Sunak’s reputation on defence and crime is weaker than his party’s

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
September 21, 2023, 9:42 AM GMT+0

Starmer’s less than Labour’s for NHS

YouGov’s political trackers include a series of questions on which party would be best placed to handle each of ten different policy areas, ranging from the NHS to education to Brexit.

But what of the party leaders? How do they fare against one another on key issues – and are their reputations on key policies superior or inferior to their parties’?

Party leaders and their parties score similarly across all ten issues – but there are three issues that stand out: the NHS, defence, and law and order.

Keir Starmer is less likely to be seen as the best party leader on the NHS (33%) than Labour is to be seen as the best party for the health service (39%). This need not unduly bother them: it is on the NHS that Labour and Starmer alike hold the largest lead over their Conservative counterparts, with only 11-12% saying that the Tories or Rishi Sunak would be best for the NHS.

When it comes to defence, Rishi Sunak trails his party by 20% to 26%. This is bad news for the prime minister, as defence is the only issue tested on which Britons trust the Conservatives more than Labour (who score 19%), and he holds no personal lead over Keir Starmer on the topic (with the Labour leader also seen as best on defence by 20%).

Likewise, on the subject of law and order, Rishi Sunak again trails his party by six points, with 22% of Britons believing the Tories to be the best party on the issue but only 16% saying that Rishi Sunak is. Keir Starmer holds an eight point lead over his Conservative rival on the best party leader on law and order (24%), although this does not seem to be a particular reflection on Starmer’s record in as Director of Public Prosecutions, as a similar number (22%) consider Labour to be the best party on the issue.

With a general election drawing increasingly near, the results are grim news for the Conservatives. Aside from those topics already mentioned, they are four points behind Labour on their traditionally strong subject of the economy (Starmer and Sunak are level), and seven to eight points behind on asylum and immigration.

With Keir Starmer exploring a new Brexit deal, Labour and their leader (17-18%) are effectively level with the Conservatives on the issue (18%).