The Populus monthly poll for the Times, bumped by a day because of economic news, has topline figures with changes from their last poll, back at the tail end of August before the conference season, of CON 45%(+2) LAB 30%(+3) LDEM 15%(-3).

A mixture of their conference and their handling seem to have pushed Labour back up to around 30% in recent polls, but in this poll at least their is also a boost in Conservative support which means the Tory lead almost unchanged from the last Populus poll. Such was the overshadowing of the Conservative conference by the economic crisis that by the time this poll was conducted their publicity boost from conference may have already been and gone, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to be sure. Meanwhile the poor old Lib Dems seem to have been squeezed following their brief conference boost – ICM last week gave them their second lowest score of Clegg’s leadership, this poll is the lowest score Populus have given them under Clegg.

In other questions Gordon Brown is enjoying a boost to his reputation, his average rating out of ten is up to 4.38 from the dire 3.9 he sank to in June. David Cameron still outranks him on most measures though – he is regarded as being ahead on “good judgement” (40% to 36%), character (50% to 32%) and – rather self-evidently since what would Brown be a change from – representing change (60% to 22%). Again rather obviously Gordon Brown is seen as more experienced (77% to 11%). Cameron and Osborne continue to be more trusted on the economy than Brown and Darling by 38% to 31%.

The worst news for the government is that, despite the economic problems, people continue to look for change rather than experience. 65% still agree it is “time for a change”. As I’ve said before, this is an incredibly strong public narrative, the sea change in public opinion that sweeps government from office. The economic situation means that the government do at least have something they can throw against it – that it’s no time to risk a novice government – but that desire for change is a powerful trend to resist.

84 Responses to “Populus October Poll”

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  1. Guilty!

    I must say, I’m sure my house was giving me smug looks when I was leaving for work a year or so ago. Not laughing now, are you Number 5!

  2. John tt



  3. Peter,
    it is my understanding that Vince Cable has come to prominence precisely because he was making those warnings as long as 5 years ago.

    In my area housing has been one of the biggest issues campaigned on by the LDs, so if they aren’t getting sufficient credit nationally then that is the fault of the media. Perhaps you could enlighten us with your partial recollections of what they did on the issue north of the border when they were in coalition?

    As for the nationalisation of financial institutions didn’t Nigel Lawson do exactly that in 1984 (I forget which one)?

    As for the polls, I shall repeat that it is idiocy to make firm predictions about the direct consequences of a volatile situation. The dust is still spreading and the only thing which is certain is that big changes are possible.

  4. Johnson Matthey was the Bank that was rescued under the Tories in Oct 1984.

    It is, and remains a successful chemicals and precious metals company, aswell as in it’s mreo traditional roles of cutlery, jewelry, and silverware.

    It originally started in the 1800s in Gold, but from I think about the 60s diversified into other more risky banking in a separate bank division.

    Actually, under the rules then in the 80s, the Bank of England was allowed to rescue a smaller bank without the government involved, although in effect, they were part of the decision.

    On the polls, yes, of course, everything is technically possible.
    Even a large Lib Dem majority.
    But I don’t think it will happen.

  5. Peter

    You are absolutely right when you say that collectively all of us bear some responsibility for creating this mess. An earlier post by I think it might have been john tt spoke of a uniquely casual attitude-he said culture-towards debt in the UK which transcended politics.
    I have wondered for a long time how some folk fund their lifestyle including those on far lower incomes than me who take exotic holidays abroad, the brand new plasma tv sets I see in houses I visit in my voluntary role, the unbelievable largesse we all- myself included- spend on presents for children at Christmas time. We knew in our bones that the party had to stop sometime but we buried our collective heads in the sand and took no notice.
    For all that -and mindful of another unhealthy national characteristic-finding someone else to blame- we elect governments to set an example, to lead not follow, to educate us about the errors of our ways NOT to encourage us in our vices, to pander to our weaknesses or to buy our votes on the ‘never never’. We have been living beyond our means for far too long. We should have known better and so should our leaders.

  6. In the past governments prevented their populace from becoming over indebted by raising interest rates as the economy overheated. This was unpleasant for many and not always popular! Even with such management, the natural economic cycle still occurred with the occasional mild recession.

    It was obvious (not just to Vince Cable but anyone with eyes) that the economy was becoming massively overstretched some years ago.

    This government bought some time by keeping interest rates lower than they should have been by managing inflation with unprecedented levels of cheap immigrant labour. The result of which is, now the inevitable is upon us, a much more severe correction to take place over a much longer duration.

    Our government are not the only ones in the world to have put electoral hopes before the good of their people but they are, rightly, going to be blamed.

    No matter how well they manage this it is of their making and when the dust has settled the press will certainly point this out along with the increasing unemployment figures and resultant rise in crime (and continued lack of prison spaces!)

    I expect the polls to show little or no revival for Labour right up to an election.

  7. Reply to Anthony Wells:

    Is saying that Labour are doing poorly in the polls because they are rubbish to be considered partisan? I may have expressed some of my views in a colourful manner but as far as I can see I have said very little that bears no relation to the assessment of the polls. Personally, I find the whole area of what is partisn or non-partisan and what is meaningless or inappropriate a rather big mine field. I wish you well in your endevour.

    Last year it is probably true that a good Conservatives conference gave them a boost and Brown’s ‘dithering’ over calling an election did make a difference in the polls. But conference boosts normally subside within a few months. And did Brown’s decision really upset Labour supporters?!!!! The people it must have upset were Conservative supporters who thought they could have won that election. Such a person may be biased towards thinking it made a ‘damn’ difference in the polls. As I said, big mine field, good luck.

    Neither of these properly explain why Labour did so poorly in the polls and failed to recover in the slightest. And it should be remembered that information about what was going to be in the Queen’s speech was in the media for a few days BEFORE the speech as well.

  8. Ivan,

    The government has to an extent let us down, but in truth if they hadn’t backed the boom they would have been replaced by a government would have.

    How many terms would Blair have got if he had a manifesto talking about minimum 20% deposits for a house or a return to restrictions on credit like the old hire purchase rules.


    Why don’t you just come out and admit your a LibDem supporter/member. We all worked it out ages back and you pretending to be a neutral is starting to get embarrassing.


  9. If I may make my point more clearly. Only someone who disagreed with Labour’s plans (as outlined in the Queen’s speech) would really be disgruntled by Brown’s decision not to call an election after hinting that he might. I’m sorry but your arguement is blatantly illogical.

    Call me old-fashioned but it is not good speeches nor the occational human error but it is policies that change people’s lives that permenantly change polls.

  10. The POLLS will not get any better for Brown after another appalling day shooting himself in the foot – is Iceland really a terrorist threat ? The mind boggles with this government – was’nt it this guy that suggested local authorities etc spread their money out , but forgot all about the Icelandic banking investors when he promised that all British savings were safe in Icelandic banks – but has now changed his mind and says it’s only private investors !!
    If only there was an election tomorrow !

  11. The POLLS keep on saying “go now” – Brown’s as unaware of that as he is about how to solve the problems he & the USA helped create. When the Tories take over, the national debt will be at unbeliveable levels – I hope Brown does’nt walk away in 2010 with a peerage & a ministerial pension etc after the mess he created (just like the bankers do after doing a bad job)!!

  12. I really doubt whether the electorate will like the spectacle of Gordon Brown clearly enjoying himself in this crisis (because he is “back in the game”) and cracking jokes about failing banks whilst splurging £200bn of our money.

  13. NBeale:

    i really doubt whether the electorate will like the spectacle of gordon brown clearly enjoying him self in this crisis

    well the voters of this country will most likely by the way the polls are going vote out this govenment and im sure that gordon brown will be in for a shock in his seats even if his party holds the rest, hes unpopular noth and south of the border which makes him unelectable, but if DC shots his self in the foot then we may see another round of small gains for labour in the polls all DC has to do is sit their and do nothing for 12-18 month and he will win hopefully with a big majority, but this far out you can not predict anything.

  14. My suspicion is that you are wrong, and this will be playing in Brown’s favour. Doing things to try and save the economy, taking tough decisive action, that sort of thing. It is playing to things that were once his strengths.

    That he made a joke or the particular powers that were used against Iceland are not the sort of things that carry weight alongside whether banks are rescued or not, or whether people who have invested money in Icelandic banks get it back or not.

  15. We see this theory around a lot at the moment Anthony. The question is;

    1. Does Brown get more blame for creating the mess?

    2. Or does he get more credit for trying to sort out the mess?

    I suspect it’ll be 1 rather than 2.

    So far John Rentoul appears to be the only commentator saying this economic crisis is BAD news for Brown;

    And I have to say, my suspicion is to agree with him. The next poll (this weekends Sunday Times/YouGov?) will be very interesting indeed.

  16. Banks being rescued/outside events/drama = Good for government

    Back to mundane bad news = Bad for government.

    Very roughly of course, and they can’t be separated.

  17. Dammit. I just used 1000 words writing that and JJB did it in 26.

  18. “One of the causes of the Brown government’s poor ratings has been his ability to put forward any compelling vision or purpose”

    i think you meant “inability”, but this is for me at the heart of it.

    Whatever Thatcher did, she had buckets full of Purpose.

    Major turned it around for himself when he got on his soapbox and behaved with Purpose.

    Now Brown is energised, has Purpose, and needs to sustain that beyond this crisis and really engage with the voters if he’s to have any chance of avoiding heavy defeat.

  19. Judging by PMQs this week with six days of anti-Labour news to work from it was embarrassing from a Conservative perspective to see how easily Cameron got rolled over.

    This must unsettle all but the most bigoted partisan.

    While I don’t think Labour is out of the woods by a long stretch of the imagination the lack of ability on the tory front bench must the a cause for government optimism.

    I think the public identifies the Conservatives as representative of the bankers whose irresponsible lending decisions are blamed for the mess. This creates amazing diffuculties for Cameron’s strategists as it smashes their ability to build a coherent narrative around their preferred theme of ‘responsibility’.

    you are perfectly correct to suggest I’m not impartial or objective, but please remind me if I ever claimed as much. I admit if there were a referendum tomorrow I would probably swing towards the LDs (an election in my constituncy would probably be a different matter).

    You do yourself a disservice to suggest I’m actively pushing one side (I think that would be a bad thing) and I reserve the right to call it as I see it.

    Can you handle a difference of opinion?

  20. “I think the public identifies the Conservatives as representative of the bankers whose irresponsible lending decisions are blamed for the mess.”

    To back up your theory, six of the rich hedge funders who have been making a very large packet in very recent times where on the boating holiday Mr Cameron went on, the one the media were banned from.

    Note the muted response from DC when criticism of these people and there part, or making money from the countries financial demise(peoples pensions etc) in the last few weeks.

    This weekends polls will tell us which way opinions have gone with regards the credit crunch……the only non-negative thing from the last few weeks is at least the polls have actually moved a bit.

  21. Thomas,

    I’ve watched you off and on for months and I can’t remember you actually criticising the libdems once, while you readily dig at everyone else.

    In addition time and again you have talked them up either in terms of their policies or there prospects.

    Your increasingly looking, walking, and talking in an extremely duckish manner, and it is a yellow one.


  22. Peter,
    my comments are there for perusal at your leisure. You don’t need to regale us with boasts of your bad memory.

    Notwithstanding the accuracy or not of your impression of bias, I’d have thought it beneficial to the overall tone of discussion here to have a greater amount of representative balance rather than have these threads devolve into a forum for partisan proselytising.

    I therefore feel fully justified in leaving straightforward antipathetic sentiment to others as you’ll find I consistently make reasoned analysis and judgements which are there to be countered whomsoever disagrees with them or not and on whatever basis they wish to do so.

    Put simply, the general context of current polls is that we have a government which is lagging in the polls to the opposition and a third party which is fluctuating under its recent general election performances.

    Is this an accurate snapshot of current opinion, and if it is, is it also an indicator for future elections?

    For the former I would say possibly, for the latter I would say probably not.

    In both cases it is perfectly fair to ask why, indeed that is what this blog is for. Don’t you agree?

    So please don’t get ditracted and make the mistake of trying to identify the sympathies of the commenters from the comments they make (it is dangerous to be drawn in by blatancy as you may be being manoeuvered by subversives to effect their counterproductivity – I mean, give the oracle some credit, he must realise he isn’t helping his stated cause even if he’s just enjoying singing while he’s winning, because the current tory lead won’t last forever. I also wonder how long the SNP can keep things up for…).

  23. I agree with Peter Cairns.

    On the polls, I think we might see some further increase for Labour, for some weeks at least, because of the emphasis on a banking crisis rather than domestic policy.

  24. Thomas,



  25. Thomas:

    I also wonder how long the SNP can keep things up for…).

    Nothing succeeds like success.

    Sometimes you can get signs that there is a big change in the political weather. I heard about it but wasn’t much engaged in 1945. In the years leading up to 1997 what the polls were saying was corroborated in many ways by information and experiences that I was encountering quite randomly.

    For example I remember reading a passionate well argued and well written article in a flute player’s magazine, reprinted in the comparable one for oboe and bassoon players.

    This is not the likeliest place to get a critique of a governments education policy, but it was clear indication that here was a not-so-small group of people, musicians, eductionalists, parents and others who were angry enough about the governments performance and that there were journalists who thought it appropriate to set aside the normal non-political conventions of such magazines

    We have the polls, and they get better as time goes on, and much better than eye of newt and toe of frog, but I still want corroboration like that from the soft and unquantifiable information.

    Here’s some. It comes from to-days government press release. I think it tells us something about Glasgow East that we didn’t know before the bye-election, and it answers your question:”how long the SNP can keep things up for….”

    Superintendent Michelle Martin said:

    “Tackling disorder and violence has been core police business in and around Shettleston, Baillieston and Greater Easterhouse for far too long now, and while we have been fortunate enough to receive funding which enabled us to get more officers, more regularly on to the streets, we know only too well that enforcement alone is not the answer.

    “The introduction of some fairly innovative ideas and facilities to channel youngsters’ energies into recreation, including the Outdoor Gym at Sandaig Park, Barlanark and the Phoenix Community Youth Bus, with parents also seeing a difference and endorsing the message that antisocial behaviour is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

    “We appreciate the strength of feeling within the Scottish Government to help tackle the various forms of antisocial behaviour and I am delighted that the Minister has been able to take this opportunity to once again see for himself the marked difference we are now experiencing in the East End.”

    As Christian described it on these pages: “bog standard government and a few minor gimmicks.” It’s not difficult and it shouldn’t be enough to get elected, but consider the competition!

    The SNP aren’t winning. The others are losing. They can keep it up long enough to destroy the UK as we know it. It’s not what I would choose but it’s going to happen.

  26. “The SNP aren’t winning. The others are losing. They can keep it up long enough to destroy the UK as we know it.”

    This reminded me of a couple of comments I’ve heard at different times applied to various gangs of criminals.

    “they depend on never having any bad luck, if we count on fully exploiting one piece of good luck we’ll catch them…”

    All things being equal, they will return to a state of equality.

    So unless independence provides some advantage which outweights the benefits of the multi-lateral coordination we have recently seen it is wrong and won’t happen.

    As yet the SNP has yet to offer any suggestion of this, which is presumably why they’ve gone so quiet during the current financial crisis – their nationalism is directly at odds with the internationalist attitude required to function in a global economy.

  27. “So unless independence provides some advantage which outweights the benefits of the multi-lateral coordination we have recently seen it is wrong and won’t happen”.

    And just why on earth wouldn’t an independent Scotland be able to participate in multilateral coordination like any other nation in Europe. We’re leaving the Union, not the planet.

    No one in the SNP has a problem with the coordinated international action Brown has called for or an international system of closer scrutiny and regulation, we’re all for it. the idea that some how an Independant scotland wouldn’t be as involved as any other nation is just palin silly.

    As to the SNP being quiet, we have been vocal about what we can do as the scottish government within our powers.

    On the UK front the news has been dominated by the crisis and the Governments response which has put brown on the front page. That has meant that he has benefitted from it at all other leaders expense.

    Be it Salmond, Cameron or Clegg we all have to find a balance between promoting stability in a crisis and criticising the Government, and at the moment we are all slightly in Browns shade. How long that will last depends on how things go.

    Right now we are all pulling together to get people in the life boats, but when that is done and as many as possible are safe, we’ll be sure to turn our attention to the idiot who hit the iceberg.


  28. Peter,
    If you’re saying the SNP couldn’t do anything differently and you wouldn’t oppose the international consensus, then separation would be in name only – in which case did we ever have anything else?

    The Irish experience is informative in this regard.

    So, what is the point of the SNP?

  29. Thomas,

    No I didn’t say we wouldn’t do anything differently, I said we have done all we can with the powers we have, which as you know are far more limited than the UKs. With what we have, we are doing our best to deal with a mess not of our making.

    As to the second part, as an independent country we would be as involved as any other in establishing the international consensus and would play our part.

    I hope your not trying to advance the argument that if independent nations reach consensus they might as well not be sovereign, because that would mark a new low even by your standards.

    The Brown argument is that we would be to small, vulnerable and isolated, an argument that has no basis in fact as there are lots of small countries involved in the EU scheme and they aren’t vulnerable and weak.

    There is an interesting article on Browns attack on Independence in today’s Herald. It makes a particularly good comparison between the Uk and Ireland.


  30. Peter,
    RBS was a symbol of the renewed nationalistic pride embodied by the SNP and it’s failure reflects directly on the party.

    Please tell me: wasn’t there a need for a broader range of views around the boardroom table beyond the parochial Scottish mafia headed by Goodwin and Matthewson?

    Do you think it is realistic to claim that RBS could have been bailed out by the proceeds of North Sea oil when this was already allocated to cover the SNP’s proposed budget deficit (and wouldn’t have been sufficient in any case)?

    So how else except by English money are all those jobs at the lavish new RBS HQ in Gogarburn to be saved?

    Even with independence Scottish monetary policy would still be decided de facto by the Bank of England until it was to be transferred to Frankfurt because you have no plans for a central bank and integration into the Eurozone can’t be expected to be immediate, so in the SNP vision independence actually means greater dependence PLUS less influence – “play our part” is empty rhetoric in default of a real plan or any real ideas.

    The Herald article you cite appears to be basing its naive conclusions on entirely subjective identity politics, and not objective brass tacks. The issue here is not any constitutional settlement, but the market structure and the regulatory regime – and with the example of RBS to back up the SNP’s case it’s clear that the former and the latter are completely separate.

    But I guess we will have to wait until the Glenrothes referendum on the SNP’s inadequate shambles to prove how the public calculate their judgement. I agree that the public might answer that you’ve done nothing wrong, but they may equally say you’ve done nothing.

  31. I think we strayed a long way away from polling towards partisan screeds about the SNP, I think that’s enough now.

  32. Anthony,

    Spoil Sport.


  33. Peter,
    what is your projection for the result in Glenrothes and how do you think this has been influenced by recent events emanating from the financial world?
    How will the result be noted in Holyrood?

  34. thomas:

    The Glenrothes election is for Westminster and the only connection with the Scottish Parliament is that the SNP government would like to encourage voters to believe that one more SNP MP at Westminster is worth voting for because his party colleages in a differently organised parliament are more popular and successful.

    The SNP will not win in Glenrothes, Labour will lose, and sombody else has to get the votes. Scottish voters will not vote Conservative, and where the LibDems don’t appear to be the best buy for the negative voters they use the SNP.

    The SNP don’t mind being used, but they must be wondering how they can turn negative voting which favours of their candidates into support for their referendum.

    Recent financial melodramas won’t make much difference by themselves, but inasmuch that they draw attention to the obscene rewards for some whose talents are only average (as they must be) and because some of them must be the Non-Doms that a little while ago the party of the left told us made such a contribution to the economy that they could not be taxed lest they went elsewhere, then they may think that a government so bemused by the perceived success of the very rich that it allows them greater influence over government policy than the wider party needs some time in opposition to connect with its roots and the lives of its supporters.

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