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13 January 2011

Is public opinion turning against the spending cuts?

As Oldham and Saddleworth votes, another national opinion poll gives Labour a significant lead over

By Samira Shackle

The latest YouGov poll for the Sun gives Labour a 7-point lead over the Conservatives. This is the biggest lead that YouGov has shown for Labour so far this parliament. It puts Labour on 43 per cent and the Conservatives on 36, with the Liberal Democrats trailing at 9 points.

This is the second poll this week to show Labour with a substantial lead over the Conservatives – a ComRes/Independent survey on Tuesday gave Ed Miliband’s party an 8-point lead.

Does this mean that public opinion is beginning to turn against cuts? The poll also gives the government its lowest approval rating yet, at -25 per cent (31 per cent approve, 55 per cent disapprove).

As my colleague Mehdi Hasan notes in this week’s politics column, well-timed interjections on the unpopular VAT rise and the toxic issue of bankers’ bonuses could stand Labour in good stead. Now is the moment for Miliband to start hammering the coalition, as anger over the ideological cuts regime grows.

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However, as Anthony Wells points out over at UK Polling Report, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves. These big leads are within the margin of error. Yesterday’s YouGov/Sun poll showed Labour with a lead of just 1 point, which, taken with today’s result, could indicate a more modest – but still significant – underlying Labour lead of 3 or 4 points.

Voting has started in Oldham and Saddleworth. Labour is likely to win this by-election, providing another boost to the party. Miliband’s focus must now turn to capitalising on signs that public support for the Tories is waning, and transforming it into a solid, consistent lead.