A poll bounce for the Tories

Latest YouGov poll puts the Tories on 39 per cent, just a point behind Labour.

The latest daily YouGov poll is the most striking for some time. It puts the Conservatives on 39 per cent, just a point behind Labour on 40 per cent. It's the narrowest Labour lead that YouGov has recorded since January and further evidence of a Tory recovery. The party's lead, which stood at nine points on 22 August has gradually eroded over the past week to seven points, five points, three points and now just one point.


Latest poll (YouGov/Sun): Labour majority of 10

There are various possible explanations for this. The Tories may have benefited from Cameron's robust response to the riots (polls showed that the public favoured disproportionate sentences) and the rebels' victory in Libya may also have aided their cause (public support for the intervention rose as a result). The parliamentary recess also means that there have been fewer of the "bad news" stories that seemed to plague the government earlier this year.

New Statesman Poll of Polls


Labour majority of 58

All the usual caveats apply, of course. The poll could be an outlier and we'll have a better idea of the state of play when the next YouGov poll is published tonight. But it certainly sets things up nicely for the conference season.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why relations between Theresa May and Philip Hammond became tense so quickly

The political imperative of controlling immigration is clashing with the economic imperative of maintaining growth. 

There is no relationship in government more important than that between the prime minister and the chancellor. When Theresa May entered No.10, she chose Philip Hammond, a dependable technocrat and long-standing ally who she had known since Oxford University. 

But relations between the pair have proved far tenser than anticipated. On Wednesday, Hammond suggested that students could be excluded from the net migration target. "We are having conversations within government about the most appropriate way to record and address net migration," he told the Treasury select committee. The Chancellor, in common with many others, has long regarded the inclusion of students as an obstacle to growth. 

The following day Hammond was publicly rebuked by No.10. "Our position on who is included in the figures has not changed, and we are categorically not reviewing whether or not students are included," a spokesman said (as I reported in advance, May believes that the public would see this move as "a fix"). 

This is not the only clash in May's first 100 days. Hammond was aggrieved by the Prime Minister's criticisms of loose monetary policy (which forced No.10 to state that it "respects the independence of the Bank of England") and is resisting tougher controls on foreign takeovers. The Chancellor has also struck a more sceptical tone on the UK's economic prospects. "It is clear to me that the British people did not vote on June 23 to become poorer," he declared in his conference speech, a signal that national prosperity must come before control of immigration. 

May and Hammond's relationship was never going to match the remarkable bond between David Cameron and George Osborne. But should relations worsen it risks becoming closer to that beween Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. Like Hammond, Darling entered the Treasury as a calm technocrat and an ally of the PM. But the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis transformed him into a far more assertive figure.

In times of turmoil, there is an inevitable clash between political and economic priorities. As prime minister, Brown resisted talk of cuts for fear of the electoral consequences. But as chancellor, Darling was more concerned with the bottom line (backing a rise in VAT). By analogy, May is focused on the political imperative of controlling immigration, while Hammond is focused on the economic imperative of maintaining growth. If their relationship is to endure far tougher times they will soon need to find a middle way. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.