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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 07:21 GMT
Labour lead 'biggest since 1999'
Graph showing the state of the opinion polls
David Cowling

The Mori/Economist poll gives Labour 54%, the Conservatives 26% and the Lib Dems 14%.

This is the biggest Labour lead in any poll and the lowest Conservative share since November 1999.

The poll was taken between 10/14 May (among 1,846 adults), before the Wednesday on which the prime minister was confronted by the distraught partner of a cancer patient, Jack Straw was heckled at the Police Federation conference and John Prescott was caught up in a fracas in Rhyl.

Two ICM polls sampled during this period gave smaller leads of 16% and 15%.

Bar chart showing the opinion poll shares
The survey suggests that the Conservative assault on tax has made little impact so far.

Taxation comes fourth in voters' priorities (behind health, education and law and order); and among those who rate it most important, only one in three think the Conservatives have the best policy (just 3% ahead of Labour).

Mori also found that among those respondents who said they might change their mind before polling day, health and education were bigger priorities than for the population as a whole.

Labour is almost as popular on health, and even more popular on education, than it was four years ago.

'Bedpan man'

On law and order, where it was well behind one year ago, the poll shows Labour now neck and neck with the Conservatives.

And when it comes to the issue of managing the economy, half of those who consider this an important issue nominate Labour as the best party, up from a quarter in 1997.

Mori found that a quarter of Conservative supporters said they might change their mind before polling day, and among these as many said they would consider switching to Labour as to the Lib Dems.

However, most Labour supporters who might change said they would shift to the Lib Dems.

The Economist also offers "a new psephological archetype" to replace the former icons of 'Basildon Man' and 'Worcester Woman'.

The new one is 'Bedpan Man'.

This is not what you think.

It is someone who is middle class and lives in the prosperous suburban areas where Labour made big gains in 1997 and goes to work on the Bedford-St Pancras line, known as the Bedpan.

He is impressed by Labour's handling of the economy but concerned about local schools and hospitals.

The battleground for him seems to be public services.

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