Today’s Sunday Torygraph excitedly declares that Cameron is now “racing ahead” of Brown, based on their ICM poll.
The topline voting intention figures are Con 38 Lab 32 LD 20 – a Tory lead of six points. Labour’s apparent “conference bounce” is gone. But these figures are pretty much where the polls have been at since May. If anything, the conference season and the turbulent run up to it have ended with the Tories gaining a point or two off the Lib Dems but even that is well within the margin of error.
Still “Polls show public opinion stable and consistent for months” just doesn’t make a headline. So the Telegraph focuses on Cameron “surging into a commanding [11-point] lead over Brown” as best Prime Minister. This is the largest lead that Cameron has had over Brown on that measure, though the Telegraph brush over the fact that ICM do not regularly ask exactly that question when they claim that it is “the first time in an ICM survey that Mr Cameron has had such a clear lead.”
Other polls have already shown that Brown has been hit by the media interpretation of the spate of sub-ministerial resignations, so though concerning, it’s not that surprising, and we should wait to see other polls over a period of time to see if the effects are long-term.
Perhaps more important as indicative of a longer-term problem are the ratings on the NHS. The Tories’ 2-point lead is actually no different to that recorded by ICM in May and the apparent collapse of both major parties’ ratings on the NHS is probably partly due to the framing of the question. But back in early 2005, Labour would generally be scoring 35-40% with 10-point leads over the Tories as the party with the best health policy. Now we are dipping under 20% for the first time.
It’s important to point out that – despite Cameron’s three letters – the Tories have not actually seen much benefit from this, it’s just that their core support has held up. Instead, the slice of support Labour has lost on the NHS now distrusts all the major parties.
But it is a serious problem none the less, as the NHS has always been an issue that is at the top of voters’ concerns and on which progressive policies are traditionally popular.
Perhaps the new leader, whoever they may be, should be making a call to Frank Dobson come the first Cabinet reshuffle. Come back, Frank, all is forgiven.
ICM have also now published the internals on their last Sunday Mirror poll. As we suspected, Reid had a one-point lead over Brown amongst Tory voters as the best next leader but had no particular traction among Labour voters.