Labour cuts Tory poll lead despite troubles

Will the Tories ever deliver a deathblow to the government?

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Latest poll (Sun/YouGov): Labour 31 seats short of a majority

With industrial strife, a sleaze scandal and a record Budget deficit on its hands, you'd expect Labour to be languishing in the polls. But instead, the latest polls show the party narrowing the gap on the Tories.

The YouGov daily tracker put the Conservatives down 2 to 36 per cent, with Labour up 1 to 32 per cent. Meanwhile, a new Opinium survey for the Express shows the Tories' lead falling 4 points to 7 per cent.

We've all become slightly desensitised to the falling Conservative lead, but it's still remarkable for it to be this small at this stage of the electoral cycle.

New Statesman poll of polls

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Hung parliament; Labour 38 seats short

I'm not surprised that the Tories' attack on the trade unions and their claim that we've regressed to an era of 1970s militantism has had no discernible effect on the polls.

Most voters are astute enough to realise that there is no comparison between 1979, when 29.47 million working days were lost to industrial action, and the past year, when, even including recent disputes, well under a million have been lost.

In retrospect, the Tories may regret their decision to concentrate so much fire on Labour's links with the unions, rather than focusing on the economy and public services.

But otherwise, if the Conservatives can't deal a deathblow to the government this week, one has to wonder if they ever will.

Meanwhile, David Cameron has gone on the attack over Labour's claim that the Tories would scrap the winter fuel allowance, accusing ministers of "telling lies" and describing them as "appalling people".

It is unusual for a party leader to launch such a personal attack, mainly because voters hope and expect figures at this level to use more restrained and civil language.

It proves once again that the Tories still lack an attack dog to do that sort of work for them.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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