Keir Starmer comes out on top after LBC phone-ins – as Rishi Sunak seen as ‘overwhelmingly negative’

19 June 2024, 22:32 | Updated: 20 June 2024, 08:40

Keir Starmer came out on top after LBC’s two exclusive phone-ins
Keir Starmer came out on top after LBC’s two exclusive phone-ins. Picture: LBC
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Keir Starmer came out on top after LBC’s two exclusive phone-ins, snap polling reveals.

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Voters shown clips of both the PM and Labour Leader after their appearance with Nick Ferrari on ‘Britain’s Next PM’ thought Sir Keir was most trusted on the cost of living and the NHS.

When asked who performed better, nearly half said Keir a quarter said Rishi, and the other quarter said neither or someone else

But the public demanded less waffle, more authenticity, and more concrete answers from their leaders.

The PM and Labour boss faced tough questions from voters on the NHS, strikes, National Service and immigration this week.

Listen live to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast from 7am on Global Player, the official LBC app

Mr Sunak refused to say whether he’d work with Reform, said sorry for not delivering enough on housing, and refused to say he’d hand back party cash taken from a racist donor.

He insisted he was energised despite the poor polls, and promised he would stay on for five years as an MP even if he loses the election.

Sir Keir suggested he would have served in a Jeremy Corbyn government, vowed to push for a new Brexit deal, and was forced to defend his policy to slap VAT on private schools.

He also ruled out the idea of a levy on Premier League transfers and admitted he was frustrated with his performance in the first telly leaders’ debate.

Read more: Sunak won't rule out letting Farage into Tory party, says sorry on housing and defends taking cash from 'racist donor'

Read more: Starmer refuses to rule out council tax hike, bins plans for football levy and admits he would have served under Corbyn

The PM defends his plan to introduce national service

A rapid response panel conducted by JL Partners on behalf of campaign group 38 Degrees secured qualitative reaction to the two hour-long grilling sessions.

Voters were sent snapshots of the debates to analyse and give their responses on.

Asked who performed best when answering public questions, voters’ views of Rishi Sunak were “overwhelmingly negative”, they found.

There were more “warm words” for Sir Keir whose “authenticity” was rewarded by listeners – saying he was more “believable” than his opponent.

They trusted him more on the cost of living (65 per cent compared to 35 per cent for Mr Sunak).

And he came out top on the NHS too - with around 69 per cent saying Starmer was better, and 31 per cent saying Sunak was.

However, one in ten voters said that they explicitly trusted neither of them to fix the cost of living crisis - and one in five said that they preferred another party.

Keir Starmer declines to give a straight answer on council tax

Many voters thought the PM was “untrustworthy” after his appearance.

He was described as “smug”, a “buffoon”, and “useless”.

But Sir Keir was attacked for “finger pointing” over the NHS and voters wanted to hear more about his “actual solutions”.

On Sir Keir’s performance there is a sense of ‘got to give him a chance’ from voters of many stripes, according to Tom Lubbock, co-founder of JL Partners.

He said of the findings: “What came through really strongly from the voters who watched the discussion Sunak and Starmer had on LBC is that people want their politicians to answer the question.

“They also want authenticity and when voters heard that, they rewarded it, especially from Keir Starmer.

“On the cost of living of it is clear that the Conservatives, and Rishi Sunak in particular, is seen as out of touch when answering callers’ questions and that really holds him back in voters’ minds.

“On the NHS, for Keir Starmer many respondents trust him more due to his better understanding and respect for the NHS, the fact that he has not blamed staff and unions, and beliefs that Labour has historically been more supportive of the NHS.

Rishi Sunak responds to former Tory donors backing Labour

“Some support for Sunak comes from his negotiations with health unions and efforts during his tenure, though there are criticisms about the effectiveness of these measures. “The views of Sunak were overwhelmingly negative and many were personal.

“A lot of these voters are also inclined to use warm words about Starmer which is not something that we see a lot of in the current anti-politics climate and it points to a real opportunity for Labour to harness the national angst and turn it into something positive.

“That said there is also a truck load of a pox on both your houses feeling in these responses especially for reform voters.”

Keir Starmer explains how Labour would better negotiate a 'botched' Brexit deal

Matthew McGregor, CEO of 38 Degrees, said: “Watching the men who want to be our next Prime Minister take questions from voters, it’s clear that people across Britain have real, urgent questions that they want answers to.

“Questions about how the next Government is going to help people survive the rising cost of living, about how they’re going to make sure our NHS is there for patients when they need it.

“Thanks to Rishi Sunak’s record overseeing record NHS waiting lists and a soaring cost of living, it’s not surprising that few voters seem to have much faith in his ability to tackle these issues, and that they’d need to see real change from him if he were to continue leading the country.

“But there are serious questions for Keir Starmer too: voters want to see that whoever becomes the next Prime Minister understands the ‘reality’ of these topics, that they’re ready to offer bold, ambitious and costed action.

“They may be willing to “give Keir Starmer a chance” but many will be reserving their judgement until they see whether his party is actually able to improve lives.”

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