The Thick of It

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two polls, two stories

Opinion polls can't decide whether the Tories are unpopular or not. At the weekend YouGov, the most accurate at recent elections, put Labour and the Tories only three points apart. If that is so, Labour could be screwed. Unless things get a lot worse, which they look like doing.

According to Populus for yesterday's Times, Labour has romped to an eight point lead over the Tories, leading 41% - 33%. What does this all mean?

Polling isn't accurate. We know that already. We also know that the election isn't for several years. In that time Ed Miliband will or won't make an impact with voters. The economy will get worse and might, but probably won't get better again.

Economic pain and the unpopularity of the Tories and Lib Dems won't be enough for Labour. The big problem is that while people don't like government cuts and hate recessions because it means they get poorer and could lose their jobs, they might not blame the Tories.

Labour is to blame for the economic mess. That is what many will say. The Tories freely offered that line time and again, backed up by the Lib Dems. When they talk about the problems we face now, as things get worse, this is somehow related to a different global economic slump to the one we found ourselves in 2008/9. The Tory message has stuck and Labour hasn't been able to shift it.

Lots of voters still blame Labour. Until an alternative message sticks Labour's poll leads will look vulnerable, especially when boundary changes loaded in favour of the Tories come into effect. Labour is skint too. That means a decent election campaign is beyond the party as it simply can't afford the staff.

Both Labour and the Tories leave much to be desired in the eyes of voters. We have an unpopular government and an untrusted opposition both fighting to get heard. Labour has reasons to worry, as Mark Ferguson and Olly Parker outlined at Labour List, while the Tories do too, as outlined by Tim Montgomerie.

Does this mean Labour supporters should be depressed? Of course not. It simply means that there is everything to play for.


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