O Opinion

The Conservatives in decline? Don’t bet on it just yet

After a turbulent Brexit-related week in Westminster which saw a withdrawal agreement published, some of the eyes on Sunday were turning to the Westminster voting intention surveys.

This followed the resignation of the Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab and Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey. Two cabinet resignations, including the figurehead for Brexit within the cabinet, came at a key moment as the UK heads towards exiting the EU.

After a week where Theresa May has faced criticism from across the political spectrum, it’s of little surprise that this will have cut through with the public.

The two opinion polls released on Sunday both gave Labour leads – with the lead changing hands with Opinium, and Jeremy Corbyn’s party strengthening from a slender advantage with ComRes.

Opinium had Labour 39 (+2), Conservative 36 (-5), UKIP 8 (+2), Lib Dems 7 (-1), Green 3.

Following the announcement of a ‘Chequers deal’ – which followed the resignation of David Davis (then Brexit Secretary), and Boris Johnson (then Foreign Secretary).

The survey conducted straight after that announcement from Opinium had the following results:

Labour 40, Conservative 36, Liberal Democrats 8, UKIP 8, Green 3.

In that case, Labour’s support remained on 40, with the Conservatives dropping by six points, and UKIP’s vote ticking up. The topline figures are similar, as are the trends regarding any movement in support – though Labour’s movement upwards is coming from a lower base in the latest poll, and close to their pre, and immediately post Chequers agreement.

But those thinking that this might be the start of a Conservative collapse because of their handling of Brexit need to remember that we have been here before when we have seen a sharp movement following a significant moment in the negotiations.

According to Opinium, we are pretty much in the same position as we were after Chequers. Given the current state of play as the UK’s exit date from the EU is nearer – and developments, as a result, are more crucial than they were in July – there could be more turbulence to follow.

As for Labour, if they are serious about capitalising on this to eventually see them obtain the keys to Downing Street, this needs to be the time when they are presenting a united, competent front – and especially not to indulge in internal warfare that could hold them back while the Conservatives are occupied with their own divisions. Of course, that presentation of competence and internal divisions can go hand-in-hand.

It could be the start of a significant decline in Conservative support following the draft withdrawal agreement, but only a series of polls over a longer period of time will give us any real indication as to how significant this week could prove to be, electorally.

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