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By Paul Goodman

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ICM produced a poll recently which showed that the Conservatives had drawn level with Labour, but its survey in today's Guardian shows a three-point gap:

Conservatives: 32 per cent.

Labour: 35 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 14 per cent.

UKIP: 10 per cent.

Today's daily YouGov tracker finds the Tories at about the same level, but Labour significantly higher:

Conservatives: 33 per cent.

Labour: 40 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 8 per cent.

UKIP: 13 per cent.

These figures aren't all that different from Populus's twice-weekly tracker, which was published yesterday:

Conservatives: 33 per cent.

Labour: 39 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 12 per cent

UKIP: 10 per cent.

Finally, let's have a look at YouGov's poll for the Sunday Times of a few days ago which, unsurprisingly, is very like today's daily tracker:

Conservatives: 33 per cent.

Labour: 41 per cent.

Liberal Democrats: 9 per cent.

UKIP: 10 per cent.

I don't believe that polls can tell us much about voting intention this far out from an election, but my summary of where we are is as follows:

Conservatives: The Guardian properly leads today on the rise in the proportion of respondents backing the Tory economic team over the Labour one: the proportion supporting the former has soared from 28 per cent in June to 40 per cent now.  But this support isn't being carried over into voting intention, at least yet.  The Party is coming consistently polling about a third of the vote.

Labour: ICM is showing Labour lower than the other two pollsters who've conducted samples recently.  These suggest that the running August story over Ed Miliband's leadership problems is doing nothing to prevent it holding a healthy lead over the Tories.  If you punch today's tracker figures into Electoral Calculus's general election calculator, it will produce an emphatic Labour majority of 88.

It's true that Labour's rating is a long way south of where the main opposition party should hope to be now, and I suspect that as the election approaches David Cameron will narrow the gap. The Liberal Democrats should do better in the seats they hold than their ratings above suggest.  And there's nothing to suggest that UKIP will fall as low as the three per cent they won in 2010.

None the less, the Conservatives have to open up a lead of between seven per cent and ten per cent on polling day for David Cameron to gain a majority – unless they perform extraodinarily well in the marginals (see this piece by YouGov's Peter Kellner).  I have a £100 bet with Dan Hodges that this won't happen, though it is certainly possible that we will be the biggest party.

All in all, there is no good reason to believe that there will be a majority Tory government after 2015, and thus none, either, for the current wave of Conservative optimism.  But Tory MPs in marginal seats are cheered by the belief that they've a better chance of holding them, and we're all cheered further by the cosmic uselessness of the worst opposition since Michael Foot's.

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