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Wednesday, 21 March, 2001, 16:11 GMT
Poll monitor: Little comfort for Tories

The latest MORI opinion poll on the state of the parties provides little comfort for the Conservatives, says BBC Political Research editor David Cowling.

The latest polls give little comfort to the Conservatives.

Gallup (16 March) showed Labour on 55% (up 5% on February), Conservative support unchanged on 29% and the Lib Dems on 12% (down 5%).

But Labour's increase came exclusively from the Lib Dems and seems more of an adjustment to the latter's February Gallup rating of 17% (up 6% on January) than any seismic shift in public opinion.

No change in lead

The main Gallup data collected throughout February showed no change - a 20% Labour lead compared with 20% in January.

Whilst the drama of the headline figure for Gallup's latest poll therefore looks questionable, the overall trend still moves relentlessly against the Conservatives.

Some 78% of respondents said the Conservatives were not ready for power, and Labour's net approval rating in terms of economic competence was +18.5%.

Popular Budget?

Gallup also found that the Budget was a political success: 71% approved it.

The NOP/Sunday Times poll (18 March) gave Labour 51% (up 3% on January), the Conservatives 31% (down 2%) and the Lib Dems 13% (down 1%).

Only 29% of their respondents thought the Conservatives could win with William Hague as their leader.

And whilst 40% thought the Europe minister Keith Vaz should resign, whereas 22% thought this government is worse than John Major's for sleaze, 37% still think the Conservatives are worse (35% saw no difference between the two main parties on the issue).

'Stick to 3 May'

The poll found 53% of respondents who supported delaying the election beyond 3 May, compared with 43% who believed the government should stick to their favoured option.

These two latest polls offer conflicting messages on the foot and mouth crisis.

NOP found 47% of people who thought the government was handling it badly, compared with 44% who disagreed with that view.

However, Gallup discovered nearly three quarters of respondents who agreed with the proposition that the government is handling the crisis "as well as could be reasonably expected" (62%) or "better than that" (12%). Gallup found only 23% who were more critical.

Whilst we can mull over these differences neither of the polls suggests that the foot and mouth issue is yet at a level to change the political landscape.

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See also:

18 Mar 01 | UK Politics
May general election hint
18 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Kennedy tells party to get ready
28 Feb 01 | UK Politics
Foot-and-mouth 'could delay election'
10 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Boost for early election
15 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Poll decision needed soon - Hague
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