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An interesting poll to be published in the Guardian later today reveals that in a contest between Cameron, Blair, and Campbell, the Conservatives would come out with 42% of the vote to Labour’s 29% (and the Lib Dems 17%). They then go on to say how this is the Conservatives best rating since just after they won the 1993 General Election, and Tory bloggers like Iain Dale get quite excited about this – and understandably so.
Except, it’s not quite true. That is, it isn’t really a genuine poll rating in the strictest sense, because it’s asking about a hypothetical situation using a completely different question to the standard ICM polling question, which makes comparison somewhat nonsensical. Admittedly, the Conservatives have gained on the state of play garnered via the same question last month, but I’m not a great believer in the question in the first place. It’s asking people to compare two relatively established leaders with one that’s sort of in a No-Man’s-Land – of course the established visionary will come out on top over somebody who’s not really had a great chance to state his case fully in front of the nation. And spin as required.
Iain Dale reckons a couple more polls like this will get Labour MPs ‘twitchy’ about Mr Brown’s potential performance. I tend to disagree. I think Mr Brown needs a good crack of the whip before he’ll improve poll ratings, and if the only realistic alternative is John Reid… well, I think the country’s better off with Brown.
Looking at the more interesting data – the standard three-party comparison – the Tories are still doing well. They’re on 40%, to Labour’s 31%. But, of course, that’s still a slightly sticky comparison, as the current situation doesn’t reflect that at the next General Election. Essentially, what I’m saying is that polls taken right now don’t mean an awful lot, and probably shouldn’t be leading national newspapers.
That said, general trends are always of interest, and the Conservatives have been in the lead for almost a year now. That’s significant. The trends are showing that the Conservatives are taking a real hold of support, and their grip is gradually tightening. Of course, our slightly perverse electoral system means that they’ll need to keep that grip rather vice-like to actual turn it into a Parliamentary majority come election time, but perhaps that’s possible.
I would say that this poll should certainly stop Mr Cameron from crying in his cornflakes tomorrow morning, but it really shouldn’t be a champagne breakfast. He appears to be doing well – though it’s difficult to tell quite how well – but there’s an awful long way to go yet. Let’s hope he keeps fighting.