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29 March 2010

Leading pollster says election too close to call

Bob Worcester on Tory decline, election "toss-up" and those make-or-break debates.

By James Macintyre

Readers of the Daily Mail could be forgiven for choking on their breakfast this morning over an interesting analysis from the founder of MORI, Sir Bob Worcester, who has been polling British politics for four decades.

The senior pollster, who cannot be accused of holding any kind of anti-Tory “bias”, says:

This week a year ago it looked clear sailing for David Cameron. That is why Gordon Brown didn’t call an election then. Now it is an entirely different story. If there were an election tomorrow (there isn’t), it would be a toss-up.

He adds:

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Ukip has been cutting into Tory support; so has the BNP. There’s talk of a high level of “undecideds”; there always is. But twice as many of them say they’re “leaning” towards Labour.

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In January their combined total share was just 3 percentage points, in February 4 per cent, in March, 5 per cent. Not much, but at this point, it could be a spoiler.

There’s not much sign that the Budget has affected voting intentions.

And he concludes:

The debates are the “wild card”, especially the first one, with the three leaders, Gordon Brown, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, speaking for an hour and a half on domestic policy.

Someone could drop a clanger or be seen to be “shaky”. With so much riding on this election, the debate on 15 April could decide the outcome.