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Thursday, 28 September, 2000, 14:30 GMT 15:30 UK
Has Labour's poll slide halted?

The head of BBC Political Research, David Cowling, looks at the latest opinion poll:

The latest Times/Mori poll suggests Labour is 2% ahead of the Conservatives compared with a 21% lead one month ago.

The survey puts Labour at 37% (down 14%), the Conservatives with 35% (up 6%) and the Lib Dems on 21% (up 6%).

What everyone is waiting for is a poll that measures the full effect, if any, of this week's Labour conference. Unfortunately this poll is not it.

The 1,843 respondents were interviewed between the last day of the Lib Dem party conference and the second day of the Labour conference. Therefore the great majority had been sampled before Gordon Brown's speech and all of them before Tony Blair's.

Perhaps the weekend will bring the first poll that measures public reaction to Labour's conference.

The August Times/MORI was the last published poll before the fuel crisis hurricane hit the government.

The changes this latest poll registers repeat the pattern of earlier surveys this month: a substantial fall in support for Labour with both the Conservatives and Lib Dems benefiting evenly from the fall-out.

However, this is the first poll in a fortnight to put Labour ahead of the Conservatives, albeit narrowly. When the margin of error is taken into account, Labour could actually be behind the Conservatives.

However, it is unlikely that such considerations will be allowed to dent the drama that seems to have surrounded every recent poll. And politically the result will provide an important fillip to Labour.

The party will hope that the nerve wracking dive in their public support over the last few weeks has at last bottomed out and that the next few weeks will show further improvements in their ratings.

There is certainly room for improvement. The poll showed a further drop in satisfaction with the government and no improvement on the two-thirds of respondents who are dissatisfied with Mr Blair.

The Conservatives will make much of the collapse in Labour's fortunes over the past month but they will begin their conference with Mr Hague's personal ratings, according to the poll, at minus 33% - having fallen from minus 25% in August.

It seems once again that whilst the public want to punish Labour they are unwilling to reward the Conservatives.

The pressure on Mr Hague to perform at his conference may be as great as that on Mr Blair in Brighton this week.

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See also:

21 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Third poll suggests Tory lead
19 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Labour hit by third bad poll
18 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Poll monitor: Are the Tories on the up?
18 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Poll boost for Tories
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