UK on course for hung parliament, says poll

New survey shows Tory lead narrowing to 10 points

Britain could be on course for a hung parliament after the general election, a new poll has shown.

According to a ComRes poll for The Independent, the Conservative's lead over Labour has narrowed to 10 points over the last month.

It put the Tories on 37 per cent, down three points from last month, Labour staying put at 27 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats up two points to 20 per cent. Other parties were up one point, with 16 per cent.

If this result was reflected at the ballot box, the Conservatives would be six seats away from an overall majority, due to the nature of the first-past-the-post voting system. ComRes calculated that the Conservatives would have 320 seats, Labour 240, the Liberal Democrats 58 and other parties 14.

This is the second poll in a fortnight which indicates that the UK is heading for a hung parliament. An Ipsos MORI survey for The Observer published nine days ago put the Conservatives on 37 per cent, Labour on 31 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats on 17 per cent.

Labour strategists believe that these poll results reflect greater scrutiny of Tory policy, as private polling for the party indicates that attacks on Conservative plans to raise the inheritance tax threshold to £1m have persuaded some voters that the Tories are a "party for the rich".

The ComRes survey also showed that 56 per cent of people are optimistic about the overall economy, while 41 per cent are pessimistic. When asked about personal finance, 71 per cent were optimistic and 26 per cent pessimistic.

A YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph, published at the weekend, will be of some comfort to the Conservatives. It showed a six-point lead for the Tories in 32 marginal seats in the north, putting the Conservatives on 42 per cent, and Labour on 36 per cent.



Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter

Show Hide image

Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.