Finally, some good news for the government – the public seems unconcerned by its recent difficulties. In spite of plebgate and George Osborne’s train ticket dominating this weekend’s papers, polling out today shows the Conservatives have managed to reverse their voting share decline in the wake of their party conference. The Populus/Times poll places the Tories on 35 per cent, up five points from September while Labour are down by the same amount. This brings Labour’s lead down to where it was before this year’s budget in March 2012:
The Guardian/ICM polling shows a smaller increase, with Labour on 41 per cent and 33 per cent for the Conservatives. This is still a two point improvement on their last poll:
However, the ICM figures are adjusted in favour of the Tories. The headline figures take into account ‘shy Tories’ – an assumption that a proportion of the ‘don’t knows’ will vote the same way they did at the last election. The raw polling figures place Labour on 43 per cent to 32 per cent for the Tories. This suggests a nine point gap compared to the 8 points in the adjusted figures. Although the difference is just one point, the ‘shy Tory’ vote is a group that No. 10 is increasingly focusing on for a 2015 victory, believing it could add as much as five points onto their current polling as James reported recently.
But one aspect of the poll will worry No 10. Despite falling unemployment and inflation, the ICM/Guardian poll reports that David Cameron and George Osborne’s prized economic competence rating is dropping, compared to Ed Balls and Ed Miliband:
This makes the autumn statement on 5 December all the more important for the Chancellor. Along with the March 2013 budget, it will be one of the last opportunities to announce reforms that will have a sporting chance of making a noticeable impact on the economy by the 2015 election. Yesterday, Tim Montgomerie tweeted that ‘Fleet St’s coverage of political trivia is now at epidemic levels’. Although this is certainly the case, the nation appears to be taking little notice of trains and gates, but voters will be far less kind if the economy — the core reason behind this coalition — appears to be on the road to nowhere.
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