Cameron first Tory since 1987 to start with a poll lead

Cameron is the first Tory leader for 23 years to enter an election campaign ahead of Labour.

David Cameron may be far from certain to win a majority at the election but he is still the first Conservative Party leader since 1987 to enter the campaign with a clear poll lead.

Here are the results of polls conducted just before each of the past five elections was called. All figures are taken from ICM.


12 May 1987

Conservatives 43%

Labour 29%

Liberal Democrats 25%

7 March 1992

Conservatives 39%

Labour 42%

Liberal Democrats 15%

2 March 1997

Conservatives 30%

Labour 48%

Liberal Democrats 16%

22 April 2001

Conservatives 33%

Labour 47%

Liberal Democrats 14%

3 April 2005

Conservatives 34%

Labour 37%

Liberal Democrats 21%


Today's Guardian/ICM poll puts the Tories on 37 per cent, with Labour 4 points behind on 33 per cent.

It's still remarkable to think that while a 3 per cent lead in 2005 (Labour won 35.3 per cent to the Tories' 32.3 per cent of the actual vote) was enough to give Tony Blair an overall majority of 66, a Tory lead of 4 per cent would likely leave Labour as the single largest party in the Commons.

Only twice since the Second World War (in 1951 and in February 1974) has the party with the most votes not won the most seats in parliament.

If the Tories are the winning party in votes but the losing party in seats, we can expect to see a series of newspaper headlines declaring: "Crisis as winning party loses election".

The resultant anger and confusion could transform the dimensions of the debate about electoral reform.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage