Final polls of the campaign point to a hung parliament

Final pre-election polls show the Tories around 30 seats short of a majority.

New Statesman - Polls Guide_1273093737947

Latest poll (ComRes/Independent) Conservatives 27 seats short of a majority.

22:05 UPDATE: The final poll of the night, a ComRes survey for the Independent, has the Tories unchanged on 37 per cent, Labour down one to 28 per cent and the Lib Dems up two to 28 per cent.

So, assuming a uniform swing, all of the polls published tonight point to a hung parliament. There's no sign of a late Tory surge but I expect the Conservatives will be fairly satisfied. They are confident that their strength in the marginals will give them more seats than national polls suggest.

The Tories are all but certain to emerge as the single largest party on Friday but unless, against expectations, they perform well in the Lib Dem marginals, I can't see them winning an overall majority.

If Cameron ends up around 20 seats short of a majority, I expect him to attempt to lead a minority government with the support of the DUP and other minority parties. If the shortfall is more like 30-40 then he will have no choice but to negotiate with the Lib Dems.

21:50 UPDATE: ICM for the Guardian has the Tories up three to 36 per cent, Labour unchanged on 28 per cent and the Lib Dems down two to 26 per cent.

20:06 UPDATE: It looks as if last night's YouGov poll, which had the Lib Dems way down on 24 per cent, was an outlier. Tonight's has them back up fourpoints to 28 per cent, with Labour down two to 28 per cent and the Tories unchanged on 35 per cent.

There's no sign of a late Conservative surge tonight but these polls are far from encouraging for Labour. Most show them level-pegging with the Lib Dems and two put Nick Clegg's party in front.

New Statesman Poll of Polls

New Statesman - Polls Guide_1273093992405

Hung parliament, Conservatives 27 seats short of a majority.

UPDATE: The latest Angus Reid/PoliticalBetting poll has the Tories up 1 to 36 per cent, the Lib Dems unchanged on 29 per cent and Labour up 1 to just 24 per cent. As ever, Gordon Brown will be hoping that Mike Smithson's golden rule -- that the poll with Labour in the worst position is normally the most accurate -- does not hold this time.

UPDATE: Populus for the Times has topline figures of Con 37 per cent (+1), Lab 28 per cent (+1) and Lib Dems 27 per cent (-1). On a uniform swing, that result would leave Cameron 24 seats short, a legislative handicap he would hope to overcome with the help of the DUP and others.

The first two polls of the night are out and both point to a hung parliament. An Opinium poll for the Daily Express has the Tories on 35 per cent (+2), Labour on 27 per cent (+1) and the Lib Dems on 26 per cent (-1). If repeated at the election on a uniform swing, that result would leave David Cameron 38 seats short of a majority.

Meanwhile, a new TNS BRMB poll puts the Tories down one to 33 per cent, with the Lib Dems also down one to 29 per cent and Labour unchanged on 27 per cent. On a uniform swing, the figures would leave Cameron 57 seats short of a majority.

So, like other recent polls, both suggest that the yellow tide is receding. That said, it's worth remembering how few expected to see any poll put the Lib Dems ahead of Labour the day before the election.

I'm expecting a glut of polls tonight, so stay tuned for updates throughout the evening.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Air pollution: 5 steps to vanquishing an invisible killer

A new report looks at the economics of air pollution. 

110, 150, 520... These chilling statistics are the number of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution for the cities of Southampton, Nottingham and Birmingham in 2010 respectively. Or how about 40,000 - that is the total number of UK deaths per year that are attributable the combined effects of particulate matter (PM2.5) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx).

This situation sucks, to say the very least. But while there are no dramatic images to stir up action, these deaths are preventable and we know their cause. Road traffic is the worst culprit. Traffic is responsible for 80 per cent of NOx on high pollution roads, with diesel engines contributing the bulk of the problem.

Now a new report by ResPublica has compiled a list of ways that city councils around the UK can help. The report argues that: “The onus is on cities to create plans that can meet the health and economic challenge within a short time-frame, and identify what they need from national government to do so.”

This is a diplomatic way of saying that current government action on the subject does not go far enough – and that cities must help prod them into gear. That includes poking holes in the government’s proposed plans for new “Clean Air Zones”.

Here are just five of the ways the report suggests letting the light in and the pollution out:

1. Clean up the draft Clean Air Zones framework

Last October, the government set out its draft plans for new Clean Air Zones in the UK’s five most polluted cities, Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton (excluding London - where other plans are afoot). These zones will charge “polluting” vehicles to enter and can be implemented with varying levels of intensity, with three options that include cars and one that does not.

But the report argues that there is still too much potential for polluters to play dirty with the rules. Car-charging zones must be mandatory for all cities that breach the current EU standards, the report argues (not just the suggested five). Otherwise national operators who own fleets of vehicles could simply relocate outdated buses or taxis to places where they don’t have to pay.  

Different vehicles should fall under the same rules, the report added. Otherwise, taking your car rather than the bus could suddenly seem like the cost-saving option.

2. Vouchers to vouch-safe the project’s success

The government is exploring a scrappage scheme for diesel cars, to help get the worst and oldest polluting vehicles off the road. But as the report points out, blanket scrappage could simply put a whole load of new fossil-fuel cars on the road.

Instead, ResPublica suggests using the revenue from the Clean Air Zone charges, plus hiked vehicle registration fees, to create “Pollution Reduction Vouchers”.

Low-income households with older cars, that would be liable to charging, could then use the vouchers to help secure alternative transport, buy a new and compliant car, or retrofit their existing vehicle with new technology.

3. Extend Vehicle Excise Duty

Vehicle Excise Duty is currently only tiered by how much CO2 pollution a car creates for the first year. After that it becomes a flat rate for all cars under £40,000. The report suggests changing this so that the most polluting vehicles for CO2, NOx and PM2.5 continue to pay higher rates throughout their life span.

For ClientEarth CEO James Thornton, changes to vehicle excise duty are key to moving people onto cleaner modes of transport: “We need a network of clean air zones to keep the most polluting diesel vehicles from the most polluted parts of our towns and cities and incentives such as a targeted scrappage scheme and changes to vehicle excise duty to move people onto cleaner modes of transport.”

4. Repurposed car parks

You would think city bosses would want less cars in the centre of town. But while less cars is good news for oxygen-breathers, it is bad news for city budgets reliant on parking charges. But using car parks to tap into new revenue from property development and joint ventures could help cities reverse this thinking.

5. Prioritise public awareness

Charge zones can be understandably unpopular. In 2008, a referendum in Manchester defeated the idea of congestion charging. So a big effort is needed to raise public awareness of the health crisis our roads have caused. Metro mayors should outline pollution plans in their manifestos, the report suggests. And cities can take advantage of their existing assets. For example in London there are plans to use electronics in the Underground to update travellers on the air pollution levels.

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Change is already in the air. Southampton has used money from the Local Sustainable Travel Fund to run a successful messaging campaign. And in 2011 Nottingham City Council became the first city to implement a Workplace Parking levy – a scheme which has raised £35.3m to help extend its tram system, upgrade the station and purchase electric buses.

But many more “air necessities” are needed before we can forget about pollution’s worry and its strife.  

 

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.