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Rishi Sunak and Sir Keir Starmer are both facing a historic lack of popularity among ethnically diverse communities, new polling suggests.

While ethnically diverse community voting trends are incredibly complex and almost always hard to predict, some polling can give useful indications that can speak to the mood of the country.

A comprehensive set of data based on polling by Ipsos and shared exclusively with Sky News gives us a general sense of how the leaders of the two main parties are faring at this very specific time.

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Sunak more popular with white voters

Mr Sunak was named the UK’s next leader on the festival of Diwali, serving as a reminder of the milestone in Britain’s evolution as a multicultural and multi-faith society.

He’s the UK’s first prime minister from an ethnically diverse background and the first Hindu prime minister, but in terms of how much ethnically diverse communities have rewarded him for these historic firsts, it’s a somewhat surprising figure.

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Over the past year, his approval rating among ethnically diverse communities is -53.

That figure is historic too – it’s one of the worst of any prime minister in nearly 30 years.

Actually, from these figures, he’s much better liked by white voters – who give him a rating of -41.

This is perhaps unsurprising, given that historically the majority of ethnically diverse communities have voted Labour.

Though support for the Conservatives reached a high of 30% in the first half of 2016 and only falling sharply in the aftermath of Brexit and then in the 2017 general election under a different leader.

Sir Keir behind Blair and Brown

For the Labour Party then, the stakes could not be much higher as they bill themselves as the party of equality and progressive politics and ethnically diverse communities have traditionally rewarded them for it.

The party has consistently held large leads with ethnically diverse community voters over the last few decades and under previous Labour leaders, often given net positive satisfaction levels.

The current leader, Sir Keir Starmer, has a more favourable rating than the current prime minister, with an average satisfaction rating over the past year of -32.

But he is also considerably more popular among white voters.

And when you compare these numbers to previous Labour leaders, it is more stark.

Sir Keir’s standing with ethnically diverse community voters currently is the lowest level a Labour leader has recorded among black and south Asian voters since 1996.

Far worse than the very worst ratings recorded by either Tony Blair (at -11 during the Iraq War) or Gordon Brown (at -13).

‘The Gaza Effect’

Now, there are myriad reasons why individuals and different communities have drifted from the central parties and traditional voting patterns, but Ipsos has outlined one specific thread of dissatisfaction with both parties that they call “The Gaza Effect”.

During by-elections and the recent local elections we saw a wave of independent candidates running on this single issue platform, most prominently George Galloway in Rochdale, but this data shows an indication of how deep that sentiment runs.

When you compare the aggregate satisfactions levels across the year for both leaders, you can see how different ratings become for ethnically diverse communities when compared to white voters.

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For white voters, there’s next to no effect in satisfaction levels towards the two leaders post 7 October.

When you compare that data to the rating ethnically diverse community voters have given the two leaders, there is a noticeable drop in support.

For Mr Sunak the drop is only around 13 points, but for Sir Keir, it is far more significant with a huge fall of 29 points.

The scale of the impact is almost impossible to predict, and the drop in these figures won’t necessarily translate into votes or even seats – but what is clear is these figures show both parties will need to offer ethnically diverse communities much more to win their vote at the next election.

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General Election 2024: Sunak ‘to double down on National Service plan’ as Tories and Labour focus on security

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General Election 2024: Sunak 'to double down on National Service plan' as Tories and Labour focus on security

Rishi Sunak is expected to continue championing his controversial plans to revive National Service by urging employers to prioritise job applicants who have served time in the military.

The prime minister said all 18-year-olds would be made to undertake a form of “mandatory” National Service if the Conservatives are re-elected on 4 July.

Despite growing criticism of the plans – which Tories estimate would cost £2.5bn a year by the end of the decade – the Financial Times reports the prime minister is set to double down.

Mr Sunak said one way to “get the most out of National Service” would be to encourage bosses to “consider those who complete the armed forces placement during job applications”, the paper reports.

Critics from across the political divide have dismissed the plan as unserious, while leading military figures are sceptical over how it would work.

But Mr Sunak will hope his pledge could boost his bid to narrow a yawning gap in the polls between the Tories and Labour as campaigning enters the first full week.

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Is National Service a good idea?

Security will also be the focus of the day for Labour, with Sir Keir Starmer expected to say in a keynote speech “economic security, border security, and national security” will form the “bedrock” of the party manifesto.

“The very foundation of any good government is economic security, border security, and national security,” the Labour leader is expected to say.

“This is the foundation, the bedrock that our manifesto and our first steps will be built upon.”

Read more:
Which countries have National Service and how does it work?
National Service pledge derided as ‘deeply cynical’ by defence insider

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Acknowledging some voters may be unsure of Labour’s credentials around national security, he is expected to say: “Whatever the polls say, I know there are countless people who haven’t decided how they’ll vote in this election.

“They’re fed up with the failure, chaos and division of the ­Tories but they still have questions about us.

“Has Labour changed enough? Do I trust them with my money, our borders and our security?

“My answer is yes you can – because I have changed this party. Permanently. This has been my driving mission since day one.”

Sir Keir Starmer during a visit to Tapa Military Base in Estonia, where British armed forces are deployed as part of NATO commitments. Pic: PA
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Voters can trust Labour on security matters, Starmer says. Pic: PA

According to The Times, Labour would bring together MI5, police and Whitehall departments to carry out a 100-day review of all the threats that Britain faces, including from Russia and Iran, if it wins the election.

Campaigning for the election is expected to ramp up in the coming week.

Sir Ed Davey will be north of the border launching the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign with Scottish leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

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Could Trump’s win nix SEC crypto suits? Critics say he’s ‘pandering’ for votes

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Could Trump’s win nix SEC crypto suits? Critics say he’s ‘pandering’ for votes

One crypto lawyer thinks a Donald Trump election win would revert some SEC crypto lawsuits, but others note he hasn’t always kept campaign promises.

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Sunak’s Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

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Sunak's Number 10 is much better at keeping secrets than others

Suddenly, at election time, political predictions become so much harder and riskier. Everything changes in a campaign, not least the news cycle.

That’s my excuse, at any rate, for failing to foresee the announcement of a general election in last week’s Politics at Jack and Sam’s.

There were a few clues – and one magisterial tweet from Financial Times journalist Lucy Fisher – but we were deaf to the signals.

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Britain's Prime Minister and Conservative Party leader Rishi Sunak speaks to journalists on the plane on their way to Staffordshire, Britain May 24, 2024. HENRY NICHOLLS/Pool via REUTERS
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Pic: Reuters

In this week’s Politics At Jack and Sam’s podcast, we reflect how this Number 10 – in big contrast to the last two – is much better at keeping secrets.

But the moment an election is called, the way information gets out alters and everything becomes trickier.

Follow live – general election latest:
Tories attack Starmer’s ‘stamina’ as PM shuns team to campaign

Normally political news emerges in so many different ways. There’s parliament. Government announcements. Questions, written and oral. MPs themselves, including ministers, wandering the corridors of the Commons where journalists can go stopping for a gossip.

All of that disappears at election time. Keeping things secret from the other side matters a lot more, while decisions and information is held by a much tighter group of people.

That’s why it’s not really feasible to do a weekly look ahead political podcast – and we’re responding by going daily. More details to follow.

Rishi Sunak‘s allies are quite upfront that the timing of the general election was a finely balanced argument and you can make a case both ways.

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Sunak defends wet election announcement

One of the big things that motivated Sunak to go now was that he was doing – in his view – big things; welfare announcements, defence spending commitments, NHS workforce plan.

But they found people weren’t listening and the polls weren’t moving. They weren’t “getting a hearing”. Which they put down to people being switched off from politics and apathy being high – and so the decision to call an election was motivated by that.

The other big consideration was that from around March, early April they were getting internal economic indicators, suggesting the economic conditions – things like inflation, interest rates – might be favourable sufficiently such that they could base a campaign around.

Fascinatingly, they say there wasn’t a “decision” meeting two months ago or even three weeks ago – the move was more like the tide coming in slowly.

Although Labour were caught on the hop – some staff had booked leave, were privately confident there was nothing coming this summer and the Labour campaign bus is not yet ready – candidates claim to be pretty happy with what’s happened so far.

However, the biggest challenge of the next five weeks will be seeing whether they can respond to the pressure of a campaign, and the relentless desire for more of everything.

Currently the narrative is that Sunak had a miserable start – in a few weeks, pictures of the PM in the rain could be a plucky fighter battling against the odds.

This feels unlikely right now, but having been through the 2017 campaign, we know anything can happen.

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