The Tories draw level with Labour but Miliband overtakes Cameron

Miliband's net satisfaction rating rises by 23 points in the latest Ipsos MORI poll but the Tories are now tied with Labour on 35%.

There's good and bad news for Ed Miliband in the latest Ipsos MORI political monitor. The good news is that his approval with his performance as Labour leader has surged since the conference season, with his net satisfaction rating rising by 23 points to -12, one point above Cameron's. That will reassure those Labour MPs who have long feared that Miliband's poor ratings could deny the party victory in 2015, although the test will be whether this bounce is sustained. 

But the bad news is that the party's poll lead has evaporated as voters give the Tories credit for the economic recovery (even if few are feeling the benefits). Support for Labour has fallen by two points to 35%, with the party now tied with the Conservatives for the first time since January 2012. While it's always impossible to say for certain why voters behave in the way they do, it is notable that the narrowing of Labour's poll lead (shown in all surveys) has coincided with a surge in economic optimism. MORI's poll shows that 42% believe that the economy will improve in the next 12 months, compared to 27% who believe it will get worse. 

There is some consolation for Miliband in the finding that his proposed energy price freeze is the most popular of all the policies announced during the conference season. But with growth likely to accelerate significantly next year, the fear in Labour will be that the Tories will continue to benefit. 

Ed Miliband with David Cameron during the service to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II at Westminster Abbey. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Is anyone prepared to solve the NHS funding crisis?

As long as the political taboo on raising taxes endures, the service will be in financial peril. 

It has long been clear that the NHS is in financial ill-health. But today's figures, conveniently delayed until after the Conservative conference, are still stunningly bad. The service ran a deficit of £930m between April and June (greater than the £820m recorded for the whole of the 2014/15 financial year) and is on course for a shortfall of at least £2bn this year - its worst position for a generation. 

Though often described as having been shielded from austerity, owing to its ring-fenced budget, the NHS is enduring the toughest spending settlement in its history. Since 1950, health spending has grown at an average annual rate of 4 per cent, but over the last parliament it rose by just 0.5 per cent. An ageing population, rising treatment costs and the social care crisis all mean that the NHS has to run merely to stand still. The Tories have pledged to provide £10bn more for the service but this still leaves £20bn of efficiency savings required. 

Speculation is now turning to whether George Osborne will provide an emergency injection of funds in the Autumn Statement on 25 November. But the long-term question is whether anyone is prepared to offer a sustainable solution to the crisis. Health experts argue that only a rise in general taxation (income tax, VAT, national insurance), patient charges or a hypothecated "health tax" will secure the future of a universal, high-quality service. But the political taboo against increasing taxes on all but the richest means no politician has ventured into this territory. Shadow health secretary Heidi Alexander has today called for the government to "find money urgently to get through the coming winter months". But the bigger question is whether, under Jeremy Corbyn, Labour is prepared to go beyond sticking-plaster solutions. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.