I wrote the following article for Parliamentary Campaigner but thoguht it useful to post it here as well. The analysis covers polls and council by-elections from 1st March to 9th April.
If Labour had hoped for a G20 'bounce', all they got was one very short lived blip. On 4th April YouGov put them at 34%, with a Conservative lead of 7%. Two days later, Labour were back down to 30%.
The range of shares of the vote from 1st March to 6th April are as follows:
Conservatives: 40-44% - but 7 out of the 11 polls put them on 41-42%
Labour: 28-34% - but 7 out of the 11 polls put them on 30-31%
Liberal Democrats: 14-20% - but 8 out of the 11 polls put them on 17-19%
In effect the polls have been steady for six weeks. Blips have happened but they were small. This means that the Conservatives, who need a 10% lead in the popular vote to win a majority, are only scraping along at the lower end of what they need to win. When the general election comes, that lead, enjoyed whilst Labour are suffering from the recession and a strong dose of midterm blues, is not large enough to give them the cushion they need to be assured of victory.
The Conservatives cannot afford any slip up in the General Election. They need to gain over 130 seats so with such a huge challenge, failure to capture any individual seat on their target list will make it all the more difficult to win with a majority.
The Conservatives' performance in recent Council by-elections has not reflected their opinion poll performance. Whilst patchy, it nevertheless makes uncomfortable reading for David Cameron's party.
They were 4th in Manchester, Redcar and Cleveland and Dundee and 5th in St Helens.
In a seat in Camden they held til 2006, the Lib Dems saw their majority rise from a handful of votes to a 3 figure sum.
In Calderdale, they held on to the seat but their share droped from over half to just over a third.
They lost 3 seats: to Labour in Redditch and North Warwickshire and to the Lib Dems in Broadland (where the Lib Dem share increased by 50.4%)
In the 30 by-elections fought by the Conservatives from the start of March up to Easter, their vote went down in 20 (9 of them by over 10%)
In conclusion, whilst the polls are showing a Conservative lead, they are only at the fringes of the comfort zone. When faced with voting Conservative in real elections however, the Conservative performance fails to hold on to the gains made in local election votes that have come their way since the 2005 general election.