In Depth

European election polls: now the Lib Dems overtake Labour

With the Brexit Party and Lib Dems potentially the biggest winners, this weeks vote looks ever more like a referendum on Brexit

Polling for the European election on 23 May has, for the first time, seen the Liberal Democrats overtake Labour to climb into second position behind Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party.

The YouGov/Datapraxis poll, commissioned by the pro-remain Best for Britain campaign and Hope Not Hate and taken from more than 9,000 voters, showed the weeks-old Brexit Party with a robust lead in all regions apart from Scotland. It puts them at 34% overall, with the Lib Dems following with 17%, Labour with 15%, and just 9% voting for the Conservatives.

The poll suggests that the Lib Dems’s clear anti-Brexit stance has revived the party as a political force, while Labour and the Conservatives continue to dwindle. The Tories current single-figure prediction would be “their lowest vote share in a national election since they formed in 1834”, says The Daily Telegraph.

Speaking to the The Independent, Lib Dem leader Vince Cable said: “It’s now clear we are the only serious challenger to Nigel Farage’s Brexit party. We can give them a run for their money if the other Remain voters get behind us.”

An additional YouGov poll for The Times had the Lib Dem lead at 16% to Labour’s 15%, while an Opinium poll for the Observer also found that the Lib Dems had overtaken Labour as the prefered party of remain voters.

According to the Financial Times, an “average of four polls over the past week showed that only 51% of people who voted Labour in the 2017 general election would support the party in next week’s vote.”

However, Labour knows its voter base is just as divided as the country and therefore calculates that a middle-of-the-road stance will lose fewer votes overall. “The gamble the party is making is that it will still be able to hold together its coalition of Leave and Remain voters in a general election, despite its expected losses next week,” says the newspaper.

It is a calculation that has left some senior party figures cold. Shadow treasury minister Clive Lewis has expressed concern that lifelong Labour voters were turning away from the party for the first time due to its refusal to oppose Brexit.

“Many people are telling me that they are not going to vote Labour for the first time in their lives. You’re breaking a seal. The first time is the most difficult, but the second and third time could become easier.”

“It feels like we’ve given [the Lib Dems] the political equivalent of resuscitation,” he added.

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