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 A/V REPORTS
The BBC's Peter Snow
reports on the latest opinion polls
 real 56k

Tuesday, 15 May, 2001, 20:42 GMT
Poll boost for Lib Dems

David Cowling

Wednesday's Guardian ICM poll gives Labour 46% (down 1% on their last poll at the end of April), the Conservatives 31% (down 2%) and the Lib Dems 16% (up 2%).

It is broadly consistent with the clutch of polls that preceded it as far as Labour and the Conservatives are concerned but gives a fillip to the Lib Dems who have not hit 16% in any poll since March.

Labour leads the Conservatives as the party with the best policy on tax (albeit by only 4% - 29% versus 25%).


However, the Labour lead as the party with the best policy on public spending was much bigger - 41% versus 20% for the Conservatives (ICM found that 16% of Conservative supporters thought Labour had the best policy on public spending).

As both Labour and the Conservatives lock horns over taxation, it could well be that the Lib Dems gain the most pleasure from this survey.

Some 52% of respondents favoured increasing the 40% higher rate of taxation and 43% thought that every taxpayer should pay more.

Leader ratings

Indeed, 50% of those surveyed said they would be prepared to pay more tax to improve public services (including 35% of Conservative supporters).

Although it should be said that in the past such sentiments have not led to overwhelming electoral success for parties advocating precisely those policies.

Whilst Tony Blair still dominates on the question of who would make the best Prime Minister, William Hague's own ratings have risen by 3% overall but by 7% (to 56%) among Conservative voters.

So, it appears that during the first days of the campaign Mr Hague has scored his greatest success among existing Conservative voters.

Future polls may show whether that appeal broadens beyond core supporters to the wider electorate.

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