By Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC.

Labour lead by two points in this week’s Ashcroft National Poll, conducted between Friday and Sunday. Labour were down one point on 34 per cent with the Conservatives up five on 32 per cent, the Liberal Democrats up two to 9 per cent, and UKIP down three to 14 per cent. The narrower Labour advantage reflects that of other polls published over the weekend.

It is important to see the change in the Conservative vote share in the context of the longer term trend: though the Tory figures have moved around more than those of other parties in the ANP, they have effectively been at 30 per cent, within the margin of error, for eight weeks, while Labour remain firmly in the mid-30s.

Asked how they expected the economy to fare over the next year, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) expected it to do well for the country as a whole – a 9-point increase since I last asked the question at the beginning of June. When it came to prospects for “me and my family”, the increase in optimism was more muted. This may indicate that while people hear the steady stream of good national news, such as last week’s GDP figures, changes in most people’s own circumstances have yet to catch up.

This week I also asked whether they thought certain events, both positive and negative, were more likely to happen under a Conservative or a Labour government. The results encapsulate the two parties’ respective strengths and weaknesses. In most cases, at least as many people said the scenario in question was at least as likely (or probably, unlikely) to happen under a government of either colour.

The Conservatives were thought more likely than Labour to deliver “strong economic growth, with more jobs and higher incomes” (by 31 per cent to 23 per cent); “effective action to move people from welfare benefits into work” (by 45 per cent to 17 per cent); “a significant fall in immigration to the UK” (by 34 per cent to 11 per cent); and “a referendum on whether Britain should remain a member of the EU” (by 44 per cent to 15 per cent – though the margin among UKIP voters was 34 per cent to 16 per cent, with 48 per cent saying it was equally likely or unlikely to happen under either party). On the downside, the Tories were thought more likely to impose “higher taxes for people like you” (by 34 per cent to 24 per cent).

A Labour government, on the other hand, was more likely than a Conservative government to lead to “improvements in the NHS” (by 41 per cent to 14 per cent); “action to tackle tax avoidance by rich individuals and companies” (by 43 per cent to 17 per cent); “action to tackle the rising cost of living” (by 37 per cent to 19 per cent); “more houses being built” (by 32 per cent to 19 per cent); and “lower gas and electricity bills” (though only 29 per cent thought this more likely to happen – albeit more than the 12 per cent who thought this was more likely under Labour than the Tories).

By a small margin (32 per cent to 27 per cent) people thought “strikes by trade unions” were more likely to happen under Labour. By a very much bigger margin (41 per cent to 14 per cent), a Labour government was thought to mean “an increase in the country’s borrowing and debt”. Strikingly, Labour’s advantage on the NHS precisely mirrors its deficit on the deficit. Which will matter more?

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