Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs – Politics live

Rolling coverage of the day’s political developments as they happen, including Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn at PMQs and MPs debating the EU withdrawal bill

PMQs is about to start.

#pmqs preview panel & review panel coming up now with @mimsdavies @JackDromeyMP & @NeilGrayMP order paper… scrutineers or mutineers? pic.twitter.com/VQoQs8kbje

It would be a struggle to find anyone who comments on politics professionally who will say things are going well for the government. In fact the consensus view at Westminster (not that the consensus is always right) is that the government is in a bit of a mess.

And yet the Tories are neck and neck with Labour in the polls, as our figures today confirm. (See 10.54am.) Why? Here are three blogs and articles that offer an explanation.

The sex scandals in Westminster are not regarded as a party political issue. Indeed, people often don’t know which party an accused MP comes from. When the former foreign secretary Robin Cook had an affair, the Tories thought that at last attention wold turn to Labour sleaze. In fact, because all the sleaze stories had been about Tories, voters just assumed Cook must be a Conservative. In today’s case, people regard all the accused as generic MPs. As a result, the sex scandal has reinforced the notion of politics as disreputable and that paying any attention to it is a waste of time. This partly accounts for the frozen polls.

The second reason why Labour isn’t thrashing the Tories at the moment is Jeremy Corbyn. Because he did much better than expected at the election, and Mrs May performed much worse, the suggestion has taken hold that he is an asset for Labour.

The most common explanation on psepholoical Twitter is that people are “tuning out”. That’s intuitive because the main policy issue at the moment is Brexit, a lengthy process that doesn’t lend itself to “new news” very often. After all, if Matt Chorley is bored with Brexit, there probably isn’t much hope for the person on the street.

Next, the fundamentals haven’t shifted much. MORI’s gross satisfaction ratings, the spread of which tends to be a very strong predictor of election results, moved dramatically in the runup to the election, but have barely changed for either leader since (other pollsters have found broadly similar patterns).

It’s the economy that still gives the Conservatives the upper hand – even if it is in a precarious position. The 1992 comparison offers an economic lesson to the Chancellor as he puts the finishing touches to his Budget next week. The trigger to Major’s downward ratings was Black Wednesday, when the government was forced to withdraw the pound sterling from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. As a result, interest rates temporarily rose to 12 per cent. The Tories never recovered from losing their reputation of economic competence.

May still has it – even if the £1bn DUP deal has dented it and Brexit could puncture it if handled badly. As things stand, voters still say the Tories lead the way on economic competence. Until that changes, whether it’s through Labour winning the argument or the Tories losing the plot, don’t expect the polls to shift significantly. If Philip Hammond gives in to demands from some in his party for a radical Budget to end austerity with a borrowing binge, there may be a shift – it just might not be the one he is looking for.

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