Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline voting intentions, with changes from last month, of CON 39%(-2), LAB 35%(nc), LDEM 17%(+1). It was conducted between the 5th and 7th December. The other questions in the poll suggest similar slight movements away from the Conservatives.

Where ICM and MORI showed a boost for the Tories following the PBR and ComRes showed a collapse in the Tory lead, Populus is somewhere inbetween. The poll shows a drop in Conservative support, but Labour are unchanged and there is an insignificant rise in Lib Dem support. While the Conservatives are below the highly symbolic 40% level and it is the lowest Tory lead from Populus since March, really this isn’t a big month-on-month shift back to Labour.

It’s tempting, with polls showing things moving in opposite directions, to assume the one is the middle is most likely to be correct. That isn’t necessarily true, but when the picture has been confused until now, this would fit nicely with a narrative that the PBR was initially badly received, but now all those hideous newspaper stories about the government taking out monsterous debts and secretly planning to raise VAT to 18% have vanished, it hasn’t really damaged the government (it could also be that the Damian Green affair has reflected badly upon the Conservatives – sadly the coverage in the Times doesn’t suggest that there were any specific questions about Damian Green).

Then again, its a human failing to assume that things that fit nicely into a narrative are more likely to be true! Hopefully there should be plenty of polls over the next week or so as companies bring them forward to avoid the Christmas period, so hopefully we will soon have a far more complete picture.

94 Responses to “Populus show Tories dropping below 40%”

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  1. Colin-Sorry ,forgot to enter John McCain in your dream team as according to ConHome during the presidential election the Conservatives were going to follow closely to what McCain was successfully showing America was the right economic way forward.

    Just seen Labours hero Osbourne on Newsnight, no wonder the Brown/Darling to Cameron/Osbourne gap is widening. In the end I felt sorry for him for him as he couldn’t answer any of the questions and had to revert to the “Browns recession, lots of borrowing “for every single question. In the end even Paxman said it was not worth asking any more questions as he was getting no answers.

    He then asked him is the reason the gap is wideng because he couldn’t even fix the Conservative finances roof when the sun was shining.

    At the end of the very robust interview, by the look on Osbournes face, I thought he was going to lay one on Paxman.

    It was classic tv politics.

    Any sign of the next poll. If it is Yougov, and the lead has decreased, will they join the ever growing number of pollsters that are showing Labour bias?

    Iain McCulloch – I have aksed everyone of voting age I know who lives in my house who they are voting for at the next election. They all said they were voting Labour. I can’t understand Iain how they can still have the Conservatives still in front, when the information in front of me has it as a Labour landslide.

  2. Recent polls do collectively suggest strongly that the Conservatives are between 39 to 42% and Labour between 32 and 35%

    Due to the most recent poll and the nature of the most recent media coverage I estimate that Yougov’s poll will show Labour on 35% and the Conservatives on 41% and Lib Dems 16%

    Labour under Brown begun by appearing to be complacent, then came a period of near panic and finally with help from his wife and other supporters and advisors they appear to be very focused coming out with a raft of economic policy decisions. And it is now the Conservatives that appear complacent and idealess.

    Talking about ideas I thought that calling the Queen’s speech slimmed down was rather a cunning phrase to use.

    I don’t expect any significant change this month. But come January????????????

  3. Meanwhile almost everyone who understands economics thinks that Brown is a busted flush. the UK’s Credit Default Swaps are trading at 121 bps (!!!) McDonald’s are at 78bps. You can fool some of the people….. etc…

    Eventually economic reality will sink in to the electorate. but 99% of the voters won’t know what a CDS is. Sadly, they will when the lose their jobs because of the excessive risk premium placed on UK debt.

  4. ALmost everyone who understands economics knows that the polls reflect a growing sense that the Conservative Alternative (AKA TINA) involves saying how much they care, but still allowing the recession to run its course.

    In other words, do nothing, learn nothing from the last recession, and let old-style capitalism resolve the problems.

    Osborne versus Paxman – it was the pity in Paxman’s eyes – that must have hurt.

  5. Step away from the partisan argument…

  6. I shall have to watch Newsnight on the iplayer if it’s available. I’ve always felt Osborne is an electoral liability as shadow chancellor.

    He may be a good politician but surely the last 5 years has shown you need someone with a PhD in economics running the exchequer (Cable) rather than a man with a PhD in Labour History (Brown), a 2:1 in Modern History (Osborne) or a Bachelor of Laws (Darling).

    It has only been those people who understand economics that were giving warnings as early as 2003 that we were heading for a major crisis.

  7. The level of debate on the grave economic problems,and the differing ideas about how to address them is very poor at a political level in this country.

    The sound byte packaging of hugely important policy decisions is clearly aimed at voter appeal rather than voter education.

    Phrases like “do-nothing”-countered by “economic crimes” are really pitched at a soap-opera level of communication.If this is the sort of messaging which swing voters in this country require in order to form opinions, it’s a sad reflection on our education system.

    One has to ignore the politicians & TV at present, and read the serious Press to get any objective analysis of what is going on.

    Excluding interest rate falls, which do not fall within the Governments authority, and Bank recapitalisation , I have yet to see credible evidence that any of Brown’s counter-recessionary policies show signs of working.
    I do not want to be told that TINA-because the serious Press discusses alternatives all the time.

    The Times leader today concludes “The Conservatives have now set out a powerful and coherant argument on the economy.The hard part will be sticking to it”

    That, in my book, is a warning to Cameron to ignore Mandelsonian sound bytes about “do-nothing callousness”, to cut out the temptation to respond in kind-and to spell out some detail. It just might be that as the electorate sees the reality of 2009 emerging from behind the present Government rhetoric more of them might start to expect their Government to adopt the belt-tightening which they will have to adopt.

    Cameron needs to keep saying what he would do on Monetary Policy too, since everyone & their dog seems to believe that this is the key area-although I didn’t see it, sounds like Osborne didn’t do a very good job.

    The other thing which would not go amiss is a recognition from politicians of all persuasions that , given the horrendous nature of the global recession now being indicated, there is a limit to what they can do to stop the chickens coming home to roost after our decade of binging on credit.

    No wonder the Polls are tight & confusing.
    The country is polarised.

    One group are seeing their mortgage costs plunge by hundreds of pounds a month, whilst another group are watching their income plunge by hundreds of pounds a month.

    The Populus Poll reginal sub-sets show The North & Scotland with Labour leading Cons by 45% to 28%-and The Rest Of the Country with Cons leading Labour by 45% to 28%

    One wonders if it is actually possible at present for Cameron to communicate with The North & Scotland-or for Brown to communicate with The Rest of the Country.

  8. Colin, The Times did ends their article with what you quoted, but the meat of their message was better summed up by :

    “The logical extension of fiscal restraint over the next two years is to refuse requests for life support from businesses, big and small. The Conservatives will be arguing for the Government to stand by while industries fold and jobs disappear. ”

    In other words “do nothing” (but say it in a way that doesn’t remind people of the collapse of whole communities in the last recession (s).

    Apologies if that seems partisan – just trying to push the notion that polarisation has replaced consensus, and I’m interested to know to what extent that will firm up or soften public opinion.

  9. john-you simply make my point by saying “In other words “do nothing””

    It is no such thing-nor do I think that was the meat of their message.

    There message is-Cameron has a point, but Brown won’t let him make it by simply saying “they will do nothing-we will do lots.”

    Businesses will fold-can Brown save them all?-of course not.
    People will lose their jobs-can Brown stop them all?-of course not.
    On the Daily Politics today Caroline Flint was asked why NR was in the vanguard of reposessions, ie acting counter to Government policy of “helping hardworking families”, whilst being owned by same Government….her reply?…that some mortgagees had very high levels of total debt and constituted unnacceptable risk for the Bank.

    Alleluliah-an honest answer-we can’t save them all.
    I would say that was being honest-not “doing nothing”

    Cameron has outlined the things he would do countless times-as he did today at PMQs when pressing a massive increase in the current tiny loan guarantee scheme.-and still Brown says “they would do nothing”-it’s ridiculous .

    Back to The Times Leader today-you choose your bits & I’ll choose mine:-

    “Mr. Cameron’s position is good economics.There is a growing danger that a rising fiscal deficit in 2011 will be met by the return of inflation &, therefore rising interest rates.This is likely to mean not just higher borrowing but also higher borrowing costs. The combination could severely jeopardise the future growth of the British economy….But the politics will not be easy.Labour will inevitably and understandably paint the Conservatives as the “do-nothing” party.

    Politics today is being conducted in a pathetic condescending fashion at a time of enormous & complex economic difficulties.The consensus you seek is not possible in the world of our Prime Minister, for the only consensus he wants is agreement with his policies to tie the opposition to failure if that is to result, and exclude them from credit if success results.

    That is why we never ever have objective economic discussion in HoC.

    The recession will polarise society john-it’s inevitable when you get winners AND losers.And not even GB can stop all the pain.

  10. Economically is not the same as politically. We had plenty off good economics from Thatcher, Lawson Clarke and co.

    It would make economic sense to do all kinds of things that would cause immense damage to society and culture.

    As a result of TINA, whole communities closed down and a generation of benefit dependents was born.

    Every time an election came round, interest rates and taxes were cut and Labour was portrayed as “same old Labour”. You’re clearly not of an age to remember the condescension and shallow personal rubbish of those times. The braying in the House etc. Nothing’s changed there.

    The Times made it very clear what their view is :

    “The Conservatives will be arguing for the Government to stand by while industries fold and jobs disappear”

    It won’t do Cameron any good at all to claim that his plan of action amounts to more than “standing by” Letting the markets decide is what he’s about.

    Your last remark is remisiscent of Osborne’s speech on failure being part and parcel of successful capitalism.

    Or “price worth paying”.

    It isn’t perceived unfairness that will polarise – it’s a matter of Ideology versus Pragmatism.

    I’d be very happy to have cross-party consensus. It doesn’t require them to agree on anything completely. If Cameron wants to believe the Old Way is the best for now, though, that’s his electoral folly.

  11. I can see history has taken an indelible toll on your outlook john.

    Well maybe it’s the same for all of us-

    My little list includes the DEA & The National Plan; Prices & Incomes Policy ( first hand industrial experience of that little beauty as a young FD!); In Place of Strife, The Winter of Discontent, “Making the pips squeek/ howls of anguish from those rich enough to pay over 75% on their last slice of earnings”.-and the net result of it all-the IMF.

    I think your super-imposition of Thatcherite evils onto David Cameron is silly-I might as well say that Brown will turn into Michael Foot , which would be equally stupid. Both assertions would be pure prejudice.

    I’m more interested in sensible discussion of today’s policy alternatives rather than living in an embittered past.

    Not much chance of it in the present political environment though..

    Roll on the General Election when they will all have to use sentences of more than three words, and answer questions properly.

  12. I don’t think they ever answered straight questions with straight answers.

    Cameron’s trying the Thatcherite cap on for size, not I.

    Labour used to be hampered by their adherence to ideology – I think Cameron’s making the same mistake.

    Ytour “lillte list” reminds me of Peter Lilley !

  13. “Ytour “lillte list” reminds me of Peter Lilley !”

    Is it possible to get copies of the “The Political Guide to everyday words and phrases” ?

  14. Is that by Gilbert and Sullivan?

  15. No-he of Foy and Hartlepool I think- Gordon has a well thumbed copy-you see it every PMQs, all in shreds & tatters with the covers missing.

    Poor old Woolies-looks like there is no buyer for the business.
    30,000 people looking at a bleak future.

    What’s your view john?-do nothing?-do something?
    Polls effect-none?-some?

  16. Colin – surely as it is a private company and it is not profitable enough in the free market no interference is necessary?

    These companies come and go in the free market so no favours or help should be given to them.

    We live by the free market so should companies should die by them?

  17. Well I was just interested Tony.

    Gordon has been insisting that Cameron has a “do nothing” policy and that he would “stand aside” & let the recession “take it’s course” without “helping people”.

    I have been puzzled by this characterisation of Cameron’s stance & so have waited to see how Brown would differentiate his approach when a large group of people actually faced job losses-what would he do that Cameron wouldn’t?

    Sadly the first such of note & magnitude is poor old Woolies.

    No doubt I shall find out in due course, but the stance you have outlined would not be what I would expect to hear-since I think that Cameron would hold the same view-and Gordon says that would be “do nothing”.

    It’s all very confusing isn’t it?

  18. BY the way Tony, I think most people would be surprised at your description of Woolworths as a “come & go” company!

    It is 100 years old and a national institution.

  19. I was actually being scarcastic and showing what would happen if the free market was cut loose.

    In the free market people are objects used to make money. To free marketeers they come and go and can hired and dropped at a moments notice. I heard today that some of the Woolies employees will find out they will be losing thier jobs the day the store runs out of stock, in some instances that will be meaning getting turned away from the store when they go into work, this information was given on Radio 5 by a very upset manager.

    A free market is only hindered by regulation and government intervention.

    Which party has only very recently complained about how much regulation there is in the British system which is strangling the free market.

    The most ironic is my hero was using the British banking system as one where we should have less regulation to stop the strangling of the free market.

    The polls are gradually turning against the party of the free market, who’s idea, wether they blurt it out in public then told to keep stum,of a policy in the recession is to say it is good for the country as it will get rid of the less profitable companies.What happens to the people who work for these less profitalbe companies….join the poor sods from Woolies.

    It shows you how much the Conservative idea of how the country should deal with a recession is appreciated, when the people they are blaming ,have increased the lead on who is best to get the country through it.

    As the recession gets worse and Darling tries to make it shallower, will Osbourne actually come up with something concrete rather than the repeated answer of blaming Brown?It is against the Conservative idea for part nationalisation of private companies and government intervention, but surely times have changed, surely they should adapt thier stance to relate to the changing times.

    At least this question will be answered, because surely he cannot go month on end stating nothing concrete.

  20. Yes Tony-all fine rhetoric-but you didn’t answer my question-what will Gordon do, which Cameron will not do, to save the jobs at Woolworths ?

    By the way how do you feel about this assessment by The Times’economist writing in The Telegraph?:-


    or this assessment of Darlings efforts ,just reported on BBC TV News:-


    Cameron has put forward different policies too-mainly monetary, some fiscal.

    You see Tony these things are not clear cut-there are different views -not all of them in agreement with GB-it’s annoying I know-but thats the way it is because it’s a complicated subject & nothing like it has ever happened before.

    Who knows who’s right-?-but it might not be Gordon might it?

    Perhaps it would be a good idea to have the Election then we could get down to some sensible debate ?

  21. I didn’t say it was clear cut, I was saying that a free market without constraint holds no protection for the individual.No did I say Gordon was right, I was pointing out that the pro-active reaction to the downturn is coming from Darling and the reactive is coming from Osbourne.

    I would welcom an election, maybe then Osbourne would have to produce policy and not hide behind the anti-brown rhetoric.It was quite an eye opener his interview on Newsnight last night.Virtually all his answers when questioned about what he would do was “Well I wouldn’t have done what the government has done” but then struggle to say what he would have done.

    As stated in the polls, the country does seem to trust Brown/Darling more as the weeks go on with the situation we are in, which is quite a revelation as we keep getting told is the Brown recession.It can’t be long if they keep increasing the lead in this subsection of the poll before it starts to move the poll headline.

  22. Could you explain how the Business Loan Underwriting initiative proposed yet again by Cameron at PMQs today is “reactive” Tony?

    These exchanges become as fraught as those at PMQs if the English Language is not used as we all understand it.

    If-as mooted by The Telegraph-the initiative is taken up by the Treasury-does it then become “pro-active” in your Lexicon-or does it stay “re-active” because Cameron & Osborne suggested it?

    Your silence on the Woolworths redundancies presumably indicates that Brown’s policy would likely be the same as Cameron’s?

    If so that at least gets rid of one bit of the sound-byte straw men.

  23. GARY GATTER wrote – it’s a world recession and is not just the UK – he forgot to mention that it was Britain and the USA that caused the world recession and it’s Britain that is paying the heaviest cost due to terrible mismanagement of the economy in general.

    For all doubters – this peculiar little closing of the gap in the POLLS is going to be a very short lived episode – and if put to a real general election it would still be a landslide for the Conservatives – whenever it’s called !

  24. One positive point with all these recent blips in the POLLS showing a narrower gap – is a lot of the left leaning contributors to this site who had disappeared , have now suddenly reappeared – Bless !

  25. It shouldn’t be Govt policy to prop up lame duck companies that have saddled themselves with hundreds of millions of pounds of debt.

    Hopefully those outlets will be re-fitted and put to good use by a not-so-lame retailer who can get as many of the unemployed as possible back into work.

    The best thing the Govt can do to help that is not to pile in with good money after bad. As far as I know there was no question of Govt intervention to propo up Woolworths.

    Come the election, the question will be about the extent to which Govt policies have worked, and lots of hypothetical argument about how much worse/better things would have been with Osborne and Cameron at the tiller.

    That’s blindingly obvious, and quite different from helping out the banks, starting with Northern Rock, which Darling and Brown did in the face of befuddled opposition.

  26. “It shouldn’t be Govt policy to prop up lame duck companies that have saddled themselves with ….. debt. ”

    What about people?

  27. Of course Govt should support “lame duck” people who have saddled themselves with debt.

    Who thinks not?

    Life deals blows to people.

  28. I agree with Tony about Osborne on Newsnight.

    Osborne – “£681bn is too much for government to spend”
    Paxman – “So how much is ‘not too much’?”
    GO – “I can’t say”
    JP – “Well what level of spending would you say isn’t too much?”
    GO – “I don’t know, we’ll need to see”
    JP – “Then how can you say £681bn is too much?”
    GO – “It just is”

    I agree with Osborne that it is too much, but it would have been nice if he’d given an indication as to whether he was looking at £500bn, £600bn, £650bn or whatever. There’s no point in saying what something shouldn’t be if you don’t give an indication as to what it should be. Very poor show, and he continues my worries that he could well cost the Conservatives the next election – he just isn’t a chancellor.

  29. If he’d said £661bn, that would at least have been consistent with the opposition to the recent £20bn tax cuts.

    The hypotheticals are going to dominate the argument for years.

    As an example :

    I read Colin’s linked article in the telegraph which claimed our regulators could have stepped in and said no to the CDS’s, the smelly asset backed securities from the USA, the 100% + LTVs, and everything would have been fine.

    If such intervention had occurred there would have been massive oppostion from the Conservatives to “over-regulation driving away our successful financial services sector.”

    Osborne would have been advocating allowing banks to determine their own risk policies, and quoting Redwood’s report in support.

  30. Camerons call for an election campaign over christmas and new year (election jan 7th) is bizarre. Has there ever been a Christmas election?

  31. Perhaps too much partisan stuff above and history but good news is we have clear blue (maybe red) water which is going to play out as we approach the GE.
    I suggested on Tuesday before the Paxman interview (such a sage) that Cam needs to ditch Osborne to have any chance of outright victory. This is not bias from me but a judgement on how he is viewed by the electorate as being out of his depth and out of touch. If the Prime Minister is not a great Economist which Cam isn’t they can get away with it if their Chancellor is perceived well (Thatcher had Howe and Lawson; Blair had Brown) Problem for Cam is 2 fold; first, to not stand by Osborne he will be seen as caving in and disloyal but he should ignore the short term downside and probable poll numbers impact, be decisive and shuffle him soon to give the new person a chance to become known. Bigger problem for him is who to replace Osborne with.Any Tories got any thoughts on who should be Shadow Chancellor?

  32. “The hypotheticals are going to dominate the argument for years.”

    Yes I think that is lergely true-though economists will no doubt write the definitive story in due course.

    Some questions are reasonably easy to posit an answer for though:-

    Man goes into shop & buys TV set.
    TV was reduced in price two days ago from £100 to £60 as a Sale discount, and again this morning by £1.30 to £58.70 following a VAT reduction of 2.5% pts.

    Did the man decide to buy the TV as a result of hearing about the store’s discount sale-or because of hearing about the VAT reduction?

    In answering you can give a probability rating to either factor.

  33. James –

    John Redwood seems to be the man who is rated highest among Tories on the economy.

    I saw a ‘Daily Politics’ a while ago where they had Ruth Kelly, John Redwood and Vince Cable as guests. Kelly was completely hopeless and just repeated government spiel about ‘taking action necessary’ but that’s hardly surprising as she’s not an economy person (some might say she’s not any kind of person, but I digress).

    Redwood made good sense and came across well especially considering he was sat next to Cable who, as I’ve said before, has a PhD in Economics and knows far more than Osborne, Darling, Brown and Redwood combined. Unfortuantely, he’s unlikely to get into the exchequer unless there’s a ConLib coalition.

    The chancellor really should have a background in either finance or economics as it is too crucial a post to leave to lawyers (Darling) and historians (Brown/Osborne).

  34. “I agree with Osborne that it is too much”

    And me-I wonder if he had read this ? !!


  35. Paul Smith – 1909/1910. Parliament was prorogued on the 3rd December 1909, polling began on the 15th January 1910, so whatever passed for an election campaign in 1909 was happening over Christmas.

    Prior to 1918 voting in general elections lasted a couple of weeks, in the late 19th century there don’t seem to be any when the voting period extended over Christmas itself, but before that I can’t find the actual polling dates so it could have happened.

  36. The problem with allowing economists to run things is simply that, on economic matters, they are invariably wrong about almost everything.

    The benefit would be that they are not prone to telling lies, but we’re cross-threading now and getting into the realms of allowing “experts” to decide everything.

  37. Colin – the answer is that the store would have left the discount at 40% off and pocketed the difference. No shopper ever considers the VAT when shopping.

  38. “on economic matters, they are invariably wrong about almost everything.”

    Oh great john-I’ll stop worrying about debt then-one wonders why Paxo got so het up about it -let it rip eh?

    “No shopper ever considers the VAT when shopping.”

    That is the right answer-disqualifying you from ever working for The Treasury. The good news is the German Treasury will employ you like a shot.

  39. The treasury people know that a 2.5% cut wouldn’t bring people out to the shops as a headline, but the effect of the measure is to put £18bn into the economy. That will have its own effect, not entirely related to the rather simplistic “it’s only 13p off” analysis.

  40. The general rule of the economist is to disbelieve the prediction until you have understood the explanation, and even then remain sceptical.

    I believe that is remarkably similar to the general rule of the psephologist.

    …something called the scientific method, I daresay.

  41. Mark – Nice to see you enjoyed the interview of Osbourne as well. Anyone can answer questions by saying that what the government is doing is wrong.

    You look a complete fool when asked what he would do to reply…”I don’t know”.

    Cameron wants his mate to become chancellor, no wonder the polls are pointing to an increase in the Brown/Darling,Cameron/Osbourne lead on the current economy.

    On a personal note I wish Osbourne could be interviewed every day.

  42. “this peculiar little closing of the gap in the POLLS is going to be a very short lived episode”.

    “Hello is that John McCain, what is it like to be president”

    “What do you mean you are not president The Oracle said you where going to win and he never gets his predic tions wrong,he told us dozens of times”

  43. As someone who runs a charity the VAT reduction has reduced the cost of buying services – which will be true for all businesses

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