An opinion poll in the Times is our first opportunity to see just how much damage the Labour party’s losses at the local election and the Prime Minister’s reshuffle have had on party support. Topline figures for the Populus poll, with changes from the last Populus poll at the beginning of April, are CON 38%(+4), LAB 30%(-6), LDEM 20%(-1).

The poll would have been taken between Friday and Sunday, while the media coverage of Labour’s local losses and speculation over Tony Blair’s future was at its height. It’s likely that their poll rating will recover as the immediate crisis passes, on the other hand the poll itself may put further pressure on Tony Blair’s leadership as Labour MPs worry about their future.

Were these results to be repeated at a general election then the Conservatives would be the largest party, 22 seats short of a majority. This is based on a uniform swing – in reality a swing of that size is very unlikely to be uniform and such a swing of opinion against Labour would almost certainly be accompanied by anti-Labour tactical voting.

If Labour do change their leader the situation may not improve for them. Populus also asked a hypothetical question about voting intention with Gordon Brown as the Labour leader and found the Conservatives on 41%. It’s important to note that such questions are hypothetical and aren’t even directly comparable since they include the names of the party leaders while normal voting intention questions do not. Despite that it certainly suggests that a Brown leadership will not be a magic cure-all for Labour’s problems.

UPDATE: Other findings in the poll include 54% of respondents agreeing that while it was all well and good to remove failing ministers “the government’s biggest problem is Tony Blair himself”, 72% dismissing the reshuffle as an attempt to deflect attention and 65% agreeing with the statement “the way things are going Labour will lose the next general election”.

The percentage of people thinking that Blair should stay on until near the end of the Parliament has fallen from 33% to 25% since last month (amongst Labour voters it falls from 50% to 41%). 50% of the public now want him to go by the end of the year (28% of Labour voters agree).

UPDATE 2: Somewhat delayed, MORI’s April political monitor has also been released. It was conducted over the weekend prior to the local elections, so before the reshuffle. The topline figures, with changes from the previous MORI poll a fortnight earlier are CON 36%(+6), LAB 32%(+2), LDEM 21%(-4). As ever MORI’s polls are more erratic than their competitors, probably because they do not weight by past vote which serves to dampen down sample error for the other pollsters.

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