By Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC.
The Conservatives have climbed five points to 33 per cent in today’s Ashcroft National Poll, giving them a two-point lead over Labour, who are down two points on 31 per cent. The Liberal Democrats are unchanged on 9 per cent, UKIP down two points at 15 per cent, and the Greens down one point at 6 per cent.
The boost in the Tory share may well be largely thanks to Jean-Claude Juncker: the poll was taken between Friday afternoon and Sunday evening, when political news was dominated by David Cameron’s stance against the appointment of the new European Commission president. We will see in the coming weeks whether this support can be sustained.
The Juncker Effect, if that is what it is, certainly outweighs any Coulson Effect. Indeed, it seems unlikely that last week’s court verdicts will have moved many votes at all. People inclined to look unfavourably on the Tories’ relationship with senior figures in the Murdoch media are unlikely to have outsourced their voting decisions to the jury.
Despite the small Conservative lead, voters overall would prefer to see Labour in office than the Tories. Nearly a third (32 per cent) said they wanted a Labour government, and a further eight per cent a Labour coalition with the Liberal Democrats. A quarter wanted the Conservatives in government alone (25 per cent), and a further nine per cent in another Con-Lib Dem coalition. Notably, only four fifths of Labour voters and three quarters of Tories wanted to see their respective parties governing alone.
UKIP voters said they would rather see the Conservatives in government (35 per cent with a majority, 10 per cent with a coalition) than Labour – though 27 per cent said they didn’t know what they wanted the outcome to be, the highest proportion of any party’s supporters.
Since launching the ANP, I have asked a number of questions designed to illuminate the choice at the next election as voters are beginning to see it. In recent weeks, for example, I have asked whether or not people think they would be better off today under a Labour government, and whether they think their prospects over the next five years would be better under Labour or the Tories. These questions are pertinent because Labour’s campaign is bound to ask voters how they think they have fared since 2010 – with the obvious implication that if they think they have fared badly, they know whom to blame.
This week, I have asked what people think would be different today in a number of policy areas had Britain had a Labour government for the last four years. In only two of the eight areas I asked about were people more likely to think things would be better than worse: “public services like the NHS” (better 31 per cent, worse 16 per cent) and – very marginally – “the impact of spending cuts” (better 27 per cent, worse 24 per cent).
In the other six areas, people were more likely to say that things would be worse had Labour been in office since 2010 than that they would be better. Perhaps most significantly, 36 per cent thought “the overall state of the economy” would be worse, with only 17 per cent thinking it would be better. “The issue of managing migration into Britain” and “the problem of some people living on benefits when they are able to work” were also thought more likely to be worse than better (by 12 and 17 points respectively).
In most cases, though, people were more likely to say things would be no different than that they would be better or worse. The one exception was “the country’s borrowing and debt”, which 42 per cent of voters thought would be worse had Labour been in charge, with 40 per cent thinking it would be no different and just 12 per cent thinking the situation would be better.
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