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.

mori-poll-marginals-leadership

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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Europe's elections show why liberals should avoid fatalism

France, Germany and the Netherlands suggest there is nothing inevitable about the right's advance.

Humans are unavoidably pattern-seeking creatures. We give meaning to disparate events where little or none may exist. So it is with Brexit and Donald Trump. The proximity of these results led to declarations of liberalism's demise. After decades of progress, the tide was said to have unavoidably turned.

Every election is now treated as another round in the great duel between libralism and populism. In the Netherlands, the perennial nativist Geert Wilders was gifted outsize attention in the belief that he could surf the Brexit-Trump wave to victory. Yet far from triumphing, the Freedom Party finished a distant second, increasing its seats total to 20 (four fewer than in 2010). Wilders' defeat was always more likely than not (and he would have been unable to form a government) but global events gifted him an aura of invincibility.

In France, for several years, Marine Le Pen has been likely to make the final round of the next presidential election. But it was only after Brexit and Trump's election that she was widely seen as a potential victor. As in 2002, the front républicain is likely to defeat the Front National. The winner, however, will not be a conservative but a liberal. According to the post-Trump narrative, Emmanuel Macron's rise should have been impossible. But his surge (albeit one that has left him tied with Le Pen in the first round) suggests liberalism is in better health than suggested.

In Germany, where the far-right Alternative für Deutschland was said to be remorselessly advancing, politics is returning to traditional two-party combat. The election of Martin Schulz has transformed the SPD's fortunes to the point where it could form the next government. As some Labour MPs resign themselves to perpeutal opposition, they could be forgiven for noting what a difference a new leader can make.

2016 will be forever remembered as the year of Brexit and Trump. Yet both events could conceivably have happened in liberalism's supposed heyday. The UK has long been the EU's most reluctant member and, having not joined the euro or the Schengen Zone, already had one foot outside the door. In the US, the conditions for the election of a Trump-like figure have been in place for decades. For all this, Leave only narrowly won and Hillary Clinton won three million more votes than her opponent. Liberalism is neither as weak as it is now thought, nor as strong as it was once thought.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.