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Politics Amp Policy
Polls say May election too close to call
From the Financial Times of Mon, 22 Dec 2014 19:50:33 GMT

With less than five months until the UK general election, end of year polls suggest that neither Labour nor the Conservatives made a breakthrough in 2014. The results confirm that May’s contest is the most unpredictable for decades.

Rick Nye, managing director of polling firm Populus, is among several pundits to draw comparisons with the stalemate in the first world war 100 years ago. “It’s like the western front,” he said.

The final Populus poll of the year put Labour and Tories neck and neck on 35 per cent, with the UK Independence party on 12 per cent, Liberal Democrats on 9 per cent and Greens on 4 per cent. Other polls gave Labour the lead.

Opinium had Labour on 36 per cent, well ahead of the Conservatives on 29 per cent, with Ukip on 16 per cent, Lib Dems on 6 per cent and Greens on 5 per cent. Meanwhile YouGov put Labour on 34 per cent, Tories on 32 per cent, Ukip on 15 per cent, Greens on 8 per cent and Lib Dems on 6 per cent.

Although Labour’s lead over the Tories, according to Populus, has narrowed from 4.6 percentage points in January to 1.4 in December, Mr Nye said none of the scenarios for a big political breakthrough has come to pass.

Tory hopes of an improving economy leading to a feelgood factor among the electorate have not materialised, he said. And Ukip support has not collapsed as some expected: rather the opposite.

With the Tories becalmed, Labour has been unable to make a breakthrough by persuading voters that Ed Miliband is a strong leader with a compelling vision for Britain. “It’s messy and looks like staying messy for some time,” Mr Nye said.

If the opinion polls give little clue to the likely outcome of the next election, the political betting markets seem just as confused. Paddy Power offers odds of 10-1 or less on no fewer than nine separate election outcomes.

It offers 7/2 on a Labour majority; 9/2 on a Conservative-Lib Dem coalition; 9/2 on a Tory majority; 5/1 on a Lib Dem-Labour coalition; 5/1 on a Labour minority government; 6/1 on a Conservative minority government; 13/2 on any coalition involving the Scottish National party; 10/1 on a Labour-SNP coalition; and 10/1 on any coalition involving Ukip.

Lord Ashcroft, the Tory peer and pollster, on Monday cast an eye back over his polling this year. His first conclusion was that the two big parties are losing ground to smaller rivals, notably the SNP, Ukip and Greens.

He said the situation was complicated by the fact that national vote shares can be misleading in an era of multiple parties and crumbling support for big parties, with wide variations in performance in marginal seats.

In the Ashcroft analysis, Ukip still hurt the Tories most but Labour is not immune. He warned David Cameron not to try to copy the policies of Nigel Farage, pointing out that his polls suggest that 75 per cent of Tory voters would definitely not vote Ukip.

“Trying to be more like Ukip would not only fail on its own terms but would risk alienating some existing Tory supporters — not to mention putting off potential joiners from the Lib Dems,” he wrote on the ConservativeHome website.

Lord Ashcroft also agrees with the central conclusion of Tory election strategists Lynton Crosby and Jim Messina that “talking about Europe and immigration undermines the Tory advantage on leadership and the economy”.

George Osborne, chancellor, ends 2014 delighted that Labour is talking about the economy, telling colleagues that the subject is “a killing ground” for Ed Miliband’s party.

Mr Miliband, for his part, believes Mr Osborne has made a serious mistake by promising to carry on cutting public spending until it is at 1930s levels as a share of gross domestic product.

Anthony Wells of YouGov said if one looked at all the polls published since the Autumn Statement on December 3, Mr Osborne’s announcements seem to have done almost nothing to change the political landscape.

In fact, nothing that has happened in 2014 seems to have changed the political scene much. If Britain’s stalemate is going to break, it is going to break late.



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