Conservatives open up 'remarkable' new lead over Labour

The Conservatives have opened up a mammoth lead over Labour in the latest poll, suggesting Jeremy Corbyn’s party is heading for electoral disaster.

The latest Guardian/ICM poll puts Theresa May’s party on 49%, which is up two percentage points on last week, and Labour on 27% – down by one point.

The gap is the largest ever recorded by the respected polling firm and has been described as “remarkable and historic”.

It comes on a day in which Mrs May put herself front and centre of the party’s campaign.

Giving a speech alongside tall the Tory candidates for London and the South-east, it was clear to see the party’s strategy of capitalising on her strong personal support compared to Mr Corbyn.

Martin Boon, ICM’s director, told The Guardian: “This poll is remarkable, and historic. It puts the Conservatives on 49%, and Labour on 27%, implying that 22-point lead.

“Not only is the lead an outright record for any ICM poll, but the Conservative share is a record in the Guardian/ICM series.”

Earlier Mrs May confirmed she was committed to keeping the Conservatives’ target of reducing net migration to the “tens of thousands”, saying this represents “sustainable levels”.

The Prime Minister said it was important to hit this target given the pressure immigration had put on public services and those on lower incomes.

The latest figures showed net migration dropped to 273,000 in the year to September, the first time in two years the balance of people arriving and leaving the UK dipped below 300,000.

The target is one of the most controversial and comes seven years after it was first introduced by David Cameron to the Tory manifesto ahead of the 2010 election.

Mrs May has been criticised for resurrecting the commitment.

Stephen Martin, director general of the Institute Of Directors, said: “A target is a poor substitute for a proper immigration policy.

“All parties should instead see Brexit as an opportunity to come up with a new system that is good for the economy, but also addresses voters’ concerns.”

Ryan Shorthouse, director of conservative think tank Bright Blue, was also critical of the decision to keep the target.

“Keeping the net migration target is a mistake,” he said.

“Controlling migration should not be centred on an arbitrary, indiscriminate and unrealistic figure.

“Instead, Theresa May should introduce realistic, effective and popular ways of controlling migration.”

Jeremy Corbyn said Labour would set out its immigration policy next week and said “you’re going to have to wait and see” when asked if the party would set a numerical target for net migration.

Also on Monday, Mr Corbyn promised free car parking at all NHS hospitals in England if Labour wins, because charges are “a tax on serious illness”.

The Labour leader pledged to scrap hospital parking charges and cover the lost revenue with an 8% hike in insurance premium tax to 20% for private health insurance products.

The party estimates the tax rise will be enough to cover the £162 million that English hospitals raise annually from car parking charges.

It comes after shadow chancellor John McDonnell defended Labour’s plans to put up taxes for those earning more than £80,000, while saying there was “a lot to learn” from Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.