New poll puts Labour just 2 points behind Tories

Latest Ipsos MORI poll puts Labour on 38 per cent, with Tories just ahead on 40 per cent.

If more evidence were needed that Lib Dem voters are rapidly defecting to Labour, the latest Ipsos MORI political monitor should provide it. The poll puts Labour on 38 per cent, up 7 points since June, with the Lib Dems falling 5 to 14 per cent. The Tories are up 1 to 40 per cent.

If repeated at an election on a uniform swing, the figures would put Labour on 310 seats, the Tories on 294 and the Lib Dems on 20.

New Statesman Poll of Polls


Hung parliament: Conservatives nine seats short.

That Labour has achieved this level of support without a permanent leader and before George Osborne has introduced those 25 per cent cuts is impressive. CCHQ may claim that the Labour leadership hustings have provided "a goldmine of attack strategies", but it must fear that a populist, anti-cuts line could begin to resonate with voters.

I should add, of course, that several other polls out today show a less dramatic change in the coalition's fortunes. The latest Guardian/ICM poll, for instance, puts the Tories on 38 per cent, Labour on 34 per cent and the Lib Dems on 19 per cent. But you can bet it's the MORI poll they'll be talking about in Westminster tonight.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.