Although it’s been a bad day for Gordon Brown, things aren’t looking too rosy for the Tories either.
A YouGov poll in the Sunday Times today shows the Conservatives on a lead of just 6 points — the narrowest gap since December 2008, when Brown enjoyed a temporary bounce after the banking rescue.
The headline figures show the Conservatives with 39 per cent (down 1 point on last month), Labour on 33 per cent (up 2) and the Liberal Democrats down 1 point to 17 per cent.
Support for the Conservatives has been slipping away slowly but surely over the past few months, and this latest set of results will add more weight to speculation that we are on course for a hung parliament. Repeated at the general election, these figures would give the Tories 290 seats, just ten more than Labour.
According to Mike Smithson at PoliticalBetting, “The 33 per cent share means that Labour has only lost one voter in 12 since the 2005 general election.” This narrative is supported by a ComRes poll for the think tank Theos which gives the Tories an 8-point lead.
Indeed, even that old Tory grandee, Michael Heseltine, has added his voice to the chorus predicting a hung parliament. Referring to other polls that show a slightly larger lead than today’s, he told the Sunday Telegraph:
The Tories are running around 10 points ahead in the polls, which should give you a very big overall majority in most of the postwar world, but at this moment it gives you an overall majority of one . . . you need a swing for which there is only one sensible postwar precedent.
He continued: “If I was a betting man, my money would be on the election resulting in a hung parliament with David Cameron as prime minister.”
It has also been reported that a tracker poll for PoliticsHome has shown that the gap between the two leaders’ individual performance ratings has halved since September. It has narrowed at an quickening pace, fuelled by Tory U-turns and gaffes, and now stands at 12 for Cameron and -33 for Brown, as opposed to 36 and -55 respectively in September. There’s no need for Labour to get too excited about this, though. As Freddie Sayers, editor of PoliticsHome, puts it:
There is still a huge gap between them, but it is half as huge as it was last summer. Brown has gone from catastrophic to very bad and Cameron has fallen from unfeasibly popular to mildly popular.
It is still likely that the Tories will receive the largest portion of the vote, but the fact that polls have consistently shown their lead narrowing rather than growing is indicative once again of the political impasse that we face.
In the aftermath of the MPs’ expenses scandal and the economic crisis, politicians are too afraid to show proper conviction, a case in point being the Tory U-turns over spending cuts and marriage tax breaks. But that does nothing to ease the disillusionment most voters feel with the entire political class.