The first poll since the Conservative party conference shows a shift in support to the Conservatives. The YouGov poll for Channel 4 has voting intention figures of CON 36%(+4) LAB 40%(-3) LDEM 13%(-2). The poll was conducted yesterday afternoon and evening and this morning, so after David Cameron had finished his speech.

Like the YouGov poll for Channel 4 after Brown’s speech this is a snap poll with a somewhat sample than a normal YouGov poll (though, I hasten to add, it isn’t actually that small.) It’s also important to note that it was taken immediately after Cameron spoke, when he was still splashed all over the newspapers and new bullettins (actually, most of it would have been before today’s papers), so you would expect him to get a boost… on the other hand the YouGov snap poll showing a Labour lead of 11 points straight after Brown’s speech was backed up by a normal full size YouGov poll a couple of days later that also showed an 11 point lead.

UPDATE – Populus’s poll has figures of CON 36%(+5), LAB 39%(-2), LDEM 15%(-2). This too was apparantly conducted after Cameron’s speech. There is also an ICM poll to come, and one for the Independent which will presumably be by ComRes.

UPDATE 2 – Here’s another – ICM have figures of CON 38%(+5), LAB 39%(nc), LDEM 16%(-3). Like YouGov this one was conducted after David Cameron’s speech, on the 3rd and 4th October.

UPDATE 3 – Bizarre. The Guardian was orginally reporting that their poll showed a 1 point Labour lead, but now they’ve changed the story to say the figures are CON 38%(+5), LAB 38%(-1), LDEM 16%(-3), so neck and neck. Presumably the earlier story was based on interim figures, since it had a sample size of something like 977, while the final story refers to the sample size being 1,008. The poll was conducted on the 3rd and 4th October.

Where does this leave a November general election? Thanks to boundary changes a 4 point lead would end producing about the same majority as Brown has now, less than that would be a lower majority – at neck and neck Brown would lose his majority entirely. It is perfectly possible that a meagre lead could be eroded during an election campaign, either by a drift of Labour support towards the Lib Dems, who are unlikely to stay as low as this once they have the guaranteed news coverage and election brings, or by the campaign itself. Labour could easily do worse than the uniform swing result predicted by these figures thanks to the new incumbency boost of the Conservative MPs who were first elected in 2005, or if there are differential swings in the south of the country or in marginals. A lead of this size certainly isn’t enough for Brown to be sure that he will maintain his majority, or in fact win an overall majority at all.

Obviously there is a very good chance – a probablity even – that this is a Conservative conference boost that will decline, but if you were Gordon Brown would you want to gamble your government on that assumption?

Not calling an election wouldn’t be painless either though. The election speculation has reached the point that much of the media now assumes that Brown has pretty much decided he will call an election. If he now doesn’t call one, especially if it becomes clear he isn’t calling one after the Conservatives show an increase in the polls, it’s going to look very bad. One of the major positives in Brown’s public image, if not the major positive, is that he is seen as strong – the big, tough, brave leader who can be relied upon. The perception that David Cameron giving a speech is enough to make Brown run away and hide has the potential to severely damage perceptions of Brown as a strong, brave leader.

The actual fuss over him not calling an election would be a temporary thing that would pass – he’ll have a week of being laughed at and called frit in the Commons, but he’ll cope – but if real damage is done to underlying perceptions of Brown as a strong figure then that’ll last, and that’ll hurt.

There will be more polls over the weekend, who knows what they’ll show. Either way, it’s going to be a tough decision for Brown.

80 Responses to “First Poll since Cameron’s Speech – UPDATED”

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  1. I think Brown will take so much flak if he backs off now there might be some lasting damage. The truth is, the Tories have pulled a rabbit out of the hat. It may not save them in the longer run, but it is impressive neverthelss.

    My name is Luke and the first time I posted here I causially typed it and missed the ‘e’. However, I decided to remain Lukw for consistency :-)

  2. I have said all along that Brown would be a fool to call an election, he has so much to lose and so little to gain. Now though he’s trapped in a real lose-lose situation: call a risky election where he could lose everything he’s worked for, or be branded a coward and have to climb-down from the edge. I think he’s tried to be “too clever by half” and its good to see such crass manipulating of the trigger of our democracy backfiring.

    I’m quite hopeful now that a poll in one of the Sundays could have a Tory lead even. I also think that comparisons to Brown’s bounce rapidly deflating may be incorrect. Brown’s speech was initially received well but quickly got put down and humiliated in the press as a plagiarised copy from America, courtesy Bob Shrum. In-between the immediate bounce and the lower weekend polls the media narrative had changed. The plagiarism backfired IMO.

    The same has not happened this week. The only backfiring has again been on Brown, the press are increasingly positive towards the Tories and turning against Brown. Therefore I see no reason for a major lift back towards Labour this weekend.

    Now whether this turnaround is the beginning of a new upwards climb by the Tories, a blip or something else is uncertain yet. But the biggest change of all could be a changing mood in the media – and a climbdown over the election could feed into this narrative. In which case we could be entering a new phase for our politics in a new paradigm.

  3. It looks (to me) that David Cameron’s speech did somewhat more for his party’s fortunes, even temporarily, than did Gordon Brown’s. It could also have been the smell of tax cuts in the air, though.

    If this sort of thing happens in an election, Gordon Brown needs a bigger, steady lead in the opinion polls than I previously thought, just in case Cameron says something people want to hear that he can’t rebut or ignore.

    It’s not looking like November after all that excitment.

  4. I almost feel sorry for the Lib-Dems, at the moment they’ve gone from getting squeezed on both sides to being completely marginalised and ignored.

    I don’t believe Cameron even mentioned them or Ming once in his entire speech. There is one thing worse in politics than getting attacked and that is getting ignored. To be treated as irrelevant can be the real insult.

    If there is no election then Brown will be embarrassed but the real losers could be the Lib Dems as the media will have no obligation and almost no reason now to report on them.

    I wonder if we could even get a poll putting them on single digits in the next few months.

  5. Okay Reason’s Why Brown won’t go

    1. A november election will depress labour – bad for Brown

    2. The Polls are volatile clearly the 10 point leads were wrong (but probably so are the neck and neck)

    3. The million or so disenfranchised (will come back to haunt Brown – in the long run)

    4. He could have longer if he went in 2009 2 plus 5 where as he may only get 5 if he goes know

    5. Is it only us hacks who have noticed that he may call an election
    Why Brown might go.

    1.It’s been built up to such an extent that he would look foolish and probably destroy the brown bounce

    2. Labour are geared up

    3. The tories until this week have been in disarray

    Still reckon it’s 50/50

  6. RICHARD :-

    Making predictions of a return to a Labour lead is wishful thinking indeed .

    ALEC :-

    Wishful thinking on your part too !! Ain’t gonna happen

    ADAM 8 :-

    Can’t agree more with you about Ed Balls , a complete waste of space (he is very worried about losing his seat at the next election because of boundary changes)


    You say the Tories are not gaining in the north – you obviously did’nt hear about the Tory winsd and gains in the 9 Sunderland by-elections or the comments of people in the streets of the northern town of Blackpool in favour of the Tories !!

    T JONES :-

    You too are saying that Labour will be back with an 8 point lead by the end of the week – wishful thinking – Brown has done so much damage to his credibility this week over talking of and election & the spin in Iraq thast he will not recover .

    ARNIE :-

    You say that the Tories fear an election / the truth is Labour actually fear an election as they know in their heart of hearts and their own private POLLING that the British public have lost faith in them – plus Labour can’t afford an election


    Glad to see you have perked up now that the Tories are doing well in the POLLS – just as i predicted you would / you should remain strong like Cameron !!

  7. I of course have only a few days for a Tory lead in the POLLS or my head is on the line with my prediction for the past 3 months of a Tory lead in the POLLS by the end of the first week of October and no call for an election till 2009 / 2010.

    Keeping my fingers crossed for all those doubters !!!

  8. Never thought Brown would call an election – why would he? He has two more years to continue the country’s solid economic performance and now he has flushed some policy detail from the Tories (for the first time since Cameron took over) he can concentrate on showing the electorate its weaknesses – particularly on the IHT issue that the press have so loved. All Brown needs to do is hammer home the point that it means giving the 1% of millionaires in the country £250,000 while the 90% plus whose estates are worth less than £300K get nothing. Without wishing to sound like Mike Richardson, I predict a small but steady lead in the polls for Labour for the next couple of years and a 4th election victory with a similar majority to now. The slight caveat I suppose would be the press – if they continue to fawn over Cameron it may make a slight difference but time will tell…

  9. Off topic but BBC Parliament is replaying the 1987 Election coverage now. If I remember the BBC Gallop poll got their predictions badly wrong on their exit polling.

  10. Are there still polls for the weekend now? They should be as interesting as the current ones. I always assumed that the polls overestimated Labours position by about 3% but is that old thinking now? Was it closer to about 1% (above what Labour achieved) last election?

  11. Gary – there doesn’t seem to be a YouGov poll for the Telegraph which had been suggested, this poll seems to have been a YouGov poll for both C4 and the Telegraph. I am still expecting a ComRes poll, and there is still apparently a YouGov poll in the Sunday Times. I would not be surprised if there is also a new MORI poll.

    The polls don’t over-estimate Labour’s lead by that much these days. At the last election there seemed to be a small residual bias towards Labour – all the polls were well within the margin of error and you can’t point at any individual pollster and say they were too pro-Labour, they all got it right. As a group, however, all the errors fell on the Labour side of the actual result. If there was no bias we should have expected some pollsters to err on the side of the Conservatives, some to err on the side of Labour.

    It is probably only a question of a fraction of a percent these days, and methodology has again improved since 2005 (ICM’s methodology, for example, should now be slightly more favourable to the Conservatives), so the residual bais is probably a percentage point or less, not worth getting het up about.

  12. Chrisc Your figures are slightly wrong. The threshold is about to be £325k, so the increase to £1m will yield £270k to estates worth £1m or more. That yield tapers to zero for estates worth £325k or less. Similarly, teh changes to Stamp duty will mean a cut of £2500 for those who can afford a £250k first-time purchase, tapering to a zero cut for those who can afford “only” £125k or less for their first-time purchase.
    As ever, the details of the policies are ignored in favour of the effect of them on public perception.
    The perception that the IHT is a double tax is completely at odds with the fact that estates have grown so much because of house price increases, not earnings increases.
    I apologise if this all sounds a bit pro-Labour, I only mean to point up the variance between the perception and the facts.

  13. Surely one big danger of a November polll is that weather/cold/dark evenings will be worse the further north you go. So those more likely to be put off voting because of the weather are voters in Labour’s heartlands in the North and Scotland.

    Will that benefit the Tories?

  14. I see I’ve been quoted in the above stream and classified as a Labour supporter – this is an error, and I believ irrelevant in this blog, which is meant to be a non partisan discussion of polls.
    Three observations;
    1) Although I haven’t seen the recent poll details, I understand cameron still trails Brown on the strength issue. I still maintain that until and unless the relative perceptions of Brown and Cameron change, the Tories are in trouble. I always remember John Major’s line on Kinnock in ’92 – when the voters actually get into the polling booth they will have to think who they want to run the country…This attack was very powerful, and worked, and is something the Tories will fear all the way to polling day.
    2) If I was a Tory supporter I wouldn’t get too cocky just yet. I don’t feel that Cameron’s bounce had much to do with his speech – it was low key, and not a real vote shifter. The real mover was the IHT move on Monday. There is a great deal of uncertainty about the sums, nt just from Labour, but also the Treasury and a host of city experts, many of wwhom say its a leap in the dark. If the underlying polls ratings on things like economic competence, trust etc aren’t going your way, you are more likely to lose an arguement over a potentiaally flaky tax policy. Once again, remember Labours Tax Bombshell from 92? It worked, not because it wwas true, but becasue people trusted mahor more than Kinnock. The same trick was tried in 97, but made Major look foolish, because the country now trusted Blair more. Brown will attack the IHT policy mercilessly as a fatally flawed policy , and in the minds of many voters the charge will stick.
    3) Anthony – do we have any comparable poll data from previous years conference seasons? How abnormal aree these rapid swings, or is it just the time we live in?

  15. Alec, there is no uncertainty over the IHT sums, the uncertainty is over the Non-Dom source of £3.1bn. My fuigures above are correct and not controversial. Osborne has said that non-doms who would rather come aboard the british tax system and forego their status would be welcome.
    It follows that if the non-doms all did that, then the £3.1bn would be found from the general income tax fund, which, if he is right, will have swollen by the necessary amount. Discussion of details of policy isnot in my view the best way forward for Cameron to establish a lead, either short or long-term. The attacks on Brown’s integrity and character, and the pointing up of general New Labour waste and failure lose their effect when a new Tory Policty is run up the flagpole to distract the floaters.

  16. John T
    You’re quite correct – the issue isn’t with IHT but the non doms means of paying for it. Despite what anyone says, there are real doubts about how much this will bring in. Osborne’s sums may in fact be quite correct, but the point is that if the underlying poll numbers are running Brown’s way, Labour can hype up the uncertainty over this and effectively destroy Tory credibility on the whole issue of financial competence. I never seriously thought that if the Tories won in 2001 or 2005 they would ever slash public spending, but this is how Labour very successfully attacked them – the polls told us that voters didn’t trust Tories with public services so the attacks worked.
    What I expect to happen now will be some major Labour annoucements on IHT, in the context of wider budget proposals, and an all out assult on the non doms issue. The non doms/IHT policy isn’t a discussion group idea they can discard once it looks messy – it’s now a central part of Tory policy that must stand infinite scrutiny. Unless polls show increasing trust in Cameron as an individual I think this policy will crack (in strictly electoral terms) along with any Tory credibility, and we may all be saluting Brown’s strategy of flushing out rushed Tory policies with talk of an early election.
    Don’t take this to mean this is what I want – it’s all about what the polls say.

  17. I’m most interested in the rapidity pf the turnaround; who says it wont go another way at the next poll? I think what is most interesting is the loosening of ‘party secure’ voters; it should give politicians nightmares.

  18. Alec – look at the historical section on the sidebar for past polls. I think things are more volatile at the moment, but then again, there are an unusual amount of polls because of the possiblity of an election. There are normally very few polls during conference season.

  19. Apparently the likelyhood of Tory Voters to Vote is stronger than Labours voters hence the bounce and level of support. I’d be interested still in the raw unweighted figures.

  20. Alec – It’s hard to know whether the media are using Brown to have a (for them) welcome election, or whether Brown is using the media to as you say “flush out” Tory policy. Whichever, both appear to have been successful!
    On the IHT, no matter where the funds come from, it’s a policy that can’t be reneged upon. I wonder whether Osborne will come to regret apportioning a £3.1bn tax cut so high up the earnings scale? Raising threholds further down could have persuaded many more to float over

  21. John T

    I think that what you say is correct on two points.

    Firstly although IHT is unpopular because it’s seen as double taxation, it is quite right that it should be treated as a capital gain and taxed accordingly.

    The issue isn’t whether it is fair to tax property but rather whether people who own property want to be taxed. The first is morally justifiable but it’s also electorially maybe a very bad idea.

    Equally it is better to raise general tax thresholds that to cut IHT. Raising the tax threshold to say £9,000 would give everone earning £9,000 or more £800. Cutting IHT gives almost all people in the £8,000-£10,000 band nothing.

    But how many people on £8,000-£10,000 would vote Tory even with a Tax cut, and would it ever be enough to unseat Labour where there are significant numbers of people earning that much.

    In a way that’s whats odd about the LibDem 16% tax plan.

    A party that only a year back was for raising thresholds and which criticised Browns changes that cut 2p of the basic rate while abolishing the 10% band, is now for cutting 4% from the basic rate.

    4% off the basic rate gives someone on £9,000 about £150, but it gives anyone earning over £39,000 about £1,400. Hardly fair taxation or redistrubution.

    But then it was thought up when Cameron was in tha ascendancy and the LibDems were leaching support to the Tories.

    Of course the thing about cutting IHT for the Tories is that it will go down best with people who think they might be hit in the future and that tends to be middle income voters where prices are high who may well have a second home or have used their equity to get in to RTB.

    Those people are demographically clustered in and around London, and thats where The tories have to turn it around if they are to have any chance of winning an election. Fair or not it’s very much a specifically targeted policy to maximise votes where they need them.


  22. I have worked out my predictions for a general election result based on the last 2 POLLS if it were called this week . My calculations consider the normal 3% under estimate the Tories get in POLLS , the under estimate in the POLLS currently of the Liberals & the flow back from Labour to the Liberals.

    SCENARIO 1 :- ICM/Guardian

    Cons 41% / Labour 32% / Liberal 19% = Con Maj. 38

    SCENARIO 2 :- Populus / Times

    Cons 39% / Labour 33% / Liberal 18% = Hung Parliament – Conservatives majority party

  23. Peter – ironically enough, I am personally part of Cameron’s target audience in that case. It’s doesn’t win my vote yet though.
    I’m sure all parties make the calculations you mention (apart from the SNP of course!), and it makes sense, but at the moment all the leaders seem to be after the moral high ground; surely it follows that raising the lowest of the thresholds to benefit the poorest working families would help Cameron far more in that respect.

  24. John T,

    It would help Camerons image but wouldn’t get him elected, which would be okay if he wanted to follow Major and IDS and go down as a nice, repected, well meaning, failure…..

    but I suspect he’d rather be PM….


  25. I thought Major was PM? Your brain is clearly in Toronto, though I appreciate your thoughts, some of which i might well nick !

  26. Mike Richardson: “PHILIP THOMPSON :-

    Glad to see you have perked up now that the Tories are doing well in the POLLS – just as i predicted you would / you should remain strong like Cameron !!”

    I was never down and didn’t need perking up, I said all along wait until the end of the Conference season. Like I said last time, I don’t know why you thought I was being divisive or down when what I said was “we haven’t had our conference yet so the current polls are not right” and that “I don’t trust local council by-elections at all”. The first was right and the second is my long-held opinion.

    James: “Surely one big danger of a November polll is that weather/cold/dark evenings will be worse the further north you go. So those more likely to be put off voting because of the weather are voters in Labour’s heartlands in the North and Scotland.

    Will that benefit the Tories?”

    I doubt it that much. It might benefit them on a national aggregate figure but that figure is meaningless. Don’t forget that we vote in constituencies and candidates in one constituency are competing in fact against other candidates in the same constituency. A lower turnout North v South doesn’t in itself affect anything at all, so long as the lower turnout doesn’t change individual constituency results.

    If it affected things it’d be based on the notion that a lower turnout supposedly helps the Tories, not North v South.

  27. Given IHT has featured quite a bit and is seen as giving the Tories a boost, here’s my take on it:

    My concern is that this proposed tax on non-domiciles could bode very bad for the economy. What happens if they say F-You and take their money elsewhere? Brown, as far as I’m aware had considered this as far back as 1995, and I suspect this is the reason he never proceeded with it. It’s time the whole IHT tax thing was unspun too (it’s not Gordon Brown’s Inheritance Tax, it was a Conservative tax, in it’s current form, introduced in 1985). All this spin has surely got people thinking they’d have to pay it, as it currently stands, when they won’t necessarily at all. I’d favour modest increases in thresholds, year in, year out, and possibly more progressive rates (10% to 50%) depending the size of the estate, but only if it made sound fiscal sense to do so. Given the non-domicile thing is potentially flawed, the costs would, ultimately, fall elsewhere. Why should people with estates valued at less than £300,000 (the vast majority) subsidise those with estates exceeding that but below £1m?

  28. With the government itching to implement its welfare reforms and welfare to work service in particular from 2008, the Employment and Support Allowance which will replace Incapacity Benefit and Income Support for new and existing claimants, I would expect the choosing of an election period would need to be well placed particularly if you look at the demography of the claimants in labour strongholds.

    The number of claimants (DWP 1st quarterly figures, 2007) follows, the number on incapacity benefits at 2.66 million of which 1.19 million are Income Support based i.e. claiming a disability premium, the number of lone parent benefits is 770 thousand and persons claiming Disability Living Allowance 2.86 million. True Income support figures appear to be closely guarded.

    That is an awful amount of votes to be weary of when choosing an election time particularly should it be held in 2008.

  29. Is the interesting thing about the latest polls the actual figure or the way they are being used? I suspect the public are getting sick of the way almost daily polls are being “spun”? This may be irretrievably bad news for Brown as it costs him the contrast of being a solid executive by contrast with his prececessor’s media presence.

    Some more specific psephological points:-
    1. The latest polls are not big enough to pick up the position in Scotland, where persistent rumour is that Labour’s position is bad.
    2. Now that the Liberal Democrats are established as the main alternative to Labour in the North and to the Tories in the South and West, the regional figures are crucial: in fact the LibDems almost have to be treated as two separate parties. For instance, a swing from LibDem to Tory in Northern seats may cost a couple of seats as anti-Labour tactical voting becomes less efficient, but in the South and West it could deliver a swathe of LibDem marginals to the Tories.
    4. If there is a “snap” election, will there be fewer minor party and “fringe” candidates? If so, will this just reduce turnout still further, or will votes go to the major parties instead? And if so, which major party or parties will gain, and which lose, from the absent candidates?
    5. People are referring to the electoral implications, presumed unfavourable to Labour and particularly strong in the North. But what have psephologists actually established, and hopefully quantified, about how, other things being equal, the seasons affect voting. For instance, has anybody compared council bye-elections held immediately before and immediately after the Autumn and Spring clock changes?

    Levaing aside wider political preferences, there are a number of important failings in the politcal system, including the West Lothian question and deficiencies in postal voting arrangements, that I would like to see addressed before the next General Election. If there is a snap election this cannot happen. I am also constitutionally unhappy if a General Election curtails adeqate consideration by Parliament of a Public Spending Review.

  30. Phillip T: Most of Scotland, and a lot of Northern England can be rather wild in November which would suggest that the motivated and those with private transport will make up more of the vote than usual. In general I think their are more motivated Tories with their own transport than Labourites.

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