David Cameron speaks to workers at the Knowhow Warehouse in Newark earlier today. Photograph: Getty Images.
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Tories on course to comfortably win Newark by-election

Lord Ashcroft's poll puts them 15 points ahead of Ukip, but they trail Labour by nine points nationally.

One can tell how frightened the Tories are of losing the Newark by-election to Ukip by the amount of resources they have devoted to the constituency, so Downing Street will be sighing with relief at Lord Ashcroft's poll which puts the Conservatives 15 points ahead (down 12 since the 2010 election) on 42 per cent, a margin significantly greater than the eight-point lead showed by Survation last week. For the first time since William Hague's victory in Richmond in 1989, the Tories are on course to hold a seat while in power.

Ukip are in second place on 27 per cent, with Labour, which emphasises that it has not fought to win, in third on 20 per cent (down two since 2010) and the Lib Dems in fourth on 6 per cent (down 14 since 2010).

But there is less happy news for David Cameron in Ashcroft's latest national poll. The Tories are down four to 25 per cent, their lowest figure in any poll for a year, while Labour is up three to 34 per cent. Ukip are up two to 19 per cent and the Lib Dems are down two to just six per cent (their joint-lowest figure in this parliament).

It is, of course, just one poll, but combined with other surveys giving Labour a small lead (Populus has them five points ahead and YouGov has them three ahead), it will encourage Tory fears that they still have more to worry about than the opposition. After the most difficult period for Labour since last summer, it will also lift MPs' morale.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Voters are turning against Brexit but the Lib Dems aren't benefiting

Labour's pro-Brexit stance is not preventing it from winning the support of Remainers. Will that change?

More than a year after the UK voted for Brexit, there has been little sign of buyer's remorse. The public, including around a third of Remainers, are largely of the view that the government should "get on with it".

But as real wages are squeezed (owing to the Brexit-linked inflationary spike) there are tentative signs that the mood is changing. In the event of a second referendum, an Opinium/Observer poll found, 47 per cent would vote Remain, compared to 44 per cent for Leave. Support for a repeat vote is also increasing. Forty one per cent of the public now favour a second referendum (with 48 per cent opposed), compared to 33 per cent last December. 

The Liberal Democrats have made halting Brexit their raison d'être. But as public opinion turns, there is no sign they are benefiting. Since the election, Vince Cable's party has yet to exceed single figures in the polls, scoring a lowly 6 per cent in the Opinium survey (down from 7.4 per cent at the election). 

What accounts for this disparity? After their near-extinction in 2015, the Lib Dems remain either toxic or irrelevant to many voters. Labour, by contrast, despite its pro-Brexit stance, has hoovered up Remainers (55 per cent back Jeremy Corbyn's party). 

In some cases, this reflects voters' other priorities. Remainers are prepared to support Labour on account of the party's stances on austerity, housing and education. Corbyn, meanwhile, is a eurosceptic whose internationalism and pro-migration reputation endear him to EU supporters. Other Remainers rewarded Labour MPs who voted against Article 50, rebelling against the leadership's stance. 

But the trend also partly reflects ignorance. By saying little on the subject of Brexit, Corbyn and Labour allowed Remainers to assume the best. Though there is little evidence that voters will abandon Corbyn over his EU stance, the potential exists.

For this reason, the proposal of a new party will continue to recur. By challenging Labour over Brexit, without the toxicity of Lib Dems, it would sharpen the choice before voters. Though it would not win an election, a new party could force Corbyn to soften his stance on Brexit or to offer a second referendum (mirroring Ukip's effect on the Conservatives).

The greatest problem for the project is that it lacks support where it counts: among MPs. For reasons of tribalism and strategy, there is no emergent "Gang of Four" ready to helm a new party. In the absence of a new convulsion, the UK may turn against Brexit without the anti-Brexiteers benefiting. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.