YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph has the Labour party regaining the lead after a collapse in the Liberal Democrat vote. The headline figures with changes from last month are CON 39%(+1) LAB 40%(+4) LDEM 13%(-5). The poll was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday, so was after Mark Oaten’s resignation but mostly before Simon Hughes admitted having had homosexual relationships.

The survey demonstrates that the ongoing chaos within the Liberal Democrats has done severe damage to their level of support. While the poll was still conducted “mid-crisis” and it’s likely that, once the immediate negative newspaper coverage has passed, their support will recover somewhat the sheer size of the fall in Liberal Democrat support suggests that they may have suffered permanent damage. The Lib Dems are now 10 points lower than the level of support they achieved at the general election – almost halving their support. Excluding MORI’s polls prior to their change in methodology, we need to go back to prior to the 2001 election to find such low figures.

While the poll is bad for the Liberal Democrats, it certainly isn’t good for the Conservatives either. While the level of Conservative support continues to grow – it is the Labour party that has gained almost all of the spoils from the Liberal Democrat decline, suggesting that any decline in third party support may end up bolstering Labour rather than helping the Conservatives.

I’ll post on the other questions on the poll tomorrow. For now a brief note on seat projections – it’s rather silly to speculate about how votes would translate into seats in Parliament based on polls four years before an election but everyone does it “just for fun”, as Peter Snow used to say. There are no swing calculators based on the new boundaries but, if you put these figures into Martin Baxter’s calculator based on the old boundaries, you end up with the Lib Dems reduced to only 2 seats (Alistair Carmichael and Charlie Kennedy). The reason it’s so extreme is because Martin’s calculator is based upon a proportional swing – i.e. the Lib Dems have lost 43% of their vote at the last election so their vote in each seat is reduced by 43%. Standard uniform swing calculators on the other hand are done on the asumption that parties’ votes change by the same amount in each seat – i.e. the Lib Dem vote falls by 10 percentage points in each seat. This would leave the Lib Dems with about 21 seats if they got 13% of the vote.

Both systems have their faults – it’s obviously absurd for the Lib Dem vote to fall by 10% in seats where they currently have less than 10% of the vote, but it’s also unlikely that it would fall by as much as 23% their safests seats. If people voted this way in a real general election the real figure would probably be somewhere inbetween.

UPDATE – the Telegraph also report approval ratings for Blair and Cameron and some questions on the Lib Dem leadership. Cameron’s net approval rating is still +22, compared to other recent Tory leaders this is very high indeed. However, don’t knows stood at 44% in the question. When Michael Howard became Tory leader he had quite positive figures because of the high level of don’t knows. After a while those don’t knows decided they didn’t like Howard after all and his ratings fell. It remains to be seen which way all those don’t knows fall when they make their minds up about David Cameron.

On the Liberal Democrats 61% of the public said they didn’t know who they would prefer as Lib Dem leader. Of the minority who did have a view, Simon Hughes just pipped Menzies Campbell as the favourite (18% to 16%), Chris Huhne was the favoured candidate of 5% of people. The low proportion of people giving an opinion is hardly surprising – a Populus poll this week found that only 41% of people could recognise Menzies Campbell, 34% of people could recognise Simon Hughes and 4% of people recognised Chris Huhne.

Finally YouGov asked respondents if they thought, given recent events, the Liberal Democrats were a credible force in British politics. 27% thought they hadn’t been anyway, 30% thought they were not a credible force, and 29% thought they were.


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