Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour Disarray on Key Bills as Cameron Nudges into Poll Lead

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour Disarray on Key Bills as Cameron Nudges into Poll Lead

Article excerpt

Byline: JOE MURPHY

LABOUR was in growing disarray over education reforms and smoking today as a new poll showed David Cameron's Tories ahead.

Backbench unrest over schools increased after Education Secretary Ruth Kelly was accused at a Commons committee of producing a botched and confusing package. Tony Blair is now widely expected to use a critical Commons education committee report next month as the moment to water down the BY JOE MURPHY Political Editor reforms. Meanwhile, ministers tried to assuage discontent over the partial ban on smoking in pubs by promising MPs that the law would be reviewed after two years.

One MP told the Evening Standard that she had been given a "categorical" assurance by a senior minister that a complete ban on smoking in public places would be considered before the next general election.

The twin blows to the Prime Minister's legislative programme came as a new opinion survey showed two-thirds of the public see Mr Cameron as a potential prime minister.

The ICM survey in the Guardian had the Conservatives just ahead of Labour, on 37 per cent to 36 per cent, with the Liberal Democrats on 21 per cent.

That is far short, however, of the figures needed to make the Tories the biggest party at Westminster, let alone win power, due to quirks of the voting system.

More significantly, the survey suggested both Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters were willing to move across to the Tories. Just over half of Labour supporters and 63 per cent of Lib-Dems saw the new Opposition leader as prime ministerial material. Nearly half of Liberal Democrats saw him as "someone I could vote for".

In addition, the findings suggested that attacks on Mr Cameron as "all style and no substance" have failed so far to resonate with the public.

The poll comes after a disastrous day for the Government on Mr Blair's key reform package, covering education.

Ms Kelly's appearance at the education committee followed the intervention by Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott who criticised the proposals for "trust schools" as risking a two-tier system. …

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