Marginal voters rate Brown more highly than Cameron

Brown ahead of Cameron on almost every leadership measure in new poll.

There's a fascinating new Reuters/Ipsos MORI poll out which shows that voters in the key marginals rate Gordon Brown more highly than David Cameron.

As the graphs below show, marginal voters believe that Brown best understands the problems facing Britain and the world, and that he has a better understanding than Cameron and Nick Clegg of policy detail. What's more, he's rated as more capable and better in a crisis.

The findings contradict the received wisdom that while marginal voters still have reservations about the Conservative Party, they have been won over by Cameron's leadership.

Many Tories have only tolerated Cameron in the belief that he is an asset to the party. But if the Conservative leader starts to be seen as a hindrance rather than a help, that could all change.


The headline figures from the poll, which surveyed voters in the marginals Cameron must win to secure a majority, show the Tories on 38 per cent (up 1 point on two weeks ago), Labour unchanged on 41 per cent and the Lib Dems also unchanged on 38 per cent.

That represents a swing of 5.5 per cent to the Tories since the 2005 election, but Cameron needs a swing of 6.9 per cent nationally to win a majority in the Commons.

Reflecting the tightness of the polls, the proportion of voters who expect a hung parliament has increased from 55 per cent to 63 per cent.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

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