Voters’ trust in Tories on tax plummets as Rishi Sunak’s final election gambit fails

Trust in the Tories on tax has collapsed, a new poll has revealed, in another massive blow to Rishi Sunak as he tries to turn his party’s election fortunes around with less than three weeks to go.

According to an exclusive poll by Techne UK for The Independent, Sir Keir Starmer has a trust rating of more than double that of Mr Sunak as postal votes are sent out this weekend in a crucial stage of the campaign.

It comes after the Tories put all their efforts into using tax as the key dividing issue and launched an assault on Labour’s plans in a last-ditch bid to stop Sir Keir from winning power with “a supermajority” on 4 July.

The gambit – involving chief Treasury secretary Laura Trott claiming Labour has plans for 18 secret tax rises, including a tax raid on selling homes – appeared to be an attempt to reverse the stubborn poll gap of around 20 points with Labour and see off a threat of being passed by Nigel Farage’s Reform UK.

The Techne UK poll of 1,636 UK voters revealed that 36 per cent trust Sir Keir most on tax compared to just 16 per cent for Mr Sunak. In a further blow to the prime minister, he is level pegging with Mr Farage on the issue as Reform also polled 16 per cent.

Rishi Sunak has put tax cuts at the heart of his pitch to the country, but a poll suggests more voters want to see spending on public services (PA Wire)
Rishi Sunak has put tax cuts at the heart of his pitch to the country, but a poll suggests more voters want to see spending on public services (PA Wire)

It is understood that Mr Sunak has already faced a cabinet revolt behind the scenes because many did not think he offered enough on tax cuts in the party’s manifesto.

He has been mired in controversy over disputed claims Labour will add £2,000 to the tax bill of each household. Sir Keir accused him of “lying” after the Treasury’s top civil servant disavowed assertions by the prime minister that his department had made the calculation on Labour pledges which Mr Sunak has insisted amounts to a £38.5bn black hole.

Labour has also accused the Tories of “unfunded tax promises” which Rachel Reeves claimed last week will add £4,800 to the average mortgage payment over five years.

Trailing in fourth place is Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey on 12 per cent, while the level of voter apathy is reflected by 20 per cent saying “don’t know”.

The high figure of those unsure who to believe comes after Paul Johnson, director of the Institute of Fiscal Studies, warned of “a conspiracy of silence” by all the parties over the cuts of almost £20bn facing the next government.

The poll reveals that young voters aged 18 to 34 are more likely to trust Mr Farage than Mr Sunak on tax by 16 per cent to 12 per cent. Men also marginally trust Mr Farage more by 16 per cent to 15 per cent. The prime minister has his highest trust rating on tax from pensioners, a key target group for the Tories, with 20 per cent but still easily trails Sir Keir on 29 per cent.

While 80 per cent of 2019 Labour voters trust their leader on tax, only 43 per cent of 2019 Tory voters trust the PM. People with a degree or higher are most likely to trust Sir Keir above the rest, on 43 per cent.

Techne chief executive Michela Morizzo said: “The problem is that the Conservatives have problems also on the pillars regarding economic measures This is mostly linked to the lack of trust that has spread within the general public, above all within Tory voters.

“Clouding an already grey sky for the Tories, now centre-right voters have an alternative with Reform UK. It’s not only ideology that leads to vote for one party, but the perception of how ‘healthy’ this party is and of its ability to deliver.

“Last but not least, the scenario for the Conservatives could be a vote of protest, a higher abstention or the vote going to Reform UK.”

Reform UK has made a play of moving to the right of the Tories on tax, with promises to abolish inheritance tax up to £2m – something Tory MPs had pleaded with Mr Sunak to include in his manifesto – and lift the point where people pay income tax to £20,000.

This compares to Tory plans to cut national insurance by a further 2p, bring in a triple-lock-plus pension guarantee of no tax on pensions, remove stamp duty for first-time buyers and lift the threshold for paying back child benefit to £120,000.

Labour, like the Tories, has vowed not to raise VAT, income tax or national insurance and said it wants to cut taxes when it is affordable.

But in the last 48 hours, the Conservatives have turned their campaign to claim Labour has 18 “secret new taxes” planned, including capital gains tax hikes on selling primary residences to total £2,000 per household.

Labour has hit back, accusing the Tories of “lying”, and the Techne polling appears to suggest that voters are siding with Sir Keir on the key issue. Labour told The Independent that the poll finding was “not surprising, given that [the Tories] keep inventing lists of fantasy tax rises”.

The importance of the issue is highlighted in the quality voters told Techne UK was the most important in a prime minister.

They identified “sound economics” as the top issue with 20 per cent, ahead of climate action on 15 and strong defence and security on 13.

After the row about D-Day and attempts to focus on culture war issues, “patriotism” (7 per cent) and “diversity awareness” (5 per cent) trailed in the last two places below “change” and “trust”, both on 12 per cent.

Meanwhile, with Euro 2024 having kicked off on Friday, the poll suggests that the chaos in the Tories since the ousting of Boris Johnson and Liz Truss has played a part in their downfall, with Mr Sunak not coming across as a strong team leader.

Asked who would make the best England manager, Sir Keir topped the poll with 31 per cent. Nigel Farage came in second on 17 per cent, ahead of Mr Sunak on 12 per cent and Sir Ed Davey on 11 per cent.

A Labour spokesperson said: “We are not going to spend the next two weeks responding to whatever fantasy plans the Tories are making up. They would be better off considering how they were meant to be the antidote to Liz Truss and ended up becoming nothing more than the latest instalment of her disastrous approach.

“The country needs change and we have set out a clear, practical and costed plan for change in our manifesto. After fourteen years of Tory chaos, it’s time to turn the page and rebuild Britain with Labour.”