So, with 93 days to go to Election 2005, what's the current standing?
The Electoral Calculus poll-of-polls (based on all polls from 7 Jan to 27 Jan) indicates a vote breakdown as follows: Tory 32.6%, Lab 37.5% and LD 21.1% (figures rounded up). This forecasts a Labour majority of 116.
More interesting is the latest ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph, which was conducted after the launch of the Tory immigration policy last week. This shows the Labour vote dropping back to 36%, the Tories firm on 33% and the LDs on 21% - roughly in line with the poll-of-polls and forecasting a Labour majority of 98.
Bear in mind, though, that this is after the Tories have played their trump card. As mentioned below, immigration is a strong issue for them and one where the public expect them to have the best policies. Despite a week of publicity for this policy, though, 80% of people thought that this policy either thought that this policy would make no difference to their voting intentions or would make them less likely to vote Conservative.
The other key Tory strength, crime, isn't a winner either - here they tie with Labour on effectiveness on tackling violent crime, with 33% supporting each side.
MORI's January poll for the Observer comes with bad news for the Tories as well. Although the fieldwork straddles the launch of the immigration policy, the poll gives Labour a solid 6 point lead.
Also worth noting, according to Gaby Hinsliff is that Howard's personal popularity is exceptionally poor. His personal approval rating is only 22% - just 2 points ahead of Michael Foot in 1983 and 12 points behind where Neil Kinnock was in 1992. For the record, 33% are satisified with Blair and 39% with Kennedy, while 32% are happy with the government overall. Both Kennedy and Howard have 'don't know' ratings in the 30s, which isn't good news, as it indicates that neither of them figure on the political radar of a third of the electorate. The government and Tony Blair only have 10% don't know figures - you may like 'em or loathe 'em, but you have an opinion on 'em.
When it comes to asking the people who would make the best PM, then Blair is head and shoulders above the opposition. 39% back him, compared to 17% each for Howard and Kennedy - this has to be appalling news for Michael Howard.
Another interesting question asked is who would make the better PM - Blair or Brown. Overall, Brown has a 4 point lead - 39% to 35%, but Tories back him 47/28 and the LDs 51/34. Oddly, only amongst Labour voters is Brown behind, with only half of Blair's 56% support. Given that the same survey also highlights the return of 'Old Labour' values, you would have thought that the man who has been behind the increased spending on health and education and has presided over a limited redistributive tax structure would score better.
On the issues, defence and foreign affairs tops peoples' priorities alongside the NHS, followed by immigration, crime and education. Taxation, poverty and pensions don't figure hugely, but have increased in importance. Issues over the countryside and local government taxation don't stir the minds of the majority, barely registering on the poll.
The Liberal Democrats don't have much to crow about either. Although their standing remains relatively high, it only translates into a handful of seats, presuming a straight split of vote across the country. The mix of tactical voting and, I suspect, a low turnout, will throw the usual spanner into the works - with the latter being more important. The MORI poll indicates that 51% of the sample are certain to vote - I suspect a turnout in the 40s is more likely. Historically, this might have favoured the Tories, as their voters were more determined to do their civic duty, but given their current dilapidated state, I'm not so sure. My current bet is for the LDs to do better than the polls suggest, but for the Labour majority to be in the 80s.
As always, comments and abuse welcome. If only to let me know that my rants are being read by somebody else.