Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline voting intentions, with changes from their last poll, of CON 40%(+3), LAB 31% (-2), LD 17% (-2). The poll was conducted between the 1st and 3rd of February.

Personally speaking the figures are a bit of a surprise, polls throughout January showed the Conservatives falling back and Populus tend to produce figures that are more flattering for Labour than some other pollsters. I’d expected a narrower Tory lead. With the last four polls showing Labour back in the 30%-33% range and the Conservatives still up in the high thirties or low forties, it looks increasingly like the ICM and MORI polls taken in late January were a brief blip.

As with the ICM poll at the weekend there does not appear to be any damage to Conservative support from the Conway affair, even though this poll would have been conducted over the weekend when the media were scrabbling around for other Tory MPs with various familial employment arrangements. In his commentary over at Political Betting Mike Smithson raises his theory that the Conservatives tend to do well whenever David Cameron is on the television even if it isn’t very good for the Tories. He may be right. It may be that David Cameron just acted swiftly enough to neutralise any damage to the Tory brand.

Populus asked some specific questions covering sleaze and the Conway affair. 59% of respondents thought that MPs should be able to employ family members providing (and this is the important bit) that they are qualified, they do the job and their employment is disclosed. Compare this to the ICM poll at the weekend that asked without the qualifiers and found 74% thought MPs shouldn’t be able to employ family members. The difference suggests that if you don’t specify that MPs are employing familiy members who are qualified and do the work, people’s natural assumption is they are on the fiddle, which probably says rather a lot about the public’s view of politicians!

Asked which parties are tainted by financial sleaze, 69% thought Labour were, 51% thought the Tories were and 26% thought the Lib Dems were.

Finally, on Populus’s question about whether people would trust Brown and Darling or Cameron and Osborne to run the economy if it were in trouble, Cameron and Osborne are now narrowly in the lead by 36% to 33%. With people’s perceptions of the state of the economy plummetting, this is an important factor – if Labour were still ahead then people might swing back to them as the known quantity, safe hands in troubled times. The Populus figures suggest they haven’t even got that card to rely on.

136 Responses to “Populus shows Tory lead back up to 9”

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  1. My old maths teacher used to teach advanced algebra to the brighter ones, and basic algebra to the slower ones in the same room using the same blackboard. Worked fine. The more advanced “group” got bigger as the slower ones caught up. Being in the same room held no-one back, since the teacher enjoyed pushing us. Also, he never had to be a “crowd-controller” before a teacher.

  2. John H – By the way, “George” Brown??? A freudian slip if ever ! Maybe if he changed his name….

  3. Hmm, George Brown…oops, just showing my age!!!

  4. John tt
    I have a number of disagreements with your assertion at 3.33pm

    However in view of JohnH 3.42pm & your own 4.05pm I will decline to respond.Those two posts make me quite confused about what is considered a “respectfull” debate-not to mention an informed one.

    In that context why is use of phrases like “greedy toffs” and “doctrinaire Tories” for example considered acceptable to you & JohnH?

    And who are “the usual suspects”?.

    If I am one will you do me the courtesy of telling me-& explaining what I am suspected of?


  5. Alasdair
    I share your view.
    Fortunately the PM & opposition leaders have affirmed the primacy of UK Law.

    One wonders about the leadership of the CoE these days-a Poll on the subject would indeed be interesting.

  6. Colin:
    Springing to the defence of john tt (who I am sure doesn’t need any assistance): if you re-read his posting you will see that he was saying that those who dismiss Tories as “greedy toffs”, rather than criticising their policies in a rational discussion, are being equally guilty of reducing political discussion to childish insult-swapping.

    On the other hand, “doctrinaire Tories” (a phrase I used) – rather than pragmatic ones – is a reasonable description of a political postion, and even if you don’t agree, it is not intended as an insult. (There are plenty of doctrinaire socialists too – and I wouldn’t agree with most of them on many topics).

    As to the “usual suspects”, that was also my phrase, not john tt. And in reply I will only quote the old adage: “If the cap fits, wear it”!

  7. Alastair

    I did.

    I couldn’t help wondering if it was part of some larger theological discussion, the point of which had been missed. Vicars usually go on a bit.
    Otherwise… bit odd???

  8. Hi folks. Yes I would like to know more of the background to this civil-Sharia business. Thankfully the political parties seem to have seen sense on this one.

    Any chance of some data on this area Anthony?

  9. Alasdair
    Sorry about incorrectly spelling your name….

    I can’t say GB was one of the greatest Chancellor’s of all time – because I do not think he was. I believe he has been irresponsible.

    My judgement of him is not because he is a Labour Chancellor. I wish it was that simple.

    For the record –
    If you were to ask me if the Tories made mistakes. Yes they did. Colin has expressed his regrets in your discussion and I agree.

    I do not say I disagree with all new Labour has done.

    There are some on in their ranks I can admire. One of my political hero’s is Tony Benn. I do not always agree with him. Far from but – I believe him to be one of the most honourable, thoughtful and engaging men still on the political stage.

    The other ‘Tony’ does not arouse in me the same feelings of warmth, but it would be churlish not to acknowlegde he was a PM of outstanding political skills.

    But on Gordon Brown, we will have to disagree – profoundly

  10. John H

    Thanks-your final para doesn’t answer my question-but that was your choice.

    Sally C

    Your comments about political “opponents” one admires is a really interesting one.

    Mine would include:-
    Tony Blair-Northern Ireland & Political Skill.
    Frank Field-Integrity
    Gisela Stuart-Honesty & Integrity ( Lisbon Debate)
    Charles Clark-Decency & Honesty
    Vince Cable-Clarity of thought & Profesionalism.
    Norman Baker-Dogged determination-everything an MP should be.

  11. Colin.I fail to understand why “political skills” should be a source of admiration. It can certainly be a means of disguising policies which are seriously flawed. Tony Blair used these skills to take us into war on a false prospectus. Ernie Bevin is recognised as one of our greatest Foreign Secretaries and his political skills were so poor that the opposition in the House always gave him a sympathetic hearing. Hitler’s political skills were extraordinary – enough said!

  12. Collin
    How to explain my sneeking admiration for TB?
    He was of course,as you say the master of spin,

    But he persuaded me to vote for him in 1997, so I can only retain some small vestige of self respect by attributing that aberation to his superb political skills in persuasion !

    Actually he was a consumate “persuader”-and when we all at last sussed him out , he effected that slightly world weary shrug of the shoulder, and the self deprecatory smile which showed he didn’t take it all too seriously-then he just walked away from it.

    Politicians who take themselves too seriously are a bore-and TB didn’t so he wasn’t.

  13. Colin,

    I agree with your assessment of Frank Field.

    You may have seen an article in The Telegragh concerning the mounting dissatisfaction with Mr Martin/Mr Speaker.

    After suggesting ways of removing him [almost impossible apparently] they suggested a replacement…..Mr Field.

  14. For Northern Ireland alone Blair deserves respect. All sides knew he was manipulating everyone, but they let him. (BTW it was Hain’s water rates threat that finally shifted them!). Not that lasting peace is guaranteed there yet.

    Colin – I made several assertions at 3.33 yesterday and I’d be happy to hear your viewss on them. I’ve never described anyone on this site in pejorative terms, and for what its worth, you wouldn’t feature on any list of nuisances anyway.

  15. john tt

    I agree with your first sentence-and appreciate your last.

  16. That’ll do!

  17. A quick word on Rowan Williams.


    I did think for a minute whether his words might suggest something different when read fully in context but know, it’s right there, he thinks that one set of laws applying to everyone is “dangerous”. You couldn’t make this up notwithstanding the fact that he is supposed to be leader of the Church of England. I’m not even sure the looniest of Labour councils circa 1983 would have suggested such a thing.

    Even if we do give Catweazle the benefit of the doubt as to what he meant, he was catastrophically stupid to think that his words wouldn’t be interpreted in this way. Being a man of the cloth doesn’t excuse him from having the sense to express himself properly particularly as he has seen fit to comment on other political issues (Iraq etc) that do not immediately fall within his remit.

  18. have now had a look at the field work and if this poll was repeated at a GE the conservatives would win with 356-360 seats and labour would finish on 220-225 seats with the lib dems losing the south west and parts of wales to the CON’s which will put them on 32-33 seats. in scotland it’s different the conservatives will only gain two seats but the lib dem will lose 4-6 seats 5-7 seats final total labour are still losing ground they are on 33% in scotland with the SNP on 34% at this level it won’t finish them off but they may be out of power for a few elections, unless they come up with somthing which has not been stole from the lib-dems or the conservatives. the elections in may this year will show if the main three parties are improving or not, the conservatives must gain seats off of labour at a rate of 2-3 per council and the lib dems must gain back ground off of lab and CON at a rate of 1-2 seats per council labour must not lose more than one seat per council for them to have a good night, wales may be their down fall.

  19. Stuart , as we have said many times , the subsamples for regions and age are of no use to make deductions as to how they will behave in a real election . These subsamples are not individually weighted and vary wildly from month to month . The 14% for LibDems in Wales/South West is clearly a freak low score just as in the previous Populus poll the 23% in the Midlands was a freak in the other direction .
    Your comments re May locals are reasonably sound though I think Labour will do rather better than you anticipate in terms of seats lost , they are defending seats last fought in 2004 which was a bad year for them anyway , a performance no better than in 2005 or 2006 should actually see them make a small number of net gains .

  20. Just picking up on some comments re Northern Rock.

    The Office of National statistics have said that all or part of the NR money has to be included in the public balance sheet. This means the Chancellor’s famous Golden rule has been blown to smitherines.

    I wonder how Mr Darling will dress this up in his budget in a months time.

    Go here for the full story


  21. Re respecting politicians of other persuasions:

    Blair will go down in history as a great PM – maybe not in the same league as Thatcher or Churchill, but certainly as good as Attlee, Wilson and MacMillan. Despie the Iraq war, which will be a historical blemish, he did have several major achievements to his name, and it would be churlish to gainsay them.

    It is already clear that Brown will not be a “great” PM. His record as Chancellor is now coming under greater scrutiny, and may not look as good as was generally acknowledged. Which proves Enoch Powell’s point about politial careers. Brown would have a better reputation if he had retired to the Lords in 2005.

    Frank Field for Speaker ? Actually a great idea since he is a man of integrity and well respected by all parties.

    FWIW – I agree with Colin re Vince Cable – LDs have missed a trick ther e- and have always had respect for Tony Benn and Dennis Skinner – even though I disagree profoundly with tehir politics.

  22. Mark Senoir-

    it would be very intesting to see what happens in the north say north yorkshire northwards as this is a labour hartland area and most places north of this are solid labour areas if seats are lost in this area it would be a big hint of things to comes, beacuse as you head south you start coming back into conservative areas like Linconshire, east leicestershire and south nottinghamshire & south derbyshire, but on the other hand if lbour gain seats in the south then it could be the start of a fight back in key areas lost in 2003 & 2005 to the lib dems and conservatives, but most intresting will be Wales where all the councils are (all out) for election this year, if things go into a nose dive for any of the three main parties this would be a good sign for PC & OTH’s who are hoping to gain ground on the top three, but as things stand the south is very hostile to labour but the north is actuly showing an up trend for the big two of labour and conservative,the main seats to watch hear are Bolton, Bradford & bury, Barrow in Furness may also show a move to LD or Conservative labour will hold their vote hear maybe

    if darling is a man of the people he would drop tax by 1P in the pound, and scrap death tax, but in respect to northern rock he will ask the people of the UK to pay for another botch up, even the Dome, cost us less than northern rock billions of pounds of our money has paid to keep the rock from going overboard and we will only see about 10% to 20% return on what was spent on it come back to us the tax payer!!!, at the budget no majory changes 5P on a pint, 10-15P on a pack of fags, 5P on a 750ml wine bottle and the cut in income tax held so another bite out of your walet by Darling & Brown (mostly brown i think still, ow well no change their then

  23. best chance of a labour gain in the local elections 2008 (sheffield ony 1 or 2 seats needed hear to win should be labour but don’t rule out the LD taking back control currntly NOC)

    AW- well donr the clock’s right now

  24. Frank Field for Speaker ?? Who suggested this and what’s the relevance to this current debate ?

    But as it’s been mentioned – why should there be ANOTHER Labour Speaker – the election of the current incumbent Michael Martin breaks all the non official cross party agreements about alternating between parties about the choice of speaker.

    In the past few decades, the Conservatives have not stood against Speakers seeking re-election, regardless of their previous political affiliation. Labour and the Liberal Democrats have stood against ex-Conservative Speakers, but not against ex-Labour ones. Most recently, in 2001 and 2005, the only major party to oppose the ex-Labour Speaker Michael Martin was the Scottish National Party.

    This also shows how CLOSE Labour and the Liberals are as parties – virtually one and the same .

    Really you could actually add the Labour and Liberal POLL results together to read as Conservative 40% Lib/Lab pact 48% – there is a misconception in this country that we have 3 main parties – we actually have 2 , with the third element being disruptive and using tactical politics to help it’s ally .

    So ! To finish my point – let’s get back to honourable politics and elect a non Labour Speaker as is the gentleman’s agreement already in place – not Frank Field !

  25. STUART GREGORY :- said “it would be very intesting to see what happens in the north say north yorkshire northwards as this is a labour hartland area and most places north of this are solid labour areas if seats are lost in this area it would be a big hint of things to comes, beacuse as you head south you start coming back into conservative areas like Linconshire, east leicestershire and south nottinghamshire & south derbyshire”

    Once again we have the misconception about the breakdown of party following in England – why is it always thought that the north is a no go area for the Conservatives and they would struggle to gain in the north ?

    Cumbria , North Yorkshire , Teesside , Tyneside , Northumberland , West Yorkshire , Lancashire are all in the north of England and currently have full control of councils & MP’s across the regions mentioned above and have made considerable gains at the last election – in my own area of Stockton South (so called Labour heartland in the North East) the Labour majority was halved at the last election and is all set to become a Tory seat again at the next election . The local council now has a Tory majority even though independents delayed the process for a few years.

    Yes – for the Conservatives to win comfortably at a GE they would need more seats in the North – but that’s not such a “big hill” to climb as may pundits who live in the South of England on here realise !!

  26. Once again Mike you are peddling falsehoods . The Conservatives do NOT control Stockton Council or any of the neighbouring councils of Middlesborough , Redcar/Cleveland or Darlington . Stockton is Lab 22 Con 13 LibDem 8 Others 13 .
    Stockton South only has a very slim chance of being a Conservative gain at the next GE , the results in last May’s locals were just not good enough to make it very likely .

  27. Had a look at the Populus figures now they are up.

    For Scotland we Have Lab 33%, SNP 34%, Con 19%, LibDem 10%. I doubt we would beat labour and I think the 19% shows a genuine Tory lift although not enough to get them more than one or two extra seats.

    If the LibDem 10% is correct then no Clegg bounce and if anything a decline.

    Interestingly Brown still seems far more trusted in Scotland and particularly on the economy. Where as the UK figure on who best to deal with the current economic outlook is 34% to 33% for cameron over Brown, in Scotland it is 20% to 61% with three times as many Scots backing Brown as Cameron.

    So if Broewn goes for his record and stability it may well still play well in Scotland to the SNP’s cost even if Charles Clark is right to suggest that it won’t be enough in a UK context.

    Given that both the SNP and Tories go good headlines over the Budget and both labour and the LibDems were laughed at, plus Wendy’s troubles (apparently Brown down graded her constitutional convention to a working party without even telling her) the next set of Scottish figures should be interesting.


  28. Hi Peter , how are you , as I have said before I don’t think anything can be deduced from these tiny subsamples . How do you explain the Scottish subsample in the last Ipsos Mori poll which had SNP down in 3rd place with only 19% .

  29. Mark,

    I’d explain it as being at odds with this one and the three that went before that all had the SNP in he low thirties.

    In effect I’d pretty much say what I said when Labour appeared to jump ahead of the Tories in mid January.

    “It doesn’t look right because there doesn’t seem to have been anything in the news that would have caused that much of a jump”.

    The January figure had the Tories at only 7% and I didn’t believe that either.

    It’s not that I only post figures I like ,Ii don’t post ones I am not convinced give an accurate view. When dealing with the little that you have, often in Scotland’s case samples below 100, you need to be fairly relaxed and follow the longer trends rather than getting excited about every poll.

    That’s probably why I tend to yawn when this blog goes in to a frenzy when the parties positions switch by a few % and people start talking about it as if it’s Armageddon.


  30. Hi Peter , I agree with you . I have come to the conclusion that very little if anything can be read into these sub samples by region or age , the results are far too variable and based on too small unweighted sample .

  31. Mark,

    If what you wrote is you agreeing y then you misread what I wrote.

    I don’t think that very little can be read in to them, I think they can tell you a lot, but when you get a score that is a change of about 5O% from the last score, like Tories from 10% to 15% you ignore it.

    What you look for is a continuing pattern and movement over time, and where there is a clear and sustained difference in Scottish and UK ( particularly South east) which could indicate the different tactics to be used come and election.


  32. Peter , then we will have to agree to disagree , if you take Populus figures for Wales/South West for example the LibDems go from 24% in Jan to 14% in Feb . The trouble is there is no continuing pattern from poll to poll and between pollsters . The tendency is as always to believe the figures that agree with our preconceptions and ignore those that don’t .

  33. Mark,

    Peter makes a very valid point about the regional breaks being useful for identifying how different policies / tactics play in different parts of teh country. Equally, his point about volatility is clear. One simply has to accept that there is a higher margin of error in the smaller samples.

    On the other hand, if there are slow but steady trends over time, then this information is useful and can be deployed in an election campaign.

    As Peter noted, a 50% shift from one month to another needs to be taken with a inch of salt – unless the figure then stabilises at the new leevl – in which case one should look to see if there is any likely causal event which could shape the changed response.

    If one were to see a “jump” in SNP & Tory results, with corresponding falls in Labour and LD scores, in Scotland over the next few polls, then, even if the numbers settle back after a while, it would be possible to deduce this as an effect of the Budget debate. If on the other hand the reverse were true, then I think we would be scratching our heads for an explanation.

  34. Paul,

    In a way it’s about cause and effect.

    If two things happen at the same time it may be that they are linked but it might be a coincidence.

    If however you see a change and there is an associated event that could be an explanation then it is more likely ( though not certain) that there is a link.

    The danger is when two things happen at the same time and we assume that there must be a link.


  35. has anyone seen any new polls comeing out of the wood work i have not-very odd but hopefuly we’ll see a few this weekend YOUGOV-COMRES & ICM still have not reported this month, A.WELLS could retirer at this rate.

  36. Stuart – the wait is almost over! I’m expecting some tomorrow.

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