Survey shows Conservatives to lose votes of two-thirds of small businesses in Skipton and Ripon as support for Labour doubles, but disillusionment with politics pervades.

As we enter the final week of the election, Skipton and Ripon Labour Party has released research, which shows how closely the national mood and polls are reflected in one of the UK’s largest and most rural constituencies.

A survey of 52 local employers with more than three staff – including manufacturing, agricultural, construction, training, travel and hospitality businesses – has shown a dramatic shift since 2019, when 62 per cent said they voted Conservative. Just 21 per cent intend to stick with the Tories this time while Labour’s share of the vote is set to double – from 17 per cent in 2019 to 35 per cent in 2024.

Of those deserting the Conservatives, 25 per cent say they are going to Labour, 16 per cent to Reform, 10 per cent to the Liberal Democrats and the rest won’t vote or are undecided. 

When asked if they feel hopeful for the future, 60 per cent said they did not, which Labour candidate Malcolm Birks said reflected the national mood of disillusionment with politics and a loss of faith in politicians and the possibility of change. 

“Sadly I am also hearing this on the doorstep, in Ripon, in Skipton, in Settle, Pateley Bridge, Masham, Bentham and in small villages across our vast constituency,” Malcolm said. “On top of this, around half of our survey respondents named the cost of living – their bills, grocery prices and mortgages going up – as their number one issue, while 80 per cent said it was in their top three.

“The Conservative Party has allowed this to happen. Living standards have fallen, public services are struggling and taxes are at record levels. The Tories partied at Downing Street while the rest of us followed the Covid rules. They crashed the economy and sent mortgage rates sky-high, everything is more expensive and there are pressures from all sides. And let’s not forget Rishi Sunak dishonouring the memory of our D-Day veterans and the grubbiness and greed shown by the election date betting scandal,” he said.

“Our small survey and what I am hearing on the streets shows this feeling of hopelessness is exacerbated amongst those who do not intend to vote (80 per cent of those not intending to vote said they did not feel hopeful), or of those who intend to vote Reform (70% intending to vote Reform did not feel hopeful). It is tragic that people are so angry that they think there is no point in even voting or intend their vote as a protest,” Malcolm said.

“Thankfully there is a glimmer of hope – the majority of people voting Labour and Liberal Democrat do feel hopeful, which encourages me to think that we can restore faith in politics in this country by showing we can make a difference to people’s lives.”

When asked about the most pressing issues facing their businesses now, small businesses in Skipton, Ripon, Bentham, Haworth and Settle nominated their top three biggest issues as: cost of living (customers spending less); business rates; and the ability to hire and retain staff.

When asked from a personal point of view, 78 per cent said the NHS and not being able to access services quickly was in their top three. 

“We are hearing it is almost impossible to get an NHS dentist in our constituency while there are huge concerns about hospital appointments in Skipton and genuine worries about the merger of GP practices in Ripon,” Malcolm said.

Labour has pledged to reduce waiting lists by delivering 40,000 more NHS appointments every week, double the number of cancer scanners and rescue NHS dentistry with 700,000 emergency appointments.

Forty-six per cent named education (not enough teachers or local school places) as ranking in their top three. “I heard at the Ripon hustings and on the doorstep that there are not enough further education opportunities so young people have to travel, but there are no reliable buses,” Malcolm said.

Labour has said it will recruit 6,500 new expert teachers in key subjects, upgrade space in primary schools to open 3,000 new nurseries and establish more high-quality apprenticeships and specialist technical colleges.

Finally, 37 per cent ranked affordable housing for local people in their top three personal issues. Labour has said it will reform planning laws to build 1.5 million new homes, an issue close to Malcolm’s heart as an architect.

Other concerns to make it into the top three were immigration (22 per cent), climate change (20 per cent) and clean waterways (11 per cent).

Malcolm said: “It is hard not to look at the mess that has been created in our country and not feel furious or hopeless, but I want people across our constituency to know that politics can be hopeful and can make their lives better. Labour has the best chance of beating the Tories and every vote will count on 4th July.”

(The survey was conducted by Benchmark Marketing Services between 6 and 21 June 2024.)

Malcolm Birks in Grassington
Malcolm Birks in Grassington
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