Support for Labour surges after Miliband's speech

The party's lead over the Tories rises from nine points to 14 in the first poll since the Labour leader's speech.

The party conferences are among the few political events that can have a visible effect on the polls (the Budget, which led to a sustained fall in support for the Tories, is another) and Labour has duly won a bounce from Ed Miliband's well-received speech. The latest YouGov poll gives the party a 14-point lead over the Conservatives, up from nine points before the speech and the joint-largest lead it has enjoyed since the general election. Labour's share of the vote has increased by three points to 45%, while the Tories' has fallen by three to 31%. If repeated at an election on a uniform swing, these figures would see Miliband enter Downing Street with a majority of 130 seats.

The Tories will derive some consolation from the fact that Cameron continues to lead Miliband as the "best Prime Minister", but his advantage has shrunk to four points (31-27), the lowest since Miliband became leader.

Further evidence that Miliband's speech has improved his standing is supplied by a Survation poll for the Daily Mirror. The number of people who view him as "statesmanlike" has risen from 18% to 34%, whilst his net approval rating has improved from -46 to -15. In addition, 30% said they were more likely to vote for Labour following his speech (a figure that is more impressive than it appears. Some Labour voters will have needed no further persuasion.)

It remains to be seen whether this is a temporary or a permanent shift, but the Tories can no longer dismiss Miliband as unelectable (if they ever could). Nick Clegg's veto of the boundary changes means that Labour needs a lead of just one point on a uniform swing to win a majority. Based on the Tories' current performance, it's increasingly hard to see how they could prevent such a result.

Thirty per cent of people said they were more likely to vote Labour following Ed Miliband's speech. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty Images
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David Cameron’s starter homes: poor policy, but good politics

David Cameron's electoral coalition of buy-to-let retirees and dual-earner couples remains intact: for now.

The only working age demographic to do better under the Coalition was dual-earner couples – without children. They were the main beneficiaries of the threshold raise – which may “take the poorest out of tax” in theory but in practice hands a sizeable tax cut to peope earning above average. They will reap the fruits of the government’s Help to Buy ISAs. And, not having children, they were insulated from cuts to child tax credits, reductions in public services, and the rising cost of childcare. (Childcare costs now mean a couple on average income, working full-time, find that the extra earnings from both remaining in work are wiped out by the costs of care)

And they were a vital part of the Conservatives’ electoral coalition. Voters who lived in new housing estates on the edges of seats like Amber Valley and throughout the Midlands overwhelmingly backed the Conservatives.

That’s the political backdrop to David Cameron’s announcement later today to change planning to unlock new housing units – what the government dubs “Starter Homes”. The government will redefine “affordable housing”  to up to £250,000 outside of London and £450,000 and under within it, while reducing the ability of councils to insist on certain types of buildings. He’ll describe it as part of the drive to make the next ten years “the turnaround decade”: years in which people will feel more in control of their lives, more affluent, and more successful.

The end result: a proliferation of one and two bedroom flats and homes, available to the highly-paid: and to that vital component of Cameron’s coalition: the dual-earner, childless couple, particularly in the Midlands, where the housing market is not yet in a state of crisis. (And it's not bad for that other pillar of the Conservative majority: well-heeled pensioners using buy-to-let as a pension plan.)

The policy may well be junk-rated but the politics has a triple A rating: along with affluent retirees, if the Conservatives can keep those dual-earner couples in the Tory column, they will remain in office for the forseeable future.

Just one problem, really: what happens if they decide they want room for kids? Cameron’s “turnaround decade” might end up in entirely the wrong sort of turnaround for Conservative prospects.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.