Spending cuts leave Tories behind Labour in poll

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Labour has moved ahead of the Conservatives after the public spending cuts announced last month, according to a ComRes poll for The Independent.

It is the first time that ComRes has shown Labour in the lead since September 2007, when Gordon Brown was on the brink of calling a general election months after succeeding Tony Blair as Prime Minister.

The new survey puts Labour on 37 per cent, up three points since a ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday two weeks ago, just before the Chancellor, George Osborne, unveiled his spending review. The Tories have dropped five points to 35 per cent, while the Liberal Democrats are on 16 per cent (up two points) and other parties on 12 per cent (no change).

The figures suggest that the deep spending cuts confirmed by the Chancellor are harming the Tories directly. Until now, the prospect of cuts appears to have hurt their Lib Dem partners, whose poll ratings have slumped from the 23 per cent share of the vote they won at the May election. In contrast, the Tories retained their lead over Labour – until now.

Nick Clegg's party has lost the support of more than a third of the people who backed it in May. According to ComRes, only 60 per cent of those who voted Lib Dem then would do so if another general election were held now, while 27 per cent of them say they would vote Labour. In contrast, 95 per cent of people who voted Tory in May would do so again, as would 93 per cent of Labour voters.

The findings point to a "gender gap" after predictions that the cuts will hurt women more than men, partly because of the 500,000 job losses expected in the public sector over the next four years. The Tories are ahead among men, by 37 per cent to 36 per cent, but trail Labour by four points among women (38 to 34 per cent).

Today's figures would give Labour an overall majority of 16 if they were repeated at a general election. They will provide a fillip for Ed Miliband, the new Labour leader, as he seeks to allay any doubts about him among Labour MPs who voted for his elder brother, David, in the party's leadership election.

Senior Labour figures acknowledged privately last night that the ComRes findings were more likely to reflect anxiety about the spending cuts than positive support for Labour. "We have a mountain to climb but this is a start," one Labour frontbencher said.

Labour enjoys a healthy lead among voters aged 18 to 34, and a narrow one-point advantage among those over 65, among whom there is normally a relatively high turnout at general elections. But the Tories are ahead among people between the ages of 35 and 64.

Labour is well ahead (by 49 to 25 per cent) among the bottom DE social group. This suggests that the party's traditional supporters are returning to the fold as they fear the impact of the cuts, despite a campaign by the Coalition Government to persuade them that the spending review is "fair" and that the better-off will bear the biggest burden.

Mr Miliband's party is also in the lead among the key C2 skilled manual workers. But the Tories retain the advantage among the top two social groups, the C1s and ABs.

Last night Lord Skidelsky, the economist and crossbench peer, described Mr Osborne as "a menace to the future of the economy". He told a House of Lords debate on the spending review: "Mr Osborne is not a reluctant cutter; he is an enthusiastic cutter, a conviction cutter. Normally I applaud conviction politics. It's rare enough for a politician to have convictions. But it's a great shame that the Chancellor's convictions are so little rooted in theory or experience."

ComRes telephoned a random sample of 1,000 adults on 29 and 30 October. Data were weighted to be representative of all adults and by past vote. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Full tables at www.comres.co.uk

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