After a long break the regular Populus polls for the Times start up again in tomorrow’s paper – the topline figures with changes from October are CON 36%(-2), LAB 39%(+1), LDEM 11%(-4). This three point lead is actually the lowest any of the regular pollsters are currently showing, but I expect we’ll find that’s because like ICM, Populus re-allocate don’t knows to the parties they voted for last time and these days that works against Labour.

The poll also asked people which they would prefer between the government’s strategy of eliminating the deficit in four years, or Labour’s policy of halving the deficit in four years (although notably the question itself did NOT indicate to people that these were government and Labour policies) – people were pretty evenly split, with 46% prefering the government’s policy and 54% the opposition’s (I’m not sure if they add to 100% because it was a forced choice or because it’s been repercentaged to exclude don’t knows).

The Times report suggests there were also a series of questions rating the performance of cabinet ministers, but the details don’t seem to be online yet.

UPDATE: The daily YouGov/Sun poll is also out, and has topline figures of CON 37%, LAB 43%, LD 9%.

UPDATE2: The 3 point Labour lead was indeed partially due to reallocating don’t knows. Without the reallocation the figures were CON 35%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%. After many years of the adjustment helping Labour in the polls it looks as though the days of shy Tories are gradually reappearing.

132 Responses to “New Populus poll shows 3 point Labour lead”

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  1. @SoCaL

    The bill goes back to the HoC for another round of voting. Last time the proposal for 40% was defeated; but the Lords amendment may be drafted differently or the amendment succeeding in the Lords may encourage Labour & some Tories to vote against.

    There has been some (hilarious, IMO) carping about Ed Miliband being unable to control the Labour Lords because Labour had an AV referendum in their manifesto but the Labour Lords aren’t supporting it.

    But Lord Rooker is a Tory, therefore unless David Cameron secretly approves of the 40% amendment, he has proven unable to control the Tory Lords (which is ‘worse’ for a PM than an opposition leader).

    Anyway, the bill could go to & fro any number of times, in theory. I was hoping than one of the better informed commenters could hazard a guess at how many times/ how long it will take to seal the deal. Given there was only a majority of one against in the Lords, I wouldn’t think it will take much to sort it out.

    IMO, if David Cameron added another Lord or two, simply to get this amendment killed, it could have the effect of causing more support for it. The Lords tend to resist ‘muscular’ tactics like that.

  2. @ Amber Star

    Thanks for that explanation. I guess it would be kinda weird to have different members of the Commons and the Lords sitting down together in a room to hash out an arrangement. The whole thing seems kinda silly. The Tories are pushing hard for something that is (1) stupid, (2) something they don’t even want, and (3) possibly harms them politically.

    Btw, I read an article last night on yahoo that talked about David Cameron’s promise to not have a budget wedding for the royal couple. It was interesting in light of all the budget slashing. All I could do was thank god for giving some people the foresight to write Article I, Section 9, Clause 10 of the U.S. Constitution. :)

  3. @ Amber Star

    Here is that article I was talking about:

    h ttp://

    Maybe it’s because I wasn’t raised with and don’t live under a proper King or Queen and don’t have any properly titled nobility (so I lack the appreciation……Bush is as close to a monarch as I’ve ever had) but there’s something about that article that would really bother me if I was British.

    If, hypothetically, the Lib Dems had a Parliamentary majority and they were making all sorts of broad cuts, would they spend government money on a lavish royal wedding? Makes me wonder.

  4. @SoCaL

    I haven’t seen anything like it in the UK media.

    Actually, I hope David Cameron didn’t actually say the things he’s quoted as having said. ‘His’ comments are too lavish; ‘he’ sounds like the kind of creepy fan who has celebrities wondering, should we increase our security? ;-)

    The whole thing is going to be horrible. There’ll be endless articles about what’s getting spent & who is paying & how the boost to tourism justifies the expense.

    And the whole ‘austerity Britain’ stuff is ridiculous & a bit naff. Africa will be sending us food parcels, if DC & GO keep telling the whole world we are skint.

  5. It will be interesting to hear more about this Populus poll, once all the supporting information is available.

    I’m very interested in what lies behind the shift in attitude to the deficit reduction policy; were there really zero ‘don’t knows’?

    Unless there’s something ‘dodgy’ about the 46%/ 54% split in Labour’s favour, the Coalition should be worried by this poll. The economy is the only thing holding Labour back from a huge lead in the polls, IMO. 8-)

  6. I’ve tried ysterday and today to visit, without success. Anyone know what’s going on?

    And on a different subject, the net gov approval table on this page reveals a slow but unceasing decrease in gov approval (allowing for the occasional blips). Will it -30 be end of Feb?

  7. Lord Rooker isn’t a Tory. He’s a former Labour MP actually.

  8. “The Labour peers were joined by 10 Tory rebels including the former cabinet ministers, Lord Lamont, Lord Brooke and Lord Forsyth.”


    In their letter to the crossbenchers, Strathclyde and McNally wrote: “As you will understand only too well, the implications for the house in choosing to prevent deliverance of the bill on time would be extremely serious. It has been a long-standing convention of the house that the government should be entitled to get its business through and we believe that a majority of the house would like to see that happen.”

    One crossbencher said: “It is obvious what that letter is saying. It is telling us that unless we support the government they will bring forward plans to chuck us out.”

    All from the Guardian. Looks like some Tory Lords and Crossbenchers are a bit miffed* with having their arms bent up behind their backs too.

    *is that what cross benchers means?

  9. I always thought that the lords convention was that they would not stop any bills progress that had been in the governments manifesto?

  10. @Neil A – “Perhaps not Richard Murphy, who despite the academic sounding URL of his website, I find to be a screeching partisan leftist most of the time.”

    I think you’re being a little unfair. One way to judge his output is to look at his campaign over the tax gap. Most reasonable estimates of the overall tax gap, depending on how you define it, settle on a figure around £70b pa. The IMF has come up with a figure of £115b pa, although I understand this also includes undeclared earnings from criminal activity alongside tax avoidance/evasion etc.

    By contrast, Murphy talks about a tax gap of only £20b. Extremely modest. Just how modest is apparent when you consider that the recent Vodaphone deal with HMRC let them off a disputed £6b, and there are currently similar court cases involving disputes tax amounts of £23b. The Treasury estimates that EU based VAT fiddles cost the UK £18b, so overall I think you ought to at least give Murphy credit for being extremely measured in his assessment of lost and missing tax revenues.

    On the substance of the cost of the changes to overseas earnings taxes, the cost you quote is probably the normal assessment for these things where they work out what they would cost under current patterns of behaviour. The key difference is that a major new tax initiative will mean companies change behaviour to take advantage.

    In this case, the key issue is that companies will not pay any tax on overseas subsidiary earnings, but will be able to offset the operating costs of their overseas branches against UK tax demands. This is the only tax regime that proposes this.

  11. A mini relaunch is under way from the government…. details are emrging in a rather haphazard fashion but..

    1. alternative plan to forest sell off has been drawn up. It involves local ownership instead of private ownership

    2. 100,000 apprenticeships launched yesterday including 1,000 at Microsoft London

    3. Bank levy is to be upped considerably to £2.5bn

    4. DC/ Pickles are in a tug of war over charity cuts.. the former is leaning on the latter to slow/reduce the pace of cuts on the voluntary sector..

    so a mini relaunch of sorts.. party the work I expect of new media chief Gary Oliver..

    The question is, will it work?

    From my experience… relaunches can work is halting momentum. So this may slow the decline of blue a little. In the face of so much other bad news it is hard to say. A budget is just 6 weeks away and the government will want to position themselves before that… perhaps for a delay in a fuel tariff…

    with retail sales climbing in january, ireland returning to growth, portugal comfortaby selling its bonds.. and the manufacturing trade in strong growth.. there are some green shoots of recovery..

    This evidence all points to one basic conclusion

    The government are restling back the narrative. When you do that you have a chance of slowing the current momentum in the polls. Their media chief is very well liked among the journalist’s lobby and there may be a chance he gets a honeymoon period to shape the news agenda… certainly it appears that this is in fact what is slowly happening…

  12. @Mike N
    I’ve tried ysterday and today to visit, without success. Anyone know what’s going on?
    The Gods must be tiring of the trend towards increasingly partisan threads (in marked contrast to AW’s approach) and are taking their revenge accordingly.

  13. @Aleksandar

    “If the NO camp decides that not voting is a better strategy than voting NO then we are unlikely to reach the 40% threshold. However the bulk of those votes are likely to be YES votes. We could end up with a turnout of 39% but 100% YES, 0% NO”

    but if the YES camp can get that up to the 40% turnout threshold then they have a landslide. It is a risky strategy.

  14. @Eoin/TGB
    I share your point of view. They do seem to be getting their act together, and in addition the Government have been pretty successful in putting their spin on their Libya report. Expect to see their efforts reflected in the next few YouGovs – I’ll be surprised if the red lead doesn’t come down.

    That said, the Government are still swimming against the tide of events, especially the drip drip of cuts. For example, in England, county councils and police authorities have to finalise their precepts for 2011/12 by the end of February, and district/unitary/met districts/London boroughs by 10 March. So all the gory detail of specific closures etc has to be exposed in the next month. What the Government have so far failed to do is to shift blame for cuts onto local authorities, much as they might have tried.

  15. Amber – don’t fall in love with the Populus question, you need to look at questions asking which party people prefer on the economy as well. Remember that people’s opinions on which party they trust most on policy areas often has very little to do with what the actual policies they are putting forward are. In many cases people won’t know what their policies are for a start! (And, as Neil has said, Jeff Rooker is a former Labour MP, though he sits as an Independent peer as he is Chair of the Food Standards Agency)

    Gary – the Lords convention you are thinking of is the Salisbury Convention, which is that the Lords do not oppose bills that the government put in its manifesto at 2nd or 3rd reading. It doesn’t extend to not amending those bills, and there is some question as to how or if it applies to a government that is implementing a coalition agreement rather than the Conservative or the Lib Dem manifesto.

  16. I think it goes to show how crooked the boundaries are when labour could get a majority of close to 100 with a six point lead and the tories could not even get a majority after the election with approx the same result.

  17. I just got the ComRes email through giving their take on the recent poll (‘pollwatch digest’)

    It makes quite interesting reading. I’ve left out the list of numbers on economic management as they don’t format and it would take eons to plug them all in and I am lecturing at 10:00am.


    “Economic Sentiment: The Coalition has it all to do

    Comment and insight from Andrew Hawkins, ComRes Chairman

    Another week, and another record Labour lead. Our most recent regular monthly voting intention poll for The Independent, published on 1st February, gave Labour a nine-point over the Conservatives:

    Lab 43% (+3)
    Con 34% (-2)
    LD 10% (-)

    In the same poll we asked the public for their response to the phone hacking scandal. The public reaction was stark – more than nine out of ten people think it unacceptable to hack into the voicemail messages of celebrities or politicians. Two-thirds of the public also feel that the scandal shows that the newspaper industry should no longer be able to self-regulate.

    However, the most striking finding was that 66% of people felt that the scandal demonstrated that David Cameron showed poor judgment when he appointed Andy Coulson as Downing Street director of communications, given that Mr Coulson had previously had to resign as editor of News of the World over the phone hacking scandal.

    The difficulties for the Government are reinforced by the latest in our weekly series of Cuts Index polls for ITV News. Just over two months ago, George Osborne described the UK’s economic recovery as being ‘on track’. In January we learnt that the UK dipped into negative growth for Q4 2010, in stark contrast with the US’s impressive annualised growth rate of 3.2% (it snowed there too). In the same month the public were fed a media diet of speculation over rampant inflation and rising interest rates. But it came as a shock to find that almost half the public – 48% – think the Government has lost control of the economy.

    The Cuts Index also tracks perceptions towards the way spending is being trimmed, and last week’s results showed every measure worsening for the Government:

    As perceptions of the Government’s economic management gradually worsen there are, it seems, two likely implications. First, the outcome of the next election becomes ever more dependent on the output from the Office for National Statistics’ growth figures turning around in sufficient time for the Coalition parties to take the credit for recovery in a time and manner which Labour would not have achieved. Second, it reinforces in our view the likelihood that the next election will be in 2015 when the prospect of sunny economic uplands will be even closer.

    In reality, assuming events do not intervene to force the Coalition’s hand, campaigning to win the 2015 Election will begin in just three years’ time – barely long enough to regain the public’s confidence that the painful measures being taken to restore Britain’s economic fortunes will work.”

  18. h ttp://

    and an interesting article from yesterday’s Guardian that takes precisely the opposite point of view to the (IMO) fanciful notion that the government are getting thier mesage/strategic act together


  19. @Old Nat (if you’re there)

    In searching for the Populus tables (not up yet) I just came across their January poll on the SNP’s abortive proposals to tax the largest supermarkets. If anyone wants a case study of how clients (in this case it must have been the supermarket chains) can twist questions so as to get the result they want, with no doubt a view to using misleading results to influence legislation, that poll is the worst example that I have come across to date. The results are entirely predictable. Populus should be ashamed of themselves for taking the money.

    IMO it’s unfortunate that the SNP’s proposal was voted down by the other parties, including I am ashamed to say the one that I support down here.

  20. @TGB/Eoin – “… a honeymoon period to shape the news agenda.”

    Not sure that he has actually started work in No 10 yet.

    Incidentally, it was his idea to have Andrew Neil drifting down the Thames in a party boat with celebrities on election night (widely derided at the time).
    Some have expressed surprise that there is no one in the team with expirience in print journalism.

  21. @Rob Sheffield
    Strategy? Who used that word here? I didn’t claim that they’re getting their strategic act together, so I don’t take issue with the article you cite. On the contrary, it’s the management of their tactical message rather than the strategy which seems to be more effective over the past week or so. The poorly coordinated strategy is getting the Government into holes, the tactics are to do with the approach to trying to get out of them.

  22. It appears that the new Number 10 Communications Director is working hard to improve the government’s image which would imply that Coulson had his eye off the ball in recent weeks for reasons we all know.

    Now, if Gary Oliver came to me for advice I would suggest that he needs to organise some training for Ministers regarding media appearances. |If I working on something which is a bit boring I tend to have BBC News 24 burbling away in the background thus exposing myself to interviews with Ministers which would not normally see the light of day (or at best be chopped for the odd soundbite) on main channel news broadcasts.

    Poor old Vince is being wheeled out again and he’has just given another lamentable performance in an interview about the newly extended bank levy. Given that more leftish Lib Dems (or rather ex-Lib Dems) regarded Vince as the main bulwark against Lib Dem backsliding in the coalition government , his efforts to rein back Chancellor Osborne must be seen as a sadly pathetic failure.

  23. @Amber Star

    I am truly astounded you thought Brummie Jeff Rooker was a Tory.

    You Scots Labour people really need Independence you know.

  24. @AW
    If theLlords tried the angel on pin argument about the Agreement, they really would be in trouble, big time. They won’t of course..

  25. I really don’t buy the argument that suddenly the Tories policy and media operation is hitting top gear. Firstly, as someone has pointed out, Oliver hasn’t started work yet, so no change there.

    Secondly, of the four issues Eoin quotes, only one (the apprenticships announcement) is in any way proactive. The remainder are all areas where the government is really struggling and has been severely battered by public opinion. far from being great moves forward, they are reactive symptoms of failure.

    While the bank levy issue hasn’t been high in the general public’s mind, the continued failure of Project Merlin to negotiate a politically acceptable settlement with the banks has been causing acute embarassment to Osbourne. Coming out with a major tax change the morning before his first QT against Balls is not a sign of an improvement in strategic thinking – it shows a man in a state of panic.

    The fact that DC is leaning on Pickles is again, a reaction to some awful press and a realisation that while you can come up with a clever Coulson inspired spin that the cuts to headline local government funding is only 8%, when the withdrawal of all the other directed funding from other departments is taken into account and councils face front loaded net losses of up to 20%, services are going to hammered, none more so than discretionary third sector support. Putting their own spin before a calm analysis of expected outcomes isn’t a sign of great strategic thinking.

    Finally, the forest sell off. They had to change this. Spellman was ‘monstered’ in a private meeting with her own backbenchers. They have been absolutely deluged by constituents complaints and have been completely shocked that a extremely minor policy detail has become a major cause celebre. A complete failure to appreciate the mind of the voter, and a demonstration of a party machinery out of touch with Middle England

    While I don’t necessarily disagree with Eoin that a U turn or two might provide some temporary poll boost I have strong doubts. All this really shows is something I first pointed out at the time of Gordon Brown’s non election – namely, that the Tory party are extremely lacking in nerve and are very quick to panic.

    This is an extremely bad trait to have in the current political climate. It is severely exacerbated by Cameron’s lack of attention to detail (something else I flagged up several years ago) meaning that they are bringing forward bad policies and then backing down. This combination is likely to prove fatal for any government, and it’s not at all surprising that many commentators are saying Cameron needs to get a grip.

  26. Chris J – Other way round, reallocting don’t knows to the party they voted for last times hurts Labour in polls these days. Not doing it would help Labour.

  27. Alec
    I agree with the Corporal Jones accusations you placed. It does seem odd to be electioneering with over 4 years to go.

    May i respectfully point out that the chancellor’s surname is Osborne, that’s O S B O R N E.

    Note no U in it. At least half of our colleagues seem incapable of remembering it and i wonder why (something psychological?).

  28. Howard – I wouldn’t count on it. Here’s Baroness Royall, the Lab leader in the Lords, making the argument that the salisbury convention should only apply to policies that were in BOTH the Conservative and Lib Dem manifestos

    (paragraphs 18 onwards)

  29. @Howard – grateful for your advice on spelling. No idea why I assumed he had a U in it.

  30. DavidB,

    At the risk of anyone else repeating my error.. it is of course “Craig” Oliver…

    Nick Robinson apparently reccomended him to No. 10… There have been some internal rumblings among his junior political staff at the BBC who were very sad to see him go.. such is life.

  31. Update on the Big Society. After Lord Wei recently cut down his volunteer hours as a minister in order to do more paid work to cover the bills, last night he blogged advising councils that they could reduce the hours of paid staff… they could spend more time volunteering!

    Someone now needs to explain to me how this demonstrates a government sharpening up it’s policy presentation.

    [Incidentaly – I have some sympathy for Lord Wei. It has been reported that when asked to serve in the government is was assumed as being as a paid position. He apparently only found out the day before he started that there was to be no salary. That sounds like another silky smooth bit of government planning].

  32. I wonder if he was in the Young Conservatives at Oxbridge with Nick R: hence CCHQ took Nicks advice seriously.

    Though Nick was of course in CHARGE of the national YC’s….!

    Mark Pack (he of LibDemVoice) has an interesting point to make on his own blog

    h ttp://

    “So whilst Craig Oliver has clearly got many fans from the positive write-ups his appointment has received, I’m surprised how many also seem to have forgotten how critical the reaction was to his big event last year.”

    Indeed…. ;-)

  33. Phil

    Thanks for that comment on the Asda (no, let’s be accurate – WalMart)/Populus poll.

    That WallMart tell lies in their question stem will surprise no one.

    That a polling company will be complicit in that probably won’t surprise anyone either!

    The contradictory stances taken by Lab/LD here have not gone unnoticed.

    They opposed minimum alcohol pricing because that could increase supermarket profits.
    They opposed the “Tesco Tax” because that would damage supermarket profits.

    Political parties in England can have “the occasional problem” :-) with consistency.

    Lab/LD here give an entirely new meaning to the term – wholly appropriate for the Ministry of Truth in 1984.

  34. I was interested in reading about the 40% threshold for the AV referendum. This, if still held on May 5th, is likely to boost the turnout for the local authority elections.

    In many seats it is not being more popular that means you win, but rather who can best animate their support so that they can be bothered to vote. This is especially true for council elections. Artificially boosting turnout will, in my opinion, boost Tory support as I think it is their supporters who are more likely to sit on their hands at the moment.

    This decision on threshold could have saved a few Tory councillors.

  35. 2nd poll showing Greens at 3% :)

  36. Craig,

    How are UKIP?

    Opinium/Angus both have UKIp at 6% YG 5% at my last check.. I am interested if the online pollsters show higher UKIP levels, and why, if so, is that the case….. not a question that bit, just thinking aloud.

    Thanks in advance.

  37. @AW
    I have great respect for Baroness Royall, but paras 27 onwards are cobblers. (thanks for the link).

    The notion that the Lords could refuse to submit to proposals voted on by the Commons in the Queens Speech and subsequent enactments is challenging the supremacy of the Commons and should they go down this road the parliament act would and should be invoked anyway.

  38. @AW
    The historical archive for the “who is most to blame for the cuts” question has disappeared. An oversight? Anyway, the margin has narrowed further to a low of 13%. Blame is now allocated as follows: 25% Con/LD, 38% Lab, 26% Both, 6% Neither, 5% DK.

    Incidentally, there seemed to be an unusually high number of 2010 Cons in last night’s poll: 732 had been Con at the GE compared to 568 Lab. It’s surprising that the 6% margin of the Labour lead held up in those circumstances.

  39. @Eoin/TGB
    Split of Others last night was 4%UKIP, 3% Green, 2% SNP/PC, 1% BNP.

  40. Phil,

    Ta.. I am looking for Populus’s others… anybody?

  41. Phil – it normally lives at the end of the economic trackers, it should be there.

    As an aside I wouldn’t compare the Con/LD to Lab, I’d compare the sum of Con/LD & Both to the sum of Lab & Both. Of course, it doesn’t make any difference to the margin, so you might already be doing that, but it does give a better idea of what proportion of people blame each party, and a better idea of the movement between them (i.e. it would be substantively different if people were going from blaming Labour to blaming just the coalition, to people going from blaming Labour to also blaming the coalition).

  42. @AW. Thanks. It definitely wasn’t in the economic trackers.

  43. Just for the record Lord Rooker was the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr and is now an independent.His main claim to fame is the Rooker – Wise Amendment in 1977 which linked personal tax allowances to inflation. Seems that his tactics have the support of the Labour Party.

  44. @ Neil A, Howard, Anthony

    But Lord Rooker is a Tory….
    Thank you for posting that he was a Labour MP; I meant to say, Lord Rooker is backed by Tory Lords but it was late & I had a brain freeze moment.

    Lord Rooker will be so insulted, he might never speak to me again. ;-)

  45. @ Anthony

    Amber – don’t fall in love with the Populus question..
    Too late, I already bought it a Valentine’s card.

  46. @ Old Nat

    “They opposed minimum alcohol pricing because that could increase supermarket profits.
    They opposed the “Tesco Tax” because that would damage supermarket profits.”

    Well balance is never a bad thing. :)

    @ Amber Star

    “I haven’t seen anything like it in the UK media.

    Actually, I hope David Cameron didn’t actually say the things he’s quoted as having said. ‘His’ comments are too lavish; ‘he’ sounds like the kind of creepy fan who has celebrities wondering, should we increase our security?

    The whole thing is going to be horrible. There’ll be endless articles about what’s getting spent & who is paying & how the boost to tourism justifies the expense.”

    There are a number of Americans who are devoted royal watchers and follow the royal family like they would follow celebrities (my mom is one or at least was one, she used to be obsessed with Princess Diana). For David Cameron (if it is true that he seeks to be the heir to Blair), this is like a coming out party. This is like his big chance to become well known as the British Prime Minister to Americans. As well known as Tony Blair was.

    And what things sound creepy? All the talk about what a wonderful husband Prince William will be? Or the talk about what a lovely young couple they were?

  47. SoCalLiberal

    “Well balance is never a bad thing”. True.

    Having the same chip on both shoulders at least mean they aren’t distracted by trivia – like evidence.

    As has been frequently pointed out in Scotland, the BBC seems always willing to oblige by removing any such embarrassing stuff.

    In less than 24 hours after the Megrahi story broke, every single reference to it has been ruthlessly excised from its website.

  48. Wolf

    Jeff Rooker only resigned the Labour whip when he became Chair of the Food Standards Agency in 2009 – presumably as a matter of convention rather than any change in belief.


    Populus tables are now up here:

    ht tp://—February-2011.pdf

    Others are: SNP 3%, Plaid 1%, Greens 4%, UKIP 3%, BNP 2%, ‘Some other party’ 2%.

    I seem to remember that Populus always have Greens higher and UKIP lower than most people.

  49. @ SoCaL

    And what things sound creepy? All the talk about what a wonderful husband Prince William will be? Or the talk about what a lovely young couple they were?
    “Prince William, who I’ve spent some time with recently, is a remarkable young man, great balance, poise,” he added.

    “I think he’ll make, I’m sure, a fantastic husband, and one day, he’ll make a wonderful king.”

    Yuk! Very creepy & un-British (definitely un-Scottish, Old Nat).

  50. @ Eoin

    4% Green, 3% SNP, 3% UKIP, 2% BNP, 2% Other, 1% PCY.

    4! :D

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