But it’s still very much in knife-edge territory
The profusion of election-period polls means that it’s now possible to produce a PB poll average figure for shorter periods than before. Consequently, I’ve split the period from April 1 to May 6 into two parts and am using these instead, the first of which is for the scores for up to April 21:
Con 34.5 (n/c)
Lab 33.7 (-0.4)
UKIP 11.4 (-0.8)
LD 8.5 (+0.6)
Grn 5.8 (+0.1)
Oth 6.1 (+0.4)
Good news for the Blue team? Perhaps. Certainly the headline figures are relatively positive with the highest Tory lead since October 2010 and a decline in their two main rivals but CCHQ shouldn’t get too carried away for at least three reasons.
Firstly, a lot rests on that early April ICM poll which put the Tories six points clear. That wasn’t a result wholly out of line with their previous polling but was still some way top-side of what anyone else is reporting, or that they have previously and subsequently found. That doesn’t mean it was wrong but we ought to be sceptical. Having said that, even if we exclude it (which we shouldn’t), the overall Con lead would still be up on March.
Secondly, how much further will UKIP fall – if at all? Their share hasn’t been lower since February 2013 and means they’ve lost almost a third of their votes in half a year and it’s probably more than coincidence that their decline coincides with the recovery in the Con share. In one sense, there’s scope for further reduction: their current rating is still well over treble their 2010 total. In another, it means peeling off voters who’ve been with Farage and Co since midterm. Perhaps the SNP question will help Cameron there but it’s late in the day now.
And thirdly, a 0.8% lead is not much to write home about in the big scheme of things. Remember that the Tories were 7.2% ahead across GB in 2010, so the polls still suggest a net 3.2% swing to Labour overall, and substantially higher in England. Unless that’s inefficiently distributed – and previous Ashcroft polling suggests the opposite – Labour would probably just end up ahead even after losing 35 or so to seats the SNP, but Miliband would have far more supporters in the Commons.
Elsewhere, the Lib Dems return their best score this year but 8.5% is still only just over a third of their 2010 score. Indeed, in terms of vote share per constituency contested, it would be their worst ever at a general election. Incumbency may help to an extent but they do seem to be looking at a sizable cull given that there’s now precious little opportunity for the Yellows to make a mark on the campaign.
With just a fortnight of campaigning left, can anything deliver the country from a deeply hung parliament? Barring a dreadful error from one side or another (including the pollsters), it seems unlikely.