A new Ipsos/MORI poll has just been released that shows the Tories rising 7 points to 43 per cent, Labour up 2 points to 26 per cent and the Lib Dems down 6 points to 19 per cent. Does this mark the end of Labour's post-conference bounce? It's too early to say; the polls are still in flux after the conference season, with the Tory lead ranging between 19 and 10 points in the past ten days.
Nevertheless, the poll will reassure CCHQ that fears of a Labour recovery are premature. If repeated at a general election, the figures would give the Tories a Commons majority of 126. The poll may trouble Labour cabinet ministers who, if we believe Rachel Sylvester's column, are considering calling on Brown to resign. She writes:
Even those most supportive of Mr Brown in public -- Harriet Harman, Lord Mandelson, Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander -- are privately dismayed by his performance. Cabinet ministers are once again considering telling the PM he must go. "The most credible scenario would be for Gordon to step down around Christmas," says a senior figure. "He's done his best, but people who matter are saying that it can't go on. Any chance of mounting a respectable election campaign will necessitate a different leader."
I can't see a leadership challenge taking place, for several reasons. First, there remains no outstanding candidate to replace Brown. Harman has let it be known that she won't stand, Alan Johnson has failed to impress and the Miliband brothers are wisely keeping their powder dry. Why would any potential leader want to inherit a party on the brink of an all-out electoral defeat?
Second, by past standards Brown has had a good few weeks. At present there is no single issue, equivalent to the abolition of the 10p tax, the Gurkhas, or the McBride affair, for instance, to galvanise opposition to him. Brown will lead Labour into the election and it's a distraction to suggest otherwise.
UPDATE: A new Guardian/ICM poll also gives the Conservatives a 17-point lead.