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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 15:22 GMT 16:22 UK
Polls boost Clarke and Blair

David Cowling

The MORI/Times poll puts Labour support at 49%, the Conservatives on 25% and the Lib Dems on 19%.

This is the first political opinion poll following the election and gives Labour a 24% lead, compared with their 9% lead in total votes on 7 June.

The first poll (Gallup/Telegraph) following the 1997 election gave Labour 59%, the Conservatives 23% and the Lib Dems 13%.

Not surprisingly, this poll concentrates entirely on the Conservative Party leadership candidates. Among the general public, Mr Clarke registers 32% support, compared with 17% for Mr Portillo, 7% for Mr Duncan Smith, 6% for Mr Ancram and 4% for Mr Davis.


However, the gap narrows among Conservative supporters. With this group, Kenneth Clarke still leads but only by 29% to Michael Portillo's 25%, with 13% for Iain Duncan Smith, 12% for Michael Ancram and 5% for David Davis.

Respondents were finally offered two possible pairings for the final run-off which will be decided over the summer.

A Clarke-Portillo contest found 51% of the general public supporting Mr Clarke, compared with 25% for Mr Portillo. Among Conservative supporters, Mr Clarke's lead narrowed to 49% over 39%.

The second pairing was between Michael Portillo and Iain Duncan Smith and here Mr Portillo's lead was a narrow 34% over 31% for Mr Smith.

Among Conservative supporters, Michael Portillo's lead stretched to 46% over Mr Smith's 37%. Nevertheless, this is a strong performance by Iain Duncan Smith who has had a low public profile and will encourage his supporters.

But in the end it is not the general public, nor even Conservative supporters who will decide the outcome of this particular election.

It is in the hands of 166 Conservative MPs and 300,000 party members. Their votes will tell us much about how the party interprets the lessons of two devastating defeats.

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