The voters are finally turning against the Tories

Lib Dem “human shields” are no longer protecting the Tories from the cuts backlash.


Latest poll (YouGov/Sun) Labour majority of 98.

Until recently it was common to hear Labour MPs warn that the Tories' use of the Lib Dems as "human shields" would insulate them from anger over the cuts. Their fears were supported by polls showing that support for the Conservatives had risen since the general election while support for the Lib Dems had fallen as low as 7 per cent. But this week, that began to change.

The latest daily YouGov survey puts Labour on 44 per cent, with the Tories on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 10 per cent. Conservative support is now at its lowest level since the election and what was a 3-5 point Labour lead has become a 7-9 point lead. Five of the last eight YouGov polls have put the Tories on less than 37 per cent.

New Statesman Poll of Polls


Labour majority of 80 (uniform swing)

The VAT rise, combined with the stalled economic recovery, has turned public opinion decisively against the party for the first time since May. The boos that greeted Francis Maude's comments on Labour and the deficit on last night's Question Time were a sign of how the mood has changed.

In truth, they merely confirmed what polls have shown for some time: the majority of voters oppose the speed and scale of the coalition's fiscal retrenchment and largely blame the banks and the global recession for the deficit, not Labour.

The political result of the Tories' plummeting support will be a growing demand for what Tim Montgomerie calls "mainstream Conservative" policies and an impatience with perceived concessions to the Lib Dems. For months, Tory cabinet ministers have been more focused on the Lib Dems' poll ratings than their own but, after this week, that should begin to change.

George Eaton is political editor of 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.