THE Tories’ lead over the Labour Party has narrowed to just two per cent, according to an opinion poll published yesterday.
The poll of more than 1,000 people gave the Tories 37 per cent to 35 per cent for Labour, heightening the expectations of a hung parliament when the general election takes place.
The Labour Welsh Secretary Peter Hain said the latest polls showed growing numbers of people are ‘questioning’ the Tories as an election draws nearer.
Hain said the Labour Party was ‘in good cheer, ready to take on the Tories’, at its Welsh Conference in Swansea, where Brown had already addressed delegates.
Hain said the latest poll was ‘part of a trend’.
He said ‘more and more’ people were ‘suspicious and fearful of the Conservatives as we come up to the election.
‘That’s what I’ve been feeling on the ground campaigning, talking to people; that, yes, there have been all sorts of reservations and this and that about our government – but they’re more and more taking a long, close look at the Tories.
‘And the more they do that, the more worried they are.’
Asked to comment about rumours that the election could be called today, Hain said: ‘There are all sorts of rumours that swirl around – there will be an election called in due course, when the prime minister’s ready to call one and when the country is ready for a general election. And we all know that that’s not too far away.’
Whilst denying he was making overtures to the Liberal Democrats in preparation for an indecisive election result and a hung parliament, Hain said: ‘What is absolutely vital to the great, decent, progressive majority in Britain is that we stop the Tories winning power.
‘If we can stop the Tories winning government, then whether Labour’s had an absolute majority or whether Labour doesn’t have a majority, we should be the majority party.’
On Saturday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown told the Labour Party’s Welsh Conference: ‘Our first economic priority, our second economic priority, and our third economic priority for our country remains as it has always been – jobs, jobs, jobs.’ Brown added that the last two years had seen the worst global financial recession ‘since the 1930s’.
He said: ‘The Conservative Party always opposed the fiscal stimulus; they want to cut now the support we are giving to jobs, homes and businesses.’
Brown added that the government was ‘putting in law young people’s rights to an apprenticeship and ensuring that an apprenticeship place is available for every suitably qualified young person by 2013.
‘We will continue support for young people even as we cut the budget deficit in more than half in the next four years,’ continued Brown.
‘But let me also be clear; Labour’s focus on employment means precisely that. It means everyone who can work should work.
‘That’s why we have told every young person who is offered work through our Future Jobs Fund that they will lose their benefit if they refuse a job.
‘If young people don’t want to work, there will be no free passes.’
Later Brown told reporters: ‘I am up for the fight. I’m looking forward to the debates. It’s a chance to deal with policy issues that are vital to the future of this country.’
Tory leader Cameron also said yesterday he was ‘up for it’.
But the Tories were visibly stunned by the narrowing in the polls.
Cameron said it was the Tories’ duty to oust Gordon Brown from office, saying that ‘Britain’ couldn’t stand another five years of the Labour leader.
He told supporters in Brighton that, if they were elected, the Tories would cut a third of the civil service, along with a whole of range of public spending cuts, including benefit cuts for the unemployed who do not cooperate with Tory plans for them.
‘People are fed up with the soft soaping and the soundbites. People understand the economic changes we’re going to have to make to deal with our deficit,’ he said.
He also said that immigration was ‘too high’ and that the Tories would be ‘radical from day one’.