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Monday, September 29, 2003

Just for the record

The Liberal Democrats are close to challenging the Conservatives as the main opposition party after their by-election success in Brent East and a publicity boost from their party conference. A YouGov poll for last Saturday's Telegraph shows the three main parties neck and neck - with only two points separating them. Although the Tories have held on to a slender lead over Labour, the Lib Dems are the main beneficiaries of the damage inflicted on the Government by the Hutton Inquiry and the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The poll puts the Tories on 32 per cent (down five on last month), Labour 31 (down four) and the Lib Dems on 30 - up 10 points. Also, support for the Labour party has slumped in the key marginal seats it needs to defend at the next election, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. But the survey also reveals that the Tories - who targeted these seats in 2001 as their most winnable - have failed to make any progress in the last two years. Their share of the vote has actually fallen by one point since the last election. Instead the Liberal Democrats have gained most - up eight points - in these key marginal seats. Sunday's News of the World put all three parties on level pegging at 31% with the Liberal Democrats gaining at the expense of both the Tories and Labour but importantly, the Liberal Democrats were seen as the most effective opposition party with 50% while the Conservatives polled only 34%.

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