UK Labor Party Poll Lead Dented On Last Day Of Campaign

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

London ( - With an eye on poll results showing a small slide in support for his party for the first time in the election campaign, British Prime Minister Tony Blair Wednesday stressed that "every vote counts" in Thursday's vote.

The ICM poll for the Guardian newspaper put Labor at 11 points ahead of the Conservatives, its smallest lead since the campaign began although still enough to give Blair a hefty majority in the House of Commons. Significantly, the 43-32 poll saw the Conservatives gain four points at the expense of Labor, rather than other smaller parties.

Throughout the campaign, ICM polls have consistently given Labor a lower rating than other polling organizations, some of which have put Blair's party ahead by 20 points and more.

Conservative leader William Hague also jumped on the figures, using them to back up his contention that the battle was not yet lost.

"Tomorrow the world will find out that the forces of conservatism are still on the march," he told party supporters at a meeting in London early Wednesday.

But Labor, ironically, stands to gain from the last-minute ICM poll, which may galvanize half-hearted supporters to get out and vote.

Hague earlier urged voters to deny Labor a second consecutive landslide victory, which he said would be dangerous for the country. Blair called the move a Conservative ploy to encourage voter apathy and try to win "through the back door."

This latest poll will be seen as confirming Labor fears that the tactic could work.

"Every vote counts," Blair said Wednesday, warning supporters that "the election is an open race. Political history is littered with examples of sure things that didn't turn out to be sure things."

Britain's future at stake

Blair, Hague and Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy have full programs Wednesday, crisscrossing the country to reach out to undecided voters and hammer their messages home.

Hague has sought to bring crime, the influx of "bogus" asylum-seekers, and the question of Britain's future in the European Union - including the single EU currency - onto the agenda over the past four weeks.

But the issues that have ended up dominating the campaign are public services and taxation. Labor has undertaken to pour more money into schools and hospitals, while the Conservatives have promised tax cuts, denying Labor's claims that to do so would require severe cuts in public spending.

Hague has not given up on the European issue, however, telling the London meeting Wednesday that the election provided voters with a choice to decide the future of the UK.

"If you've had enough of being told that we should be ashamed of our history and cannot govern ourselves, if you want a government that believes in the future of our country, I say vote for what you value," he said.

"Tomorrow is a choice not just about who will run this country for the next five years but about the country that their children and grandchildren will inherit."

Hague has promised a Conservative government would not replace the pound sterling with the euro for at least the lifetime of the next parliament, and said Britain should not be "run by Europe."

Blair favors joining the euro once specified economic conditions are met, and subject to a national referendum.

The prime minister, too, said on Wednesday that "the future of Britain is on the ballot paper tomorrow" - although in his case he was warning against a return to the years of Conservative policy.

"Don't us let go back ... to where we were four years ago," he told a press conference in Nottingham. "It's time to move this country forward."

Blair swept to power in 1997 with a 179-member majority in the 659-seat House of Commons. The 11-point lead in the ICM poll would translate into a majority of around 170-seats.

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow