Labour Opens Up Poll Lead as May Targets Foreign Students

The U.K. opposition Labour party has a lead of 7 percentage points over the ruling Conservatives, less than five months before an election, according to an opinion poll in the Observer newspaper by Opinium Research.

Ed Miliband’s Labour was supported by 36 percent of those surveyed, up 2 percentage points from a poll two weeks ago, the newspaper said. Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives were unchanged at 29 percent and the anti-immigrant UKIP fell three points to 16 percent.

Britain’s parties will enter the new year seeking to sharpen their manifestos ahead of the May 7 election after a year in which the lead in polls alternated between the Conservatives and Labour. If replicated at the ballot box, the new poll suggests Labour would secure a parliamentary majority of more than 80 seats in the 650-member House of Commons, the Observer said.

With immigration emerging as a key battlefield, Home Secretary Theresa May is pushing to have students from outside the European Union leave after their studies end, the Sunday Times reported, citing a unidentified person close to her. At the moment, most students stay and switch to a work visa, the newspaper said.

Under the plan, universities and colleges would be fined if they fail to ensure that students exit the country, the newspaper said.

In the Opinium poll, support for the power-sharing Liberal Democrats was unchanged at 6 percent, a point ahead of the Green party’s 5 percent.

Miliband’s personal approval rating improved to minus 28 percent, while Cameron’s fell 2 percentage points to a negative 11 percent, according to the survey, which calculates the rating by subtracting the percentage of respondents that disapprove of a candidate from those that approve of the leader. UKIP leader Nigel Farage’s rating dropped 8 points to minus 17 percent.

Opinium carried out the online survey of 1,957 adults from Dec. 16 to Dec. 19. The margin of error wasn’t given.

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