Conservative Diary

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This election is still too close to call; three hard weeks lie ahead

That's the message of two new opinion polls tonight.

An ICM poll of 96 Labour-held marginals* - half of which the Tories would need to win - has Labour 37% to 36% ahead. This suggests the Tories are on the verge of a working majority but, possibly, falling just short.

A conventional poll of the whole country - by ComRes for The Independent on Sunday - puts the Tories 7% ahead. On a uniform swing that would also suggest the Tories would fall short of a working majority.

ComRes The Tories are having a good campaign so far. The National Insurance issue has been good for the party. Cameron's National Citizen Service plan is backed by 74% to 14% of voters. The NHS pledges are getting a good doorstep response. Cameron is running an energetic, high visibility campaign. But there's a long way to go. There's something odd about the election campaign so far. The nation isn't engaged. Brown has hardly ventured outside of London - probably because he's immersed in debate prep. And, make no mistake, the debates are Labour's best hope of turning things round. They don't expect outright victory but they are hoping to deny Cameron a majority and to jump into bed with the liberal Democrats. Yesterday's article by Andrew Adonis - arguing that Labour and the Liberal Democrats are natural allies - was important.

David Cameron should still win this election but nothing is in the bag. Three long, hard weeks of campaigning lie ahead. The NI issue isn't going to sustain the party through those weeks. Strong messages on the NHS, crime and immigration are also going to be important.

Tim Montgomerie

* Excluding some of the easiest-to-win.





7.45am, Sunday: A BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday has the Conservatives on 38, Labour on 31% and the Liberal Democrats on 20%.


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