Labour lead just five points in new poll

Latest ComRes poll shows slim lead for Labour as the Tories increase their lead on the economy to nine points.

The latest ComRes/Independent on Sunday poll is a disappointing one for Labour. It puts the party's lead at just five points, unchanged since last month's survey, which showed a bounce for the Tories following David Cameron's promise of an EU referendum. Labour is on 36 per cent (-1), with the Tories on 31 per cent (-1), UKIP on 14 per cent (+1) and the Lib Dems on eight per cent (-3).

David Cameron and George Osborne have also increased their lead on the economy from one point to nine points. Twenty seven per cent of people say they trust Cameron and Osborne "to make the right decisions about the economy" and fifty one per cent say they do not, compared to 20 per cent who say they trust Ed Miliband and Ed Balls and 55 per cent who say they do not.

Midway through the parliament and with economic growth non-existent, one would expect Labour to be performing better. Governments tend to gain support in the run-up to a general election (as Gordon Brown's did), so the party needs a much greater cushion than five points.

This is, of course, just one poll; an ICM/Guardian survey earlier this week put the party's lead at 12 points and the most recent YouGov poll put it at 11. But the ComRes survey is a good example of why most shadow ministers privately think another hung parliament is the most likely outcome of the next election.

Ed Miliband and Ed Balls trail David Cameron and George Osborne on the economy by nine points. Photograph: Getty Images.

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.