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Tangled up in Blue

Certified Senior Citizen
May 24, 2004
Sant Cugat del Vallès
Guardian/ICM poll: Conservatives show vulnerability in class battleTories seen increasingly as upper class, but lead over Labour widens to 11 points thanks to a rise in the Lib Dem vote

Julian Glover guardian.co.uk, Monday 25 January 2010 18.36 GMT Article history
The ICM poll suggests voters are willing to give David Cameron a narrow majority. Photograph: John Giles/PA

The Conservatives are losing the battle over class, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today, which shows a third of voters see the Tories as the party of the upper classes.

Overall, Labour has failed to dent the Conservative poll lead despite a month of political skirmishing, with voters apparently still ready to give David Cameron a narrow majority.

Julian Glover on the latest ICM poll Link to this audio The poll will give some reassurance to opposition leaders, with the Tory lead widening slightly to 11 points thanks to an increase in the Liberal Democrat vote at Labour's expense. It also shows voters back the party's proposals on marriage and think Gordon Brown's leadership made the recession worse. They agree overwhelmingly, too, that it is time for a change of government.

But there are signs that Labour's attack on Tory toffs is sticking with a substantial minority identifying the party with the upper classes, even though almost no one in Britain admits belonging to this group. That may spell danger for Cameron, although there are risks for Labour too in being seen largely as the party of the poor. Almost a third of voters think Labour is largely the party of the working class, a group that a narrow majority of people believe they belong to.

Labour has been divided over its campaign strategy since Brown's jibe at David *Cameron's Eton education last month. Class attacks have appealed most to Labour's core vote, which is more likely than any other group to see the Tories as an exclusive party of the upper classes.

By contrast many other voters see the Tories as a mainstream party. Overall, 57% of voters think the Tories stand for the middle classes or everyone, against only 48% who say this of Labour. The coalition of voters from different backgrounds that powered Tony Blair to three election *victories may have cracked.

There are risks too for Labour in its opposition to Tory plans to give some married couples a tax break. Despite Conservative confusion over who would gain and how the tax cut could be paid for, 65% think a cut for couples with children is a good idea, against 29% who oppose one. Among married couples, backing rises to 78%. Among definite Labour supporters, it is 70% – remarkably one point higher than among Tories.

With little over three months to go until the likely date of the general election, the result remains on a knife-edge between a hung parliament and a small Tory majority. At 40% Conservative support is unchanged for the fourth ICM poll in a row. The figure is notably lower than the 45% peak in October and the 44% in the Guardian/ICM poll in January last year.

Labour may be concerned by the rise in the Lib Dem vote to 21%, the highest for three months. Although there is no evidence that the Iraq inquiry is driving anti-war voters away from Labour, the third party is now just eight points behind Labour and well placed to gain from this week's questioning of Tony Blair and Brown's forthcoming appearance.

One academic study suggests that if today's figures were repeated on election day the Conservatives would win 326 seats – a majority of one. However, an ICM poll last weekend in the marginal seats Cameron must take to form a government suggested that the party was outperforming the overall national swing.

ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1,000 adults by telephone on 22-24 January 2010. *Interviews were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules