Can Labour win the next general election?

Keir Starmer is on course for a 56-seat majority at the next election, according to new polling

Keir Starmer at the Labour Party conference in Liverpool
Keir Starmer enjoying his party conference with Labour 12 points ahead in the polls
(Image credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)

Labour is on course for a sizeable majority at the next general election, new polling has found, as members gather in Liverpool for its annual conference.

Keir Starmer’s party is increasingly looking like a government-in-waiting after new polling gave Labour a 12-point lead over the Conservatives, which would hand them a comfortable parliamentary majority of 56 seats if repeated at a general election.

According to the polling from Savanta ComRes for LabourList, 45% of people said they would back Starmer’s party in a general election. The Tory party was on 33%, the Liberal Democrats 10%, the Green Party 4% and 3% said they would vote for Reform UK, the former Brexit Party.

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What did the papers say?

The results of the poll represent “quite some turnaround for both Labour and the Conservatives, considering Labour had its worst election results since 1935 less than three years ago”, tweeted ITV’s UK editor Paul Brand.

It comes just days after Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng announced his “mini-budget”, including a “bonanza of tax cuts and spending measures”, said The Guardian. The new fiscal measures have been met with alarm by the financial markets as well as leading economists, with the pound plunging to an all-time low against the dollar.

As Labour Party members and officials met in Liverpool at the weekend for the start of its annual conference, senior party figures “talked up the prospect of a landslide” at the next general election, said The Telegraph.

The paper noted that deputy leader Angela Rayner evocatively spoke of Tony Blair’s 1997 electoral victory as she told party delegates that Labour was ready to govern the nation.

“Labour doesn’t just have a vision for this country – we have a plan,” she said. “We have a plan to grow a fairer, greener economy. We have a plan to rebuild trust in public office and to clean up politics.” She added: “We have a plan to unleash the potential the Tories have held back for far too long. And our plan for Britain means we’ll rise to the occasion – just as we did in 1997.”

Andy Burnham, the Labour mayor of Greater Manchester and former cabinet member under Gordon Brown, was also keen to talk up the party’s chances in the next election, telling delegates that it was “odds on” there would be a Labour government within the next two years.

But Chris Hopkins, political research director of pollsters Savanta, warned that even a one-point swing away from Labour could jeopardise its chances of winning a majority due to the “precarious” nature of the party’s lead.

“Many traditional polls, and this MRP model, show Labour enjoying double-digit leads over the Conservative Party, but one percentage point either way could be the difference between a sizeable Labour majority, a small Labour majority, or no majority at all,” said Hopkins.

“It is a truism that governments lose elections rather than oppositions win them,” wrote political commentator Martin Ivens for Bloomberg. If Liz Truss’s “gamble on going for growth at breakneck speed” either “fails to meet the expectations” of voters or “worse still, ends in a crisis of economic confidence” then it’s “odds on that she loses the election”.

The “electoral arithmetic” makes it difficult for Labour to win an outright majority, said Ivens, so the party still has “all to play for”.

But Starmer has already “done much to lick his party into shape”, including defeating the left-wing faction “that ran the party before him”. He has also “put the issue of Brexit to bed, apologized for an unedifying row over anti-semitism and jettisoned ultra-radical policies that frighten floating voters”, continued Ivens. It seems that the electoral tide “should be moving in Labour’s direction”.

What next?

Under the new Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Act, the next general election is set to take place five years after this Parliament first met, meaning the current Parliament will be automatically dissolved on 17 December 2024.

According to the Evening Standard, polling would then take place 25 days later, meaning the latest the next general election could be held would be January 2025.

Should Labour come to power, it seems likely that it will “inherit an economic mess”, with Truss and Kwarteng’s “pro-rich mini-budget shot down in flames” by the financial markets, claimed The Guardian’s economics editor Larry Elliott.

But with the state of the economy “still crucial in determining the result of elections”, the Labour Party must now show “that it can run it more responsibly than the Tories, more sustainably than the Tories and more fairly than the Tories”, said Elliott. It is a task which “really shouldn’t be that hard,” he concluded.

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 Sorcha Bradley is a writer at The Week and a regular on “The Week Unwrapped” podcast. She worked at The Week magazine for a year and a half before taking up her current role with the digital team, where she mostly covers UK current affairs and politics. Before joining The Week, Sorcha worked at slow-news start-up Tortoise Media. She has also written for Sky News, The Sunday Times, the London Evening Standard and Grazia magazine, among other publications. She has a master’s in newspaper journalism from City, University of London, where she specialised in political journalism.