Voters set to stay in love with Labour

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The Independent Online
Tony Blair's honeymoon with the voters is set to last for at least another six months, according to an Independent poll of opinion formers designed to pick up early trends in public attitudes.

And the panel of 100 opinion leaders rejects two of the main criticisms of the new government; giving the thumbs up to the Prime Minister's go- ahead for the Millennium Dome, and strongly backing the tight discipline enforced on Labour MPs.

More than half the panel, 55, expect the new government to bask in public approval for six more months, while another quarter, 26, think the honeymoon will last a year. Only 10 take the harsh view that it will only last for another month, while the remaining 9 take the view that Mr Blair's buoyant ratings will last a full parliamentary term, until the next election. The most recent Gallup poll of the general public found that, two months after the election, an unprecedented 83 per cent were "satisfied" with the Prime Minister, while 74 per cent approved of the Government's record.

Opinion Leader Research interviewed 100 business leaders, trade unionists, civil servants, politicians, media editors and think-tank chiefs last week. A majority of the panel, 54, supported the Dome decision, despite doubts about what the Millennium Exhibition, now renamed the Experience, might consist of. And 40 disagreed "strongly" with the suggestion that the Dome decision was the Government's "first big mistake".

The panel was even more emphatic in its support for Mr Blair's strict disciplinary regime for his MPs, despite accusations of rigid centralisation of power, with 71 agreeing and 48 agreeing "strongly" that the discipline applied to Labour MPs is "reasonable and necessary".

But the panel sees some hurdles for the new administration, with half (47) predicting there will be "problems" when it comes to keeping the promise of higher ethical standards in public life.

Downing Street has brushed aside newspaper stories about the private lives of two Cabinet ministers, pointing out that swift action has been taken in the cases of Mohammed Sarwar and Bob Wareing, where financial irregularities have been alleged.

And most of the panel see the Commons vote on foxhunting as a potential trouble spot.

Poison dome, page 19

Poll results

"The go-ahead for the Millennium Dome was the new Government's first big mistake."

Agree 35%

Disagree 54%

"The discipline applied to Labour MPs is both reasonable and necessary."

Agree 71%

Disagree 23%

"The Labour government will have no problems keeping its promise of higher ethical standards in public life."

Agree 36%

Disagree 47%

"The Government should support the Private Member's Bill to enact an immediate ban on foxhunting."

Agree 35%

Disagree 54%