Prepare for even more polls

YouGov launches daily tracker as poll puts Labour 9 points behind the Tories.

Get ready for the political weather to become even more determined by polls. YouGov has launched its daily tracker in the Sun, with polls initially published from Tuesday to Friday. This will rise to seven days a week for the final four weeks before polling day.

You may remember that YouGov experimented with a tracker during conference season last year. What was remarkable then was how much the polls fluctuated from day to day. For instance, following George Osborne's austere speech, the Tories' lead fell from 14 points to 9 points.

In an effort to remedy what's known as "early responder" bias, the polling firm has changed its methodology to ensure that it gets a more representative sample. PoliticalBetting's Mike Smithson reports that the polls will now consist of reponses received that day, regardless of when the invitations to take part went out.

There's no evidence in today's poll of a boost for Labour following Gordon Brown's interview with Piers Morgan on Sunday. Labour is down 1 point to 30 per cent, with the Tories up 1 to 39 per cent and the Lib Dems down 1 to 18 per cent.

Labour optimists are likely to point out that, on a uniform swing, this would leave the Tories nine seats short of a majority. But almost no psephologist thinks a uniform swing will take place on polling day. A variety of factors, including the unwind of anti-Tory tactical voting from the last election and the Conservatives' financial advantage, will allow Cameron to clean up in the marginals.

Realistically, Labour needs to be no more than 5 or 6 points behind the Tories for there to be any chance of a hung parliament.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Theresa May's U-Turn may have just traded one problem for another

The problems of the policy have been moved, not eradicated. 

That didn’t take long. Theresa May has U-Turned on her plan to make people personally liable for the costs of social care until they have just £100,000 worth of assets, including property, left.

As the average home is valued at £317,000, in practice, that meant that most property owners would have to remortgage their house in order to pay for the cost of their social care. That upwards of 75 per cent of baby boomers – the largest group in the UK, both in terms of raw numbers and their higher tendency to vote – own their homes made the proposal politically toxic.

(The political pain is more acute when you remember that, on the whole, the properties owned by the elderly are worth more than those owned by the young. Why? Because most first-time buyers purchase small flats and most retirees are in large family homes.)

The proposal would have meant that while people who in old age fall foul of long-term degenerative illnesses like Alzheimers would in practice face an inheritance tax threshold of £100,000, people who die suddenly would face one of £1m, ten times higher than that paid by those requiring longer-term care. Small wonder the proposal was swiftly dubbed a “dementia tax”.

The Conservatives are now proposing “an absolute limit on the amount people have to pay for their care costs”. The actual amount is TBD, and will be the subject of a consultation should the Tories win the election. May went further, laying out the following guarantees:

“We are proposing the right funding model for social care.  We will make sure nobody has to sell their family home to pay for care.  We will make sure there’s an absolute limit on what people need to pay. And you will never have to go below £100,000 of your savings, so you will always have something to pass on to your family.”

There are a couple of problems here. The proposed policy already had a cap of sorts –on the amount you were allowed to have left over from meeting your own care costs, ie, under £100,000. Although the system – effectively an inheritance tax by lottery – displeased practically everyone and spooked elderly voters, it was at least progressive, in that the lottery was paid by people with assets above £100,000.

Under the new proposal, the lottery remains in place – if you die quickly or don’t require expensive social care, you get to keep all your assets, large or small – but the losers are the poorest pensioners. (Put simply, if there is a cap on costs at £25,000, then people with assets below that in value will see them swallowed up, but people with assets above that value will have them protected.)  That is compounded still further if home-owners are allowed to retain their homes.

So it’s still a dementia tax – it’s just a regressive dementia tax.

It also means that the Conservatives have traded going into the election’s final weeks facing accusations that they will force people to sell their own homes for going into the election facing questions over what a “reasonable” cap on care costs is, and you don’t have to be very imaginative to see how that could cause them trouble.

They’ve U-Turned alright, but they may simply have swerved away from one collision into another.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

0800 7318496