Hi – still offline most of the time, but here’s a quick update on the two polls that are out today.

Populus’s December poll had topline figures of CON 40% (+4), LAB 32% (-5), LDEM 16% (nc). The poll was conducted between the 7th and 9th of December.

Populus’s methodology tends to produce figures that are slightly better for Labour than, say, ICM or YouGov – in fact, they are the only pollster who until now had not shown the Conservatives back in the lead. There isn’t any nice formula you can plug a poll into and say “well, an 8 point Populus lead is thesameas an X point ICM lead”, but 40% for the Tories in a Populus poll is a good thing from Populus. The picture heeis much as we’ve seen elsewhere, the Tories advancing up into the 40s, Labour falling into the low 30s and the Lib Dems back off the canvas but now semingto be somewhere around the mid teens, depending on the pollster.

Ipsos MORI’s political monitor for December has topline voting intention figures of CON 42%

(+1), LAB 35% (+3), LDEM 14% (-3). The poll was conducted between 29th November and 7th December.

The figures here would appear to show Labour recovering, in contrast to all other polls. In recent days the news coverage has moved away from negative stories about the government to obsess over canoe man, and if this poll was very recent I’d guess it was a genuine recovery. Given some of it is almost a fortnight old and Populu’s more recent findings, I suspect the changes are more down to the fact that last month’s MORI poll was done on the phone omnibus while they reviewed their sampling points, rather than their standard face-to-face interviews (or even just random sampling error).


73 Responses to “New Populus and MORI polls”

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  1. I don’t think that you can really compare the monitor poll with the previous Mori telephone poll , they are really 2 different animals .

  2. Comparing like MORI poll with like MORI poll (ie not mixing face-to-face with phone) the changes in the latest MORI poll are Tory +2, Lib Dem +1, Labour -6.

    As Mark says, I think this is the more appropriate set of changes to look at.

  3. As noted in my post on the last thread, individual polls have a considerable (c 30%) chance of getting the C Lead wrong by over 3 points, so comparing poll with poll is fraught with difficulty.

    Putting the Ipsos/Mori figures into the Weighted Moving Average gives us a WMA of 41:32:16 C Lead 9 so it’s all pretty stable. Mori on average under-estimates the C Lead by about 1.4 and this time they were down by 1.7.

    My instinct is that the real C Lead is over 10, and that both Populus (recently) and Mori (consistently) are “too kind” to Labour. But until we get some real data (eg a you.gov poll which has a zero bias and a Std of just 1.8 – when is the next one please??) this is just a hunch.

  4. “Given some of it [MORI poll] is almost a fortnight old….”

    If a week is considered a long time in politics, surely this poll belongs in the Historical polling section…? Next poll please….

  5. Face to face interviews can lead to people being to be too embarrassed to say they vote UKIP or BNP. That still doesn’t explain the odd Labour result.

  6. Ralph , I don’t think the Labour result is odd . If you look at all the Monitor Labour figures from this year ( as opposed to the telephone one ) 35% is a low figure . The telephone poll clearly gave a figure more in line with other telephone polls from ICM etc . Even if we can’t explain it there is certainly a difference between the Monitor face to face polls and the telephone polls by Mori and other pollsters .

  7. “The number claiming jobseeker’s allowance fell by 11,100 in November to 813,000, the lowest since June 1975.”

    Until unemployment starts to rise, I can’t see the melt-down happening (though a mid-thirties score for Labour is surprisingly high).

    A 7-10 point lead certainly gives Cameron reason to keep cheerful, but I’d be interested to see how long it needs to be sustained before Labour “grandees” start making faces behind Brown’s back.

    My memory isn’t long enough, but I sense that previous recessions/slowdowns were not so well flagged as the coming one – I wonder if the expectation is leaving people rather better prepared than they were,say, in 1989?

  8. Well the recession didn’t arrive until about July/August 1990.
    1989 was like a horrible humid summer with no thunderstorm.

  9. If one’s memory serves me correctly the 1991 recession was caused by a housing-bubble and price-uncertainty in the cost of oil.

    Well, one is sure that Labour and their supporters have nothing to worry here….

  10. NBeale: watch the share, not the gap, as Bob Worcester consistently points out. Trying to understand the polls in terms of summary figures instead of the details that make them up can cause misunderstandings in what is going on. For most of 2007 the other main pollsters’ Labour voting intention shares have tended to be a little lower than Ipsos MORI’s, but so have their Conservative share figures. LibDems and Others are correspondingly higher.

    Standard deviation is not a very useful measure of how accurate a series of polls is likely to be because we are measuring a moving target, not a static one. An example may help illustrate why: suppose over a ten-week period a party’s support falls from 40% to 30%. Polling company A takes three polls, at the beginning, middle and end of the period, finding 40%, 35% and 30%, all absolutely accurate. Polling company B takes weekly polls, also accurate, finding 40%, 39%, 38% and so on. The SD for A’s polls would be 5.0 and of B’s 3.3, yet all the polls are correct, and whenever both companies do a poll their figures match. (Whereas company C that finds 42% in every poll has a SD of 0.) SD just measures how different a series of polls are from each other, but if what they are measuring is changing then they should be different.

    Mark Senior: yes, there does seem to be a consistent small difference between our face-to-face Monitor and telephone polls at the moment, Labour a couple of points higher, Others a couple of points lower in the face-to-face polls. That does not necessarily mean that the telephone is right and the face-to-face is wrong, just because other companies also poll by telephone and nobody else polls face-to-face any more; it is just as likely to be the other way round. This is one of the questions we have been investigating recently. One of the purposes of continuing to poll by two different methods is that it may give us early warning of developing biases that may affect one method so we can work out what is going on and correct for it in time.

    Incidentally, nobody seems to have noticed in all the discussion of the Labour share that, although it is not a statistically significant increase, this is the highest Tory share we have published since before Black Wednesday.

  11. Roger , many thanks for your detailed response , I , for one , much appreciate it . It is important when comparing different pollsters to remember the differing methodologies which is why I always like to look at the detailed data tables ( I find the response of how people voted in 2005 and how they will vote now particularly interesting and useful ) . I hope these will be up on your website soon .

  12. Ok, at the risk of being shot down by those who want Labour supporters to admit all is lost and that the polls are understating Conservative support, I’m going to say that it is bad for Labour at the moment, but it could (and possibly should after recent events) be worse.

    Being less than 10% behind the Conservatives, and less than 5% behind our winning 2005 GE share, is not a hopeless position to be in mid third term. And as Mike Smithson points out, next week’s Lib Dem leadership result is likely to shave a couple of points from Cameron’s share rather than Labour.

    The Labour vote is still out there, it is now less certain to vote than it was a month ago but it has not, in the main, switched to the Conservatives.

  13. With regard to the comments about the economy / unemployment issue and voting, it’s worth noting that Australia in the midst of a strong (China led) boom threw out the conservative government. A strong economy does not always provide a loyal voting base…

  14. If Labour were into their fourth term, I’d be persuaded by that Jack , but I don’t think the “time for change” angle could help Cameron as much as the “incompetence” angle, possible poor economic performance would be the most powerful element.

  15. “If one’s memory serves me correctly the 1991 recession was caused by a housing-bubble and price-uncertainty in the cost of oil.Well, one is sure that Labour and their supporters have nothing to worry here….”

    Given that the Tories won the 1992 general election with the highest number of votes for any political party in any election in British political history I’m not sure your parallel will swend a shiver down the spine of any Labour supporter.Voters have a funny knack of choosing who they think is best placed to steer the country through a recession, regardless of who is in office when it happens.

  16. Warren: There does seem to be a bit of a “look, these polls are terrible for Labour and by God they are going to get worse and if you don’t jolly well admit you’re all commies” sort of movement going on.Just read the polls as they are, without the wishful thinking, taking into account the rapid movement of the polls over the previous few months.As a Labour supporter I’m far from despairing about the situation.Sorry guys.

    With the press Brown has had Cameron should be out of sight by now.The fact that he isn’t,in my opinion, points to an underlying problem with Cameron- trust.

  17. Roger:
    Many thanks for that, a very interesting comment regarding the different methodology used by polling companies.

  18. Let’s talk about the 10/10 certainty to vote measurement. I’ve just had an interesting (if you like this sort of thing) discussion with a friend, after I suggested that I’d be more inclined to consider the views of anyone answering 7/10 or higher.

    He pointed out that including these would produce a turnout of 72% – historically not unrealistic but in current times perhaps a little.

    My response is that it’s surely more reasonable to assume that, say, 70% of 7/10s are going to vote than zero (as MORI does) – after all, if you asked me if I was going to do the washing up this evening, and I responded that the odds of me doing so are 7/10, it’d be reasonable for you to assume that the probability is that I’ll do it. So in fact, I’m not suggesting a 72% turnout, but more like a high 60s turnout which seems realistic given the potential competitiveness of the coming election.

    Of course this brings the Tory lead down – the MORI figures show that including every respondent’s view actually gives a Labour lead of 2% – 39%/37%, but I suspect including 7s-10s would give the Tories a lead of about 4%?

  19. Adam that is fair comment , taking only those absolutely certain to vote gives a turnout figure of only circa 52% which is too low in this day and age . Perhaps a good way of doing it is weighting the 9/10 as 90% , 8/10 as 80% etc , not sure what figures we would end up with though .

  20. As ever it doesn’t make sense to try to extrapolate off the back of one or two polls. The general picture is clear. Brown and Labour have been damaged by events over the past few months which has resulted in an end to his summer bounce and a Tory lead of between 5 and 10 points.

    This tells us next to little about the next election. While the media and politicos have whipped themselves up into a frenzy as to how everything (including) the world is about to come to an end and how it is all Brown’s fault, we should sometimes keep some bearing on reality. The so-called credit crunch and economic slowdown is not forecast to lead to recession. Growth forecasts have been reduced to estimated growth of 2% for next year. A level of growth I might add that John Major would have died for during his final term. The same applies to the so called housing slump.

    The fact remains that until the economy really goes tits up (and I mean in reality as opposed to the fantasy world inhabited by some bloggers), do not automatically assume that it will happen.

    We are still 18 months out from an election and at present we have absolutely no idea what the main policy differences between the parties will be (unless you include an argument over £1bn of IHT relief in the context of £700bn of public spending). The current debate (if we can even call it that) is simply a very basic one as to whether people might have had enough of Labour and Brown and whether they might give Cameron a chance. The context of that debate will be completely different by the time of the next election (it certainly won’t be about missing discs or a dodgy donor) and everything is to play for.

  21. Brian Swift/ Warren
    As NBeale has pointed out the WMA for all the polls is Con 41 Lab 32 and Lib Dem 16. By any standards this is a remarkable turn around from where it was what two months ago.That Labour is only 4 points down from its 2005 GE performance sounds okay until you remember how poor that result was-just 36%.With a revived Tory party about Labour should be thinking of rivalling their 1997 or 2001 performances in order to beat them not that of 2005. The fact Warren that as you correctly say for the main part Labour supporters have not-at least not yet- switched to the Tories could suggest that the available vote Labour need to squeeze in order to reach 1997/2001 levels is going to be very hard to find indeed. If you really believe that the former Lib Dem voers who began deserting to the Tories the moment Cameron became leader exactly 2 years ago and have stayed with him are going to suddenly bolt in the opposite direction then I shall be very interested to hear why you think that!!

  22. I wonder what odds I can get on a Labour majority at the next general election and where I can place the bet. I think when polls are low its a good time to take a gamble. I still think Labour will win a majority (although I am biased) because I think people will see through the tories glossy image and smiley Cameron over the next 18 months

  23. Paul , Betfair have Labour at 2.14 circa 11/10 to be largest party and 3.6 circa 13/5 to have an overall majority .

  24. A brief flying visit (BT line now not working at all!)

    Adam – remember that 72% is 72% of people answering the poll, when turnout figures are 60-odd percent of people on the electoral register. Normally everyone capable of taking part in an opinion poll is theoretically capable of voting (assuming they are on the register, but they are least capable of registering if they wish to vote). On the other hand, many people on the electoral register are incapable of voting because of death or serious illness.

    72% of a sample of the public voting doesn’t necessarily correspond to 72% turnout :)

  25. Mark and Paul – the odds don’t necessarily reflect what the bookies expect to happen, but reflect their desire to protect themselves from punters like Paul! ie Not favourable. I remember in 92 there was a seat where 2 of my local bookies differed significantly over the result, with the effect that betting on both main parties (one at each bookie) would produce a profit! The discrepancy was very short-lived.
    I think there’s a website listed on the left of this page where you can trade bets, but I don’t want to encourage you!

  26. Anthony, good point – but surely that strengthens the case for using figures beyond the 10/10 certains?

  27. My humble opinion….

    Gordon Brown will fall down (is this alliteration?) over one of three pieces of – one would humbly suggest – ill-conceived legislation. Therefore one proffer that there will be a general-election in June.

    In light of the current under-current (and, no, one is not a poor poet, indeed one has no understanding of whatever poetry is meant to be), but Old Rusty has been left with three iron-oxide pieces of legislation. Namely ID-Cards, internment/arrest-without-charge, and the EU Constitution.

    One hopes he has a strong constitution (sic) as one feels that the electorate – those whom these polls and polling-agencies claim to “represent” – cannot stomach much more spun hum-drum. But one could be wrong…!

  28. Is anyone offering polls on Labour’s ratings with a new leader? In case you think this is fantasy
    1. Keith Vaz’s comments today re the police pay rise
    2. Allegations that a senior Labour MP has told Brown that the party is falling apart
    3. Sue Cameron’s article for the BBC about the garden room girls

  29. Sorry Wolf,

    Who is Sue Cameron? [One is not a member of the political/media elite so one is a bit lost on this young person. Thank God (or Steven Dawkins/Eric Cartman, as is your want)!

    PS. One has attempted to retract one’s nomination for Hillary Benn from “Adam Boultons'” blog.

  30. Wolf, Who would replace him?

    Roger, You make very interesting points. What is the best way to calculate the error in a poll? I can just about remember my A-level Stats but usual methods don’t really apply. Usually when you’re taking a sample you can assume it fits a certain distribution (Normal, Binomial etc) but when you’re adjusting for things like past vote, likelyhood to vote etc, which themselves are uncertain it seems impossible. Where do they come up with the 2% error that they usually claim? (PS is that 2% points or just 2%?)

    Finally, did anyone watch PMQ’s? Finally Gordon actually won a bout! (IMHO only of course). It was more DC losing I guess. He should have carried on with serious questions like his first one so that the public could see he was on the ball while the government was tearing itself apart. Instead I think he achieved the exact opposite. I missed the news so I don’t know how it all got reported, I doubt many people actually watch the real thing (not everybody is as geeky as me :) ).

  31. “If Labour were into their fourth term, I’d be persuaded by that Jack , but I don’t think the “time for change” angle could help Cameron as much as the “incompetence” angle, possible poor economic performance would be the most powerful element.”

    To go back to the example of Australia, the Liberals were in power for 11 years (’96-’07) and it was “time for a change” that swept them out. Come the next election Labour will have been in power for at least 12 years, there’s no reason to think “time for a change” won’t be a factor.

    It may not be definitely, but its a real possibility.

  32. I didn’t really follow the Australian election but didn’t Howard have some pretty hardline policies (climate change/Kyoto for instance)? The Australians had a real choice to make. At the moment unless/until something changes, UK citizens are just going to be voting for the best manager. Unless the management is really bad I think they’re much less likely to jump ship.

  33. Arnie:-
    “The so-called credit crunch ….the so called housing slump”

    Neither of these is “so-called”-they are both only too real.
    Tonight The Fed + Boe + ECB have announced a massive concerted initiative to pump liquidity into the Banking system. This is unprecedented. This credit crisis is the worst in history -and UK is loaded down with personal debt.

    Olivant tonight have threatened to withdraw their bid for NR unless the Treasury make their mind up & NR’s board stop trying to block them.What price Vince Cable’s idea of nationalisation of NR being on the button?

    These are not fantasies Arnie-the tits are beginning to show.

  34. Steven
    PMQs was scored for GB in general. Quite correctly in my view-DC has carried the bear baiting too far-time to get back to forensic policy criticism.

    As a matter of interest Steven what would you define as “really bad” management?

  35. I don’tthink climate change (and Iraq , I think) were as powerful as the sheer length of time that Howard had been in place, though maybe his stance on those issues indicated the “distance from the people” element which made him suffer.

    I agree with Philip. In two years time, twelve years will seem an awful long time, especially if Brown is still regarded as a “12 year incumbent C of Exc”.

    I’m fascinated by the notion that “a week” is slowing down – 18 years of Conservative rule is somehow less time than 12 of Labour – is that because my perception is changing with age, or is it the modern acceleration of communication technology?

    Most of the statistical analysis on this site is a little over my head, but (as basically an artist rather than a scientist), is the study of opinion poll accuracy one which is equivalent to the pursuit of a “cure for the common cold”. That is, an intellectually respectable hobby, but financially ruinous to the industry at large if a conclusive theory of data analysis were discovered and patented by one pharmacist (I mean “pollster”) ?

  36. “If one’s memory serves me correctly the 1991 recession was caused by a housing-bubble and price-uncertainty in the cost of oil.

    Well, one is sure that Labour and their supporters have nothing to worry here….”

    Yes. Interest rates should have been raised in late 1987 and early 1988, rather than cut. There were fears that the October 1987 Stock Market crash would cause a recession, but that was unfounded. Inflation, and the housing market then got out of control. The pressure was also remarkably persistent.

  37. Colin,

    I reckon something that makes the public afraid to leave the government in power. With John Major it was instability (because of scandals and infighting), with Callaghan people were worried about endless strikes etc. At the moment people may be bored of Brown and a little sick of Labour but (apart from people who hate the Labour party anyway) they’re not really that scared.

    That could all change of course, for instance if a recessions hits and Brown is seen to handle it incompetently or is culpable in some way. We’re a long way from that now though. (*crosses fingers*)

  38. JJBroughton –
    Was there also an adjustment to mortgage tax relief which led to a rush to market by first-time buyers, purchasing properties in joint names in order to claim double relief, which expired in April 1990? That stoked the furnace and led a lot of people over the cliff. To-day, perhaps the fall is less steep, the wit more commonly held in this country. Perhaps were all getting wiser?

  39. Let’s just settle this once and for all – why is everyone saying that it has been a better week for Brown ??

    It has been another appalling week in the headlines :-

    * 4 out of 5 jobs going to immigrants

    * Police pay row

    * Northern Rock tax payers money still lost – no buyers

    * UK Childrens basics skills dropped in the world to 17th place

    * British population to double in the next 40 years due to over immigration

    * Labour mayor imprisoned

    * Basra pullout a lie about winning there and it being safe – we were forced out !!

    How much more can the electorate take of this government and the damage they have done in 10 years – it’s frightening to think what lies ahead for us with the debts both personal and government to pay back / the next 2 years will prove that Brown had nothing to do with the stable economy – it was all on borrowed money and he will be incapable of getting usout of it – he will probably take the cowards way out like Harold Wilson !!

    The next published POLLS will show Labour even further behind – especially once the Liberals have their new leader.

  40. Roger: Thank you for your helpful comments, but they are based on a misundersanding of the analysis I carry out. I don’t look at the Std of individual polls from eachother. I look at:
    a. The deviation of each poll from the Weighted Moving Average at the time.
    b. The deviation of each poll (except the 2 most recent) from the average of 5 polls: 2 before, it, 2 after.

    Obviously I average each major party’s share, and calculate the C Lead from the difference, rather than average the C Lead.

    It’s true that the deviation from (a) will tend to be exaggerated if opinion moves, but (b) will not be affected to nearly the same extent. In the example you give (assuming the other party’s share is constant throughout) the Stds would be 0.9 for (a) and 0.3 for (b). (a) would show a bias of -1.7 for that period (b’s “bias” will always be 0). I can email you the worksheet if you like.

    But when we analyse the real poll data the total Std for deviations from (a) and (b) is the same (2.5) which suggests that the mechanism you point to is not a significant cause of the error. Also (a)’s “bias” is only 0.1 which suggests that the swings have broadly cancelled out. The figures for individual pollsters vary a little more, for example I/Mori’s “error” on (a) is -0.8 +/- 2.6 and on (b) is -1.4 +/- 2.7, and yougov still has 0 bias but their Std goes down a bit from 2.1 to 1.8.

    Since as you know independent causes of Std add as sum of squares, effects which are substantially less than the dominant causes of error can basically be neglected. So I think my conclusion about the 90% confidence intervals of polls is still broadly correct.

  41. Mike:
    Labour Mayor Imprisoned? I’ve missed this (and no GHits). Can you give a URL/details?

  42. NBeale – I think it was a former Mayor of Sefton and his wife who had been claiming state benefits while working, but I’m not certain.

    The children’s skills – the researchers were at pains to point out that little if any weight should be given to the “league table” and that the results were “good”. Ironic, given that so much store is placed by Labour on measurement and “tabling” of results.

  43. Arnie. Just a factual point:
    Growth forecasts have been reduced to estimated growth of 2% for next year. A level of growth I might add that John Major would have died for during his final term”

    Umm. Why would he “have died for” that level of growth, seeing as he consistently beat it?
    After coming out of recession in 1992, the economy passed 2% growth on the way up and then averaged over 3%pa (never dropping below 2.7%) until Major left office.

    With “so-called housing slump” – it’s a fact that houses are far higher with respect to incomes than ever before in history. And that banks and building societies are cracking down (at last) on lending silly levels of money. And that interest rates are way up on where they were when the housing market was being heavily fuelled. The best that we can hope for is a “soft landing”.

    The above doesn’t mean that Labour are doomed – any more than the Tories were doomed in 1992. If Labour successfully paint the Tories as even worse than them on the economy (as the Tories succeeded in doing with Labour in 1992), they can save the issue for themselves.

  44. Mike,

    Even if people were to agree with that list it would still be a better week for Brown than in recent weeks. In actual fact I think several of the things on your list aren’t really relevant;

    4 out of 5 jobs going to immigrants? That’s 4 out of 5 NEW jobs and so is a good thing, surely? There’s also been figures showing unemployment dropping too this week.

    British population to double? So?

    London Mayor imprisoned? What??

    British forces returning home? Again another good thing.

    Northern Rock is old news (but still worrying, I agree).

    The only two valid points are the Childrens results and the Police pay. We’ve also had news about more money for new Youth Centres which at least partially cancels out the former point and the tough stance on Police pay reassures the public that the government is serious about keeping inflation down.

    I’m not asking you to agree with any of those points but surely you can see that compared to a couple of weeks ago things are looking an awful lot sunnier for Gordon Brown?

  45. Steven Wheeler ( Lab)

    As you are one of the more balanced contributors to this site I am reluctant to take issue with you and in the process be seen to be in agreement with Mad Mike. When you say it has been a better week for Brown than in recent weeks yes that has to be right! But to then say things are looking an AWFUL lot sunnier for him is just deluding yourself.None of the issues have gone away and the economic news gets more and more worrying by the day all of which is being reflected in the opinion polls. I am the first one to admit that there is still all to play for in terms of the next election-as Harold Wilson once said “a week is a long time in politics” but the plain fact of the matter is that the Tories have at least a decent sporting chance of winning the next election and it is not a sign of weakness to simply acknowledge this-and then go all out to stop it.

  46. Nick,

    Yes, point taken. I wasn’t trying to suggest that Gordon Brown should be happy at the moment but metaphorically speaking if last week was gail force winds and tidal waves this week was a few light showers. In that sense it is an awful lot sunnier.

    I think consistant polls above 40 are what an opposition needs to acheive to be seen as a viable alternative. Cameron’s acheived that and it would be silly to dismiss him in the same way one could dismiss Howard, IDS and Hague who were never going to win. DC is clearly winning but that doesn’t mean he necessarily will win of course. I think we may be seeing the beginning of the fight back!

  47. Steven :-
    ” I think consistant polls above 40 are what an opposition needs to acheive to be seen as a viable alternative.”

    Yes absolutely

    “I think we may be seeing the beginning of the fight back”

    Yes-predictably.

  48. Steven, you can’t really believe that the issue of population potentially doubling merits such a flip answer as “so?” can you? But if the answer’s yes: here are some “so’s”:

    * So where are they going to be housed?

    * So how much more countryside are you prepared to sacrifice to achieve those housing goals; and what are the consequences for agriculture (given I presume you want to feed the doubled population)?

    * So where’s the funding for the infrastructure like schools, hospitals, employers coming from?

    * So how many more motorways do you want built to carry the extra infrastructure necessary to support a doubled population? And how many additional passengers do you reckon our already overcrowded public transport can absorb?

    * So what consequences are there to national identity given that the population growth is going to be entirely driven by immigration and growth among established migrant families?

    * So what additional burdens in terms of integration arise from such a huge influx?

    * So why is population growth an inherently good thing in a country that is already among the most densely-populated in Europe? Surely you accept, whether it’s at the current level or double the current level that there is finite population capacity in any given area/country – or do you want to end up as overcrowded as Hong Kong or Japan?

    Come on – Mike’s daft as a brush, but if you’re going to engage him don’t give him further ammo by such a silly response.

  49. Steven, Colin, I wouldn’t be so quick to hand PMQ’s to Gordon, the Guardian castigates him:

    http://politics.guardian.co.uk/columnist/story/0,,2226650,00.html?gusrc=rss&feed=19

  50. My issue with “Mike’s list” is not so much the importance of the content; we can argue over that indefinitely. It’s the fact that there is little difference between the two main parties in respect of those issues.

    I’ve made this point before but it bears repeating. Take Northern Rock. The Tories tell us that this is Brown’s fault because he set up the regulatory framework which failed to stop it. Ok, but the Tories are the party that have promised (in a non-specific manner of course) to reduce regulation and cut red tape. It is therefore utterly fantastical to think that this would not have happened under a Howard government had they won the last election or under a future Cameron regime. The same goes for the lost disks unless of course someone is going to tell me that the Tories would incur massive costs by installing additional checks within every department of state to ensure that no public servant ever acts beyond their remit. Of course Cameron is entitled to maximise political capital out of every tragedy he can (just as Blair did in the 90s) but these issues do not reveal any marked distinction between the parties on matters of policy.

    The reason I say all this is not to defend Brown or to downplay the long term effect of such negative headlines on Brown. Indeed these events and his own indecision have contrived to deprive him of what looked like a certain fourth term for Labour. My point is that all of this does not mean that there has been a sea change in the way in which there was one in 1979 and 1997. The Winter of Discontent and Black Wednesday went to the very heart of the government’s economic credibility. Northern Rock had precious little to do with government policy unless of course you are an advocate of communist state control. It is true however that if the economy were to slide into recession, then Brown will almost certainly be looking for a new job.

    I should also add that it is quite possible for the Tories to win even if the economy does not go pear shaped. Australia is a good example of this. However if Cameron is to emulate Rudd he will need to move on to substance swiftly and get people energised in a positive way about the Tory party. At the moment, the Tories are seen as the default receptacle for pissed off voters much as Labour were pre 1992 (which is an improvement on the Tories’ position for the past 10 years). Cameron has set out the basic principles of his vision but these need to be fleshed out and communicated in the next two years otherwise he runs the risk of seeing his lead evaporate as decision time approaches. The British people are very pragmatic and naturally conservative in the sense that they do not opt for change until and unless they consider it necessary.

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