YouGov have repeated their poll of 60 Lab/Con marginal seats for Channel 4 (I wrote about the previous survey here). Labour’s share of the vote in these seats has increased by 6 points since the previous poll in early September, while the Conservatives are down 2 points. Whereas the previous YouGov marginal poll translated into a Conservative majority of about 150, this one would equate to a Tory majority of 54.

This is a broadly similar pattern to that which we’ve seen in national polls since the conference season: Labour up around 6 points from the mid-twenties to 30 or so; the Conservatives down a couple of points into the low-40s. The marginal seats seem to have reacted to the banking crisis in pretty much the same way as the country as a whole.

There are some other interesting findings in the poll:

YouGov asked who people thought would make the better Prime Minister “right now IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ECONOMIC CRISIS” (YouGov’s emphasis!) and found a solid lead for Gordon Brown: 41% to David Cameron’s 27%. However, they then asked who they felt would make the better Prime Minister after the next election and the position reversed, Cameron led Brown by 36% to 26%. While this is a pattern I expected in reality, I’m rather surprised to find it as coming out so explicitly in questioning: people want Brown now, but Cameron once the immediate crisis has passed.

Despite getting credit for his handling of the crisis, it really doesn’t appear to be helping Brown that much in electoral terms. For example, 58% of people said Brown had “shown read leadership in tackling the banking crisis…” but the majority of those people still went on to say ” …but does not deserve to be re-elected Prime Minister at the next election”. Overall 27% thought he had shown real leadership and deserved to be re-elected, 31% thought he had shown real leadership, but didn’t deserve re-election. 27% thought he failed to show any real leadership anyway.

Looking at the practical way forward, 49% of people said the government had to spend the money it did to rescue the banks, with 33% saying it was too generous to the banks (though there is little scope here for the opposition to appeal to that 33%, 53% of people also agreed that the Tories were only pretending to be tough on bankers.) Increasing borrowing “to help families through difficult economic times” however was unpopular. Only 24% agreed, with 49% disagreed – suggesting increased government borrowing will be a hard sell to the public.

YouGov also asked about “Boom and Bust” (topically given today’s PMQs). 39% of people in marginal seats thought the current crisis showed Brown “was wrong to talk about an end to boom and bust”, but 47% said that the present circumstances were extraordinary and Brown couldn’t be blamed. That doesn’t mean he is off the hook entirely though – despite people mostly blaming American banks for the current problems (61% think they are most to blame), 58% think Gordon Brown bears a lot of responsibility.

Finally, these are Labour vs Conservative marginal seats, so how the Liberal Democrats are seen is pretty irrelevant, but all the same there is a question here to warm the cockles of their hearts. Asked to put aside party preferences and say who would be the best Chancellor for Britain right now, Vince Cable narrowly came out on top with 19%, ahead of Alistair Darling on 15% and George Osborne on 12% (54% said don’t know – a reminder that beyond the party leaders, even the most senior political figures aren’t actually that well known).

As a caveat of course, it’s important to remember these views are only representative of people in 60 Labour marginal seats. It’s unlikely people outside these seats have vastly different views, and in terms of electoral politics it may well be these people that matter anyway, but strictly speaking we cannot assume the country thinks the same way as this lot.


66 Responses to “YouGov show a swing to Labour in the marginals”

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  1. James,
    My constituency is one of the Lab/Con marginals included in the survey.

    The Conservatives have seen a remarkable growth in headline support over a relatively short space of time which indicates a strategy of targetting this seat.

    It has been noticable how a concerted media strategy (including feeding the local press pre-written stories with photo) has been allied to significant extra resources being put into the ground war. When I collared the deliverer of a recent piece of tory electoral literature to my house, he said he was too young to vote and was only doing it because he’d been promised a couple of free tickets to watch the local football club – not exactly a convinced or voluntary convert!

    This all smells like Ashcroft money or likewise pump-priming support rather than any real shift in opinion, so it is reasonable to ask how long they can keep it up.

    On the subject of donations, it is unrealistic to think that any party can survive without them, but one starts to run into difficulties when placing restrictions on their sources – for the simple reason that the politics of each party defines the type of donations it solicits and whom it solicits money from.

    Whatever laws are introduced regarding donations they must follow the principle of transparency and accountability, so I tend to favour a ban on giving where the donation isn’t accompanied by a list of the authorising individual(s) to whom the money can be traced back to.

    I also think it reasonable that caps on the amounts any single individual can donate over any period are fair as this would prevent any suspiciously overweening influence of the like Lord Ashcroft is accruing.

    It is right and proper that questions are raised about the people who assert disproportionate extra-parliamentary influence in the way that he is doing – why for example has he not appeared in the media to answer his critics personally? what does this say about his belief in the principles of transparency accountability? what should we infer about the people who are prepared to accept the terms of his donation?

    As someone who has previously voted for the Conservatives and has been open to them, I think the actions of Lord Ashcroft raises severe doubts about the competence of team Cameron. Perhaps he may calculate this is necessary to gain power, but I have a grave concern about how such unaccountable influence will be exercised in the event that the tories gain a majority.

  2. Colin – I thought you might have gathered from my last posting that I do, in fact, criticise the lot of them.
    New Labour’s infatuation with wealth and celebrity lead to disgraceful episodes like Ecclestone, (although they did return the money I seem to recall), but Cameron’s brass neck in campaigning on honesty and transparency in public life while resorting to some very obscure and dubious fundraising methods is something he will regret very deeply in due course. Building your political appeal on trust and honesty can cut both ways.
    You’re right, in that donating money from abroad through a fully active company is not illegal – the questions being asked are why are inactive shell companied being used, (which would be illegal) and is the true source of the money being hidden, which I understand is also not permissable. The bigger question however is what will the money buy? It may seem perverse, but in many ways I didn’t see anything so wrong with cash for honours – so long as we could see who was buying what, at least we could understand the situation, even if we didn’t like it. It’s when we can’t see what’s being bought and sold that all voters should be worried.

  3. “It may seem perverse, but in many ways I didn’t see anything so wrong with cash for honours – so long as we could see who was buying what”

    It does-I don’t understand why Ecclestone -cash for favourable legislation” is “disgraceful”; but cash for honours is “not so wrong”.
    AS a matter of interest do you feel that the July 2004,‘Warwick Agreement’, and it’s £10 million Government funding for the unions in return for favourable legislation is acceptable or not?

    “It’s when we can’t see what’s being bought and sold”

    Yes-but it was ever thus with politicians.
    I agree that transparency is the first requirement-so for me the Abrahams & Hain cases are of the worst kind.

    With regard to Ashcroft, transparency seems not to be a factor. So here it is simmply a matter of agreeing what sums can be spent by the Parties on individual Constituency campaigning between elections. The role & use of the incumbent’s “communications” allowance is a factor here too.

  4. Lets agree its a murkey business.
    Despite all that tonight I’m happy – a 3-2 home win for East Fife. How will that affect the by election?

  5. News flash….

    Don’t hold your breath for a report for Glenrothes.

    My catalytic converter went an hour and abit down the A9 at Pitlochry and after a three year wait for recover and two hours in a flat bed truck my wife picked me up from the dealers in Inverness at 3pm ( I had left the house before 7 am).

    So with the wasted day and probably a heavty bill I’ll be really cheesed off if we don’t win.

    Peter.

  6. The fact that we are talking about sleaze and cash through dubious practices, because of what has happened in the past,will always make people think of the Conservatives.

    However people actually expect this from the Conservatives now so they will not lose any political ground.

    To quote the man on the local radio station talking about Osbourne “Look, virtually all the voters know the Conservatives are bent, it won’t stop me voting for them though”. He also admitted a little later in the conversation that he was sad that he was voting for a party that he though was “bent”.

    What does this say about the politics of this country?

  7. Commisserations Peter. If Labour wins by 1 vote it’ll all be down to the disrepair of your car. Hope it gets sorted soon. :(

  8. Peter….as seems the popular view on here for when things go wrong…do you blame Gordon Brown for your vehicle braking down????

  9. TJ,

    Well, he was in fife in person today so he was certainly close enough…..

    Peter.

  10. Gordon isn’t responsible for your car failing, but he is a Raith Rovers supporter, and that’s worse I’m afraid.

  11. Stop moaning.
    I had a car which lost the wheel, so I abandoned it in the slip road, and got on a bus which went to the zoo.

  12. Joe,

    “I had a car which lost the wheel”

    The wheel? What was it a monocar……

    Peter.

  13. I agree – Joe’s comment makes less sense than his usual measured contribution. :)

  14. @Thomas

    “It has been noticable how a concerted media strategy (including feeding the local press pre-written stories with photo)…”

    I thought every candidate regardless of party puts out regular press releases like this? They would be a pretty poor candidate if they didn’t, and it costs nothing in cash terms.

    In fact in order to have something worth writing about, and photographing, the candidate has toactuall be out campaigning and doing things, which is good.

    Out of interest – does anyone have any views on Labour’s attempts to limit all campaigning (regardless of when in the election cycle it takes place) to £11,000 per candidate…but to EXEMPT both trade union money and MPs’ communications allowance?

    Surely that would be grossly unfair and biased in favour of sitting Labour MPs?

  15. James,
    press releases are one thing, but an out-of-house staff writer is quite another.

    Local press have rarely attempted to maintain a facade of impartiality, but their editorial weakness and managerial cost-cutting incentives now combine to ensure they recycle copy directly without acknowledgements or additional material to add balance, at least in my locality.

    The press has been effectively subverted to purely commercial ends and yet many of us question why their sales keep falling in the face of the challenge of new media. It is a question of trust and offers one more reason why people feel justified in our scepticism about the political process.

    What is the consequence on turnout? What is the consequence on positive support for party political positions and their policy platforms?

    The mainstream parties need to be very careful about how they manipulate the system to gain power because by subverting adequate checks and balances while feeding the dissatisfaction with the process they are creating similar conditions where dangerous new forces could emerge. Add this to prolonged economic turmoil and the public could turn to figures who present real alternatives, with potenially radical and frightening results.

    For this reason I think it is just as important to keep an eye on the poll results for DKs and others as it is for the more mainstream parties.

  16. “Surely that would be grossly unfair and biased in favour of sitting Labour MPs?”

    Of course it would-which is why Ashcroft came in.

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