Tory support rises as Lib Dems fall back in new polls

Conservative lead back up to 10 points in latest ComRes poll.

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Latest poll (ComRes/Independent on Sunday/Sunday Mirror): Conservatives 11 seats short of a majority.

No fewer than four new polls out tonight, all of which show a rise in support for the Conservatives. The most striking is the latest ComRes survey for the Independent on Sunday and the Sunday Mirror, which has the Tory lead up to 10 points, the highest since February.

The poll puts the Conservatives up 2 points to 38 per cent, with the Lib Dems down 1 to 25 per cent and Labour also down 1 to 28 per cent. If repeated at the election on a uniform swing, those figures would leave Cameron 11 seats short of a majority. But in practice, since the Tories are still likely to perform disproportionately well in the marginals, a lead of this size should be just enough for a majority.

Elsewhere, the YouGov daily tracker has the Tories up 1 to 35 per cent, the Lib Dems unchanged on 28 per cent and Labour down 1 to 27 per cent. On a uniform swing, this result would leave the Conservatives 41 seats short of a majority.

It seems safe to conclude that David Cameron's winning performance in the final leaders' debate has given the Tories a slight boost. At the very least, it looks like the Conservatives can expect to emerge as the single largest party on Friday morning, with the Lib Dems providing "confidence and supply" in a hung parliament.

New Statesman Poll of Polls

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Hung parliament: Conservatives 31 seats short of a majority.

The latest ICM/Sunday Telegraph survey provides further evidence of a Conservative bounce. The poll puts the Tories up 3 points to 36 per cent, Labour up 1 to 29 per cent and the Lib Dems down 3 to 27 per cent. Labour will be relieved that ICM, like YouGov, suggests the Lib Dem surge is abating.

But there's also a new Angus Reid survey for the Sunday Express that has the Tories up 2 to 36 per cent, the Lib Dems down 1 to 29 per cent and Labour unchanged on just 23 per cent.

Gordon Brown will have to hope that Mike Smithson's golden rule -- that the survey with Labour in the least favourable position is normally the most accurate -- is mistaken this time. On a uniform swing, those figures would leave the Tories just three seats short of a majority.

UPDATE: The final poll of the night, a BPIX survey for the Mail on Sunday, has the Tories unchanged on 34 per cent, the Lib Dems unchanged on 30 per cent and Labour up 1 to 27 per cent.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Andrea Leadsom as Environment Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

A little over a week into Andrea Leadsom’s new role as Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), and senior industry figures are already questioning her credentials. A growing list of campaigners have called for her resignation, and even the Cabinet Office implied that her department's responsibilities will be downgraded.

So far, so bad.

The appointment would appear to be something of a consolation prize, coming just days after Leadsom pulled out of the Conservative leadership race and allowed Theresa May to enter No 10 unopposed.

Yet while Leadsom may have been able to twist the truth on her CV in the City, no amount of tampering will improve the agriculture-related side to her record: one barely exists. In fact, recent statements made on the subject have only added to her reputation for vacuous opinion: “It would make so much more sense if those with the big fields do the sheep, and those with the hill farms do the butterflies,” she told an audience assembled for a referendum debate. No matter the livelihoods of thousands of the UK’s hilltop sheep farmers, then? No need for butterflies outside of national parks?

Normally such a lack of experience is unsurprising. The department has gained a reputation as something of a ministerial backwater; a useful place to send problematic colleagues for some sobering time-out.

But these are not normal times.

As Brexit negotiations unfold, Defra will be central to establishing new, domestic policies for UK food and farming; sectors worth around £108bn to the economy and responsible for employing one in eight of the population.

In this context, Leadsom’s appointment seems, at best, a misguided attempt to make the architects of Brexit either live up to their promises or be seen to fail in the attempt.

At worst, May might actually think she is a good fit for the job. Leadsom’s one, water-tight credential – her commitment to opposing restraints on industry – certainly has its upsides for a Prime Minister in need of an alternative to the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP); a policy responsible for around 40 per cent the entire EU budget.

Why not leave such a daunting task in the hands of someone with an instinct for “abolishing” subsidies  thus freeing up money to spend elsewhere?

As with most things to do with the EU, CAP has some major cons and some equally compelling pros. Take the fact that 80 per cent of CAP aid is paid out to the richest 25 per cent of farmers (most of whom are either landed gentry or vast, industrialised, mega-farmers). But then offset this against the provision of vital lifelines for some of the UK’s most conscientious, local and insecure of food producers.

The NFU told the New Statesman that there are many issues in need of urgent attention; from an improved Basic Payment Scheme, to guarantees for agri-environment funding, and a commitment to the 25-year TB eradication strategy. But that they also hope, above all, “that Mrs Leadsom will champion British food and farming. Our industry has a great story to tell”.

The construction of a new domestic agricultural policy is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Britain to truly decide where its priorities for food and environment lie, as well as to which kind of farmers (as well as which countries) it wants to delegate their delivery.

In the context of so much uncertainty and such great opportunity, Leadsom has a tough job ahead of her. And no amount of “speaking as a mother” will change that.

India Bourke is the New Statesman's editorial assistant.