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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Poll monitor: Tories far from victory

The latest poll figures published on 25 May aren't great for Labour but the wheels haven't come off Tony Blair's electoral battle bus just yet, argues the editor of BBC Political Research David Cowling.

The latest Mori poll mirrors the trend if not the figures of the ICM poll published earlier in May: Labour down 3% (to 48%), Conservatives up 5% (32%) and the Lib Dems unchanged on 15%.

David Cowling: The voters are becoming disatisfied with Labour
So, is it now all falling apart for the Labour government? Not quite and not yet.

The ICM poll (Guardian, 16 May) was the first since 1997 to put Labour's voting intention support (41%) below its general election vote share (44%).

This extraordinary Labour honeymoon is without precedent in the history of polling in Britain. About this stage in the last parliament, the Labour Opposition held a 28% lead in the polls.

At the same stage in the 1987-92 parliament they were 14% ahead of the Conservatives.

Tory recovery still weak

Yet now, after all the battering Labour has received over past months, their lead as the government party over the opposition is either 7% in this month's ICM or 16% according to Mori.

Conservative jubilation over this month's polls also needs some qualification. The 1997 general election was the worst result for them in a century and yet in the three years since then only one previous poll (ICM, November 1999) has put them above their disastrous general election vote share.

In this month's ICM survey they matched that rating of seven months ago with their support reaching 34%, a mere 2% above their vote share at the last general election.

They need to rattle Labour's cage a little more fiercely than that if they are to win the next general election.

Blair on a low

But let it not be said that everything is wonderful in Labour's garden.

Mr Blair's personal rating is down from +11% last month to +5% in May - the rating is calculated as net balance between those satisfied and those dissatisfied.

Satisfaction with the way the government is running the country registers at -13%; and Mori's economic optimism index (that measures whether respondents believe the economy will improve or get worse over the next twelve months) stands at -11%.

However, Mr Hague's personal ratings stand at -20% and there seems little evidence to suggest that whatever the perceived failings of the government the public are yet willing to turn and embrace any alternative.

But with the clock already ticking for the next election, the twelve months ahead could yet provide some polling fireworks.

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