An ICM poll for tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph puts the Conservatives back into a commanding position. Conducted on the 10th and 11th October it is the first standard poll with fieldwork carried out over several days since the announcement that there would not be an election this year. The topline figures, with changes from ICM’s previous poll conducted straight after David Cameron’s speech, are CON 43%(+5), LAB 36%(-2), LDEM 14%(-2).

The 43% recorded by the Conservatives is their highest figure since July 1992. On a uniform swing it would put the Conservatives tantalisingly close to an overall majority with 320 seats in the Commons. 14% is the lowest figure ICM have given the Liberal Democrats since 2001. ICM normally give the Lib Dems a higher level of support than other pollsters and, with the party recording perillously low scores of around 11% and 12% in other companies polls ICM has been a ray of comfort. With even ICM showing them down by almost 10 points on their 2005 election support the murmurs around Sir Menzies Campbell’s position that have begun in the last week are probably going to continue.

Far from peaking after their conference, this poll suggests the Conservatives have continued to improve their position and Labour have continued to fall, hardly a surprise after the embarrassment Gordon Brown suffered in having to announce there would not be an election and the torrid week the government have had in the media. What remains to be seen is whether this is still just the short term result of a bad period for the government and some positive coverage for the Conservatives, a temporary Tory lead that will fade away again, or whether there really has been a sea change in the last few weeks.

The government’s inheritance tax proposals certainly don’t appear to have given them any short term boost (though of course, strategically their intent was probably more to rob the Conservatives of something they could have campaigned on long term, rather than give the government an immediate boost). Asked what they would prefer out of retaining the present £300k limit, adopting the £600k limit for couples, adopting a £1m limit for all, or scrapping it entirely the government’s policy was the first choice of only 16% of people. 39% of people opted for the Conservative policy.

Last month Populus asked some questions on whether people trusted Gordon Brown and Alister Darling on the economy more than they trusted David Cameron and George Osborne and found a huge majority for Brown and Darling. ICM asked people to compare the two sets of leaders in this poll, and found the Brown/Darling lead down to 11 points (47% to 36%). The questions aren’t directly comparable, Populus spoke about economic crisis, rather than just the economy, and we know people say they trust Brown in a crisis, but all the same the Labour lead on the economy is still looking somewhat weaker than before.

Finally, the poll also asked about the EU treaty – there is still overwhelming support for a referendum (66% to 12%) and people would vote against it if there were one (by 47% to 29%). However, if there actually was a referendum it seems very likely that supporters would try and cast the argument as being about whether we wanted to be in the EU at all, and when asked about that a majority of people (56%) still think we should be, with 38% saying we should leave.

UPDATE: There is also a new BPIX poll in the Mail on Sunday. Topline voting intention figures, with changes from last week’s poll, are CON 41%(+2), LAB 37%(-1), LDEM 11%(-1).

UPDATE 2: Sky news is insisting on reporting this as the biggest Tory lead for 15 years. It isn’t. It is the biggest Tory level of support for 15 years, it is the biggest Tory lead in an ICM poll since…er…March.

109 Responses to “Conservatives open up a lead in new ICM poll”

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  1. The press reports this morning suggest that Clegg is a shoe-in for the leadership. The only other possible names with any clout are Huhne (who will struggle to shed the image that he is a tad creepy and aloof) and Kennedy (who has too much baggage).

    Clegg is avowedly on the right of the Liberal party and is very likely to present a problem for Cameron as he will (rightly in my view) focus on regaining Liberal ground in the South and in rural areas which has always been traditional Liberal hunting ground. Clegg knows that the modest advances made by Kennedy in Labour strongholds will surely be lost now that troops are returning from Iraq. More significantly, Clegg has no desire to outflank Labour to the left.

    This does not mean that Brown will definitely benefit. Ultimately if Brown and Labour do not re-establish themselves as the competent party of government, they will be defeated whoever leads the Liberal party and the point that Colin makes that Brown will look tired compared to the other two leaders, would be realised. My point is simply that if Brown does stick to what he does best and the economy does not crash as some have predicted, Cameron cannot count on the 5 to 6% of voters that he has successfully wrestled from the Liberals which he must hold if he is to have any hope of forming a government.

    It is early days and we have yet to see whether Clegg (if it him) will have greater success than Ming in presenting the Liberal project. In the short term, I suspect they will benefit from increased coverage as their leadership process will go on until December. Moreover, by then, the party will have started to unite behind Clegg and present him as a fresh, intelligent and articulate leader. That exposure alone is likely to give them a boost in the polls perhaps back to their normal level of 18%. The question will then be how Clegg takes them forward and whether he can grasp the public’s attention.

    I think we need some more polls!

  2. One thing that needs to be remembered is that at the GE centre or right of centre voters may have the choose between Cameron’s Conservaties, who have pretty much shed their “nasty” image and a centre right Lib Dem party. If they want to remove Labour and Gordon Brown they will vote Conservative. I am sure the Lib Dems will increase abit but I would be surprised if they repeat 22% in a GE again now that the Conservatives have momentum.
    Also if the Lib Dems start advocating tax cuts and public spending efficiencies then the political centre ground moves right which helps the Tories too.

  3. Guy,

    If voters agree more with the Conservative policies then they’ll vote Conservative. As for momentum that can come as quickly as it can go. We’ve seen how voters can fall in with, fall out with and fall in with Cameron already.

  4. Arnie,

    When the Tories were ahead pre Brown the Lib Dems were on around 20%, when Brown was ahead they were on around 16%, with both parties strong they are on 12%. That suggests that the Lib Dems do better with the Tories strong and Labour weak.

    Also if the Lib Dems do go for some of the Tory vote they have to think that they will do better than they did when Michael Howard was Tory leader. Even when Labour had a double digit lead that didn’t happen.

  5. Dave Hawk – Cannot agreee with you more.Floating voters are called that because they float.The typical floating voter at the moment thinks Brown/Darling can run the economy better,Brown is a better leader and ahead in most of the issues but asked who they would vote for at the next election say Conservative.A strange lot.

    The fall in and out and in love with Cameron is just as strange as the fall in then out of love with Brown.If Brown had held an election,Cameron may have won even though he was behind on leadership,economy and united party…how does that work out?It seems with exception of the hard core,and at one stage Cameron couldn’t even rely on them.Remember the poll that said more Conservative voters said they thought Brown would be better for leadership and economy than Cameron.The rest are very soft in voting intention.

    It’s the most open in terms of a result for an General Election for a long time and if Clegg becomes leader of the LDems,thats another thing for the floater to contemplate.

    Strange times in this countries politics.If ever a time “EVENTS” could sway an election,it will be this one.

  6. “I think 11% is as far down as they’ve been.”

    A Gallup Poll conducted from 21-24 May 1955 (just before a general election) put the Liberals on 1.5%. Since their name changed to Liberal Democrats, they were often in single figures from 1989 to 1990 – and during the 1997 election campaign too.

  7. Andy D
    I was only thinking post SDP link-up, but thanks.

  8. Colin, couldn’t agree more, it’s just that I’ve recently been reading Tory ones, to see if they’re keen on more tax-cutting “the roof hasn’t caved in!” seems to be the attitude from the sensible ones, and you can imagine the thoughts of the extremists

    People vote for those they agree with most, unless they vote tactically against those they agree with least!

    At the top of each party, vitriolic senseless extremism doesn’t exist, of course not, and I wouldn’t be a floater if I thought anyone simply clinged on for their own aggrandisement. Maybe naive, but hey. I don’t think any of the parties are any more guilty than each other in that respect.

    The Tories and Labour seem to be equally inoffensive to my own circumstances (lucky me!), so I guess my choice will be based on who I think is being “fairest”

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