The Conservatives will lose the vote of rural strongholds in an upcoming general election, a new poll has predicted.
According to the survey, since 2019, Conservative support in rural constituencies has fallen by 25 points.
It shows just 34 per cent of the electorate in the 100 most rural constituencies in England said they would vote for the party.
The Conservatives currently hold 96 of the 100 most rural seats, but now face losing more than half to Labour and the Lib Dems, including those of senior Tories Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Hunt, Thérèse Coffey, Andrea Leadsom, Mel Stride, Mark Harper and Liam Fox.
Victoria Vyvyan, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 rural businesses and landowners, said the poll makes it clear that rural voters up and down the country feel “disconnected from central government”:
“This poll makes it clear that rural voters feel politically homeless and disconnected from central government – but their votes are still up for grabs. 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,” she added.
While the survey suggests Conservative support has collapsed in the party’s heartlands, many rural voters are still “politically homeless”, with almost 35 per cent of respondents still undecided about how they’ll vote.
Support for the Liberal Democrats has remained largely unchanged, with 14 per cent saying they would back the party – down only two points from 2019.
Crucially, only 28 per cent said they thought Labour understood rural communities, while 25 per cent said the same about the Conservatives.
The poll, carried out by Survation on behalf of the CLA of more than 1,000 people, suggests that neither of the main parties is seen as understanding or respecting rural communities.
Consequently, the CLA has put forward a series of “missions” for parties to show they understand rural voters, including investing in profitable and sustainable farming, providing affordable homes for rural communities, tackling rural crime and improving connections for rural areas.
Ms Vyvyan told the PA news agency: “Our vote is there for the taking, and they need to show us that they understand and respect our community.”
She added: “We feel invisible. I spoke to a small farming group in West Cornwall and the question that was asked was why are governments not interested in our community? Why are they interested in everyone else’s community except ours?”
“We are politically homeless.”
The new poll data comes as leaders of both the main political parties face increasing pressure and scrutiny.
Conservative MPs accused their own party of surrendering to Labour without a proper fight in two formerly safe Tory seats, where by-elections will be held this week.
In Wellingborough, the Tories are defending a majority of more than 18,000 while in Kingswood, its majority was more than 11,000 at the 2019 election.
MPs from across the party complained that losses in Wellingborough and Kingswood on Thursday had already been “priced in”.
Ministers and MPs said they had not faced any of the normal demands to go to the two seats this weekend to drum up last-minute votes as is customary before byelections.
One Sunak ally said the contests had been deliberately timed in the parliamentary recess to reduce the chances of anti-Sunak “chatter and plotting” at Westminster if the Tories lost.
But senior MPs said not properly contesting the seats risked demoralising an already deflated party during the run-in to a general election, and at a time when Labour was vulnerable after performing a massive U-turn last week over its green economic plans.
“The party hasn’t really tried,” said a former cabinet minister. “They’re expecting defeats.”
Another influential figure said of the byelections: “They are very much priced into the death spiral.”
Meanwhile, Sir Keir Starmer faces a dilemma after a Labour by-election candidate claimed Israel deliberately allowed 1,400 of its citizens to be massacred on October 7 to give it the ‘green light’ to invade Gaza.
Azhar Ali, who is defending a Labour majority of more than 9,000 in Rochdale on February 29th, also claimed that Sir Keir Starmer had ‘lost the confidence’ of his MPs over his stance on the conflict.
The bombshell remarks – revealed in a secret recording obtained by The Mail on Sunday – will intensify the row within the Labour Party over Sir Keir’s refusal to condemn Israel’s right to besiege Gaza in the wake of the attacks.
Environmental groups had criticised Labour’s decision, with Friends of the Earth warning that cutting the £28bn investment plan would be “short-sighted and cost the country dearly”.
But the latest Opinium poll for the Observer shows that Labour’s lead stands at 18 points – up 2 points from a fortnight ago. Starmer now has an 11-point lead regarding who voters think would make the best prime minister.