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

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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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Leave will leap on the immigration rise, but Brexit would not make much difference

Non-EU migration is still well above the immigration cap, which the government is still far from reaching. 

On announcing the quarterly migration figures today, the Office for National Statistics was clear: neither the change in immigration levels, nor in emigration levels, nor in the net figure is statistically significant. That will not stop them being mined for political significance.

The ONS reports a 20,000 rise in net long-term international migration to 333,000. This is fuelled by a reduction in emigration: immigration itself is actually down very slightly (by 2,000) on the year ending in 2014, but emigration has fallen further – by 22,000.

So here is the (limited) short-term significance of that. The Leave campaign has already decided to pivot to immigration for the final month of the referendum campaign. Arguments about the NHS, about sovereignty, and about the bloated bureaucracy in Brussels have all had some utility with different constituencies. But none has as much purchase, especially amongst persuadable Labour voters in the north, as immigration. So the Leave campaign will keep talking about immigration and borders for a month, and hope that a renewed refugee crisis will for enough people turn a latent fear into a present threat.

These statistics make adopting that theme a little bit easier. While it has long been accepted by everyone except David Cameron and Theresa May that the government’s desired net immigration cap of 100,000 per year is unattainable, watch out for Brexiters using these figures as proof that it is the EU that denies the government the ability to meet it.

But there are plenty of available avenues for the Remain campaign to push back against such arguments. Firstly, they will point out that this is a net figure. Sure, freedom of movement means the British government does not have a say over EU nationals arriving here, but it is not Jean-Claude Juncker’s fault if people who live in the UK decide they quite like it here.

Moreover, the only statistically significant change the ONS identify is a 42 per cent rise in migrants coming to the UK “looking for work” – hardly signalling the benefit tourism of caricature. And though that cohort did not come with jobs, the majority (58 per cent) of the 308,000 migrants who came to Britain to work in 2015 had a definite job to go to.

The Remain campaign may also point out that the 241,000 short-term migrants to the UK in the year ending June 2014 were far outstripped by the 420,000 Brits working abroad. Brexit, and any end to freedom of movement that it entailed, could jeopardise many of those jobs for Brits.

There is another story that the Remain campaign should make use of. Yes, the immigration cap is a joke. But it has not (just) been made into a joke by the EU. Net migration from non-EU countries is at 188,000, a very slight fall from the previous year but still higher than immigration from EU countries. That alone is far above the government’s immigration cap. If the government cannot bring down non-EU migration, then the Leave argument that a post-EU Britain would be a low-immigration panacea is hardly credible. Don’t expect that to stop them making it though. 

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.