Friday 21 July 2017

Poll shows Conservative lead slashed to 3 points

Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at an election campaign event at CJ Leonard and Sons in Guisborough, yesterday. Photo: Reuters
Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at an election campaign event at CJ Leonard and Sons in Guisborough, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

Guy Faulconbridge

British Prime Minister Theresa May's gamble on a snap election was under question yesterday after the latest opinion polls showed her Conservative Party's lead was dwindling just a week before voting begins.

Failure to win the June 8 election with a large majority would weaken Mrs May just as formal Brexit talks are due to begin, while the loss of her majority in parliament would pitch British politics into turmoil.

In the strongest signal yet that the election is much closer than previously thought, Mrs May's lead has collapsed from 24 points since she surprised both rivals and financial markets on April 18 by calling the election.

A YouGov survey showed Mrs May's lead at a fresh low of three percentage points, with the opposition Labour Party polling 39pc against the Conservatives' 42pc.

There was slightly better news for Mrs May from a Panelbase poll which put her party eight points ahead of Labour, but that still meant the Conservatives' advantage had almost halved in a week.

Meanwhile, a separate YouGov model based on different data estimated the Conservatives would win 317 seats, nine short of an overall majority of 326 seats.

In a hectic campaign which was suspended after the Manchester bombing last week, pollsters, who universally got it wrong before the last vote in 2015, have offered a vast range for the result of the election: From May losing her majority to a landslide victory for her Conservatives of more than 100 seats. "From the pollsters' point of view, this is an experimental election. We all got it wrong in 2015 and we are all trying different methods to get it right this year," said Anthony Wells, a research director at YouGov.

Betting that she would win a strong majority, Mrs May called the snap election to strengthen her position at home as she embarked on complicated Brexit negotiations with 27 other members of the European Union.

But if she fails to beat the 12-seat majority her predecessor David Cameron won in 2015, her electoral gamble will have failed and her authority will be seriously undermined.

If Mrs May failed to win an overall majority, she would be forced to strike a deal with another party to continue governing either as a coalition or a minority government.

That would have uncertain consequences for Britain's economy, and future government policy on everything from government spending and corporate taxation to bond issuance.

YouGov said Mrs May was still the most favoured choice for prime minister, though her 43pc rating is the lowest it has ever been. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is on his highest ever rating of 30pc.

Mr Corbyn (68) has been pulling in big crowds at rallies across the country despite warnings from opponents in his own party that he is leading Labour to the worst defeat in its history.

Mrs May, who won the top job in the political chaos following the shock June 23 Brexit vote, used a speech yesterday in northern England to pitch her vision of Brexit. "Set free from the shackles of EU control, we will be a great, global trading nation once again bringing new jobs and new opportunities for ordinary working families here at home," Mrs May said. "You can only deliver Brexit if you believe in Brexit."

Mrs May backed the "remain" campaign in the run-up to last year's referendum on EU membership, though she made few public appearances, but has repeatedly sought to present herself as the only party leader able to make a success of Brexit despite giving few details of how she will handle the negotiations.

Irish Independent

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