The voters are finally turning against the Tories

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

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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

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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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Inside a shaken city: "I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester”

The morning after the bombing of the Manchester Arena has left the city's residents jumpy.

On Tuesday morning, the streets in Manchester city centre were eerily silent.

The commuter hub of Victoria Station - which backs onto the arena - was closed as police combed the area for clues, and despite Mayor Andy Burnham’s line of "business as usual", it looked like people were staying away.

Manchester Arena is the second largest indoor concert venue in Europe. With a capacity crowd of 18,000, on Monday night the venue was packed with young people from around the country - at least 22 of whom will never come home. At around 10.33pm, a suicide bomber detonated his device near the exit. Among the dead was an eight-year-old girl. Many more victims remain in hospital. 

Those Mancunians who were not alerted by the sirens woke to the news of their city's worst terrorist attack. Still, as the day went on, the city’s hubbub soon returned and, by lunchtime, there were shoppers and workers milling around Exchange Square and the town hall.

Tourists snapped images of the Albert Square building in the sunshine, and some even asked police for photographs like any other day.

But throughout the morning there were rumours and speculation about further incidents - the Arndale Centre was closed for a period after 11.40am while swathes of police descended, shutting off the main city centre thoroughfare of Market Street.

Corporation Street - closed off at Exchange Square - was at the centre of the city’s IRA blast. A postbox which survived the 1996 bombing stood in the foreground while officers stood guard, police tape fluttering around cordoned-off spaces.

It’s true that the streets of Manchester have known horror before, but not like this.

I spoke to students Beth and Melissa who were in the bustling centre when they saw people running from two different directions.

They vanished and ducked into River Island, when an alert came over the tannoy, and a staff member herded them through the back door onto the street.

“There were so many police stood outside the Arndale, it was so frightening,” Melissa told me.

“We thought it will be fine, it’ll be safe after last night. There were police everywhere walking in, and we felt like it would be fine.”

Beth said that they had planned a day of shopping, and weren’t put off by the attack.

“We heard about the arena this morning but we decided to come into the city, we were watching it all these morning, but you can’t let this stop you.”

They remembered the 1996 Arndale bombing, but added: “we were too young to really understand”.

And even now they’re older, they still did not really understand what had happened to the city.

“Theres nowhere to go, where’s safe? I just want to go home,” Melissa said. “I just want to be anywhere that’s not Manchester.”

Manchester has seen this sort of thing before - but so long ago that the stunned city dwellers are at a loss. In a city which feels under siege, no one is quite sure how anyone can keep us safe from an unknown threat

“We saw armed police on the streets - there were loads just then," Melissa said. "I trust them to keep us safe.”

But other observers were less comforted by the sign of firearms.

Ben, who I encountered standing outside an office block on Corporation Street watching the police, was not too forthcoming, except to say “They don’t know what they’re looking for, do they?” as I passed.

The spirit of the city is often invoked, and ahead of a vigil tonight in Albert Square, there will be solidarity and strength from the capital of the North.

But the community values which Mancunians hold dear are shaken to the core by what has happened here.

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