The Conservatives are fighting to keep hold of their rural heartlands, with a stark new poll showing the party is witnessing a 25-point collapse in support.
With the next general election looming, the poll of more than 1,000 people in England’s 100 most rural constituencies has revealed a huge drop in support for the Conservatives.
The Country Land and Business Association (CLA) and Survation poll shows Labour's vote share has climbed to 37%, up 17 points on the 2019 general election result, with the Tories falling to 34%.
Since then, more respondents believe Labour understands and respects rural communities and the rural way of life than the Conservatives (28% versus 25%).
The Tories currently hold 96 of the 100 most rural seats, but face losing more than half to Labour and the Lib Dems, including those of Jacob Rees-Mogg, Jeremy Hunt and ex-Defra Secretary Thérèse Coffey.
But with England’s rural population standing at 10 million, the poll also revealed a large chunk of the electorate is still up for grabs.
When asked which of the political parties is most trusted to stimulate economic growth, the largest group of respondents said “don’t know” (35%).
The last time the CLA and Survation polled rural England, Labour were making gains but fell short of overtaking the Conservatives.
But today’s poll shows the Tories’ vote has plummeted by a further 7%, with most of this vote going to the Reform party.
CLA President Victoria Vyvyan said the results showed that people living in rural areas "feel politically homeless and disconnected from central government".
“For decades, governments of all colours have treated the countryside as a museum, failing to generate the conditions necessary for growth," she said.
"Whichever party produces a robust and ambitious plan for growth in the rural economy will undoubtedly secure support.
“For the good of our rural communities and the nation as a whole, now is the time for the main parties to make it clear that they will back the countryside.”
The findings reveal that the Conservatives may win just 43 of the 100 most rural seats, with Labour taking 51.
High profile casualties are projected to include Jeremy Hunt, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Thérèse Coffey, Andrea Leadsom, Mel Stride, Mark Harper and Liam Fox.
The poll comes as the CLA published a blueprint setting out how parties can help unlock the full potential of the rural economy.
The six documents, or missions, cover topics such as profitable and sustainable farming, affordable housing, rural crime and delivering economic growth in rural areas.
Among these ‘missions’ is a call for an increased agricultural budget of at least £4 billion a year to invest in agriculture policy.