Conservatives’ poll lead slips dangerously low
The Mole: Tory lead down to seven points – two more and it’s curtains for ‘Laurel and Hardy’
Unbelievable though it may seem, given the stories circulating of the present Labour Prime Minister throwing tantrums in Downing Street, and his predecessor not only refusing to apologise for the war in Iraq but appearing to suggest we should start a new one in Iran, Labour is closing the gap on the Tories in the latest pre-election opinion poll.
According to a ComRes poll for today's Independent, the gap is now only seven points, down from nine points a month ago. This is not only hung parliament territory - it's getting dangerously close to Labour-remain-in-power territory.
As long-time readers of this column will know, the electoral system works harshly against the Tories and most analysts reckon that they need to be five points ahead of Labour just to get the same number of seats. For the Tories to win an outright Commons majority, a lead of ten points minimum is necessary.
The ComRes finding is not a bizarre one-off - it's part of an emerging pattern. A BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday had the gap down to nine points. Most significant, it put the Tories on 39 points - the first time they'd been below 40 per cent in a BPIX survey for more than two years.
What's going on?
The fundamental change seems to be that Labour is winning back its traditional supporters. While ComRes has the Tories on 38 per cent, the same as a month ago, Labour is up two points from 29 per cent to 31 per cent. Importantly, the party now has a lead of 44 to 33 per cent among the bottom DE social group.
The problem for the Tories is their lack of clarity on economic policy.
David Cameron denies there will be big public spending cuts if he wins the election and his wannabe chancellor George Osborne is advocating the opposite.
Thanks partly to this division, and mainly to Labour politicians for exploiting the gap, ComRes found that 82 per cent of people want Cameron to be clearer about his plans for the economy including a huge majority of Tory supporters (coincidentally, 82 per cent again).
Only 24 per cent of voters believe the recession would have ended sooner if the Tories had been in power, while 69 per cent do not, according to ComRes.
Lord Mandelson had another go at the Tories' "confusion and disarray" over economic policy yesterday, dubbing Cameron and Osborne a "Laurel and Hardy duo". Mandy is not going to let go of this bone, especially if he gets a sniff of victory.
Osborne has the chance to at least begin to clear up the mess when he makes a speech today at the British Museum of all places. He'd better get it right if he doesn't want the Cameron-Osborne Tory leadership to end up in a glass case, gathering dust in the early 21st century room. ·
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