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British polls: Labour up, Lib Dems down, Tories stable

The YouGov poll released in Britain tonight is very interesting, maybe even important. It shows the Conservatives at 35 percent, unchanged, Labour up two points to 30 percent and the Liberal Democrats down four at 24 percent.

The intrepid Anthony Wells at UK Polling Report has the analysis just right, I think:

Just when it was looking as though the position had settled down, we suddenly have a shift in support. It could be the “Cleggmania” bubble bursting, or people pulling away from a hung Parliament after the heavy Conservative campaigning against it, or Liberal Democrat supporters heeding the call of Labour figures to vote tactically for Labour…. or, it could just be an outlier. I always urge caution when a poll shows a sudden change – wait to see if it is reflected in other polling.

If Labour’s numbers keep rising, it could end up losing the popular vote to the Conservatives but still win the most seats in Parliament. On the other hand, if the Lib Dem vote keeps falling, the Tories would have a better chance in seats where the Lib Dems and the Conservatives are the main competing parties.

And, yes, it’s just one poll.

It would be remarkable if a campaign that began with the possibility of a breakup of the old British two-party system ended with the two major parties running, as expected, one-and-two and the Lib Dems confined to their usual third place. Still, Labour knows that its only chance of staying in power (assuming it can get the most seats – still a big if) lies in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. In an interview with the Independent, Labour cabinet minister Peter Hain spoke of “a partnership government” with “an agreed program and an agreed timescale” of four years. In general, Labour leaders are making nice to the Lib Dems’s supporters, both because Labour needs their tactical votes on Thursday and because Labour may need the party after the election to form a government.

But this is getting ahead of matters. For now, Labour can be grateful that there is at least some sign that it might have stopped Cameron’s momentum. Brown still has a long way to go. To pass the Conservatives in the popular vote would require Labour to hit numbers it hasn’t yet been able to reach in this campaign. One aspect of this election has remained constant: It is the most exciting and interesting contest Britain has seen in a long time.

By E.J. Dionne  | May 4, 2010; 4:21 PM ET
Categories:  Dionne  | Tags:  E.J. Dionne  
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