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Sun 'withheld YouGov poll' showing widespread support for Lib Dems

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The Sun newspaper withheld from publication a YouGov poll it had commissioned after it showed the full extent of newfound support for the Liberal Democrats, it has been claimed.

According to the Independent, the tabloid suppressed the full details of a poll published in part on Tuesday, including the fact that voters fear a Lib Dem government less than a Conservative or Labour one.

In addition, 29 per cent of voters said they would be delighted at a Lib Dem government being voted into office, compared to 25 points for the Tories and 18 for Labour.

The Sun is part of News International, itself owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and last October famously dropped its longstanding support for Gordon Brown's Labour to switch allegiance to David Cameron and the Conservative party.

But since last Thursday's first election debate, the second of which was held last night, the traditional conservative press has been focusing its attention towards Nick Clegg, whose Lib Dem party has been enjoying an unprecedented rise in popularity.

Yesterday it was claimed that Mr Murdoch's son James and News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks had visited the offices of the Independent to complain about the paper's new Truth Matters campaign, which has seen it criticise the extent of the interference from Murdoch's media empire in the election campaign.

The unpublished poll showed that if people believed the Lib Dems had a significant chance of winning the election they would get 49 per cent of the vote, compared to 25 per cent for the Tories and 19 per cent for Labour.

One in four Labour voters and one in six Tories said they would switch to the Lib Dems, while the Independent claimed that the third party was ahead among men and women in every age, social group and region.

If replicated at a general election the theoretical sentiment would give the Lib Dems 548 MPs.

Lib Dem Treasury team member Lord Oakeshott told the Independent: "The numbers show that half the country cannot stand Gordon Brown and that the other half can't stand David Cameron. I wonder why The Sun wouldn't share this news with its readers.

"We always knew... that when people believe the Liberal Democrats can win, there is a big jump in our support. In 90 minutes in the first debate, Nick Clegg tore open the two-party straitjacket which has stifled British politics for the last 80 years. Now, at last, people can vote for what they want, not against what they fear."

The Sun declined to comment on the claims over the unpublished poll, which it ran an abridge version of on Tuesday accompanied with an editorial that said: "Mr Clegg is the political equivalent of a holiday romance. An exciting fortnight's flirtation so long as you don't ask too many questions. We cannot gamble the nation's future like that."

The opinion polls have indicated a close result between the party leaders from last night's debate, with the final debate to be held next Thursday, a week ahead of the general election.
© Adfero Ltd
23 April 2010 17:00 GMT

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