Ken Clarke would do worse than Howard, poll finds

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In contrast to two polls published last week, which asked "who would make the best leader for the Conservative Party", we asked a question directly comparing Mr Clarke to Gordon Brown, the Conservative leader's most likely opponent at the next general election: "If you had to choose between a Labour government led by Gordon Brown and a Conservative government led by Kenneth Clarke, which would you vote for?" CommunicateResearch, which carried out the survey, found that 44 per cent said Labour and 25 per cent Conservative; 24 per cent said they did not know and 7 per cent refused to answer.

The question was directly comparable to that in a YouGov poll carried out in the week of the general election in May. Then, 52 per cent preferred "a Labour government led by Tony Blair" and 35 per cent opted for "a Conservative government led by Michael Howard", while only 12 per cent said they did not know.

In our poll, Mr Clarke failed to outscore Mr Brown in any age group, trailing by 44 percentage points among 18 to 24-year-olds and doing best, only one point behind, in the 55-64 age group. Significantly, Mr Brown polled well across all social classes, including AB professionals, among whom he enjoyed an 18-point lead.

Contrary to Mr Clarke's claim that he could deliver Liberal Democrat voters to the Conservatives, those who said they had voted for the Liberal Democrats at the election divided in Mr Brown's favour in almost exactly the same proportions as the whole sample. Surprisingly, the poll suggests that the Conservatives would lose a larger share of their vote than Labour if Mr Clarke and Mr Brown were to take over. Of those who say they voted Tory in May, 9 per cent would switch to a Brown-led Labour Party, whereas 6 per cent of those who say they voted Labour would switch to a Clarke-led Tory Party. Mr Clarke does no better among those who say they did not vote in the May election, 36 per cent of whom say they would vote for Mr Brown and only 13 per cent for him.

These findings suggest that Mr Clarke's opposition to the Iraq war would do little to attract Labour supporters who reluctantly voted Labour or Liberal Democrat last time or who stayed at home.

A YouGov poll in yesterday's Daily Telegraph found Mr Clarke just ahead of David Davis - the bookmakers' favourite - among Tory party members when they were asked for their first preference as leader. But when asked, "if in the run-off the two final candidates were Kenneth Clarke and David Davis, how would you vote", Mr Davis was in the lead by 48 per cent to 45 per cent.

CommunicateResearch, a member of the British Polling Council, interviewed a random sample of 1,012 adults by telephone on 6 and 7 September. Details at