This is interesting – an ICM poll in Wednesday’s Guardian has voting intentions of CON 32%(-2), LAB 40% (+1), LDEM 20% (+2). It was conducted between the 13th and 16th, so a lot of it would have been after the Northern Rock difficulties started to dominate the news agenda. It’s early of course, public opinion can take a while to digest events, but as an early sign it suggests the sign of economics wobbles is boosting Labour support rather than damaging it.

It seemed to be echoed by a snap Populus poll taken on Monday afternoon, after a day in which the TV news was full of footage of huge queues outside the stricken bank. The full results aren’t up on the Times’s site yet, but Peter Riddell’s analysis mentions that only 20% of people blamed the government (and I’d warrent those are largely Conservative supporters anyway) and that the proportion of people who think Brown and Darling are the best team in an economic crisis is still up at 56%, down from 61% before the recent troubles (and Cameron/Osborne are also down, so Brown’s lead is actually bigger than before).

The 8 point lead in ICM’s poll really does put the possiblity of a snap election back on the table. All along my prediction has been that there will not be an election this year, that there simply wasn’t the time available for it to be demonstrated to Gordon Brown’s satisfaction that a Labour lead was truly consistent, and wasn’t a temporary bounce and wouldn’t fade away in the heat of an election campaign. Iff this sort of lead is echoed in several more polls in coming days though (and the very fact of this large lead, and the Northern Rock affair means that more polls will probably be commissioned) then perhaps, just perhaps…

UPDATE: The Guardian headlines on leader approval figures and the supposed swing against Cameron. This is actually rather small. Assuming the wording of the questions was the same, when ICM asked leadership approval questions last month for the Sunday Mirror David Cameron’s leadership was approved of by 38% of voters, with 42% disapproving. This poll has 37% approving of his leadership, an insignificant change, and 45% disapproving – a change in his net rating from -4 to -8. Over the same period, Gordon Brown’s approval ratings have dropped from +40 to +32. Alas, Sir Menzies Campbell, whose net rating is now marginally above Cameron’s, was not asked about last time, so we can’t draw out any changes. No doubt that Brown is still riding high and Cameron’s in the doldrums, but it’s always worth looking at the figures rather than the headlines.

ICM also has figures for best party on issues, which seem to show Labour head on everything, even Conservative core issues like crime and immigration (albiet, by very small margins). The most notable figure there though is a huge 25 point Labour lead on the economy. For a poll taken almost at the height of a banking crisis, this certainly supports the hypothesis that people have rallied to Gordon Brown as a safe pair of economic hands.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next poll – this was conducted before the crisis stabilised, so Labour may well get a further boost from being seen to have successfully handled the problem. On the other hand, if people have rallied to Brown at a time of economic crisis, they may clear off again once the problem has passed. On top of all of that, we should remember it is just a single poll, we may all be getting excited about an outlying poll that just happened to co-incide with a mayor news story!


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