May and Corbyn
Theresa May and Jeremy CorbynGetty Images

Theresa May's political land-grabbing manoeuvres seem to have paid dividends, with the Conservatives surging to a 18-point poll lead over Labour and Ukip falling behind the Liberal Democrats.

A poll from Ipsos MORI for The Evening Standard, of more than 1,000 people between 14 and 17 October, showed the Tories were on 47% (+7%), with Labour on 29% (-5%), the Liberal Democrats on 7% (+1%) and Ukip on 6% (-3%).

The figures mean the Conservatives would secure a majority of 143 seats in the House of Commons if a general election was held tomorrow, according to Electoral Calculus (based on 2018 boundaries).

The poll result comes after May promised to press on with the UK's decision to leave the EU and her controversial decision to back new grammar schools.

The positioning has left a leaderless Ukip looking for a raison d'etat, while Jeremy Corbyn risks losing centre-ground voters after May branded Labour the "new nasty party".

"They've given up the right to call themselves the party of the NHS, the party of the workers, the party of public servants," the prime minister said earlier this month.

The polling will be a blow to Labour, but Corbyn has been able to bolster his shadow cabinet in the wake of his re-election. Shadow Brexit Secretary Sir Keir Starmer has been one of his key appointments.

Britain's business community has also raised fears about a so-called "hard Brexit", which would see the UK stop the free movement of people but face much less access to the EU's single-market.

The government also had to U-turn over a controversial plan to make companies list the number of foreign workers their employ. The figures come on the eve of the Batley and Spen and Witney and West Oxfordshire by-elections.

The Conservatives, alongside Ukip, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens, are not contesting Batley out of respect to the constituency's former MP Jo Cox. But the Tories are expected to retain Witney, the former Westminster seat of David Cameron.

The ex-prime minister won a majority of more than 25,000 votes at the general election in May last year.

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