New polls show Conservatives have overtaken Labour in UK general election race

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By a Newsnet reporter

Two surveys have given the Conservative party a lead over their Labour rivals in the race to form the next Westminster Government.  A poll carried out by ICM on behalf of the Guardian newspaper gives David Cameron a two point lead over his Labour rival Ed Militant.

According to the ICM survey, The Conservatives are now on 33% with Labour on 31%.  UKIP on 15% have overtaken the Lib Dems who polled 13%.

The ICM survey also contained more worrying news for Ed Miliband, with respondents giving the Labour leader a net approval rating of -25.  His Conservative counterpart received a rating of +2.

In another separate survey, a poll carried out on behalf of Tory peer Lord Ashcroft put David Cameron’s party on 34%, two points ahead of Labour on 32%, with the UKIP third on 15% and Liberal Democrats trailing on 9%.

The Tory lead over Labour in the UK is the first since March 2012 and is a significant blow to Ed Miliband’s hopes of replacing Cameron as PM.  It also comes despite the Conservatives being four years into a five year term, and pursuing one of the most unpopular austerity agendas ever, with controversial welfare reforms that include the bedroom tax.

The UK poll follows similar poll woes for Labour in Scotland where Johann Lamont’s party finds itself behind the SNP in Westminster voting intentions.

The poll conducted by political research group Populus has given the nationalists a two point lead over their Labour rivals.

According to the survey of 1600 people across Scotland, the SNP are on 34% with labour on 32%.  The Conservatives polled 19% with the Lib Dems languishing on just 7%.

In stark contrast to the rest of the UK, just four per cent of respondents said they would vote for UKIP in a General Election.

UKIP has signalled its intention to make inroads in Scotland in the upcoming European Parliament elections but reports from the party’s recent rally in Edinburgh suggested anti-UKIP protesters outnumbered attendees.

The SNP, traditionally characterised by some as being unpopular with women, was also found to be the party with greatest support among the female demographic as it registered 34 per cent in the poll.

Commenting on the results of the latest poll, SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson said:

“This is a hugely encouraging poll for the SNP, showing a lead on Westminster voting intentions – including a lead among women – and no sign of a UKIP breakthrough in Scotland.

“Nigel Farage and his party will continue to be defeated at the ballot box in Scotland – as they have been defeated many times before in Scotland – the same way that they will be defeated at the forthcoming European Parliamentary elections. “

The increase in support for the Tories across the UK is bound to cause anxiety for anti-independence campaigners in Scotland.  Recent surveys have shown a marked increase in support for Yes when the prospect of a Conservative Government at UK level is put to the respondents.

Both the Conservatives and Labour have tried to stem the rise in support for UKIP by adopting increasingly euro-sceptic stances.  David Cameron has pledged an in/out referendum on the EU as has his rival Ed Miliband who says Labour will hold a similar poll if Brussels seeks more powers from the UK.

Mr Robertson added: “The referendum in September is a choice of two very different futures, a fact highlighted by the contrasting polling figures south of the border – as the Tories and Labour are dancing to UKIP’s tune – where Mr Farage and his party score considerably higher.”

The European Parliament election is on Thursday May 22 with Scotland choosing six members by proportional representation. The SNP is expected to increase its two MEPs with Labour likely to retain its two according to current polls.