The average Tory lead in June’s Voting intention polls so far is around 5 points, with the Tories in the low forties, Labour up in the high thirties. The level of party support appears to have settled down since the fading of the “rally round the flag” effect in May.

Looking away from the coronavirus polling it is now almost two months since Keir Starmer became Labour leader, so we have an initial chance to see how he’s registered with the general public.

When I write about results for “who would make the best Prime Minister?” question on social media I often get comments along the lines of “its easier to look like a good Prime Minister when you are Prime Minister”. This is correct, but it doesn’t devalue the question. It is indeed easier to look Prime Ministerial when you are Prime Minister, and this is an advantage that the PM will enjoy in real life, and will enjoy come any election. It is not the case that Prime Ministers always lead on this question. When he was leader of the opposition Tony Blair was consistently ahead of John Major on this question, David Cameron often polled ahead of Gordon Brown. Therefore Starmer’s ratings in his first few months look promising – YouGov had him neck-and-neck with Boris Johnson earlier this month, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer has him two points ahead of Johnson as preferred PM.

Questions asking about Starmer in his own right also seem positive. He has solidly positive approval ratings from YouGov, Ipsos MORI, Survation and Opinium. YouGov’s questions on leader attributes give him strongly positive ratings on being decisive, strong, competent and likeable. By 40% to 32% people say he does look like a Prime Minister in waiting.

It is a cliche to say that first impressions count, but that doesn’t mean it is untrue. History is littered with opposition leaders who really didn’t come across as being capable or substantial figures in their early months in the role and never recovered. Starmer became leader at an unusual time – the coronavirus outbreak very much dictated what he spoke about and concentrated upon. It gave him an immediate challenge of getting his response right to a major crisis. In one sense this is an opportunity – it is a large, serious issue where the leader of the opposition can show they are a serious politician with serious things to say. However, it also brings the risk of being ignored as an irrelevance, or being seen as opportunistic if you pitch it wrong (compare and contrast with the failed Tory leaders during their period in opposition – Iain Duncan Smith became Tory leader immediately after 911… and was ignored; William Hague shortly before the death of Princess Diana, and struggled to speak for the people in a way that came naturally to Tony Blair). Judging by his initial poll ratings, Starmer appears to have passed this initial test.

It’s worth noting that all the polling I’ve referred to here comes from before the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey. While that is certainly important for what it tells us about Starmer’s willingness to stamp his authority upon his party, I don’t expect it to make much difference to this figures (realistically the sacking of a shadow cabinet minister is not often something that produces any reverberations beyond the most seasoned Westminster watchers). But as ever, we shall see.

Right now Starmer’s popularity isn’t translating into a polling lead for the Labour party, but having a leader with a popular image who is seen as a plausible Prime Minister gives them the right foundation should the Government’s support falter. The Conservative Government has two huge challenges ahead of them (Brexit and Corona). Either would be daunting alone, let alone both together. For the past few years they have faced the luxury of being up against a not particularly effective opposition, riven by internal divides and with a leader whose support was deep rather than wide. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope with their challenges when they are up against a more substantial opposition.


1,446 Responses to “The public’s first impressions of Keir Starmer”

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  1. Robbiealive

    I agree about the state of punctuation–e.g. excessive use of inverted commas, undue duplication of exclamation marks, and apostrophes where they shouldn’t be (or missing where they should be)–so I enjoy your correctly-punctuated posts; I hadn’t, however, noticed the under-use of the common-or-garden hyphen.

  2. “There would be legal challenges if it attempts to specify shops or goods, and the government would lose.”

    On what grounds? Can’t see state aid, not specific enough (also Malta).

    @profhoward

    Well that’s sort of the point of these ideas, you might not want it, but whatever you spend of it will have vastly more economic benefit than just throwing it at the banks.

  3. CB11

    I agree with your post. Though, to keep Robbiealive on board, perhaps better write over-the-fence rather than over the fence; he laments the lack of hyphenation here.

    I am not sure the local papers are to blame, I suspect the UK government has been pretty poor at giving out granular local data on where the cases are. I was quite impressed at the way in which South Korea was sending out information at quite a detailed level, allowing folks to stay alert; theirs was maybe a bit too granular for privacy and we wouldn’t need to go that far.

  4. PROFHOWARD

    ” I am not sure the local papers are to blame, I suspect the UK government has been pretty poor at giving out granular local data on where the cases are. ”

    That was an outrageous example of a comma splice!

  5. Comma splicing as a bad thing is a relatively newfangled concoction, see also less countable things being incorrect.

  6. John33

    Should I have used a semicolon?

  7. @ProfHoward

    “I agree with your post. Though, to keep Robbiealive on board, perhaps better write over-the-fence rather than over the fence; he laments the lack of hyphenation here.”

    Apologies for the lack of hyphenation, but I’m still in a delirious state after Villa’s achievement in only conceding two goals at Anfield this afternoon. I expected a debacle and our goal difference taking a hammering, but we came out relatively unscathed. Apparently, if we’d taken some of our early chances, we may have even got a point out of the game.

    We still need a get-out-of-jail card, though.

    (I hope I’ve redeemed myself there from a hyphenation point of view with that last sentence.)

    :-)

  8. I am quite curious about ongoing situation in the U.S with regard to the sharp spike in infection rate. It is clear, for now, that the death rate remains fairly stable.
    Does anyone have any insight about this? My uninformed take is that it is either a lag from the time it takes (on average) to succumb to the virus or that there is a much higher prevalence of younger people being infected. Naturally, I am too lazy to look into this myself but if anyone has had a close look at hospital admissions data and so on and has drawn some conclusions on this, I would be very grateful if you could share your musings on here.

  9. JamesB yes “six items or less” does not bother me.

  10. JamesB

    On the basis of breach of law (and Malta is irrelevant). So vouchers for Primark shop but not for M&S? Vouchers by post code? Vouchers for in-shop but online? Vouchers for clothing but if you buy in M&S you cannot spend it on food? Or in Tesco (where the cashier is the same)?

    Naming stores would give ground for legal challenge for unfair advantage, the same for post code, the same for particular groups of goods (or services) – end of story. It is not about state subsidy (although that could be challenged too), but forcing customers to buy from certain vendors.

  11. John33 I wondered about that and I think its still in the lag phase but happy to be corrected by others.

  12. Lazlo

    I think they could specify an area of spending such as food but not a specific company such as M&S. But I don’t know the law in detail.

  13. PROFHOWARD

    ” Should I have used a semicolon?”

    You could have used either a dash or a semi – colon. A comma is used to separate a main clause from a subordinate clause; however, this is only when the subordinate clause is at the beginning of the sentence.

    It is worth mentioning that I was yanking your chain when I pulled you up on it!

  14. @John33

    The death rate could be based on rate of post-mortems being carried out per ‘x’ deaths, or possibly some policy of not declaring deaths with certain types of pre-existing conditions.

  15. STATGEEK

    Oh I knew what it was-wanted to get him to admit it.

    Some chance.

    Disabled people have been called by the word for which that is a diminutive for years. Somehow , reducing it to those four letters makes the use even more loathsome.
    It is less bandied about these days I’m pleased to say, though its successor -spastic-was nearly as bad until that faded too.

    But there are still insensitive, brain dead idiots around who think that using a word which used to describe physical disability, as an insult, is clever.

  16. Colin I think it was “creep”. Not that this is appropriate here either.

  17. @Colin

    The word I used was ‘Crip’ meaning one half of the Bloods and the Crips, and was an attempt at some wordsmith fun. The etymology is uncertain, but is not related to disabled people.

    I assumed a different vowel was being suggested. I’m not sure “brain dead idiots” is any less unsavoury, to be honest. Maybe it depends on what era one was raised.

  18. “Naming stores would give ground for legal challenge for unfair advantage, the same for post code, the same for particular groups of goods (or services) – end of story.”

    Well I’ve not seen any suggestion that it would be naming stores or postcodes, rather just groups of goods or services and in that regard, given numerous other things already advantage or disadvantage at that level (VAT, business rates, duties on specific goods, etc) I’m not quite sure where the problem is.

    Malta is relevant as it demonstrate the lack of problem at the EU level. Any residual problems at the UK level are unlikely to be an issue to a government with an 80 majority in parliament, particularly one that has shown a (perhaps concerning) willingness to make law by ministerial decree.

  19. ProfHoward

    They could do that – but the reporting was on vouchers for spending in firms and sectors hit hard by the epidemic. Food is not one of them.

    My points were more about the reporting than the possible use of the measures. How it was reported – not feasible in practice.

  20. “I am quite curious about ongoing situation in the U.S with regard to the sharp spike in infection rate.”

    Saw an animated map of infections in the US earlier, it’s still spreading across the country, increases in infection rate appears to be it spreading to new cities and states more than second waves in existing hotspots.

  21. Statgeek

    I think you and I (and others) probably guessed “crap”. We may have been right or wrong – who knows, or particularly cares?

    But Colin knew, with absolute certainty that it was “crip”.

    He has no evidential base for that, but evidence is less useful than faith and certainty in that faith to some.

  22. @Oldnat

    Fodringeia translates to Fotheringay, where Mary, Queen of you lot was tried and beheaded.

    It also inspired what I think is the most beautiful folk song I have ever heard, sung by the late and incomparable Sandy Denny (plus a short-lived folk group)

  23. STEVE But a pay rise that means thousands of them weren’t dependant on food banks would be appreciated.

    There is a saying in Wales – In London nurses use foodbanks, in Wales they are BTL landlords. Which by and large is true. Over large parts of the country, nurses pay is very good and when you add in their pension scheme, is excellent. Add in that it’s graded on time served as opposed to comptency and efficiency and it looks even better. Graded and/or time served pay for anyone is almost unknown in the private sector – there you just get paid £X whether you’ve been doing that job for1 week or 10 years, as are anything other than DC pensions these days.

    I appreciate that in places such as London it’s not very good, but the bottom line is that it’s the RCN that opposed and opposes regional pay. That leaves the position that you pay all nurses enough to live in London – which means nurses outside London will become extraordinarily wealthy – especially those in the large parts of the country where you can still buy houses for 100k.

    The RCN and the unions negotiated a three year package, covering the years 2018-2021 which THEY recommended to their memberships, perhaps you think they should have rejected it? :-

    Over the next three years, nurses will see a minimum salary increase of 6.5%
    That increase will be structured in the following way for most bandings:
    3 % in 2018/19
    1.7% in 2019/20 plus a lump sum worth 1.1% paid in April 2019
    1.7% in 2020/21
    These rates refer to top-of-band nurses – nurses at the bottom of their bandings could see increases of up to 29% over the next three years

    In addition, they get a 30-60% enhancement for weekends, nights and bank holidays. Again in the private sector, unsocial hours payments are rare these days.
    https://www.nurses.co.uk/careers-hub/nursing-pay-guide/#nhs-pay-table-agenda-for-change-2020-21

  24. @Prof

    Shouldn’t it be common, or garden?

  25. Hyphens tend to be destined to extinction because in most cases they encode little useful information and so tend to be eliminated on efficiency grounds with the natural progression of language.

    This really isn’t helped by their use often being inconsistent and based on convention and habit rather than rules.

    Also a pedantic typographer might point out here that uses of ‘hyphens’ here are almost always minus signs because that’s what is on our keyboards. Same thing goes for dashes, very few people are going to bother to dig out an em or en dash from the character map or remember the alt+ code to type one in.

  26. Colin: Oh I knew what it was-wanted to get him to admit it.

    Well, that’s what misplaced certainty does for you.

    Personally, I’ve never heard of ‘crip’ as a diminutive of ‘cripple’, but perhaps I’m of a different generation, or don’t move in the right circles.

    As the gap in the word was covered by a dash (or was it an underscore – I can’t be bothered to go back and look) and not an asterisk, I assumed it was more than one letter, and therefore ‘creep’ was most likely. But it could have been croup (a symptom of which is barking like a seal). Either way, I’m pretty sure the word ‘crip’ didn’t occur to RobbieAlive or anyone else here except you (only pretty sure, that is: I wouldn’t go so far as to claim absolute certainty).

  27. Guymonde: It also inspired what I think is the most beautiful folk song I have ever heard, sung by the late and incomparable Sandy Denny (plus a short-lived folk group)

    Ah, it’s not only love of Europe we have in common. I saw Fairport live when I was at university – it’s one of the tracks on the “What we did on our holidays” live album. That voice is absolutely heart-stopping.

  28. Oldnat

    I guessed “creep”. That’s why I said I thought two letters were missing not one.

  29. Colin @ 9.30 pm shows that he has ignored the multitude of recent calls here for correct punctuation, and continues in his irregular usage.

    Whatever is was-wanted?

    Obviously Colin hasn`t had his writings published, or else he would have suffered editorial amendment.

  30. V droll to pop in and observe Colin making an utter fool of himself.

    Batty: things are looking pretty wuff for your footy team according to Daisie.

    Nearly got your draw today, what with Liddy team still being hung hung over but, as that phrase that always irritates me goes – and that footballers use with annoying regularity when they lose, “it wasn’t meant to be.”

    Still, in the immortal words of Bootsie, n’eh mind ay???

  31. Guymonde

    Place names are always fascinating, and an insight into our complex history, though we have documentation for many later ones.

    There’s a town in Angus with the apparently Germanic name Friockheim (where my sister-in-law was a designer for the candlewick bedspreads produced in their long gone textile mill).

    The first part of the name is a Scotticised version of the Gaelic ‘fraoch’ (heather) but the “heim” part was formally added in the 19th century when it was requested by the Flemish weavers who were brought in to work the new flax mill.

    Naturally, any attempt to foist a 21st century view of “Free Movement of Labour” onto the 19th century would be most inappropriate, so I wouldn’t do that.

    But —– Yeah! to incomers bringing new skills and approaches (and genes) to liven us up.

  32. @JamesE – “On what grounds? Can’t see state aid, not specific enough ”

    I suspect the voucher scheme as discussed would need states aid approval, if pre January. If the vouchers had the potential to distort the internal market, they would need EC approval. So, for example, vouchers that could be spent on holiday destinations only within the UK would distort the single market.

    After January, this will possibly no longer be a problem, except in Northern Ireland. If a UK wide measure was announced, then it would still need to either be compliant with states aid or get approval from the EC.

    So vouchers issued to UK citizens that could be redeemed in any UK holiday destination would be a problem, because after transition, NI will still be covered by states aid rules. Vouchers could be issued to all UK citizens but have to be spent only in GB and be states aid compliant, but that wouldn’t be so nice for NI businesses.

    As I have posted previously, and well beyond this issue, I rather doubt Brexiters (and many Con MPs) are fully aware of the issues that will be raised by the WA with regards UK policy decisions and EU states aid rules.

    The rather funny point about this is that they think they are free from the ECJ, but the EU will be able to enforce their states aid rules – now and in the future – via legal actions in UK courts, where UK courts are bound to accept EU definitions and judgements, regardless of any new laws passed by Westminster. A UK wide policy that breaches EU states aid rules will have to be struck down by the UK courts.

    It’s a sh!t show, and you don’t need a hyphen to understand that.

  33. Pleased to see the UK Government bring in a “£1.57 billion rescue package to help cultural, arts and heritage institutions weather the impact of coronavirus” (presumably for all the UK, though we await the details).

    But why is the UK Government so boastfully insecure that everything has to be “world-leading” or “world-beating”?

    As I’ve commented previously, I remember that kind of pathetic rhetoric in 1960s Scotland, and it’s embarrassing to remember how we didn’t question it back then.

  34. I think you meant to say that it was wurruld beating that was claimed for Scotland OldNat.

    However, I absolutely agree with you. Dunno if most countries tend to use such hyperbole but the American thing of “greatest nation on earth” is really offensive and I’m sad to see our government heading the same way.

    It’s all a bit sad.

  35. I dunno. We are the best in the world at claiming to be the best in the world.

  36. R&D

    Thing is, you can get away with “the greatest nation on earth” stuff, when you’ve got a huge military to beat up anyone who disagrees.

    When you haven’t, and just look like Mussolini pretending that he had the power of Roman Emperors, it’s just sad.

  37. What, better than the Chumpster?

  38. @R&D

    “Still, in the immortal words of Bootsie, n’eh mind ay???”

    More of a Snudge man myself.

    :-)

  39. Batty

    Bootsie’s catchphrase has guided me through life.

    Probably as a corollary, or maybe a balance, to thinking that everything MUST be perfect.

  40. Thing is ON, it’s not very becoming of a powerful nation to continue to bang on about it so loudly.

    Plus, the Chumpster uses the term to mean its people.

    Which is weird, given that he detests most of them.

  41. R&D

    Indeed. A state that is actually powerful doesn’t need to say it is. It’s obvious.

    As for Trump detesting most of the people in the USA, that seems reasonable as the majority of them detest him too.

    Nytol

  42. @Alec

    “After January, this will possibly no longer be a problem, except in Northern Ireland. If a UK wide measure was announced, then it would still need to either be compliant with states aid or get approval from the EC.

    So vouchers issued to UK citizens that could be redeemed in any UK holiday destination would be a problem, because after transition, NI will still be covered by states aid rules. Vouchers could be issued to all UK citizens but have to be spent only in GB and be states aid compliant, but that wouldn’t be so nice for NI businesses.”

    The £1 billion bung given by Theresa May to NI worked out at just over £500 per person there.

    So I guess this is just balancing things out for the rest of us?

  43. @Andrew Williams

    “There is a saying in Wales – In London nurses use foodbanks, in Wales they are BTL landlords. Which by and large is true. Over large parts of the country, nurses pay is very good and when you add in their pension scheme, is excellent. Add in that it’s graded on time served as opposed to comptency and efficiency and it looks even better. Graded and/or time served pay for anyone is almost unknown in the private sector – there you just get paid £X whether you’ve been doing that job for1 week or 10 years, as are anything other than DC pensions these days.”

    Pay is transparent in the public sector.

    It is not in the private sector and bonuses, differing pay for doing the same job, expenses etc are rife.

    The public sector has advantages, but those after a big salary recognition will be disappointed in my view.

  44. prof howard,
    re the link to deaths stats.

    What on earth is an ‘age adjusted ‘ death rate?

    A very striking stat is that Wales had massively fewer excess deaths in care homes.

    Someone observed to me that that the part of Sussex where I live is very white, so might expect fewer deaths. This is probably particularly true amongst the oldest inhabitants, who are the group amongst whom most deaths occur (because non white immigration is quite recent here). This would very likely also be true for wales. In general it seems we should expect something like a 50% lower death rate in an all white care home than a fully non white one. Which is quite a difference.

    Although taking into account added health disadvantages might worsen this figure, it’s hard to be certain if that would apply. Yes, non whites tend to also have poorer health because of social disadvantage, but if that causes them to die earlier, then they might already be under represented in the oldest groups. On the other hand, this might just show up as non whites arriving at the stage of moving to care homes earlier in life, so the proportion in care homes isn’t affected (or less so).

    I assume studies of disproportionate covid deaths white v non white have mostly concerned the very old, because that is who is mostly dying. But we might expect different proportions at different ages. eg comparing risk to a health worker aged 40 or a 90 year old. At 40 all the added social deprivation risks would still be present, whereas by 90 they would have already activated and the higher risk proportion already have died. hence one might find a lower excess risk from covid at extreme age due to social factors, rather than genetic ones.

  45. Re: Andrew Bowie and 9%, i assume that he is referring to the european election in 2019.

  46. What’s all this about nurses using food banks in London? Round here you can only use them if you’re on the dole. I know because I looked into it. My Dad who grew up in a ‘kippers and curtains’ household during the Great Depression and then suffered rationing through the 1940s and early 1950s told me never to turn down a free meal.

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