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Labor can be reassured as ‘mega’ poll shows they are on the right track – but wary of complacency

It was Margaret Thatcher who said: “The only poll that matters is the general election.” »

And over the years, many party leaders have wisely reiterated his cautious advice in the face of huge opinion poll results.

Labor is in the lead according to the latest YouGov MRP mega survey But it’s not just big. It’s huge: a majority of 154 seats for Sir Keir Starmer.

Not that the Labor leader is popping champagne corks or dreaming of moving into 10 Downing Street just yet.

Despite months of strong double opinion polls of up to 20%, Sir Keir imposed iron discipline on his inner circle and members of the shadow cabinet over the danger of complacency.

But the Labor high command will be quietly satisfied that this latest mega-poll confirms that the much-feared decline in the party’s lead over the Conservatives has not yet occurred.

In fact, this YouGov MRP poll suggests that Labor is heading for a larger majority than expected in the last mega-survey, in mid-January, which predicted a 120-seat majority for Labor.

Another change from the mid-January poll is that the number of respondents increased from around 14,000 to almost 19,000, a truly enormous sample size.

But if Labor is reassured by these findings, the Conservatives will be plunged into a new crisis of open and bloody civil war and attempts to oust Rishi Sunak.

OK, let’s look at the best-case scenario for Mr Sunak and the Conservatives: that there are several thousand “don’t knows”, that British reform has reached its peak and that the waverers will return to the Conservatives.

One of the key health warnings from the YouGov MRP poll is that it asks voters how they would vote if the election were held tomorrow. Well, it won’t happen tomorrow and maybe won’t last more than six months.

During his election tour of the north-east of England this week, Mr Sunak said he wanted to hold the election when people “feel things are getting better” and reiterated that he planned to go to the polls in the second half of this year.

“I have said clearly and repeatedly that my working assumption would be that we would have a general election in the second half of the year,” he told BBC Radio Newcastle. “There has been no change to that.”

Labor’s 154-seat majority in the new poll comes close to the 179-seat majority won by Tony Blair in 1979, well short of the 254-seat majority suggested in another MRP-style poll in mid-February.

Many of the new poll’s predictions will no doubt be questioned by MPs and party officials who will study every detail in the hours and days to come.

For example, many in the Labor high command will say that the forecast of 201 gains and 403 seats for Sir Keir is rather high, given that the Conservatives currently have a 53-seat Labor majority in the House of Commons.

The SNP will surely challenge the projection that it is set to lose 29 seats in Scotland, to just 19. And 38 gains for Sir Ed Davey’s LibDems, which would give them 49 seats, seems a little optimistic .

Polls like this will, however, intensify the debate among MPs over whether the next election will be like 1992, when Neil Kinnock’s Labor Party was confident of victory but John Major won by 21 seats, or to Blair’s landslide in 1997.

Unlike today, where the government wins most votes in the Commons with a majority of around 70 votes, by 1997 Major’s majority had all but disappeared. So, as Sir Keir regularly points out, this time “we have a mountain to climb”.

Mrs Thatcher was right to be skeptical of opinion polls. But Sir Keir can take comfort that this new poll suggests Labor is on the right track as the party attempts to climb the mountain.

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