Tom Goodenough

The Tories hit their highest poll lead since 1983

The Tories hit their highest poll lead since 1983
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Enver Hoxha: The Iron Fist of Albania

Blendi Fevziu, translated by Majlinda Nishku

I.B. Tauris, pp. 312, £

The Tories have just hit a new high in the polls: 49 per cent, handing them a 22-point lead over Labour. This margin is virtually uncharted territory for the Conservatives, with ICM pointing out that the party’s current lead has only been bettered once in the last 34 years of polling - back in May 1983.

As ever, it’s less good news for Labour: the party sits on 27 per cent, according to ICM - a number which precisely matches the share of the national vote they picked up in last week’s local elections.

If - and it’s a big if - this means the pollsters have pinpointed Labour's share of the vote at 27 per cent, the outcome would be disastrous for the party come June 8th. Replicated nationally, the Tories would win a thumping majority of 172. Labour would lose dozens of seats, with key marginals in places like Coventry, Birmingham, Stoke and Newport turning blue. The Parliamentary careers of high-profile Labour MPs like Clive Lewis and Wes Streeting would come to an abrupt halt.

For such Labour candidates, it seems best to avoid dwelling too much on these miserable poll numbers. But there are a number of reasons why today’s ICM numbers look to be particularly dire.

Firstly, this poll shows the extent of the task Labour looks to be facing in trying to cling on to its marginal constituencies. In areas where Labour has a thin cushion of less than 15 per cent of the vote, the Tories are leading by 48 per cent to 38 per cent, according to ICM. It's no surprise then that Theresa May is making a habit of popping up in marginal Labour seats.

Corbyn has been attempting a similar strategy. As these poll numbers were published this afternoon, he was speaking in Leamington Spa in the West Midlands. The Tory MP there, Chris White, took the seat from Labour in 2010 and at the last election had a cushion of 13 per cent. In normal times, this would be the type of area Labour would be aiming to snatch back. Their chances of doing so look very unlikely if these ICM numbers are anything to go on: the poll reveals that in Tory-held marginal seats, 55 per cent of voters plan to back the Tories; only 23 per cent said they would vote for Labour.

Secondly, the breakdown of the ICM numbers also reveals that across almost every age range (barring 18-to-24 year olds) voters are favouring the Tories. For elderly folk, this is particularly true: of those aged 65 plus, between 55 and 66 per cent plan to vote for the Tories; as few as six per cent say they want Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10. Of course, it’s not unusual that elderly voters are leaning towards the Tories. But the margin by which this poll suggests they are is still surprising and does not bode well for Labour.

Despite their big lead in the polls, the Tories are still trying hard to hide their smiles and talk up the prospect of a ‘coalition of chaos’. Theresa May has been much derided for talking constantly about ‘strong’ and ‘stable’ leadership, but the PM has been speaking nearly as much about a cross-party movement that would disrupt the Conservatives' chances. It’s safe to say that if this ICM poll is anything to go on, she need not worry: even if the Lib Dems, Greens and Ukip added their vote share to Labour’s, they would still fall four per cent short of the total Tory tally.