Populus put Labour down just 2%

Populus put Labour down just 2%

    No “Margaret’s shoulder” bonus for the Tories

The February poll by Populus for the Times shows no improvement for the Tories. The only change is a 2% switch between Labour and the Lib Dems – a move that might have been helped by the fact that interviewing took place during the party’s Spring Conference when they were getting more TV time than usual.

These are the party shares with changes from February: LAB 39 (-2): CON 32 (nc): LD 20 (+2).

Labour will be relieved that the Tories have made no progress at a time when the party seemed to be getting its “spin” act together and when Alan Milburn’s leadership of the Labour campaign was being questioned.

The Tories will be disappointed that the progress made in recent ICM and MORI surveys has not been reflected by another pollster and, in fact, they are still 1% down on what Populus was showing at the turn of the year. The case of “Margaret’s shoulder” seems to have had no impact.

The Lib Dems will be relieved to be back on 20% with the possibility of more progress during the official campaign when the rules give them more access to TV time. The skirmishes between the two main parties have kept them out of the lime-light almost since the New Year.

So the “constant” of polls in recent months has remained with the combined Labour-Lib Dem share being in the 58-60% range. If one party goes up the other goes down and vice versa. The extent of this “toggle” could make a huge difference on polling day.

The Tories have another toggle with “others” – which now includes UKIP, Veritas and the BNP. When the “others” total is 6-7% they do well – when it is 9%, as in today’s poll, they do badly.

    The February Mori and ICM polls which had the Tories in a relatively good position came when immigration was making the headlines. Now it’s fallen to one side the Tory share is in the low 30s.

This will have been noticed by the party’s Campaign Manager, Lynton Crosby, and no doubt we will see new imaginative ways of getting this back on the agenda.

For punters the question now is whether today’s poll will impede the recent Tory improvement on the spread-betting markets. Last night IG Index had them at 194-201 seats – 14 seats up on the party’s low point five weeks ago. The Spreadfair Tory figures are 197.1 – 200 seats.

General Election odds round-up.

© Mike Smithson 2005

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