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12 December 2017

Does Theresa May’s poll lead mean she’s got a new lease of life?

Influential Brexiteers have already noticed that things aren’t going quite their way.

By Stephen Bush

Party like it’s May 2017! Theresa May has surged into a poll lead over Labour, according to the latest Times YouGov survey. If by “surged” you mean “unchanged within the margin of error” that is.

I’m increasingly of the view that with the prospect of an election a distant one, voting intention isn’t that useful this far out, and perhaps not at all given the industry-wide challenge of talking to the right people. (More on that here.) The polls still retain a considerable use as far as questions about how much voters trust the parties, who makes the best PM and so on, but that utility is somewhat limited as the question they are asking is “May versus Corbyn”, which is not a contest that is particularly likely to happen again.

Still, as far as the general mood goes the most significant trend is that while the proportion of people who think the government is handling the Brexit talks well is up, it is only up to 26 per cent, with 57 per cent saying they are doing badly. Those aren’t numbers that bode well for the government’s ability to blame it all on either (a) pesky Eurocrats, or (b) Vote Leave if Brexit ends in tears.

Regardless of whether or not it should, the poll will add to the improved mood music around the PM. William Hague uses his Telegraph column to call for a reshuffle (but rules out the possibility of a return for him) and May is unlikely to be so well-placed again as she is now to carry out a refresh of her top team.

Because, margin-of-error lead or not, the biggest news yesterday was that even in May’s triumphant return to the House she set out a series of objectives that can only be met by having a very close regulatory relationship with the European Union – the “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Brexit” Brexit. Influential Brexiteers like Nigel Lawson have already noticed that things aren’t going how they’d like. The PM’s new lease of life may sputter out just as quickly as it returned.

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