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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 08:45 GMT 09:45 UK
Labour maintains poll lead
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%).
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).
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".
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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