The Times have released a new poll following the PBR. It isn’t the first since the PBR, but unlike YouGov’s respondents would have had chance to see the media reaction following the PBR and start to digest it. It sadly doesn’t have any voting intention figures, but the other questions don’t look particular promising for the government.

As in YouGov’s poll a large majority backed the new 45% tax band – two thirds tough it was “fair and right”. However, it does appear to have sent an unfortunate message: 54% agreed with the statement that it “signals the end of New Labour and a shift to the left”. While a majority (51%) disagreed, a very substantial minority (42%) saw it as an attack on “aspiration and entrepeneurship”.

The most important question in there though, simply because they have the best chance of giving us the best evidence of which way the headline polling figures, are the tracker questions. Brown continues to lead Cameron on who will be the best leader “right now, to deal with Britain’s economy in recession”, but his lead has slumped. A fortnight ago he lead Cameron by 20 points, 52% to 32%, now his lead is down to 6 points, 42% to 36%.

We’ll see if it is reflected in voting intentions when ICM’s poll finally turns up, though the rumour mill is suggesting another big story is brewing…

63 Responses to “Populus shows Brown’s economic lead faltering”

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  1. “We’ll see if it is reflected in voting intentions when ICM’s poll finally turns up, though the rumour mill is suggesting another big story is brewing…”

    Oh, I can hardly bear the suspense!… What is going to happen?

  2. Interesting. Looks as if the big story is Damian Green’s arrest for leaking information about immigration – something that could backfire on the government quite badly rather than on the Tories.

  3. Am I hearing ICM numbers on other sites, or am I reading the Populus data and getting confused? Something about a 4-point shift…

  4. The Damian Green story does seem odd – surely leaks get out to politicians all the time.
    I hope no underhand manoevering has occured.

  5. It seems to me that GB’s popularity on economic issues has fallen, but is still higher than it was a short time ago…. or have I got something wrong…

  6. If they had arrested folk for handling leaked documents almost the entire labour shadow cabinet would have been banged up in the mid-1990s.

  7. AC, GB’s popularity on economic issues has fallen. Then a Tory gets arrested for handling a leaked document. Coincidence? I smell Campbell and Mandleson. The govt has returned to the dark arts

  8. A key finding of this poll has failed to be highlighted. The poll confirms that on one of the most crucial questions- the party most trusted to deal with Britain’s economic problems in the months and years ahead- Brown leads Cameron by 38% to 35%. This is the same per cent margin as the previous Populus poll a fortnight ago and suggests that in least in terms of this crucial question, the impact of the PBR has been miminal and in no way can be classified as Brown’s economic lead faltering. In any event, during a recession and at this stage of the political cycle, this is an impressive result for Brown.

  9. Oh PADDY K – clinging onto hope or onto a sinking ship can be very similar !

  10. PADDY K
    “Clutching at straws again”

  11. It’s hardly a clever underhandmanoeuvre to have a shadow spokesman arrested, is it? The idea is ludicrous. Especially at wa time when the polls are turning.

    Wouldn’t that 42% of doubters of the PBR be largely comprised of non-Labour voters?

    More likely the Greene story is a put-up from the Tory spinmeisters to try and distract attention and heave their “Stalin” attacks back onto the front pages.

    Even so it’s a non-story (or should be). Watched Yes (Prime) Minister lately? It’s all in there. A laugh a minute, and as true today as it was then.

  12. Who authorised the arrest?
    Why were 9 anti-terrorist officers used?
    What did the Home Secretary know about this & when?
    What Crime has been committed?

  13. Anyone who watched Question Time last night and still thinks that the electorate are swinging or about to swing the government ‘s way with any degree of solidity is clearly on another planet. The added political fallout from the arrest of Damian Green caps what has been a disasterous week for the hopes of Labour supporters and I predict that the weekend polls will reflect this.

  14. Nick – great parody of the Oracle!

  15. You really think that Peter Mandelson told the police to arrest & search Damian Green & they then did so? Goodness some of you do ascribe a lot of power to him.

  16. Eh?

    However, it does appear to have sent an unfortunate message:54% agreed with the statement that it “signals the end of New Labour and a shift to the left”.

  17. On Green, the Met say that it had nothing to do with the government. I’ve criticised the police many times before, but some of the commenters here seem to be motivated purely by anti-police spite, a worrying trend amongs the right.

  18. By the way his arrest is a disgrace. One irony is that Damien Green, despite being so clear and strident on immigration, or perhaps because of that, can no longer enter the United States without a visa.

  19. Matthew – or a fortunate message, depending on one’s point of view ;)

  20. I seriously doubt that the government had much to do with Green’s arrest. That would be really stupid. More likely the police thought it would interesting to ‘bust’ a high profile politician, or there is something we don;t know going on.

    However, given the increasing and heavy-handed use of anti-terror laws and the like against a whole range of legitimate protest in this country (human rights groups, environmental outfits), someone needs to have a word with the police…..

  21. So that means anti-terror legislation has been used against Iceland and now a Conservative MP.

    It needs repealing and rewriting as these are both clearly misuse of a Bill that was meant to protect.

    There are those who think it’s suspect that it’s happened as soon as the house has risen, and therefore the matter cannot be brought before the speaker.

    Green-gate? We shall see what happens.

  22. Matthew and Alasdair – it’s absurd to imagine that the police did not run it past the Home Secretary and PM before they searched a high-ranking MP’s office in the House of Commons itself. Even Boris Johnson was told in advance – do you seriously imagine that the Home Secretary wasn’t? This is a last blast by the departing New Labour stooge Ian Blair, one in which government is complicit. Heads should roll.

  23. Hi Michael. I just don’t know. I suspect they may have informed Johnson and the Home Secretary, as they would before any high-profile operation, but I doubt that those politicians ‘ordered’ or ‘arranged’ it. Imagine the uproar if either the Mayor or the Home Secretary interefered to stop the police from carrying out an operation which was already planned…

  24. Having said that, I do think the arrest is ridiculous.

    To the list of things the anit-terror and SOCA laws have been used against (Iceland and a Tory MP), I would also add: Journalists covering protests (NUJ wrote letter to HS), protestors travelling to an arms fair, Climate Camp

  25. Alasdair –

    The government has denied that the PM or the Home Sec knew that the arrest would take place. If it transpires that they did, in fact, know about it then questions will be asked as to why they denied any knowledge in the first place.

    If they’d said ‘Yes, we knew about it but we don’t think it is right for government to intervene in a police operation’ then the story would be entirely different.

    We are being told that a Home Office Official signed off the arrest of a member of the shadow cabinet without the PM or the Home Secretary’s knowledge. It will be difficult for them to prove that they didn’t know, but there should be a paper trial that shows that it is highly unlikely that they knew.

  26. I’m now wondering whether I am right that Green will no longer be eligble for the US visa waiver. The arrest has to be for ‘moral turpitude’. I think this counts; I’ve emailed the embassy for a final verdict.

  27. Seems that Boris Johnson was told about it but not the government, both the police and Boris Johnson have confirmed this. Did Boris do for one of his own? Did the Conservatives want rid of Mr Green?

  28. I’m sure I read in one of the reports that BoJo advised strongly against the operation.

  29. It will suit conspiracists to think that this was ordered by the Government, but no minister of either Party is going to indulge in locking up their opponents. Whether the Government knew or not, it should not interfere in police inquiries (just as it kept out of cash for honours.)

    Politicians have to think very carefully about whether they are confusing the national interest with party political interest when information is leaked out by sympathetic civil servants (if that is what happened here).

    There is always – under any Government – going to be information whch is embarrasing to those in office and useful to the opposition, but laws are there for a reason and it is up to the police to investigate independently any alleged breaches of those laws. If the rule that “no-one is above the law” applied during cash for honours it applies now.

  30. “Anyone who watched Question Time last night ”

    ….will now realise, if they did not do so before, that the so called “fiscal stimulus” of a 2.5% VAT cut was a pointless & ineffective use of a lot of money.

    The CEO of Sainsburys explained why it would not be effective in todays High Street conditions, and both he a small business owner explained the high costs of effecting the change.

    The audience , and the rest of the Panel had some very interesting suggestions for better use of that sort of money.

  31. Warren – “no minister of either Party is going to indulge in locking up their opponents”

    I’ve been told off on my comments before for making assumptions I can’t prove.

    Now, we do know that politicians in other countries have locked up their opponents (Zimbabwe) so it would not be unprecedented. Are our politicians capable of it? Who knows. It can’t be ruled out however.

  32. Frankly its very worrying indeed that Boris knew about and tried to stop it. It is this that we should be extremely worried about. I don’t want a Mayor of London, of any party, trying to influence operational Met Police matters.

    Colin – re your point about the ‘pointless’ VAT cut. It’s far to early to make the statements you are making. 2.5% for any individual transaction is limited, and for any individual consumer its going to be a relatively small saving. But a collective £12.5b kick to the economy is massive – something like 6p off basic rate income tax. The difference is this will all go into the shops. Personally I think Darling has been brave. The easy options were things like NI or income tax – politically popular and much less likely to be sneered at by cynics. I think the VAT option was an honest and somewhat brave move, knowing it would not be brilliantly recieved, but believing it was a more effective choice.

    Please wait 12 months or so and lets then make judgements on how ineffective or otherwise this move is.

  33. If a cut in VAT by 2.5% points is “pointless” then a rise in VAT of the same amount would also be “pointless”, except that it would raise an awful lot of money which could be used to reduce the PSBR or allow other taxes to be cut. Or indeed the government could raise VAT in order to give every adult in the country £300, which would certainly provide a stimulus given there would be no impact from the VAT rise. Apparently.

  34. As a Councillor i occasionally get phoned at home by senior police officers. It’s for information and courtesy. The most recent was to tell me that there had been a death in custody in my ward.

    I was informed because when the news broke I would be contacted to comment.

    In this respect I think the police were right to inform Boris about what they were about to do but as they have stressed they weren’t asking his permission, they were arresting Green whether he liked it or not.

    The issue seems to be whether Green was receiving information from a whistle blower who was leaking information he thought was in the public interest or whether he was involved in a relationship to deliberately obtain confidential government information.

    This is a legitimate thing for the police to investigate.

    If a civil servant sees a minister deliberately lie about something he may well decide he has a moral obligation to leak the truth. Although morally justified it might still be illegal and if it is they should be arrested and charged.

    Whether the courts decide that there is mitigation which would effect the verdict or sentence is a matter for the courts not the police.

    I don’t see any need for much of the hysteria surrounding this.

    If minister X says ” There is nothing wrong with Vaccine A it’s safe” and a civil servant knows the minister has discussed the evidence that it isn’t safe then if he blows the whistle he’d be seen by most as a hero.

    If minister Y says ” We have no troops hunting the Taleban inside Iran” and a civil servant knows there are and that the minister is lying so they leaks it resulting in the deaths of the SAS troops at the hands of the Revolutionary Guards he’s probably be vilified in the press as a traitor.

    Ultimately you need to separate the act from the intent and treat all leaks as matters to be investigated whether the impact or motivation is beneficial or harmful.

    That’s exactly what the police have done, and really all this stuff about “Greengate”, duplicity and conspiracy is just a wierd mix of paranoia and party politics.


  35. Alec:-

    “It’s far to early to make the statements you are making”

    The statement was based on the opinion of the CEO of Sainsburys-unless you can convince me that you know more about retail trade than he does, I think I’ll believe him.

    “The difference is this will all go into the shops.”

    I think you may have a point-given that many shops price on a VAT inclusive basis-and are currently discounting heavily now anyway-the 2.5% may well be retained by retailers as extra margin.

    “The easy options were things like NI or income tax ”

    NI was the preferred option for the CEO of Sainsburys-because it relieves the cost of employing people. This was Tory Policy too-which is why it wasn’t implemented I guess.
    Re Income tax-the George Bush tax giveaway was found to have been saved rather than spent by about 50% of recipients.

    “Please wait 12 months or so and lets then make judgements on how ineffective or otherwise this move is.”

    And how will we make those judgements Alec?

    The whole topic of counter-recessionary measures is fascinating and with many different opinions.Pity the Parliamentary Debate on PBR was such a pointless bear pit.

    I found that looking at what the largest economies in the world have done is instructive.
    Seems to me that by far the most popular approach in the big economies-at least measured by % GDP have been Infrastructure/Construction projects & Monetary measures ( Interest Rate reduction /Credit Insurance/Lending Guarantees/Bad Debt purchase/Bank share purchase etc etc.)

    The current row in EU over Barosso’s proposals ( and who pays for them!!) just about typifies the state of play on the whole subject.

    I see no evidence to support GB’s assertion that “every country” is engaged in a co-ordinated “Fiscal Stimulus” of the sort he implemented.

    The overwhelming evidence seems to be that it is absence of credit which is the key problem.If this is not addressed very soon, IMHO we will see some major casualties after Christmas-not least the Western Hemisphere’s Auto Industry.

  36. Hi Colin, I don’t have solid opinion on whether VAT cuts are the best way to go. I would however say that the CEO of Sainsbury’s is hardly an impartial observer.. NI reduces the cost of employing people, and Sainsbury’s back it – what a surprise. This would simply mean greater profits for Sainsbury’s which will be maintained by its shareholders.

    Income tax cuts would seem fairer to me, but then people may just save the extra…

    On the auto industry, perhaps now would be a good time to say to them that bailouts will only be linked to massively improved environmental standards. Their usual cry that this would hurt their competitiveness seems a bit hollow now. Perhaps if they reinvent themselves at the cutting edge they might have future…

  37. Sainsburys is not likely to be overjoyed at a tax cut that has little benefit to them, as mostly concerned with VAT-free food sales. And although many stores are giving big discounts at present, the VAT reduction will continue for the rest of the year when pre-Christmas and New Year sales are over.

    And if an actual (if temporary) 2.5% VAT reduction is so unimportant, why was there so much synthetic outrage about the mere consideration of the possibility of a rise by 1% later?

    As to “death of New Labour and a move to the left” – it would be great if Labour had the courage to be more openly in favour of redistribution of wealth in favour of the poorest members of society! But all the main parties are desperate to at least appear to cling to the centre ground, so I guess it’s only a token attempt to spread the burden a bit more fairly.

  38. I run a music shop and it costs NOTHING – repeat, NOTHING – to implement the VAT cut. One adjustment on the computer, and a few alterations to price tickets. That’s all. Small business people often complain about red tape. But this is actually helpful to small businesses when coupled with the corporation tax cut.

    John H’s point above is spot on.

  39. Good post JohnH. What we need is another poll to be published over this weekend.

  40. In Oracle mode I’d say the only thing we can fairly safely say about the POLLS in the next few months is that huge Tory leads are probably gone forever and they will stay volatile, with movements in both directions. So it’s no use getting too excited (or disappointed) about each new poll or each small twist in the fortunes of the main parties.

    If I were a real Oracle (or I suppose an anti-Oracle) I’d be confidently predicting a steady Labour lead sometime around Sept 2009, in time for an October election. Or not.

  41. We had a discussion in an earlian post about the pros and cons that might make Brown go for an ‘early’ election. But does anyone have ant thoughts about the size and length of Labour leads in the polls that might make him call a snap election. I can not see Brown calling an election unless he has been in the lead for 3 or more months, with a lead of 3% or more and with polls showing Labour over 36%.

  42. If it is illegal to make public, information under the Official Secrets Act, and a publicly paid politician or civil servant seeks to do so, representatives of all political parties should allow the police to do their duty to uphold the law. The whingeing should cease. The rest of us are bound by the rule of law; why not Messrs Greene, Cameron, Johnson also?

  43. “Sainsburys is not likely to be overjoyed at a tax cut that has little benefit to them, as mostly concerned with VAT-free food sales”

    Sainsburys non-food business is headed for 30% of total sales with a new on-line store for electricals etc. planned-it’s their growth area.

    I think the CEO of Sainsburys speaks with some experience on this matter.
    Members of the audience on QT laughed when asked if 2p in the £ would spur them to buy anything.

    “why was there so much synthetic outrage about the mere consideration of the possibility of a rise by 1% later?”

    I rather think the outrage was the lack of clarity as to what rate VAT would be increased to-17.5%, or 18.5%-or 20%?

    “it’s only a token attempt to spread the burden a bit more fairly”

    I think that’s fair-IFS have demonstrated that the 45% rate will bring in pea-nuts.
    Of course the “fairness” agenda wasn’t applied to Public Sector Pension rights, where 20% of the working population enjoy rights worth on average three times as much as those available to the other 80% .
    An unfairness to be righted on another day -soon- I trust.

    “it costs NOTHING – repeat, NOTHING – to implement the VAT cut.”

    It will cost £115 million in IT costs actually-according to the Treasury.

    “I’d be confidently predicting a steady Labour lead sometime around Sept 2009,”

    You clearly have deep faith in the 2008 PBR-according to which the recession will have just ended by then.
    The CEO of Sainsburys said he thought it would last until 2010 at least-but perhaps he doesn’t know what he is talking about?

  44. Colin – everyone needs to be careful about economic predictions. The one thing we can all agree on is the fact that they are never accurate. [“Economics – the study of the unknowable by the incomprehensible”]

    Not sure about Gary’s point re an early election. I suspect Brown is playng the long game and backing his judgement that his economic predictions are right and that by 2010 the retrospective may appear rosier for Labour, painting the Tories as hysterical ‘novices’ who called the big issue wrong. Not sure I wouldhave the same level of faith however.

  45. The point about the VAT isn’t how little it will affect individual spending – after all, no-one ever considers the VAT when deciding whether or not to buy. The effect willl be felt in the margins that retailers are able to enjoy.

    The increased margin for retailers who rent will allow them to honour their commitments to their landlords (many of them are pension funds!), stay in business and continue to employ people , pay CT and NI, along with the rents paid to pension funds.

  46. Yes there will be costs to the Treasury in reducing VAT, but there shouldn’t be any for a small business like mine & many others. Why any small business which sells VAT standard rated items would not welcome a VAT rate cut is beyond me.

  47. So hypocrisy still thrives does it not? If during the John Major years when as I recall there were countless leaks by whistleblowers to Labour frontbenchers like Robin Cook can you imagine the fuss the left would have made if nine officers from the counter terrorist squad had descended on his London pied a terre and removed half his files and arrested him? I can just hear the cries of ” Facist State'”as thousands marched in protest round and round central London burning their bras or worse..
    The government is not so stupid as to have put the police up to all this but if Boris Johnson, David Cameron and the Speaker of the House of Commons were all informed of what was afoot why apparantly was’nt the Home Secretary? And if she was informed why did’nt she urge restraint at least to the extent of encouraging the police to simply pick up the phone and talk to Mr Green or invite him to pop down to the Yard? The key players whoever they are have a lot of explaining to do and until this is cleared up Tory supporters and others will naturally think the worst….and it will run and run.

  48. Will YouGov be doing a poll on the arrest of an oppositon MP for handling leaked material?

    If so, will the questions cover views on the roles of the Permanent Secretary and the Speaker and what should happen next.

  49. ICM in the Guardian – Con 45 (+3) Lab 30

  50. @ JohnC – care to explain why the documents in question would be covered by the Official Secrets Act in the first place? I mean, we’re talking about (from the BBC:

    The November 2007 revelation that the home secretary knew the Security Industry Authority had granted licences to 5,000 illegal workers, but decided not to publicise it.
    The February 2008 news that an illegal immigrant had been employed as a cleaner in the House of Commons.
    A whips’ list of potential Labour rebels in the vote on plans to increase the pre-charge terror detention limit to 42 days.
    A letter from the home secretary warning that a recession could lead to a rise in crime.

    It’s hardly high security stuff, is it. This is information the public should know, and if it’s being held back under the Official Secrets Act then it’s an abuse of the Act.

    @ Richard – is that a new poll? I can’t get The Grauniad site up for some reason.

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