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By Tim Montgomerie
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Earlier this week we published Tory members' views on party policy towards the European Union. In the same survey we also asked the respondents to predict the likeliest outcome of the next election and pessimism seems to have taken hold.
A TOTAL OF 51% EXPECT LABOUR TO BE BACK IN GOVERNMENT
49% EXPECT SOME KIND OF TORY GOVERNMENT
This is a big drop from the end of March when 62% thought the Conservatives would still be in power.
The latest YouGov poll shows that Labour is retaining a healthy 12% lead in the headline numbers (PDF). It also now has a 43% to 36% lead when voters are asked if they'd prefer Labour or the Conservatives to be in power (with or without the Lib Dems as a partner).
Conservative insiders say that they are confident that Labour's lead will be eroded once Tory cannons are focused on Ed Miliband (you will notice the conspicuous absence of such targeting at present). But even among Tory strategists there is increasing concern that the next election will, indeed, be very difficult to win. The party leadership is now looking for game-changing positions during the rest of the parliament (Chris Grayling has called them EU veto moments). George Osborne is said to be leading the charge for an EU referendum. In today's FT Paul Goodman examines the opportunities and dangers of commiting to such a vote.