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Saturday, 19 May, 2001, 18:04 GMT
Punch fails to hit Labour

David Cowling

The NOP/Sunday Times poll gives Labour 49% (unchanged since one week ago), the Conservatives 30% (down 2%) and the Lib Dems 14% (up 1%).

The Conservatives had hoped that Labour's 'Dies Horribilis' of 16 May, when Tony Blair, Jack Straw and John Prescott all came to grief on camera for the world to see, would be a defining moment for this election campaign: a quake that would bring Labour crashing down.

The poll was conducted in the two days following these events and yet it shows Labour's support unchanged whilst that for the Conservatives is falling.

It would appear from the NOP poll, that whilst the electorate might not have been displeased to see Labour embarrassed and wrong-footed, this has had no affect upon how they intend to vote.

Bar chart showing the support for the parties in the opinion poll
Underpinning this lack of movement in voting intention could well be one of the other NOP findings: by 49% to 23% respondents trust Labour more to run the economy, a 26% lead which is up from 19% one week ago.

Given the wall-to-wall publicity surrounding his fracas in Rhyl, John Prescott will doubtless be relieved that by 58% to 35% NOP's respondents said he was fit to be deputy prime minister.

When asked to judge which party has had the best election campaign so far, 28% said Labour, 12% said the Lib Dems and 11% said the Conservatives.

Tactical voting

All the political parties will want to turn their attention on the 46% of people saying there is no clear campaign victor so far.

More worrying for all of them is another finding which discovered 35% of respondents who said that "none of the political parties deserves my support".

However, the Conservatives will be particularly concerned that 38% of people said they would consider voting tactically and that most said they would do so to defeat them.

In a poll that offers them little comfort, the Conservatives can at least savour the finding that, by 48% to 39%, people do not expect Labour to be in power in 10 years' time.

And that by 60% to 21% respondents thought Labour has been soft on crime.

Another poll by NOP in the Sunday People was conducted exclusively among 500 pensioners on 17 May and found 50% intending to vote Labour, 31% Conservative and 12% Lib Dem.

If such levels of support were repeated on 7 June the benefit to Labour would be very great.

Not only does this represent a very significant increase in Labour's support among pensioners since 1997, but they tend to vote in greater numbers than any other age group.

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