If you are looking at voting intention or best Prime Minister figures to judge how well an opposition leader is doing, the first thing to note is that they are relative. It’s not just about how well the opposition are doing, it’s about how well the government are doing. Indeed, it’s probably mostly how well the government are doing – I am a great believer in the old truism that oppositions do not win elections, governments lose them. A really good opposition leader can pick holes in a government and force them into political errors, but primarily it’s a job of waiting for them to make a mistake, and making sure that when they do, you look like a plausible enough alternative for the public to place their trust in you.

Many of Starmer’s internal Labour party critics start with the absolute assumption that the Government are incredibly unpopular and that Labour should therefore be ahead of them. The reality is the Government’s figures really aren’t that bad and, on corona vaccination – the issue that currently dominates the agenda – are strikingly good. Looking at the Ipsos MORI polling this week, 38% think the government are handling corona well, 46% badly (negative, but not overwhelmingly so). 86% think they are doing well at securing vaccine supplies, 78% that they are doing well in rolling it out. For better or for worse, Boris Johnson has also delivered on his main election promise – getting Brexit done – and his own approval ratings appear to have bottomed out at the end of last year and have improved slightly since then.

As such, we’ve seen the Conservative party creep back ahead in the polls over recent months. At the tail end of last year the polls were broadly neck-and-neck. The Tories now clearly have a small lead again. Opinium and YouGov’s polls this week show a 5 point Tory lead, Survation a 6 point lead, Ipsos MORI earlier this month a 4 point lead. This is likely more a reflection of the Conservative Government’s recovering fortunes than anything Labour have or haven’t done. If we want to get a decent measure of public attitudes towards Keir Starmer, we need to look at figures asking directly about Starmer himself, rather than his relative position to the Government.

If we do that, then on the whole, Starmer’s ratings are at least acceptable. During the early part of his leadership there were very solid indeed, but over the last few months they have declined. His approval ratings are fairly neutral (Opinium’s last poll had 32% approving, 30% disapproving; Ipsos MORI has 40% satisfied, 35% dissatisfied; YouGov 39% good job, 37% bad job). These are significantly better than Boris Johnson’s current ratings, and better than his predecessors Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn.

Looking at polling on perceptions of Starmer, YouGov gives him positive ratings on being strong, likeable, decisive and – especially – competence (42% see him as competent, 21% incompetent). Ipsos MORI finds strongly positive ratings for him on being decisive, and moderately positive figures on leading opinion and demonstrating a clear vision.

MORI also ask a regular question on if the opposition leader looks ready to be Prime Minister. 33% of people think Starmer does, 37% think he does not. Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband got figures ranging between 17%-31% thinking they looked ready to be Prime Minister, but consistently got in excess of 60% saying they did not. The positive figures may not be that different here, but Starmer’s negatives are far, far less than his predecessors. YouGov have a similar question, and found 33% think Starmer looks like a Prime Minister in waiting.

It is clear from the polling that Keir Starmer is seen by the general public as much more of a competent, plausible Prime Ministerial figure than his two predecessors. Whether that is enough is a different matter. I’ve frequently compared Starmer’s figures in this article to Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn. By that yardstick they’re not bad at all. But compare them to Tony Blair, or even to David Cameron, the last two leaders of the opposition to actually go on and become Prime Minister, and they look less positive.

It’s also worth underlining that the direction of movement for Starmer is currently negative. Lots of leaders have positive ratings to begin with (think of how positively rated Theresa May was to begin with, for example). At the moment it looks as if the way that Keir Starmer presents himself has chimed enough with the public for them to give him a serious hearing and to remain open-minded on whether he’d make a good Prime Minister. It looks as if Starmer has managed to win the opportunity to be heard, but having that opportunity doesn’t mean he won’t fluff it.

Obviously Keir Starmer is not yet in a position to win a general election. We won’t know until after the boundary review exactly what sort of lead the Labour party would need to win an election, but to get an overall majority on a uniform swing then without some degree of political realignment they’d need a very substantial lead indeed and at this point, Starmer has no lead at all. I suppose for those within the Labour party, it depends exactly how much one can reasonably expect from leader who inherits a party that has just suffered one of its worst ever general elections, its fourth in row, and has spent the last five years busy in internecine warfare.


2,990 Responses to “How well or badly is Keir Starmer doing?”

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  1. @CARFREW

    @PETE B has a point – the normal death rate isn’t all that relevant when you’re coming off a huge spike in it that was concentrated amongst the most vulnerable people?

    It’s also a measure that’s presumably about to go haywire anyway (as a weekly rate) once 20% of last year’s spikes feed in and out of it? Or are they keeping 2015-19 as the baseline for that reason?

  2. From the Times…

    “With the most vulnerable now protected, the link between cases and deaths was being broken. “I think that the era of the R number is coming to an end,” he said. “At various points in the previous year government policy has been aimed at trying to reduce R and maintain it at or below 1. This is no longer the case … The growth or decline in hospitalisations is now critical, not the overall R number.””

  3. EoR

    “@PETE B has a point – the normal death rate isn’t all that relevant when you’re coming off a huge spike in it that was concentrated amongst the most vulnerable people?”

    —–

    Yeah, I didn’t actually contest the point. Though if you look at the overall context, the pace of the drop-off, along with the rapid fall in infections generally, and fewer deaths among those infected, does suggest it might be the effect of the vaccine.

    Esp. given the impact of the new variant etc.

  4. @ AC – I’m not buying a ‘Millers’ for anyone, jeesh, that is Tennants p1ss for Scots who miss home.

    Lots of decent micro breweries even in the land of 60shillings and Braveheart Best (fook knows what yer worst tastes like) nowadays but in Glasgow you might still get Tennants

    Putin can buy the Stol chaser to seal the deal but if you want a pint of p1ss give me 30mins head start and bring some ice cubes ;)

  5. Also… they are doing testing like an opinion poll…

    “The infection figures given by the ONS are different from those given daily through community testing, which currently show about 6,000 new confirmed cases a day, and which are also dropping.

    Instead they come from the regular swabbing of the same households. The latest report is based on around 100,000 tests taken in the last week in February, with the findings extrapolated to produce a population estimate — a little like an opinion poll. This makes it of more value to policymakers, as it provides an estimate less likely to be biased through, for instance, taking more tests.”

  6. @EoR

    There are over 3 million over the age of 80 in the UK, and nearly 12 million over 65.

    How likely that all those vulnerable have already died?

  7. @EoR

    Another thing to factor in: how many of the oldies have never been infected by Covid? If you think that the majority still haven’t had it, then it’s hard to claim they have already died due to Covid.

  8. @EoR

    So even if more vulnerable people have already been got by Covid, if there are still a lot of vulnerable people out there alive because most still haven’t been infected, you might expect the excess death rate to still be above normal. Unless maybe the vaccine was having an effect.

  9. Carfrew
    The original point you made was specifically about deaths in care homes, and these were early hotspots for Covid deaths. I would think that more over-80s in care homes would die than in the general population, and it also seems likely that many of the places won’t have been refilled because of lockdown restrictions.

    Anyway, it was just a throwaway remark and I note that you didn’t originally contest the point.

  10. This must be down to Liz Truss too???

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-56296499

    Peter.

  11. Pete B

    Yeah I am just considering some circumstantial evidence to try and get a bit of a handle on it.

    It wasn’t just about care homes, it was also about how excess deaths have come down generally. So I started with that.

    Regarding care homes, the same argument applies. It depends how many you think have been infected in care homes. If many of the vulnerable hadn’t already caught it, then it’s more likely to be the effect of the vaccine.

    IIRC Oldnat a while back brought up some data suggesting that the bigger care homes tended to have greater chance of infection, which perhaps isn’t that surprising,

    There is also Danny’s point that as time passes people become newly vulnerable and lockdown itself can create vulnerabilities.

  12. @CARFREW

    Neither your post nor our replies said anything about the vaccine or is impact.

    My point was in response to the Telegraph’s use of the phrase “back to normal” – statistically that’s not the case because if a whole bunch of the most vulnerable have died earlier because of the recent COVID spike then we’d actually expect the death rate to drop below average before saying that COVID was no longer increasing it abnormally.

    (Obviously the continued steep fall is excellent news, and given the various comparative data available I do think it’s fair to link its continued trajectory to the impact of the vaccines!)

  13. @Pete B

    Back in October, from the Lancet…

    “However, most care homes for older people have not had a confirmed outbreak of COVID-19, or have rapidly controlled their outbreak, meaning that large numbers of residents will remain susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Any future increase in community transmission is, therefore, likely to drive further care home outbreaks without stricter measures to control ingress.”

    So they were worried about the impact of the next wave, and aneed to race with the vaccine…

  14. @EoR

    Eh? They didn’t say back to normal. For care homes it was what you are suggesting, below normal for this time of year.

    “there were now fewer people dying from all causes in care homes than is normal for this time of year.“

  15. @CARFREW

    You put in bold that there was no longer statistically significant excess death. Whilst quoting from an article headlined “Data – Death rate back to normal as Covid infections fall by third in a week”.

    And I was just saying that claim (phrased either as in their gasoline or in the part you chose to emphasise) is making a less relevant comparison than it might seem.

    Nothing about vaccines or care homes or anything :-) Just about the use of the data to imply (or indeed state outright) a normality that has not yet been reached.

  16. @EDGE OF REASON

    “@CARFREW
    Neither your post nor our replies said anything about the vaccine or its impact”

    ——

    that’s a bit pedantic. Pete suggested a reason for a fall in deaths. It is not unreasonable to consider alternative explanations.

  17. @EoR

    “You put in bold that there was no longer statistically significant excess death. Whilst quoting from an article headlined “Data – Death rate back to normal as Covid infections fall by third in a week”.”

    —–

    Oh, you’re on about summat I didn’t cite. The attempt in the headline to try and simplify.

    You started by saying Pete had a point so I thought you were more on about that.

    Regarding the excess deaths bit, it isn’t necessarily wrong. It may still notable if deaths have fallen back to that point. Though you may well be right that it might be additionally useful to accommodate how it may have been impacted by recent desths due to Covid.

    I had already accepted that might be the case, when Pete brought it up, which is why I then started exploring the problem.

  18. @EoR

    So, beyond the fussing, how much do you think Pete had a point and that it’s down to previous deaths, or instead maybe to the vaccine?

  19. I said he had a point (based on the single line he’d written at that stage! :-) ) in that recent very high excess death should be making excess death lower now. And then explained in more detail why that measure (which the Telegraph had based their article on and you had quoted with emphasis) is potentially problematic at this point in time, and may become even moreso in the near future.

    Then for the avoidance of further confusion I added what I think about the relevance of the vaccine to this, in my 10:44.

    “(Obviously the continued steep fall is excellent news, and given the various comparative data available I do think it’s fair to link its continued trajectory to the impact of the vaccines!)”

  20. @EoR

    “I said he had a point (based on the single line he’d written at that stage! :-) ) in that recent very high excess death should be making excess death lower now.”

    —–

    That isn’t a given at all, it depends in part on how well we are doing at controlling the virus. If we weren’t doing well, do you think we wouldn’t have continued elevated excess death?

    That would only likely be the case if a large number had already been infected.

    Which was why I started exploring that.

  21. @EoR

    “And then explained in more detail why that measure (which the Telegraph had based their article on and you had quoted with emphasis) is potentially problematic at this point in time, and may become even moreso in the near future.”

    —–

    I know, which is why I looked into it more.

    Incidentally I don’t necessarily quote things because I agree with them, but fir duscussion and info. because not all can read it.

  22. @EoR

    “Then for the avoidance of further confusion I added what I think about the relevance of the vaccine to this, in my 10:44.
    “(Obviously the continued steep fall is excellent news, and given the various comparative data available I do think it’s fair to link its continued trajectory to the impact of the vaccines!)””

    —–

    Yeah, I just thought you might add some info.

  23. @EoR

    I’m not really sure what your continued issue is. You and Pete had issues with what the Telegraph said, I took that into account and tried to find some more info. on the matter.

  24. Yes it’s a given that the previous high excess would in itself be a factor in pushing the average down now.

    No it’s obviously not a given that that by itself means the actual rate would be lower now than it was before, but then no-one said that it was!

    On the off-chance there’s anyone naive enough to be skimming this page in search of relevant discussion, let’s stop filling it with this :-)

  25. The article wasn’t just about a reduction of excess death but a pretty substantial one, that might eclipse the effect you are talking about. Is the point.

    Anyway regarding discussion I tried to add some extra info. and invited you to as well…

  26. Colin

    Thanks for sharing your introspection. That you don’t demonstrate the behaviours, that I suggested as alternate explanations, don’t apply to you. I would be concerned for your well-being were it otherwise.

    That would suggest that you are just like most folk and conform with the tendency which all social and psychological research suggests, and what I summarised as –

    “People tend to associate with others who think similarly to them, and provide positive reinforcement to the validity of shared views.”

    Clearly, that is not a universal description of all human behaviour, and you may buck that trend in a different manner to the alternate hypotheses I offered.

    However, your “I am part of those groups because I like the people in them and the activities we share” suggests that you are absolutely normal in that regard.

    I wholly agree with your “the thing I try to remember most is not to pigeon hole contributors into the comfortable characterisations that real , live, human social contact facilitates.”

    Would that you had recalled that when you pigeon-holed me as knowing nothing of UK politics outside Scotland, while conflating your polity and the UK.

    You will be aware that that latter behaviour is confirmed by the ITN/ComRes poll as being particularly prevalent in England.

    “Grandiosity” is but the academic descriptor of such an attitude, as is “narcissistic nationalism”.

  27. @EoR

    Btw, to ease your mind… re when you said “It’s also a measure that’s presumably about to go haywire anyway (as a weekly rate) once 20% of last year’s spikes feed in and out of it? Or are they keeping 2015-19 as the baseline for that reason?”

    Yes, they keep five years stats. From PHE…

    “Excess mortality allows an understanding of the impact of COVID-19. Each week Public Health England produces a weekly report that models the expected number of deaths using an average of five years of data, adjusted for factors such as the ageing of the population and the underlying trend in mortality rates from year to year. This is used to estimate the number of deaths we would expect on each day in 2020. This contrasts with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) method, which uses a simple five-year average.”

  28. (Actually that’s from CEBM, about PHE)

  29. What appears to be a common “herding” characteristic among people has always interested me.

    Naturally, such behaviour is not universal and some prefer to adopt beliefs different from the herd (though they may actually just be joining a different herd).

    Manipulation of that tendency is standard practice among politicians and other “influencers” (horrible word!) such as the printed press running voodoo polls among their readers.

    For MSM they are often merely clickbait, and attract wholly meaningless “pile-ons” by activists.

    It is in that context that I report a voodoo poll in the Forres Gazette, Northern Scot and Grampian Online (local media covering DRoss’s Westminster constituency).

    I know nothing of its political leanings or circulation, but in the Moray area, I would guess that this “poll” is somewhat unrepresentative of opinion prior to it, but may nudge some towards conforming to its conclusions.

    Out of 8,888 votes Four in five disagree with Douglas Ross’ decision to intimate no confidence vote against Nicola Sturgeon

    https://twitter.com/Forres_Gazette/status/1367917086853509122

    Human beings, and their behaviours, remain a fascinating area of study and underlie what this website is all about.

  30. Mixed data from another few days of COVID stats (country data up to 5th March on https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries )

    The global rate of cases has been pretty flat for a few days after a period of trending upwards.

    Within Europe, cases continue to rise in much of the south and east. Deaths are starting to follow suit, particularly in Czechia, Hungary, Greece and Bulgaria, but with signs of declines halting or potentially ticking upwards in other places, including Italy.

    More positively, whilst cases continue to rise sharply in Norway, Finland and Estonia, the recent gentle upward trend in many other northern European countries seems to be levelling off rather than accelerating. Cases continue to drop in UK, Ireland and Iberia.

    Also the recently discussed trend of case falls halting or starting to reverse in numerous areas of northern England appears to have stopped, with a pattern of substantial decrease resuming.

    (https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/details/interactive-map )

  31. EOR

    Scotland’s Clinical Director said that WHO had a special briefing yesterday morning about Covid in Europe (their geographic world region, not EU) being on the rise.

    That was said in response to a question about the resumption of international travel.

    Given the likely interaction between different populations via travel, there was some scepticism expressed that restrictions would be lifted on that soon by ScotGov,

    There remain concerns about Johnson and Hancock’s rather bullish approach in this area.

  32. @Oldnat

    “Forres Gimp”

    lolol

  33. EOR
    There has been no significant change in mortality rates in Greece from covid it’s still around thirty per day as it has been for the last month or so.

    Also worth noting while Greece in common with many South eastern European countries hasn’t vaccinated as many people as the UK they have fully vaccinated a higher percentage than the uk. The full two dose rate in Greece is approaching 4%.One dose is at around 7%
    They have adopted a similar approach in terms of priority to the U.K. and consequently this 4% should already account for approaching half those at greatest risk.

    If vaccine is going to break the link between case numbers and serious illness and deaths as hoped it should result in no significant increase in mortality and falls within the next few weeks.

  34. Greece also benefits from one of the highest per capita rates of doctors in the world which facilitates roll out.
    My favourite little Greek village with a permanent population of just 700 has three doctors !

  35. pete b,
    “Since you find everything about the UK such rubbish, why don’t you move somewhere more congenial”

    Maybe it’s the same reason why raising taxes does not cause millionaires to leave a country. Because it’s their country.

    The Trevs,
    “Cheeky chap has upped my £1bn lease offer for Faslane and said £2bn pa as a home for Russian subs with a £10bn per sub bonus if the Tartan Army can capture any UK subs”

    While Russia may not be the ideal partner, you are absolutely right to point out Scotland has other options than England as a political and economic ally.

    I am reminded how English intransigence over Ireland drove the Irish to ally with Germany in two world wars. So your suggestion scotland might end up allied to Russia isn’t without precedent as a result of English policy. Going back further, Scotland has a long history of allying with European powers because of the threat from England.

  36. @tco

    Salmond was found not guilty of criminal sexual assault. There is no doubt that he behaved inappropriately with multiple women.

  37. Brexit damage already exceeds cost of EU membership

    https://www.theneweuropean.co.uk/letters-brexit-damage-7807834

  38. @Danny

    “I am reminded how English intransigence over Ireland drove the Irish to ally with Germany in two world wars. So your suggestion scotland might end up allied to Russia isn’t without precedent as a result of English policy. Going back further, Scotland has a long history of allying with European powers because of the threat from England.”

    Oh dear. Wrong again, even getting the basics right is beyond you. The Irish never aligned with Germany.

    At best Ireland was conveniently neutral in WW2, and was still part of UK in WW1. The Germans even bombed Dublin in WW2 to warn the Irish of the consequences of non neutrality.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bombing_of_Dublin_in_World_War_II

    Belfast, being part of the UK, suffered a blitz by the German Nazis.

  39. pete b,
    ” I would think that more over-80s in care homes would die than in the general population, and it also seems likely that many of the places won’t have been refilled because of lockdown restrictions”

    I have mentioned several times a stat I found that average stay in a care home is 18 months approx. No one has ever contradicted this, though I did see some analysis which graded homes according to the level of care their residents need so presumably not all are the same.

    At a given start point average life expectancy for current residents can only be half that for new residents, so a year on in this epidemic we would expect most initial residents to now be dead just in the normal course without any extra deaths from covid.

    Moreover, even if no one died as a consequence of catching covid, we would expect 10% of care home residents to die within a month of a positive test for covid…because 10% of care home residents will be dead within a month anyway,

    That statistic alone could be enough to account for most of the deaths amongst care home residents attributed to covid. – simply to assume it wasn’t a fatal disease but they were already terminally ill and just happened to die in that time window.

    This also would imply that new people must have continued to enter care homes despite covid or they would by now be largely empty and their owners bankrupt. Or maybe they are?

  40. Pete B

    If you don’t want those who don’t share your blinkered nationalist view to remain in the U.K. you shouldn’t have voted to make it more difficult to leave.

    Talk about cognitive dissonance.

  41. UK-EU trade falls sharply as Brexit disruption starts to bite
    Latest British export-import data from French customs office mirror declines recorded in Germany and Italy

    https://www.ft.com/content/5b8028a7-edaf-4488-8e96-3761ba8b015f?shareType=nongift

  42. Steve

    I have always accepted that you and other Remainers are Utterly delusional..

    So where does that get us? I suggest we stop talking about Brexit and concentrate on the polls.

  43. Danny
    For the U.S.
    The average stay in a nursing home is 835 days, according to the National Care Planning Council. (For residents who have been discharged, which includes many who have received short-term rehab care, the average stay in a nursing home is 270 days.)

    There hasn’t been much study done in the uk but BUPA did commission one in its around 400 nursing homes about 15 years ago.
    The result average stay was 801 days but half of residents died within 427 days.

    So a little longer than your figure but similar.

  44. TOH

    Still detached from reality hope you’re happy in your delusional state.

    .
    I have no doubt you would prefer not to mention the disaster you lot have inflicted on us.

    Don’t mention the war moment I suppose.I

  45. Pete
    Stop being” delusional “by mentioning facts you’ll upset TOH.

  46. Danny

    My mother doesn’t live in a nursing home but she does live in a communal social.housing project.

    The residents eat together and generally associate with each other in the communal areas. They have their own small one bedroom apartments but these are all internal to the building.

    The average age of residents is 90 the average stay around 4 years.
    The big difference is that none are demented and none require substantial health support.

    The oldest resident is 98 and has live there for 22 years!

  47. edge of reason,
    “My point was in response to the Telegraph’s use of the phrase “back to normal” – statistically that’s not the case because if a whole bunch of the most vulnerable have died earlier because of the recent COVID spike then we’d actually expect the death rate to drop below average before saying that COVID was no longer increasing it abnormally.:

    That’s true and a common effect after epidemics. However we also have to factor in an expected increase now in deaths from other causes, because government intervention to slow covid has prevented treating of other more slowly acting diseases. We are expecting excess mortality from other causes to continue for some time after covid is over.

    There was some work last summer demonstrating intervention for covid was counter productive in terms of reducing overall years of life lost. If politicians noticed this at all, they probably reasoned it was politically more damaging to have a higher count now than more death spread over a longer future time.

    Handling of the epidemic had always been a political decision.

  48. As a matter of interest they have imposed exactly the same restrictions during covid as nursing homes and in the 35 communal homes they run there have been no cases at all of covid.

  49. @TOH

    “So where does that get us? I suggest we stop talking about Brexit and concentrate on the polls.”

    Good advice there.

    Given this site is about democracy and polling, it’s frustrating that those who disagree with democratic outcomes keep fighting their lost causes.

  50. STEVE, the more they keep snowflaking us to shut up the more I’ll post about the negative brexsh*t impacts. (er, unless AW bans me).

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