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Thursday, 22 February, 2001, 14:15 GMT
Poll monitor: Grim Tory reading
MORI poll
The latest MORI opinion poll on the state of the parties provides grim reading for the Conservatives, says BBC Political Research editor David Cowling.

The latest MORI poll in The Times newspaper shows Labour support at 50%, unchanged from last month, the Conservatives on 30% (down 1%) and the Liberal Democrats unchanged from January, on 14%.

These grim figures for the Conservatives were not made any less painful for featuring as the front page lead story in The Times.

The report highlighted Mr Hague's personal ratings which stand at -31% in terms of those who are satisfied or dissatisfied with his performence as party leader.

Even among Conservative supporters his rating was -5%.

Positive Blair

By contrast, Mr Blair's personal rating among the general public stood at +5% and it was +64% among Labour supporters.

However, Labour's strength extended to more important issues.

MORI asked people what issues they believed were important and which party they believed could deliver on it.

In the past the Conservative party would have been identified as best at handling the economy, taxation and law and order.

MORI found that among the near one-in-three respondents who thought taxation important, the Conservatives held only a 2% lead over Labour: the 47% of respondents who cited law and order as important saw no difference between the two main parties; and of the 27% who thought managing the economy was important, 50% thought Labour was better at this, compared with 25% who preferred the Conservatives.

Labour encouragement

Despite the travails of government, Labour remains ahead on its two traditionally strong issues of health and education.

The 65% of respondents who thought healthcare important gave Labour a 31% lead over the Conservatives; and the 52% who chose education gave Labour a 30% lead.

All of this is encouraging for Labour, especially if they intend to call a general election this spring.

However, their fear that a low turnout could provide turn out to be the Conservative's hidden weapon will not have abated with this poll.

MORI found that the number of people saying they were certain or very likely to vote was 67%.

When they asked this question in the same period before the 1997 general election the figure was 77%. This translated into an actual turnout of 71% on polling day.

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