Election '97: It's going to be a landslide

MORI's poll points to a Labour majority of more than 250 - far more than Thatcher or Attlee achieved. By Robert Worcester
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Indy Politics
Labour could be headed for an historic victory at the general election on Thursday. The latest MORI/Independent on Sunday/Sunday Mirror Voters' Panel indicates a strong possibility of a landslide, even greater than Mrs Thatcher's 1983 143-seat overall majority and Clement Attlee's 146 in 1945. The current voting intentions project to an overall Labour majority of more than 250 seats.

On Wednesday and Thursday MORI returned to nearly 900 homes across Britain to revisit people who were first interviewed three weeks ago, and found remarkably little change in their voting intentions. (Conservative down 1 per cent, at 29 per cent, Labour down 2, at 53 per cent with the Liberal Democrats up three per cent.) But this overall result hides an enormous "churning" in the electorate. One person in six, a massive 18 per cent of the electorate, some eight-and-a-half million people, have shifted during the three-week period. (See diagram.) Moreover, underlying attitudes indicate strongly that these figures, incredible as they may seem, may hold through until Thursday.

It is such a remarkable figure that MORI checked it against more than 10,000 interviews done by a mixture of telephone and face to face interviewing over the election, and the findings are comparable: the MORI 10,000, which does not include those interviewed for this poll is 30 per cent Tory, 51 per cent Labour, 13 per cent Liberal Democrats. The average figure for all of the polls conducted through the campaign are within a point or two for each of the parties.

Three people in four told our interviewers that John Major's government has not kept its promises and has not improved law and order. Seven in 10 said it has not helped to improve their own standard of living, not improved standards in public life and not improved the standard of education. And over three people in four said that this government had put up taxes on the goods they buy.

MORI has conducted a panel study in every election since 1979. The lowest turnout since the Second World War was in 1970, when 72 per cent voted; this time it may be even lower, possibly below 70 per cent.

The rise in the Liberal Democrat share in the panel follows the pattern of the past five weeks. The election was called on 17 March; in the first week, the Liberal Democrats had a 12 per cent share; polls published last week averaged 15per cent for them, up three points. In the panel they are also up three percentage points, and are likely to do better in their targeted seats than indicated by the national swing figures. Of bittersweet taste will be the finding that 23 per cent of the panel said that if they thought the Liberal Democrats could win the general election, it would make them more inclined to vote for them. In a survey otherwise devoid of good news for the Prime Minister, the only straw left to clutch is that 8 per cent of the panel say they are still undecided, or say they may change their mind. Even this has a sting in its tail; while 10 per cent of Labour intenders say they may still change their mind, 14 per cent of intending Tories say they could conceivably vote for someone else.

The public appears ready to embrace constitutional change. By 51 per cent to 28 per cent they would support fixing the length of a parliament and by 45 per cent to 28 per cent they support proportional representation. Even the replacement of the Lords with an elected second chamber gets plurality support, with 44 per cent in support, 29 per cent opposed, and 27 per cent undecided. By 71 per cent to 17 per cent, people support making parties publish the identity of those who make large donations.

Robert Worcester is chairman of MORI. MORI interviewed a representative quota sample of 1,069 adults aged 18-plus at 78 enumeration district sampling points throughout Great Britain, in their homes on 2-3 April 1997. On 23-24 April 941 of the initial respondents were re-interviewed, again in their homes. The voting intention figures exclude those who say they will not vote (3 per cent), are undecided (6 per cent) or refuse to name a party (4 per cent). Details on www.mori.com.

{ Their policies ... I've been reading the leaflets that came through the door - investing more in education and health |

Erewash, woman, 25-34, switching from Lab to Lib Dem

{ I am not voting because I am working that day. |

Bournemouth West, woman, 35-44, switching from Con to 'will not vote'

{ Labour are mad for education, and with four kids you have to support that |

Copeland, woman, 25-34, switching from Con to Lab

{Too much mouth. Full of promises is Mr Blair|

Staffordshire Moorlands, man, 65-74, switching Labour to don't know