Are the “lost” Tory voters finally returning?

Are the “lost” Tory voters finally returning?

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    Is ICM a further indication of a “sea-change” in opinion?

It is a sign of the times that when news of the latest ICM poll started to emerge last night the terms used were simply that the Conservatives had “a healthy lead”. I assumed that meant a margin of perhaps 12-13% ahead and just a little bit better for Gord than the previous ICM low – a 14% Labour deficit – that we saw in the May Guardian poll.

The actual figures, with changes on that previous survey from the firm, are: CON 42% (+1): LAB 26% (-1): LD 21% (-1). If these numbers were repeated at a general election then we are into possible Tory landslide territory. Well over a hundred sitting Labour MPs, including many minsters and prominent cabinet members like Jacqui Smith, would lose their seats.

We have not seen the detailed data yet but my guess is that it will confirm that much of the surge to the Conservatives that we have seen since March has come less from supporters of other parties and more from people who did not vote at the last general election.

The signs are, from the voting dynamics of Crewe & Nantwich and the latest polls putting the Tories well into the 40s, that ex-Tory voters from the 80s and early 90s who simply stopped voting or might have toyed with Blair in 1997 are now returning. At the same time long-standing Labour supporters feel disillusioned enough not to want to vote next time.

Gordon might be able to do something about the latter but it is hard to see what the government can do to prevent ex-Tories who became non-voters from returning to their allegiance.

Again ICM is proving to be the pollster with the highest Lib Dem ratings and now Nick Clegg’s party is just five points behind Labour. This could open up a raft of LAB>LD seats where previously the Labour lead was seen as insurmountable.

Although the Conservative lead is not on the scale of that which we have seen from YouGov it is wrong to make comparisons – that firm adopts a totally different methodology. ICM is the telephone pollster with the longest track record in the UK and has been a pioneer of developing methodologies to keep up with the times.

And the betting? In the past fortnight there has been a move back to Labour and the spreads are showing a Tory majority of 30-40 seats. Punters don’t seem confident yet about a Tory victory – maybe this is the moment to start betting? I continue to be a Labour seller because in addition to Tory successes the party could lose several seats to the SNP in Scotland as well as being vulnerable in places where the Liberal Democrats were in second place in 2005.

Mike Smithson

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