General Election 2017: Theresa May's poll lead cut to single figures

"Three weeks ago my lead was this wide..." Is May worried about Labour's improved polling?
"Three weeks ago my lead was this wide..." Is May worried about Labour's improved polling?
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At the end of a week when the Tory manifesto was poorly received, Max Liu looks at the polls and asks if Labour's improved figures are significant enough to alter the election outcome...

Labour are now [1.81] to take over 177.5 seats and the odds on them winning 30-35% of the vote have narrowed to [2.66].

For the second week in a row, Labour have eaten into the Conservatives' lead in the polls for the 2017 General Election. The opposition will be particularly encouraged by YouGov's latest figures on voting intention, which have Labour cutting the Tories lead to nine points.

It's the first time Labour have polled within ten points of the Tories since Theresa May called the snap election just over a month ago and it's the narrowest Tory lead in 2017. The figures put Labour up by four points and the Tories down by five.

This makes little impact on Betfair's headline election markets where the Conservatives are [1.09] to win a majority on June 8. However, Labour are now [1.81] to take over 177.5 seats and the odds on them winning 30-35% of the vote have narrowed to [2.66].

As we've already mentioned, Labour were up last week too, at the end of a week when their leaked manifesto dominated the news. However, at least half of last weekend's polling happened after the Labour manifesto had been leaked, so this week's figures probably contain the full force of Labour's manifesto bounce.

Parties usually enjoy a bounce after their manifestos are announced, although it's not certain that the Tories will after they announced this week a package of policies that's light on attractive promises and full of grim realities.

Their policies on social care for the elderly proved to be unpopular. A survey published in today's Mail, which was conducted after Thursday's Tory manifesto launch, has 28% saying they're less likely to vote Conservative because of the social care package which has been branded a "dementia tax" by opponents.

The Liberal Democrats, meanwhile, had another difficult week, with leader Tim Farron forced to deny claims about his views on homosexuality and abortion. His party are [1.72] to win 10-19 seats (they were believed to be targeting around 30) and the sense that their campaign has been dogged by accusations about Farron is compounded by polls which put them on around 8%.

Labour's slow but steady erosion of Tory lead

Labour's improved polling is welcome news for a party that's been lagging behind the government for several months and was, according to many commentators, facing wipeout at the general election. But let's not get too carried away with this weekend's YouGov poll, as the numbers indicate that Jeremy Corbyn's party are still destined for defeat.

To give an indication of the problem's facing Labour: if they were to keep improving in the polls at their current rate then they would overtake the Conservatives several weeks after the election. Even then, they'd need to establish a lead of over 10% before they'd be on course to achieve the swing needed to guarantee them even the slimmest majority. The maths, like the media, really are against Labour.

Opinium today have Labour up one point to 33%, 13 points behind the Tories on 46, while ORB give the Conservatives a 12 point lead. Pollsters believe that people who voted Labour in 2015 are returning to them as the election approaches. This could be because they like Corbyn's manifesto or because they feel confident they can vote for Labour without any danger of him becoming PM.

If you think the latter view is a cynical way of interpreting Labour's upturn then bear in mind that, with Opinium, May is rated as the best person to be Prime Minister by 45% while only 22% prefer Corbyn.

Labour leadership - Corbyn to stay after defeat?

This week, Unite union leader and Corbyn backer Len McCluskey told an interviewer that winning 200 seats would be a success for Labour at the general election. He was immediately accused of trying to lower expectations and increase Corbyn's chances of continuing as Labour leader after the election.

Corbyn is [1.37] to leave his post in 2017 but, with today's polls indicating that Labour could improve on the 30.4% of the vote that Labour won under Ed Miliband's leadership in 2015, the current leader's allies are already saying that he should continue.

Keir Starmer, who's [7.2] to succeed Corbyn, disagrees that the 2015 result is any yardstick for success. Proof, if any were needed, that for Labour the real contest could begin on June 9.


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