Tory jitters as poll lead falls to 3

Latest YouGov poll suggests Labour could remain the largest party.

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Latest poll (Sun/YouGov): Labour 19 seats short of a majority.

The latest daily YouGov poll is out and it won't make happy reading for David Cameron. The survey shows the Conservatives' lead over Labour falling to just 3 points, a result that would leave Gordon Brown 19 seats short of a majority in a hung parliament.

The Tories' advantage over Labour does seem to have narrowed significantly in the past week. As UK Polling Report's Anthony Wells points out, the Conservative lead has been below 6 points in every YouGov poll this week.

How to explain this latest dip? I doubt that the Ashcroft affair did significant damage to the Tories. What seems more likely is that the widespread media coverage of the Tory wobble has encouraged increasing numbers of voters to follow Gordon Brown's advice to "take a second look at us and a long, hard look at them".

ConservativeHome's Tim Montgomerie (interviewed by Sophie here) reports that Steve Hilton, Cameron's strategy director, and Andy Coulson, his media Rottweiler, are now sharing an office in an effort to repair the Conservatives' dysfunctional campaign. The Tories will have to hope these changes work. At the moment they show every sign of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

New Statesman poll of polls

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Conservatives 33 seats short of a majority.

Meanwhile, the latest Angus Reid survey for PoliticalBetting tells a completely different story. It puts the Conservatives up 1 point to 39 per cent, with Labour 13 points behind on 26 per cent. If repeated at a general election on a uniform swing, the figures would bring Cameron to Downing Street with a majority of 50. Mike Smithson, our new polls columnist, looks at some of the possible reasons for this disparity here.

The anomalous Angus Reid survey means that the Tories' lead over Labour in the New Statesman poll of polls rises to 6.6 per cent, a result that would leave Cameron 33 seats short of an overall majority.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Jeremy Corbyn's Labour conference speech shows how he's grown

The leader's confident address will have impressed even his fiercest foes. 

It is not just Jeremy Corbyn’s mandate that has been improved by his re-election. The Labour leader’s conference speech was, by some distance, the best he has delivered. He spoke with far greater confidence, clarity and energy than previously. From its self-deprecating opening onwards ("Virgin Trains assure me there are 800 empty seats") we saw a leader improved in almost every respect. 

Even Corbyn’s firecest foes will have found less to take issue with than they may have anticipated. He avoided picking a fight on Trident (unlike last year), delivered his most forceful condemnation of anti-Semitism (“an evil”) and, with the exception of the Iraq war, avoided attacks on New Labour’s record. The video which preceded his arrival, and highlighted achievements from the Blair-Brown years, was another olive branch. But deselection, which Corbyn again refused to denounce, will remain a running sore (MPs alleged that Hillsborough campaigner Sheila Coleman, who introduced Corbyn, is seeking to deselect Louise Ellman and backed the rival TUSC last May).

Corbyn is frequently charged with lacking policies. But his lengthy address contained several new ones: the removal of the cap on council borrowing (allowing an extra 60,000 houses to be built), a ban on arms sales to abusive regimes and an arts pupil premium in every primary school.

On policy, Corbyn frequently resembles Ed Miliband in his more radical moments, unrestrained by Ed Balls and other shadow cabinet members. He promised £500bn of infrastructure investment (spread over a decade with £150bn from the private sector), “a real living wage”, the renationalisation of the railways, rent controls and a ban on zero-hours contracts.

Labour’s greatest divisions are not over policy but rules, strategy and culture. Corbyn’s opponents will charge him with doing far too little to appeal to the unconverted - Conservative voters most of all. But he spoke with greater conviction than before of preparing for a general election (acknowledging that Labour faced an arithmetical “mountain”) and successfully delivered the attack lines he has often shunned.

“Even Theresa May gets it, that people want change,” he said. “That’s why she stood on the steps of Downing Street and talked about the inequalities and burning injustices in today’s Britain. She promised a country: ‘that works not for a privileged few but for every one of us’. But even if she manages to talk the talk, she can’t walk the walk. This isn’t a new government, it’s David Cameron’s government repackaged with progressive slogans but with a new harsh right-wing edge, taking the country backwards and dithering before the historic challenges of Brexit.”

After a second landslide victory, Corbyn is, for now, unassailable. Many MPs, having voted no confidence in him, will never serve on the frontbench. But an increasing number, recognising Corbyn’s immovability, speak once again of seeking to “make it work”. For all the ructions of this summer, Corbyn’s speech will have helped to persuade them that they can.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.