Labour is heavily backed to govern

Few 'opinion-formers' think Conservatives will survive
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Indy Politics
The Conservative leadership election and Cabinet reshuffle last week slightly improved John Major's image among Britain's opinion-formers, but 81 per cent believe Labour will win the next general election, according to a new survey conducted for the Independent.

John Major's rating has risen since the last survey in April, from an average of 5.3 to 5.6 out of 10. The rating for the Labour leader Tony Blair is unchanged at 6.7, while Paddy Ashdown of the Liberal Democrats has suffered from his party's low profile, slumping from 5.1 to 3.6.

The survey was conducted by Opinion Leader Research among a panel of 100 company directors, senior civil servants, media editors, politicians and trade union leaders, designed to reflect the views of people who have the power to influence public opinion.

While 61 per cent of the sample said the Cabinet reshuffle made the Conservatives "more likely" to win the next election, only 12 per cent actually believe they will win it.

The panel is slightly less positive on the economy, with a fall from 86 to 62 per cent of those saying they thought the economy had "got better" over the previous year, and a similar fall of those expecting the economy to "get better".

ICM, the polling company, yesterday issued a correction to its Guardian opinion poll which showed virtually no effect on public opinion of the Conservative leadership election. The new figures show an eight-point jump in the Tories' rating since early June. An ICM spokesman said a "clerical error" had been made. Instead of Labour's 52-25 per cent lead over the Tories - reported in yesterday's Guardian under the headline "Major victory fails to curb Labour lead" - the figures should have been 47-32.

ICM's adjustment technique is controversial, and not followed by other pollsters. The unadjusted figures may be a better guide to trends in party support. They show a six-point rise in Tory support over the past month, from 20 to 26 per cent, but more at the expense of the Liberal Democrats, down 4 at 14 per cent, than Labour, down 2 at 57 per cent. This is more in line with the findings of a MORI poll in the Economist during the Tory leadership campaign.