messaging and policy is designed to target this group in particular.

Some 44% of voters chose the Conservatives in the 2019 election, and this has dropped to 24% now.

So what happens to the ex-Tory voters – and whether they ultimately return to the party – is key.

Graphics for Sam Coates polling story 1/11/23

The fact that only a small number have changed their allegiance to Labour gives the Tories a small ray of hope at a time when they are hugely behind in the polls – although even if they perform as well as possible in this group, they would still struggle to win.

The YouGov polling drills down into the views of 2019 Tory voters who now call themselves undecided. Here there are positive signs for the Conservatives.

Rishi Sunak gets a net positive rating, scoring +7 percentage points, which is much more positive than the public at large. However, Keir Starmer gets a very negative rating, which is much worse than the population as a whole.

Graphics for Sam Coates polling story 1/11/23

For the average voter, the most important subjects are the economy, health and asylum.

However, among undecided voters who supported the Tories in 2019, immigration is the top issue, even marginally higher than the economy.

This is why the Tories are targeting immigration as one of their biggest issues.

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Graphics for Sam Coates polling story 1/11/23

Patrick English, who conducted the poll for YouGov, said these were a “crucial set of voters”.

“When you really drill down into what type of voters these are, who they are, what they think about issues, there do seem to be some encouraging numbers for the Conservatives,” he said.

“They rate Rishi Sunak higher than they rate Keir Starmer.”

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The pollster added: “They rate the Conservative Party higher than they do the Labour Party.

“They care about the issues the Conservatives want to talk about, such as immigration, to a much greater extent than those who are ready to make the jump to Labour.

“And that’s why at the moment we think only around one in 10 of them are telling us that they’re seriously considering voting Labour at the next election.”

Local elections: Voters turned away at polling stations for not having the right ID | Politics News

Standing outside a windy polling station in the Nottingham neighbourhood of Hyson Green, Niam sets out in passionate terms why everyone should be willing – and able – to vote.

The single mother left Sudan during the civil war in the 90s and is now anxiously trying to keep in touch with family in Khartoum.

“Every woman should vote because in our country women do not have a voice. But in this country, we should work together to help,” she said.

She says it was her daughter who told her that she’d need to bring ID.

Niam
Image:
Niam is a single mother from Sudan

“I am lucky, my daughter is at university, she called me and said mum you should take your ID… the council should tell the people how to vote, it’s very important”, said Niam.

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Hyson Green has the largest ethnic minority population in Nottingham and there have been worries that neighbourhoods like these may be disproportionately impacted by the new voter ID rules.

More on Local Elections 2023

Over three hours at two polling stations in the area, we spoke to 10 people who were turned away for not having the correct ID.

Thirty-six people came to vote at the Vine Community Centre between 7am and 10.30am – and of these, three were rejected.

Polling station
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The Vine Community Centre in Hyson Green

In 40 minutes at another nearby polling station, 16 people came to vote – with two people turned away.

Lal and Man had photographs of their passports but were told they needed hard copies.

But 10 minutes after being turned away, they were back – proudly brandishing their IDs and keen to vote.

Lal and his wife returned 10 minutes later brandishing their IDs and keen to vote
Image:
Lal and his wife had photos of their passports and were turned away – but they returned 10 minutes later with their IDs

Others arrived with driving licences, blue parking badges and pensioner bus passes.

One taxi driver was left disappointed though after his council-issued licence was rejected.

In reality, a morning spent chatting to voters only takes us so far.

The fact that turnout in local ballots is lower than in a general election may well cloud the true impact.

Nevertheless, critics of the reforms are certain they will primarily affect areas with a younger, more deprived and more diverse population.

Nadia Whittome MP
Image:
Nadia Whittome MP

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Nadia Whittome, the MP for Nottingham East – and the youngest member of the Commons – says the government is pursuing the policy to suppress groups who would usually vote Labour.

Ministers fiercely deny this, pointing to trial studies that show next to no impact on turnout.

But with very few instances of voter fraud, it is legitimate to ask whether this is an expensive fix to a non-existent problem.

It’s thought between one and three million people hold no valid ID.

But data on who these voters are is mixed and complex, with several different groups potentially affected.

A 2021 study suggested older people may be vulnerable because passport holding drops sharply after age 65 with lower numbers of people carrying driving licences between the ages of 45 and 60 too.

Variations between ethnicities are also smaller than some suggest with social and educational differences arguably playing a bigger role.

The government and the Electoral Commission will publish their own reports on the impact of the new rules later this year.

But even on this, there’s an argument over how data on rejected voters is being collected.

One select committee has said some people will be turned away by meet-and-greet staff on the door of polling stations and as such not recorded in the official tally.

There’s also the unknown factor of those who don’t even turn up to vote because of the new requirements.

In Nottingham, few people seemed particularly riled by the rules.

Bugsy
Image:
Bugsy

Bugsy, a Labour voter originally from Ireland, welcomed the changes as a reassuring measure at a time when some are trying to undermine elections.

“There are so many folks who want to wriggle around on the result, make it more in question,” he said, before adding with an exasperated laugh, “I suppose they’ll find a way around it in the end though”.

The Electoral Commission said that overall the elections were “well run” but the requirement to carry photo identification posed a challenge and some people were unable to vote as a result, although detailed work will be needed to understand the scale of the problem.