Labour gaining votes from disillusioned Lib Dems

Poll shows Labour closing the gap on the Tories, while the public is lukewarm about the coalition so

Labour is benefiting from voters deserting the Liberal Democrats, according to a new poll which also shows that economic uncertainty is cutting into support for the coalition.

The Guardian/ICM poll, published today, puts the Conservatives at 38 per cent, down 1 point on last month's Guardian poll, and 8 points lower than last week's YouGov survey.

This latest puts Labour just 4 points behind the Tories, with 34 per cent of the vote. The Liberal Democrats are on 19 per cent.

While this is an improvement on the dire 13 per cent support for the Lib Dems in the YouGov poll, there is still evidence of disillusionment among Lib Dem voters, many of whom are to the left of the leadership. Although the two other parties retained the votes of nine out of ten of those who supported them in the election, the Lib Dems retained just seven out of ten, and another two said they had switched to Labour.


The poll shows a near-equal split of opinion on economic issues. Although a narrow majority of 51 per cent think that Britain is likely to fall back into recession, 43 per cent disagree. If nothing else, this shows that the initial boost in poll ratings after the Budget has not been sustained. Such uncertainty at this stage -- before the painful effects of deep public-sector cuts begins to be felt -- does not bode well for future support for the government. Ninety-one per cent said that the cuts and tax rises would hurt.

About the government's performance so far, the public is lukewarm. Asked to award it marks out of ten, the total score is just 5.1. Support for the coalition is considerably weaker in Scotland and the north of England, and -- perhaps unsurprising, but certainly telling -- the coalition has far greater support among rich voters than among poorer people.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.