An ICM poll in the Sunday Mirror shows their largest Conservative lead since their honeymoon after the 1992 election. The headline figures with changes from ICM’s poll in the middle of February are CON 40%(nc), LAB 29%(-2), LDEM 21%(+2). The Sunday Mirror doesn’t give fieldwork dates, but it would likely have been carried out around the end of last week. On a straight uniform swing this would give the Conservatives a small overall majority in the House of Commons.

For those who like to look for reasons for moves between individual polls, the Liberal Democrat spring conference and Menzies Campbell’s well-publicised conference speech occured between these two sets of figures, but realisitically changes of 2 points between polls are largely meaningless unless there are trends over a number of polls. On that front however, it does look as through support may be beginning to shift again. Since the election there have been two major shifts in public support: the election of David Cameron as Conservative leader boosted the Tories and brought the two main parties to roughly the same level in support; then, the combination of the foreign prisoner release scandal, John Prescott’s affair and Labour’s local election losses in 2006 gave them a knock. Since then the polls have been relatively static – with the exception of a temporary boost to Labour’s ratings after Tony Blair’s final conference speech, the overall position has been one of no change.

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The last few polls from ICM and Populus however have shown a consistent increase in the Conservative lead, mostly due to a further fall in the level of Labour support (Communicate have also shown a similar sort of Tory lead, but their figures are more erratic,). In contrast YouGov are still showing the sort of figures they were reporting last year. While by 11 point leads like today’s make good headlines, the real news is when several polls start reporting a similar trend, it’s now starting to look as if Labour’s support is still falling. Whether that necessarily means anything while we are still in that sort of interregnum between Tony Blair announcing his immenent departure and (presumably) Gordon Brown taking over is a different matter. I am firm in the belief that, despite the hypothetical polling questions, there will be some sort of Labour boost in the polls, if only a short term one, only when that has settled will we see how the ground really does lie.


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