October election unlikely as poll shows stalemate

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Indy Politics

The prospects of Gordon Brown calling a general election next month have receded after a new opinion poll for The Independent put Labour and the Tories neck and neck.

The monthly survey by ComRes, formerly CommunicateResearch, puts the two major parties on 36 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 15 and other parties on 13 per cent. Labour, which enjoyed a three-point lead over the Tories a month ago, is down one percentage point and David Cameron's party is up two points. The Liberal Democrats are down one point.

Some Brown advisers are urging the Prime Minister to capitalise on the "bounce" in the polls after he succeeded Tony Blair in June by seeking his own mandate from the voters. But the new survey suggests the "bounce" is over.

Although some polls have given Labour a healthy lead over the Tories, there are other signs that Mr Cameron has closed the gap since going on the offensive after returning from his holiday two weeks ago. A YouGov poll for GMTV broadcast today shows Labour on 38 per cent, the Tories on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 15 per cent.

Mr Brown will kick off a new political season today with a speech about his plans to create a "new politics" by reforming the constitution and giving local communities powers to ensure the Government is delivering. He will discuss his election options with Douglas Alexander, Labour's election co-ordinator, who has just returned from a trip to Afghanistan in his role as International Development Secretary.

Yesterday, Mr Alexander dismissed Tory suggestions that an election could be announced in the next few days as "nonsense," saying he would not have been in Afghanistan if that were the case. He accused the Tories of talking up a snap poll to mask their internal differences, but did not rule out an election this year.

Some allies want Mr Brown to announce an election when he addresses Labour's annual conference on 24 September. His decision may depend on the next few polls, but he is thought unlikely to risk an election four months into his premiership unless Labour has a clear lead.

According to ComRes, the progress Mr Brown made among men after he became Prime Minister has been reversed. In our previous poll, in July, 41 per cent of men said they would vote Labour and 32 per cent Tory. In the latest survey, the Tories are ahead with 37 per cent of the male vote, and only 33 per cent of men backing Labour. But Labour has a three-point lead among women, by 38 per cent to 35 per cent.

The poll has some good news for Mr Brown, who appears to be galvanising Labour's natural supporters. The percentage of people who identify with Labour and say they will vote for the party has risen from 83 per cent in June, to 88 per cent in the latest poll.

However, Mr Cameron's decision to return to traditional Tory themes such as immigration, tax cuts and crime may have boosted his standing. The number of Tory identifiers who say they will back the party rose from 86 per cent the previous month to 92 per cent in the latest survey. In contrast, the number of people who identify with the Lib Dems and will vote for the party dropped from 82 per cent to 71 per cent over the same period.

ComRes telephoned 1,016 GB adults between 29-30 August. Data was weighted by past vote recall. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk