David Blackburn

The Tories lead in the north

The Tories lead in the north
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Financial Times research has revealed that Labour has lost its traditional northern strongholds under Gordon Brown. Here are the details:

‘The Tories have built a narrow four-point lead in the north, eradicating the 19-point Labour lead in the region that underpinned Tony Blair’s last general election victory, the research shows. The 11.5 percentage point swing from Labour to the Tories in the north since the May 2005 poll is the largest for any region of Britain.

The FT analysis suggests Mr Cameron has yet to win over fully pivotal “Middle England” voters. He has built a convincing lead among the well-off AB upper and upper-middle socio-economic groups. The Tories have achieved a big swing at the other end of the social divide, converting a 12-point deficit to Labour at the last election into a 14-point advantage in polling data for the past three months.’

Such a situation was unthinkable 5 years ago. If this data's accurate, it undermines the received opinion that Labour has ceded working class support to fringe parties, notably the BNP, not the Tories. Labour’s scare tactics about the two-faced Tories and their passion for gleeful cuts have made no impact on the party’s decline. Obviously, with Labour facing annihilation in its own backyard, Mr Brown is under enormous pressure as he approaches what will be a mutinous and extremely depressing conference. Perhaps this will precipitate a lurch to left as the party seeks to re-engage its core vote.

On a separate note, the evidence that Middle England is not fully behind Mr Cameron will cause a few headaches in Central Office. But if the Tories win in Newcastle, a marginal victory in Redditch is of no consequence.