At precisely this stage before ’97 Blair’s lead was just 13%

At precisely this stage before ’97 Blair’s lead was just 13%

ICM Nov 1-2 1996

How Gord would kill for 34% shares today!

One of the challenges with trying to work out whether a Tory victory is a foregone conclusion is that the only modern parallel is Labour’s run up to the Tony Blair landslide in May 1997 – something that’s made much harder by big changes in polling practice and the fact that the only firm doing it now almost exactly as it was doing it then is ICM.

Featured above are the main findings from the November poll for the Guardian in 1996 where the fieldwork took place on the first and second of that month twelve years ago – and just compare them with today’s Sunday Telegraph survey from the same pollster which has C42-L25-LD21.

The big contrast between John Major’s Tories in 1996/7 and Gordon Brown’s Labour today is how badly the governing party is currently doing – the mid 20s as against the low to mid 30s for Major.

As it turned out ICM’s November 1996 poll got the gap precisely right but compared with what actually happened both the Tory and Labour shares were inflated by three points.

The following month in 1996 Blair’s Labour opened up a 19 point gap – the highest it was to reach in a Guardian ICM poll in the run-up to election day. This is the series of surveys from that period.

We hear repeatedly – my fellow Burnley fan Alistair Campbell was the latest – that the Tories are not performing anything like as well as Labour were at the same stage. There is an element of truth in that but there is no parallel in a comparable poll from the period to Labour’s dire current position in the mid-20s.

You get the feeling that just like 96/97 voters have made their minds up. They might not like the Tories but they just want the election to happen so they can boot Brown out. Truly it is said that government’s lose elections rather than oppositions win them.

Mike Smithson

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