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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
Labour maintains poll lead

David Cowling

Two polls suggest that public opinion has hardly moved since last week.

The MORI/Times poll shows Labour on 55% (up 1% since last week), the Conservatives on 30% (up 2%) and the Lib Dems on 11% (down 1%).

The Gallup/Telegraph poll shows Labour and the Conservatives unchanged on 48% and 32% respectively, compared with last week, and the Lib Dems on 15% (up 2%).

Bar chart showing the state of the parties in the latest Times poll
When MORI adjusted the voting intention figures to include only those respondents who said they were registered to vote and also certain or very likely to vote, the Labour figure was 54% and the Conservative figure, 31% (a Labour lead of 23% compared with an unadjusted one of 25%).

They also tested attitudes towards the Opposition's readiness to form a government.

In the 1997 campaign, by 55% to 33% electors thought Labour was ready to form the next government.

Strength of support

Now by 25% to 66% they think the Conservatives are not ready.

Four years ago, 53% of people thought Tony Blair was ready to be prime minister, now 25% of the public think William Hague is ready for that office (30% of Conservative supporters think he is not).

Some 69% say they are certain or very likely to vote (compared with 77% at this stage in the 1997 campaign).

State of the parties in the latest poll for the Telegraph
Whereas 74% of Labour voters say they strongly support the party, among Conservatives the figure is 69% and among Lib Dems it is 65%.

The Conservatives may take comfort from MORI's findings on Europe: 73% said they would oppose the euro in a referendum, and this would only fall to 67% if the government strongly urged entry.

MORI also found support for staying in the EU at 51%, compared with 49% who favoured Britain's withdrawal.

The Gallup/Telegraph poll focuses particularly on the "disconnection between the electorate and the political classes".

'Delightful prospect'

It found that about three-quarters of respondents think all politicians are dealing in slogans and soundbites and quoting meaningless statistics; and more than two-thirds say that party leaders are making promises they know they cannot fulfil.

However, 52% disagreed with the proposition that "none of the parties looks like doing much for people like me".

The poll offers a word of caution to Mr Hague on Europe: only 5% said any issue involving the EU was the most urgent issue facing the country at present.

More worrying for him is that four years ago 29% of voters said they would be "delighted" if a Labour government were elected, whereas now 15% say the same about the prospect of a Conservative government.

Similarly, whereas in 1997, 20% said they would be dismayed at a Labour victory, the comparable figure for the Conservatives now is 42%.

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