The Conservative Party has experienced a 25-point drop in rural support as support for Labour increases, according to the results of a new Country Land and Business Association (CLA) poll.
The poll of more than 1,000 people in England’s rural constituencies revealed that the share of the Labour vote has climbed to 37% (up 17 points on the 2019 general election result) as the Conservative Party fell to 34% – down 25 points.
28% of respondents believe the Labour Party understands and respects rural communities and the rural way of life, with 25% saying the same for the Conservative Party.
The Conservative Party currently hold 96 of the 100 most rural seats, but face losing more than half to Labour and the Liberal Democrats, including those of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Hunt and Thérèse Coffey, the CLA said.
The poll also revealed a large chunk of the electorate is still up for grabs. When asked which of the political parties is most trusted to stimulate economic growth, the largest group of respondents said “don’t know” (35%).
CLA president Victoria Vyvyan said the poll has revealed that rural voters across the country feel “politically homeless” and disconnected from central government, meaning their votes are still up for grabs.
“People living in the countryside are ambitious – they want to start businesses, create jobs and grow the economy but for decades, governments of all colours have treated the countryside as a museum, failing to generate the conditions necessary for growth,” she said.
“Whichever party produces a robust and ambitious plan for growth in the rural economy will undoubtedly secure support.
“For the good of our rural communities and the nation as a whole, now is the time for the main parties to make it clear that they will back the countryside.”
The findings reveal that the Conservative Party may win just 43 of the 100 most rural seats, with Labour taking 51, the CLA said.
High profile casualties are projected to include Jeremy Hunt, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Thérèse Coffey, Andrea Leadsom, Mel Stride, Mark Harper and Liam Fox, the association said.
The CLA said farmers, including the next generation, need to have confidence that the government will back their ambitions for food production and nature for the long-term in the face of rising costs and inflationary pressures.
The poll revealed that 28% of respondents believe it is very or somewhat likely that the next generation of those living in the countryside will have a better life than their parents.
“The move towards delivering public good through agricultural policy is welcome. However, farmers can’t fight climate change or biodiversity decline on a shoestring budget decimated by inflation,” Vyvyan said.