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Friday, 28 April 2017

Turning Of The Tide?

Now that the election campaign has started and Labour’s policies are finally beginning to get more media coverage, is public opinion beginning to shift in their favour? A Times/YouGov poll published this week already bucks the media predictions of an inexorable swing towards the Tories - and we are only a week into the campaign. I’m not holding my breath but it will be interesting to see how many other media sources (I have only seen it in the Independent on 27th April) publish this poll’s findings, which embarrassingly don’t fit their analysis that Labour has no chance of winning power.

I have said before that I believe one of the main reasons for Labour’s poor poll ratings has been the media’s (including the hitherto Labour-supporting media) obsession with reporting the party’s factional infighting, rather than its policies. But general election reporting standards require that all the main parties now get proper coverage to enable voters to make a properly informed choice, and the more Labour’s message gets across, the more people will be able to see that they, not the Tories, have the policies that will help ordinary working families.

I expect that distinction to sharpen once the party manifestos are published because the Tories will have to find a way of showing in print exactly how they plan to fulfil May’s hollow claim that they are now the party of ordinary working families. Since she became PM, she has done absolutely nothing to back up those easy, glib words but her manifesto team now faces the uphill task of converting a meaningless soundbite that the Tories privately don’t believe into a published action plan that they know will be examined more forensically than May’s snippets of verbal propaganda have been.

The Tories may try to console themselves by dismissing this poll as a rogue result but they will be a lot more worried by another YouGov poll published alongside it that shows a considerable shift of public opinion away from Brexit (only 43% now supporting it compared to 52% in the EU referendum). If voters really are beginning to reassess the merits of a hard Brexit now that some of its unpalatable realities, rather than the referendum campaign deceptions, have had to be acknowledged by May’s ministers then that could put a very different complexion on this election in the very seats that May (and UKIP) gambled on winning - i.e. those where a ‘remain’ Labour MP’s constituents voted for Brexit. The last thing May will want to see is evidence that those voters are revising their previous support for a hard Brexit and possibly moving closer to Labour - particularly when she intends to make Brexit her main election pitch.

That much-vaunted Tory landslide is beginning to look a lot less certain than the establishment would have us believe. If this poll turns out to be correct and public opinion is already starting to shift in Labour’s direction with still another six weeks to go before polling day, May could soon be wondering if she will finish up with a smaller majority than she has now, or possibly none at all.

The article in the Independent is here.

Brian Nelson
ARMs Yorkshire and Humberside region

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