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Friday, 9 February, 2001, 15:56 GMT
Poll monitor: Labour looks hard to beat

By editor of BBC political research David Cowling

Friday's Gallup snapshot poll in the Daily Telegraph puts Labour on 50% (down 1% on their ratings in January), the Conservatives at 29% (down 2% ) and the Lib Dems on 17% (up 4%).

If the race to the next election has truly started then the Labour favourite looks very hard to beat.

The polls last month, as far as the Conservatives are concerned, were ominously similar to those published exactly four years ago in January 1997.

Four years ago, the average of the five polls published in January gave Labour 51% support, the Conservatives 31% and the Lib Dems 12%.

The average of the seven polls published in January this year showed Labour on 49%, the Conservatives on 32% and the Lib Dems with 14%.

Financial optimism

What will encourage Labour is the fact that a number of poll indicators other than voting intention also appear to be shifting in their favour.

Gallup found a significant increase in Labour's rating on economic competence, a net rating of +12% between those who believe their financial situation will improve over the next 12 months versus those who think it will worsen; and a further narrowing of the negative rating on approval of the government's record to date.

Gallup also offered a series of critical statements about Tony Blair and William Hague and invited respondents to decide whether they agreed or disagreed with each of them.

Blair seen as out of touch

Two thirds of people think Mr Blair has allowed himself to lose touch with ordinary people: half think he shows poor judgement and spends too much time with the rich and powerful.

However, just over a half of those sampled disagreed that he is self-satisfied and arrogant and almost six out of ten disagreed when it was put to them that he cannot be trusted.

The news for William Hague was considerably more grim. Over 70% agree he will say almost anything to win votes: 56% agree that he changes his mind all the time; and whilst 69% disagree that he is quite nasty, some 66% agree that he comes over as "a bit of a wally".

All this ties in with the decline in his "who would make the best prime minister" ratings last month (down to 18.6%).

The one issue where the public were more evenly divided about him was on his vision of the future - 47% agreed that he had no clear vision and 46% disagreed.

However, it seems clear, so far, that even among those who think he has a clear vision, many simply do not share it.

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See also:

23 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour maintains its lead
19 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Poll monitor: Labour increases lead
17 Nov 00 | Talking Politics
Poll monitor: State of the nation
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