Lib Dems back in first place in new YouGov poll

Lib Dems up to 34 per cent in new poll, three points ahead of the Tories.

New Statesman - Polls Guide_1271791628967

Latest poll (Sun/YouGov) Labour 60 seats short of a majority.

The latest daily YouGov poll has just been published and it's more good news for Nick Clegg. The poll puts the Lib Dems up three points to 34 per cent, their best score ever with YouGov, and back in front of the Conservatives. The Tories are down two to 31 per cent and Labour is down one to 26 per cent.

If repeated at the election on a uniform swing, the figures would again leave Labour as the largest single party, 60 seats short of a majority.

New Statesman Poll of Polls

New Statesman - Polls Guide_1271797351269

Hung parliament, Labour 73 seats short.

Elsewhere, a new PoliticalBetting/Angus Reid survey also has the Lib Dems regaining the top spot. The poll puts Clegg's party up one to 33 per cent, with the Tories unchanged on 32 per cent and Labour down one to just 23 per cent.

Finally, the latest Times/Populus poll (written up by the sage Peter Riddell here), the first since the TV debate, puts the Lib Dems up 10 points to 31 per cent, a point behind the Tories who are down four to 32 per cent. Labour is down five to 28 per cent.

We're still expecting a new ComRes poll later tonight, which Andrew Hawkins has promised is a "humdinger".

UPDATE: The ComRes poll has just been released and it should settle a few nerves in CCHQ The poll puts the Tories up three points to 35 per cent, with Labour down two to 26 per cent and the Lib Dems also down two to 26 per cent.

But it's worth noting that the fieldwork for the poll took place on Sunday and Monday, so it's a day older than the other three out tonight. If the Lib Dem poll surge really had ended, I expect we would have seen evidence of it in those polls tonight.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.