The polls are now showing levels of support that would result in a hung parliament that would, given the maths, almost certainly produce another Labour government. However, expectations continue to be that Labour will lose the next election. As I type the bookies still have the Conservatives as the heavy odds-on favourite, betting spreads have a Tory majority, the last time the PoliticsHome panel of MPs, political journalists and so on were polled 40-odd percent still thought there would be a Conservative majority, even left leaning pundits like Michael White in the Guardian are saying they still don’t expect Labour to win. Why?

I can’t claim to know the mind of punters or pundits, they may all simply be in denial, but I suspect the reason is because they expect the economic situation to eventually sap the government’s support. Unless they expect a substantial recovery in the economic situation next year, they are probably right to do so: let’s look at the figures.

The simplest thing we can say is that people are very pessimistic. Asked if the economy is getting better or worse people are overwhelmingly negative – in MORI’s lastest poll 66% expected the economy to get worse next year. This is, however, a bit of a statement of the bleeding obvious. To get any thing useful we need to look a bit beyond that, and that reveals two interesting gaps between expectations and what is likely to happen.

Firstly, there is a sharp contrast between people’s expectations of their own families finances and that of the country as a whole. The difference is sharpest in Populus’s questions – the net score for expections of the economy as a whole is minus 35, for “me and my family” it’s plus 7 (51% think they personally will do well in the next 12 months, 44% badly). In TNS’s regular surveys of consumer confidence for Nationwide the net score for the public’s expectation of the economy in 6 months is minus 23, but for people’s own household it is exactly neutral (16% think they’d be doing better, 16% worse).

Some people of course won’t suffer, mathematically its theoretically even possible that most people won’t, if a few big losers outweigh many small winners. Realistically though we have a gap between expectations and reality here – people think the economy is headed for disaster, but they and their family will manage to buck the trend. While some will be right, the chances are an awful lot of them won’t be. Reality check one.

The second is the upturn in economic optimism. While all polls show people very pessimistic about the economy, almost all the trackers of public confidence in the economy show it heading upwards since the summer. Specifically, many show a big spike around the time of the bank rescue plan (see, for example, MORI at the end of this pdf, or this TNS data).

This also, of course, co-incides with the Labour government’s recovery in the polls. This isn’t as obvious as perhaps it sounds, when polls have asked specifically about whether the PBR, say, will improve the situation very, very few say it will make a big difference. The recovery in economic confidence though tells the underlying truth; people may not be able to point at a specific policy and say it will solve things, but collectively the government’s actions have served to convince some people that things are getting better. It suggests that Labour have recovered in the polls not just because people have seen Gordon Brown looking more capable, purposeful and at ease with himself, the Labour party more united, or have looked to experience in a crisis. Support for Labour has increased because people think the action they’ve taken is actually working.

Here then, is the problem. If the government’s increased popularity is due to people thinking their policies will work, what happens if they don’t? And on what criteria will that judgement be made?

If the criteria for success was avoiding a recession or major job losses this would be an easy exercise with a very bad answer for Labour. Thankfully for Gordon Brown, that’s not the yardstick he’ll be judged by. We know the public expect a recession, we need to judge how deep their expectations are – for that we need to look at questions asking what people think about the economy in the future. Going back to the TNS data for Nationwide, asked about the current economic situation 76% think it is bad, 15% normal and 9% good – this has been on a steady downwards trend since 2007. When TNS ask how people think the economy will be in 6 months time 45% think it will be worse, 30% the same, 22% better – significantly up from a few months previously. In other words, a majority of people now think we’ve hit the bottom and a significant minority of them think we’ll be on the up in 6 months time. In Nov 08 Populus too found a significant chunk of people taking a more positive view: 31% of people told Populus they thought the economy would do well in the next year, up from 22% in July. MORI’s last figures are less optimistic, but the optimists are there – 18% think things will get better, 14% the same, so almost a third think we’ve reach the bottom (again, significantly higher than in the Summer).

I’m not an economist, I’ve no particular way of knowing what will happen to the economy next year, but I am not seeing any predictions that next year will be anything but horrific economically. If that does happen the chances are – though it is not a foregone conclusion – that this will push economic confidence down again as reality hits home. The thing that will do it is not the raw economic figures, but experiences of friends and family, and the stories that make it real, things like the immentient closure of Woolies and the job losses that will entail, and the further companies and employers that we can expect to go to the wall next year if the predictions are correct.

Will this necessarily be bad for the government though, surely the recession has been good for Labour so far? There is a perception that, whereas governments normally lose popularity when the economy goes horribly wrong, Gordon Brown and Labour have bucked the trend. That perception is wrong. Confidence in the economy started going after the run on Northern Rock – roughly the same point that Labour’s lead vanished and the Conservatives moved ahead. Labour’s position completely tanked in the months after the budget, at the same time as economic confidence really began to fall through the floor. The recent recovery in Labour’s position in the polls dates from the bank rescue in October 2008, which has also seen a recovery in economic confidence. The graph below shows the public’s net expectations for the economy in 6 months time, from TNS’s monthly survey for Nationwide (in blue), compared to Labour’s average lead in the polls over the last 18 months or so (in red).

graph

It speaks pretty much for itself. Brown’s government’s fortunes are not defying gravity, they are tied to perceptions of the economy. Since the bank rescue plan significant numbers of people have become more optimistic about the economy and Labour’s fortunes have gone hand in hand with that recovery in economic optimism. If that falters I suspect Labour’s support might go the same way, and at the moment all the predicts are that it will. That is the reason to think that the forcecast for Labour isn’t as rosy as the actual voting intention figures we are seeing at the moment would suggest.

The worst thing for Brown is that even if the economy actually does do well, the economic pundits are all proved wrong and the British economy bounces back strongly before any expects, he still isn’t out of the woods. At that point, as Danny Finkelstein wrote earlier this month, the public suddenly have much less reason to be risk adverse and the “experience vs novice at a time of crisis” argument ceases to work. It’s worth remembering that while polls now universally show that Gordon Brown is more trusted than David Cameron to deal with the present crisis, Populus still have Cameron leading as best to “lead Britain forward after the next general election”. Similarly, YouGov show Labour miles ahead on dealing with the economy in the present crisis, but the Conservatives ahead on the economy per se.

So, while the current polls are good for Labour, at least in the sense they would probably end up the largest party if there really was an election tomorrow, the problems ahead are daunting. Obviously anything can happen, but the chances of a Labour victory are probably lower than the raw voting intention scores would suggest – hence the pundits and punters opinions I started the article with. However, even if the economy does drag Labour’s support down again, it doesn’t follow its going to happen straight away, or indeed that Labour won’t rise further before economic reality hits home. If Labour do get closer to the Conservatives in the polls (or indeed overtake them) in the new year, then Gordon Brown really should call an election there and then. Under the circumstances, he could win it.


81 Responses to “The abyss ahead of Gordon Brown…”

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  1. The other reason why I detect little movement on the betting markets is that although there is volatility in the polls, actual local election results have been appalling for Labour. For example, recent wins for the Tories in Walsall (in a seat where they had never previously won) and Rhyl (said to be one of the most deprived wards in the country) suggest that the Tories can mount a reasonable challenge in any seat where they are second behind Labour and that the Labour party ‘machine’ at grassroots level is almost non-existent. Tory PPCs needing swings of up to 10% remain very confident that they are favourites to win at the next GE.

  2. Although I’m not sure I quite agree with all your conclusions, I congratulate you Anthony on this thorough analysis. Certainly food for serious thought.

  3. Show me the same graph over a ten year period and I might believe you. Statistically the claim has little basis. Rather like plotting the price of cheese against the net Tory lead.

    Has anyone tried the inverse of the petrol price?

  4. I think that the rise in support for Labour is due in large part to Labours attempts to find answers for the current problems. Some will work some won’t. But it’s the attempt that is making the difference, as long as they keep trying and don’t just let events run their course, then I think Labours support will continue to rise next year.

    One final point, and one I hope we can all agree on,
    Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

  5. Thankyou, an excellent analysis. It also answers the one thing I’ve not been able to get my head around, why are people coming back to Labour despite everything that is happening?

    Correct me if I’ve misinterpreted what you’ve said, but it turns out that Labour’s recovery is nothing to do with the ‘do nothing’ attacks on the Conservatives but instead because of a lower feeling of doom about the economy (it’s not quite a confidence in it because the net expectations are still negative).

    Labour supporters who felt they had done too much damage walked away from them and are now returning when they see that it doesn’t take a different government to improve the outlook.

  6. Mark – the polls that have tested the “do nothing” message about the Conservatives have found less support for it than I expected.

    I wouldn’t have thought it had much connection anyway, in my view Labour’s increase in support is a positive endorsement of Gordon Brown and Labour by people who think he is handling the economic crisis well and the things he is doing are going to work, rather than any negative reaction to the other parties.

  7. Anthony- I wouldn’t say that yet. To me, it feels like a returning to home of Labour supporters who felt that their party wasn’t doing, and wasn’t able to do, the best for the country and so switched to the conservatives. Recent developments have convinced these floating voters that they were wrong to move away from their traditional party.

    I would be surprised, although I don’t have the figures, if Labour’s policies in the economic crisis have convinced (many) traditional Tory supporters to vote Labour. To me, that would be a positive endorsement – it’s more of a not negative endorsement at the moment. It’s an improvement though, and one they will hope they can build on.

  8. Thank you Anthony,

    I really do appreciate your occasional thorough analysis of polls and their underlying meaning . Without wishing to cause offence if comment were more related to such matters than to contributors own political prefernces I think we would see rather more light than noise!

    I wonder though if I might make one enquiry for your suggestion that he might win an early election doesn’t seem to take into account the widely reported comment that such an event would produce the argument that all he’s doing is cutting and running.

    As that argument seems also to underly your reasoning for him to go early is it realistic to think such an attack by both Tories and Lib Dems would not be effective?

  9. It is hard to fathom quite what is is that the public think Brown is doing right – running up debts in a poorly directed fashion that will destroy our future potential for wealth doesn’t seem particularly difficult or clever .As for experience, what in this man’s CV is positive? There is such a thing as a incompetence as well as experience; Which he possesses more of, I would gladly contend. For a long time during Labour’s reign, I have been left with the impression the UK economy has been managed very much like a small boat on a massive sea – powerless to exert control – Reflecting on it now, that seems even more accurate as a description of Labour’s management of the economy to date, only now they’re bailing like crazy as the ship sinks.

  10. “the polls that have tested the “do nothing” message about the Conservatives have found less support for it than I expected.”

    Might be interesting to see a response to a ‘stop digging’ message about Labour, every poll I’ve seen recently suggests that increases in government borrowing are very unpopular.

  11. STATTO

    I just had a look at petrol prices v labour support for 2008. There is a slight trend (R-squared is .8496 if someone who remembers more stats than me can tell me if it’s useful here) towards higher petrol prices lowering Labour support.

    The equation is

    Y = 66.678 – 0.3414X

    where Y is Labour support % and X is petrol price in pence.

  12. Anthony, I think you mean ‘run on Northern Rock’ rather than ‘run on Bradford and Bingley’.

  13. David D – it’s hard to say. If the early election fever starts up again in January I expect I’ll do a post on what might happen if there was one then.

    Part of me thinks that it would really undermine the whole “trustworthy steady hand at the tiller” narrative. On the other hand last month I was chatting about it with the former editor of one of the big newspapers, and his view was that in practice as soon as the election had been called, people would stop caring about “process” issues like timing and get on with it and he may have a good point. It wouldn’t do the Conservatives any favours in an election campaign if Labour were talking about the economy and schools and education, and the Tories were talking about how naughty Brown was calling an election at the wrong time.

    Dave B – narratives criticising borrowing do seem to chime with the public when asked about in polls – but clearly they either haven’t hit home, or got through to the extent where they have damaged support for them.

  14. I wonder how risky a general election campaign might prove for Brown, early or not. So long as he can play Chancellor rather than Prime Minister, he comes across as confident of his turf. The economic crisis has enabled him to do exactly that. But, central though the economy is, in a general election campaign he’d have to step outside the box again and it doesn’t take much for his tin ear and clod-footedness to manifest. He’s pretty much handed over the reins of power to Mandelson but he can’t hide in the Dark Lord’s skirts forever.

  15. Very interesting but there’s a mistake here:

    “Confidence in the economy started going after the run on Bradford and Bingley – roughly the same point that Labour’s lead vanished and the Conservatives moved ahead.”

    That should be the Northern Rock not the B&B although there’s so many failed financial institutions it is difficult to remember which is which!

    I have said before that Brown should have taken a big risk in a December 4th election and your analysis backs this up.

    One thing that does surprise me is that so many people seem to think the economy in general and their own personal finances will improve next year. I suppose that the type of person who reads political blogs though is more than averagely knowledgeable about the economy.There are going to be a lot of shocked and angry voters soon who will be looking for someone to blame. The ‘I saved the world’ comment might not go down well with them.

  16. I think Browns actions on the economy have more resonance with the public than the doubts about the borrowing with regards to voting because the borrowing is in the future.

    It’s like bailing out of a burning plane over enemy territory; Your main focus is getting a parachute not worrying about getting shot when you land.

    The main thrust of Anthony’s argument seems to be that once people are out of the plane and floating to the ground there attention will turn to the troops below.

    Peter.

  17. James – Will there ever be a thread on this site where someone doesn’t go personal on the government. Were you not the one that said you used to be Labour?

    God knows what they have done to you for you to spill bile on every thread about them.

    Very interesting report Anthony, however you mentioned punters and I have noticed Mike Smithson of PB saying that he is now selling Conservative seats. Thought that was a good pointer, maybe not.

  18. Martin and Richard – you are both entirely right of course, that should be Northern Rock, not Bradford and Bingley

  19. A very interesting post Anthony, which I think is close to the truth.

    Another fact may be the return of Mandelson and Campbell. They have regained control of the narrative
    for the time being.

    Earlier this evening I was speaking to a cousin who works for a small roofing company. They have just laid off two senior people and though no further redundencies are planned she feels we are only at the beginning of the recession.

    My cousin is not someone who is that interested in politics and she is very much a floating voter. How she would vote at an election, I do not know.

  20. Very interesting and I agree with your analysis however I still don’t see the poll happening until May 2010.

    Brown likes being PM too much to give it up earlier than he has to when he might get beat anyway.

    Sure he will almost certainly get beat if he leaves until May 2010 but at least he’ll have the job for a lot longer and he did wait (in his mind)) an awfully long time to get the job.

  21. It will come down to whether the UK suffers much worse for longer than many other countries. The US and much of Europe is ahead of us in terms of timing, so for now the judgement that this is a global crisis is sufficient to deflect blame from Brown to an extent. Even if things get very bad here, if they are comparable to elsewhere its not necessarily curtains for Labour. If the UK picks up relatively early, who knows? I suspect in those circumstances the ‘do nothing’ tag could be quite effective.
    Once you’ve been in a very dark place, even a small light appears very bright – if negative expectations are found to be exaggerated, who knows?

  22. The thrust of this piece is erroneous and not evidence based.

    The polls show two things:-

    1. A month on month gain for Labour – the gap is now about 4% on average of all polls.

    2. That gap has reduced by around 4% per month – each and every one of the last 3 months.

    Now suppose this gap closes by only 2 or 3 more points by, say, February 2009. A snap election then would indeed see Labour as the largest party – and by some distance.

    There is nothing in the polls to dispute this. To suggest otherwise is speculation and not poll analysis.

  23. A very interesting analysis & a fascinating read Anthony-thanks very much.

    Your graph is most impressive-and certainly somewhat persuasive.

    The thing which excercises me just now though is the validity of the entity- “the public”- in the Polling context. The political homogeneity of non-partisan voters is surely being severely tested by both the recession & Government policy.

    There are clear winners & losers evident now & one can only imagine that this polarisation will magnify next year.
    These opposing forces are clearly part of the mix which results in your graph, but I wonder if they could start to test it’s perfectly matched trends as the recession deepens?

    eg:-
    Mortgagees whose economic perception is more gloomy, moving to Labour in order to ensure continued low mortgage payments.

    Public Sector floating voters whose economic perception is more gloomy, moving to Labour to ensure job security.

    Large groups of Private Sector employees -eg the auto industry-under threat of redundancy ,moving to Labour in order to ensure continued State support for their company.

    Clearly there will be groups who will move away from Labour because they are being hit by the recession-Savers & Pensioners might be two such just now.But if these two groups already tend to favour the Conservatives, they will not alter the average lead in your Graph.

    However-for now the graph looks impressive. Whether it would withstand the enormous strains of another 1million unemployed & zero interest rates will remain to be seen.

  24. Maybe the Labour switchers just see things very simplistically. Petrol prices coming down – Prices coming down all over the place – Interest rates coming down with knockon mortgage effects.

    If you look at it simplistically people have more money and can buy more things with them.

    Won’t last two months though ……

  25. If we understand that there are clear winners from this economic crisis among the consuming classes (ie securely empolyed, mortgage payers) the rise in support for the government corrolates strongly with the number of people who have more money in their pockets.

    There are a lot of people who are only vaguely interested in politics for whom this crisis is nothing more than a subject of gossip and they are very content to continue keeping their heads down looking after number one. They may heed the general advice to keep a closer eye on their private budgets, but they aren’t experiencing any great hardships.

    These ‘under the radar’ voters are largely the centre-ground floaters who swing en masse and who are decisive in the marginals.

    So my feeling is that Brown is hoping to benefit from a policy of keeping this group sweet while judging carefully to call an election before they turn against him when things get worse.

  26. Statto –

    I’ve looked at even more information about the economy confidence v labour lead. Going back to May 2004, as far as Nationwide’s data goes, Labour have never held a lead in the monthly average poll if the %of people thinking the economy will get worse is 33% or above.

    Below this it seems the economic outlook is not a good predictor of voting behaviour, but if a third or more have the view things will get worse then Labour will struggle to gain a lead in the polls.

  27. Thomas – “Keepin their heads down and looking after number one”Fully agree with that statement. The vast majority of people vote for whom they think will make them richer, those that will put more money in thier pocket. I do chuckle to myself when people say they are voting for party A because it is best for the countryor even best for the economy. Take away a few millionaires who vote for Labour knowing that they will be taxed more it is always number one who counts for virtually all the electorate.

    That is why it is hard to keep all of what is a varied selfish electorate happy.As said earlier, if you can keep a majority thinking they are winning and happy you win the election as with anything there are always financial winners and losers.Harsh, but it is human nature to be selfish.

  28. Conservatives 7% up on Yougov tonight up one point.

    I expect the Orhahahahcle to appear from the McCain inaugural celebrations soon to start digging Labours grave again.

  29. And I suspect that the Tory lead will gradually pick up to above 10% over Christmas as people start to appreciate the dire consequences of the present economic situation, and recognise that Gordon Brown having been in charge of the exchequer for over 10 years may be at least in part responsible.

    Also I suspect that folks will begin to think that a problem of overindebtedness cannot be solved in the long run by borrowing more; they may compare the country’s situation with their own circumstances, and recognise that the problem can only be resolved by cutting back spending while preserving income.

    With the long Christmas break coming up, they will have plenty of time to cogitate about such matters, helped no doubt by media comment and analysis.

  30. After Christmas, when unemployment hits 2m, and continues to rise at about 100K per month, you will see the Brown Bounce peter out rapidly. As everyone is touched by unemployment (yourself, family member, friend, acquaintance) the fear factor will kick in. Also don’t forget in an election campaign the Tories have a (not so secret) weapon – Gordon’s own words, repeated time and again. It will have a big negative effect.

  31. I am having considerable difficulty reconciling the polls carried in newspapers from the polling organisations with real polls that have been taking place every Thursday in by elections across the country. The only consistent thing about these is a continuous swing against Labour in every corner of the UK.
    I still believe that there is a determined and underhand effort going on to lead Gordon Brown into a General election ambush.

  32. Latest Yougov poll Conservative 42% (+2) Labour 35% (-1) LibDems 14% (nc). Who knows, maybe this is just peeping over the edge of the abyss – MFI and woolworths going under just the start – ?

  33. You gov will have a subtle impact on the mood as we hit the xmas break, has the momentum shift ended, is this as far as the bounce goes etc.

    I do think people not comfortable with the double our debt approach such as the German Finance minister and this week the Archbishop of Canterbury and now the Head of OPEC tackling Brown over our fuel taxes as being the place to look at show a risk to our great leader. The Tory discomfort over the debt levels may actually start people to feel uncomfortable too (Woolies, MFI and who knows next Jag? will sap this economic confidence).

    I already know personally 4 people who have been made redundant in the most exposed industries but this will spread to retail / transport before long. They are an investment banker, builder, electrician and surveyor.

    As he plays the global saviour, he exposes himself to a global audience of people where some inevitably won’t agree with him / like his views or being outstaged….

    If the media starts reporting each attack, this then would start to undermine the stature he thinks he now has… my bet is that come January, these polls were as good as it got.

    I think…

  34. a few grammer issues there, sorry. No coffee this morning.

  35. Niced to see no knee jerk reactions here.We wouldn’t on here after months of improving opinion polls for Labour state that one poll in the margin of error that shows that the Conservatives lead up by a monumental 1 point prove that the tide is turning.

    No, people on here would not let there own bias make one poll the monumental shift in the other direction….would they?

  36. A few for the new year:

    UKPR Posters Rule 1 – Near Christmas claim that any polls near Christmas should be ignored as people will be either shopping,pissed up, away on holidays etc when the poll is taking place……….except when it is in your parties favour then it is a wind change in politics.

    Rule 2:Always find the positive in a poll for your favoured party, even if the headline figure is awful.

    Rule 3:If you cannot find a positive just slag off the other parties without mentioning the poll.

    Rule 4:Make unfoundered biased outlandish predictions on everything from the Presidential elections to bye-elections then go missing for a few weeks when they turn out wrong.

    Rule 5:if the polls are going the wrong way, point to favourable bye-election or council election results.

    Rule 6:Again if no positive from the poll state you have just done a straw poll of the 6 people you have spoke to in a supermarket and they all agreed with you so the polls are wrong.

    Rule 7:If there is a small positive in the headline of the poll always over-react and try to magnify it as much as possible.

    Rule 8:If there is a small negative in the headline of the poll always use the MOE card(see me above) and say it should be ignored.

    Rule 9:If all the above fails, say you do not believe the polls as it is not what is happening on the street, not what you have been hearing whilst hitting the doorstep, not what Auntie Betty has told you etc.

    Rule 10:If all else fails state that the poll has been fixed for the paper it has been done for.

    Golden Rule if all all above has been used by other posters:Claim the poll is a ROGUE or an OUTLIER and should be ignored.

    Have I missed anything out?

    All the best, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

  37. An interesting point on the YouGov poll is that

    “Only 31 percent of people think Labour is more likely to run Britain’s economy well, compared to 31 percent who back the Conservatives.”

    The one thing that’s been fairly consistent in polls is that Labour has led on running the economy so to me this is the more interesting result.

    The 7% Tory lead is in line with the 5-6% we’ve been seeing so unless other polls too start showing an increasing Tory lead it’s nothing to write home about.

  38. Anthony, at what point do a number of insignificant changes actually become significant? I ask this because Yougov seems to be a case in point. Two polls ago the Tory lead was 4 points, then 6 points and the latest is 7 points. The odd point here and there can be easily dismissed as ‘noise’, sampling or MoE if one is so inclined, but if 10 consecutive polls were to add 1 point to the Tories and take 1 point from Labour then obviously there’s a 20 point change, all from – in isolation – insignificant changes. So at what point, in your opinion, does it become a trend, or a significant change, rather than being written off in the ways mentioned above?

  39. The Weighted Moving Average is 40:34:16 which gives the smallest CLead since Feb. The only recent polls that have been “rogues” have been ICM 26/11 and ComRes 30/11 which have been out by +6.6 and -6.4 respectively. Note that these errors have cancelled themselves out as we would expect.

    Anthony’s analysis seems v much on the button here. No-one who understands the economy thinks that this recession will be short or gentle, or that “the UK is better placed than other economies” – as the collapse of Sterling makes clear. How the public react to those who claim otherwise and to have “saved the world” when they find out remains to be seen…

  40. True – just the one poll but it does show 40+ – let’s see how things go in the next few polls in Jan.

  41. John Varley, CEO of Barclays has just described the “abyss” in succinct terms, and for the first time I’m aware of from a Banker; set out the truth-that less debt is required , not more of it.:-

    Talking to the BBC’s Business Editor Robert Peston, Mr Varley said that a reduction in the overall quantity of debt in the economy was necessary.

    “I think that we will see the process of reduced borrowing play out over at least the course of the next 12 months maybe, maybe 24 months,” he said in the interview.

    The amount of credit available was “shrinking, it absolutely is, and that is a painful process, it’s a process through which the world absolutely has to go,” he insisted.

  42. I thought the analysis was spot on and chimes with view that the only chance Brown has is early in the year.
    The whole Labour position and fortunes are based on the PBR. All of the alarming borrowing calculations are based on the economy coming out of recession and seeing growth in the second half of 2009.
    The stupidity of this claim cannot be blurred or altered as time marches on.
    The already criminal borrowing will be seen to increase. Also the tax rises will start to come into view as time moves on.
    I believe there is a simple yet devastating message that will destroy the little credibility that Labour have left
    “Labour has destroyed the economy every time they have had power”.
    The Tories have seen this, if fact it was the base for Osborne’s reply to the PBR.
    Once this simple message gets an airing it will chime in people’s minds with they’re experience of Labour.

  43. A brilliant piece of analysis. I say that because it mirrors my opinion!

    Labour will know they are in trouble when people begin to feel their own mortality. When John hears that his mate Bob has just lost his job his opinion will alter accordingly. He’ll wonder if he’s next.

    At that point people will forget that they have greater disposable income thanks to falling prices and mortgage rates and shall instead worry about unemployment.

    I am surprised to see a third of voters predicting rosier economic times ahead within 6 months. Of course Darling said the same in his PBR. That was a fatal mistake. We’re facing the worst recession for 80 years. Things will be bloody and it seems many do not see it coming.

    I don’t know when reality will hit home and when people will realise their own mortality. I fear for this Gov’t that will be the tipping-point. From then on the only question will be about the size of the Tory win.

    It will be Labour’s Black Wednesday moment. I imagine it’ll have occured by Easter. I would suggest therefore that Brown needs to hold his election by Easter.

    For Gordon I’m afraid the song may be ‘Things can only get worse’.

  44. There’s a clearly defined lag in public opinion on the economy vs reality.

    You could see this in London house prices until recently. Sellers ignored the papers and the advice of their estate agents and continued to mark up their properties according to historic inflation levels. This meant that asking price (opinion) inflation continued to persist long after selling prices (reality) had dived. People had heard about other people’s properties being discounted but didn’t believe it would happen to theirs.

    I expect a similar phenomenon is occuring with general economic expectations now. People hear of other people being made redundant but believe it won’t affect them. Alas, the more uninterested in politics the person, the more likely they are to suffer from this lag in perception. This supports Antony’s assertion that as reality filters through, Labour supporters’ views on the economy will change drastically.

  45. It would be wise indeed to discount from now on any polls done exclusively by phone.

    These only reach those available on land lines which cuts out a hige proportion of voters under thirty years old and almost half of landline users are not accessible to phone canvassing by choice or because they are not listed in directories.
    Available to phone canvassers now is an unrepresentative subset mainly in the lower middle and lower social class, mostly over 50 years old which has a predisposition towards Labour.
    It would be worth comparing the results of phone only polls to polls with a wider method of contact.

  46. Thank you Anthony for this enlightening post!

    It’s amazing to read that a sizeable minority actually think the economy will be improving by the middle of next year.

    A lot of this I suspect to be due to the low inflation, in particular the fall in petrol prices. I imagine that the level of inflation may have as much of an impact on the polls as will the unemployment figures.

  47. My quote of quotes for the year for those predicting the tide will/has turned again against Labour.

    I believe they call it de ja vu.

    See if you can pick yours out.

    “Surelu its only a matter of time before one of these pollsters put the Tories on 50%?”
    “if the conservatives can come out with a bit more beaf then we may even see 52-55%”
    “This looks terminal for Labour now”
    “The game looks well and truly up for Labour with the economy set to get a lot worse before it gets any better. ”
    “I have to admire the optimism of die-hard Labour supporters though, yet I do not see how Labour can come back from this.”
    “so I wouldn’t be surprised if Lab support moves towards 20%. ”
    “I predict a long, hard winter for this Labour government during which they will be even more unpopular then they are now!”
    “some great POLLS to come with some ground breaking results.”

    I leave the best to last of our own bungling predictor of predictors.

    “as per my previous predictions – that is where Labour will be within months (3rd place) before breaking up for good – once again cut and paste !!”

    Mike that hole you dug,was it for Labour or your crystal ball?

  48. Good old TONY JONES – I was just getting excited by your earlier ramblings – when i came across the last comments above – none of which you have in quotations are any of my wordings – but good try!

    I just wish you had actually cut and pasted my comments rather than trying to remember them in a blundering way.

    We shall see wish party is around in 18 months to 2 years time – the bunglers or the realists.

    Very good analysis ANTHONY – the bookies are on the ball ! Maybe they read my comments on here and know I have’nt been wrong with any UK predictions.

    Mine is not wishful thinking, unlike some on here – just good old analysis of the British mind set.

  49. Tony Jones,

    nice selection of quotes!

    I don’t think anyone should be blamed for not predicting that Labour would throw everything but the kitchen sink at the economy in order to salvage their popularity.

    The winter quote sounds similar to something to what I said, and as we are still in December I think it premature and obviously incorrect to say this has now proven to be a false prediction.

    At some point the relative good feel factor, due to the desperate measures taken by Labour and the fall in petrol price, will wear off. And it could be as early as January that Labour’s position in the polls begin to slip again.

    And talking of petrol prices – what if the economy begins to strengthen by the end of next year? What will happen to petrol prices? You know the answer to this question and you know it will mean bad news for Labour.

  50. David in France
    There has been a reduction of 4% in the gap between Labour and the Tories over the last three months only. You can so any trend you like using a short enough timeframe. On your basis Brown should wait till June 2010 as he would get 100% of the vote.

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