AV poll shows 16-point lead for the No campaign

Support for a Yes vote is collapsing, if a new <em>Guardian</em>/ICM survey is to be believed.

A new Guardian/ICM poll has given the No to AV campaign a 16-point lead. Among those who say they are likely to vote in the 5 May referendum and have made up their minds, the poll shows 58 per cent saying No and 42 per cent saying Yes.

Among all respondents, 44 per cent back No and 33 per cent Yes, with 23 per cent saying they don't know.

This is a huge leap from the last Guardian/ICM poll in February which put the two sides neck-and-neck on the same measure. In the equivalent poll in December, the Yes campaign was points ahead.

While other recent polls have shown the no campaign starting to pull ahead, none of the other pollsters has shown such a big lead. On Sunday, an Independent on Sunday/ComRes poll gave the No campaign a 6-point lead.

Why could this be? Well, for a start, it is the first poll for two months to use a random telephone sample, rather than an online panel. PoliticalBetting suggests that it may have cracked the turnout question by asking about likelihood to vote in local elections.

This group of voters tends to be older and more likely to vote No – perhaps explaining why the lead for the No camp increases once intention to vote is taken into account. That goes against the accepted wisdom that a higher turnout will mean a better result for the Yes camp.

Interestingly, despite the huge jump (10 points more than the ComRes poll), I haven't seen any commentators dismiss it as an outlier. On this, UK Polling Report says:

This is the biggest lead we've so far seen for the No campaign in a question asking the bare referendum question, but is very much in line with the "No-wards" trend we've seen from other pollsters. The only company still showing YES ahead in recent polling is Angus Reid.

The poll will be relief for David Cameron and his camp: the Times (£) reports today on the chaos that could be unleashed on the coalition in the event of a Yes vote. According to its coverage, options being considered by Tory MPs include forcing an early election so that it has to take place under first-past-the-post. If these polls are to be believed, however, this will be unnecessary.

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

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PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn turns "the nasty party" back on Theresa May

The Labour leader exploited Conservative splits over disability benefits.

It didn't take long for Theresa May to herald the Conservatives' Copeland by-election victory at PMQs (and one couldn't blame her). But Jeremy Corbyn swiftly brought her down to earth. The Labour leader denounced the government for "sneaking out" its decision to overrule a court judgement calling for Personal Independence Payments (PIPs) to be extended to those with severe mental health problems.

Rather than merely expressing his own outrage, Corbyn drew on that of others. He smartly quoted Tory backbencher Heidi Allen, one of the tax credit rebels, who has called on May to "think agan" and "honour" the court's rulings. The Prime Minister protested that the government was merely returning PIPs to their "original intention" and was already spending more than ever on those with mental health conditions. But Corbyn had more ammunition, denouncing Conservative policy chair George Freeman for his suggestion that those "taking pills" for anxiety aren't "really disabled". After May branded Labour "the nasty party" in her conference speech, Corbyn suggested that the Tories were once again worthy of her epithet.

May emphasised that Freeman had apologised and, as so often, warned that the "extra support" promised by Labour would be impossible without the "strong economy" guaranteed by the Conservatives. "The one thing we know about Labour is that they would bankrupt Britain," she declared. Unlike on previous occasions, Corbyn had a ready riposte, reminding the Tories that they had increased the national debt by more than every previous Labour government.

But May saved her jibe of choice for the end, recalling shadow cabinet minister Cat Smith's assertion that the Copeland result was an "incredible achivement" for her party. "I think that word actually sums up the Right Honourable Gentleman's leadership. In-cred-ible," May concluded, with a rather surreal Thatcher-esque flourish.

Yet many economists and EU experts say the same of her Brexit plan. Having repeatedly hailed the UK's "strong economy" (which has so far proved resilient), May had better hope that single market withdrawal does not wreck it. But on Brexit, as on disability benefits, it is Conservative rebels, not Corbyn, who will determine her fate.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.