Another week, another set of polls that put Labour and the Tories on an almost level footing. In his weekly national poll, Lord Ashcroft has the Conservatives two points ahead on 31 per cent — down three points from last week — while Labour are on 29 per cent. Today’s Guardian/ICM poll also has the Conservatives slightly ahead, by one point, while Labour has jumped three points to 35 per cent. But the latest The Sun/YouGov’s poll tonight shows the opposite: this poll has Labour two points ahead of the Tories, who are down to 32 per cent. Another poll from Populus yesterday put the two main parties on 34 per cent each.
Two weeks to go until the election campaign properly begins and there is still no clear frontrunner. Last Monday’s polls suggested that the Tories might be pulling ahead — with four point leads from YouGov and Lord Ashcroft, just putting the Conservatives’ lead beyond the margin of error. But these polls show that the race is still very tight and time is running out for either Labour or the Tories to establish a clear lead.
If these numbers were repeated on 7 May, it would be too close to say who would be in No.10. YouGov’s Peter Kellner has also released his predictions today for the number of seats:: Conservative 297, Labour 262, Lib Dems 30, SNP 35, Ukip 4, Green 1 and 21 others. If this proves to be accurate, another Con-Lib Dem coalition could be on the cards — or possibly a period of minority government with another snap election in October.
While the parties remain in flux, Ipsos MORI has released their political monitor report for March, confirming some other notions about the strengths and weaknesses of each party. According to the report, David Cameron continues to be more popular than his party: 39 per cent like him personally compared to 33 per cent for his party. More people also like Nigel Farage than his party — but neither are particularly popular. As the chart below shows, more than half of voters like Labour but just 30 per cent like Ed Miliband. Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are in a similar situation:
It has become near compulsory for our political leaders to be seen as normal people. In his focus groups this week, Lord Ashcroft has asked how voters imagine leaders spending a spare Friday evening away from politics. According to the Tory peer, it is assumed that Nigel Farage would go to the pub, ‘possibly after a spot of fishing’, or eat at a ‘French restaurant with his German wife to complain about immigration’. Nick Clegg would take his family ten-pin bowling or stay in to watch The Great British Bake Off.
As with his previous focus groups, Ed Miliband comes off the worst. Voters reckon he would probably have a ‘posh dinner party’ to attend but if not, he’d be ‘playing with the train set some suspect he has in his loft’, reading opinion polls or spending extra time with his family. David Cameron would ‘get a helicopter to Cornwall’ with his wife and family to make best use of the country air to ‘help him focus on the job.’ But if Sam Cam was away, the focus groups reckon Cameron would go to ‘his club’ for some ‘mildly inappropriate banter with Conservative MPs and eight bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon.’ Some perceptions never change.