Polls shows less gap between British Conservatives, Labour as election nears

10:57, March 27, 2010      

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With only weeks to go before the likely date of a British general election, the ruling Labour party is getting closer in the polls to the opposition Conservative party, who have been ahead in public opinion for nearly two years.

Labour's chancellor of the exchequer Alistair Darling on Wednesday successfully negotiated his final budget before the election. He left few open goals for the Conservatives to exploit, and even managed to please some groups of voters, like first time house buyers, with his policies.

Polls were swift to record a modest electoral reward.

A poll commissioned from pollsters ComRes for BBC's TV show " The Daily Politics" on Friday, asked voters who they trusted most to steer the economy through the current downturn.

Just 33 percent said they favored the current Labour team of prime minister Gordon Brown and chancellor Darling.

But it was all smiles for Labour, as only 27 percent favored the Tory team of leader David Cameron and shadow chancellor George Osborne.

Trailing were the third party in British politics, the Liberal Democrats whose leader Nick Clegg and treasury spokesman Dr Vincent Cable had 13 percent of voters believing they would best run the economy.

The poll was taken after Darling's budget, so is the first chance to sample what effects it may have had on voters intentions for the general election which must be held before the first week in June and whose likely date is May 6.

The last time these questions were asked by ComRes in a poll was on December 10, just after Darling's pre-budget report and before the release of data in February this year which showed that the British economy finally left six quarters of recession in the final three months of 2009 with a modest growth of 0.3 percent.

Then, ComRes found that the Cameron/Osborne Tory partnership was trusted more, with 33 percent of voters backing them. Back then, Labour's Brown and Darling languished in second place with 26 percent, and the Lib Dem pairing of Clegg/Cable brought up the rear on 19 percent.

So a turnaround in the economy and a turnaround in Labour fortunes in just three months, according to one polling company.

Is this borne out by figures from elsewhere, and particularly by polls on voting intentions for the election?

There has not yet been a poll on voting intentions fully sampled after the impact of Wednesday's budget had time to sink in.

But a poll released late on Thursday by YouGov, and taken on the afternoon of the budget and the afternoon of the next day, put the Conservatives ahead on 37 percent, and Labour second on 33 percent, with the Lib Dems on 18 percent. Both the Conservatives and the Lib Dems had gone up 1 percent on the previous YouGov poll, with Labour down one.

With figures like that in an election, it would be likely that no party would be strong enough to reach 326 seats in the House of Commons and form a majority government. Whoever wanted to occupy Number 10 Downing Street would probably have to form a coalition with another party, giving Brown and Labour a chance to remain in power despite losing the election.

This is a marked change from polls at the beginning of the year which saw the Conservatives enjoying leads of up to 10-13 percent. But with the election campaign set to start within a matter of days, it is still all to play for.

Source: Xinhua
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