Bizarre news story in the Sunday Telegraph. Patrick Hennessey writes about a “secret poll” of Labour activists, commissioned by Compass. He continues “So sensitive was its timing, amid claims that the contest to choose the party’s next leader is already under way, that its very existence was kept under wraps and it is understood that there is no intention to make its results public.”

It’s existance was “kept under wraps” in the sense that some other findings from the poll were reported a week ago in the Guardian, and it is “understood that there is no intention to make the results public” in the sense that they are up on the YouGov website.

Taking the Royal Mail questions that were reported in the Guardian first, two-thirds of Labour party members were opposed to the part-privatisation and wanted to keep the Royal Mail wholly publically owned. 24% supported the government’s plans, and 5% would go further and support complete privatisation. YouGov also tested reactions to the alternative that the Royal Mail could be run like the BBC – an independently-run, non-profit, public corporation. This was more popular (backed by 32%) than privatising it partially (15%) or wholly (3%), but still backed by fewer people than the status quo (43%).

In contrast there was more support for another controversial government policy. Asked about the government’s proposals to force recipients of Job Seeker’s Allowance to show they are seeking work or risk losing benefit, 50% of party members said it should still go ahead as planned, with 46% saying it should be delayed or scrapped.

Looking at the views of Labour party members on other issues they somewhat to the left of the government itself – fitting the normal perception that party members tend to be slighly less centrist than their leaders. Overwhelmingly (80%) Labour party members think the government could raise taxes on people earning over £100,000 without damaging the economy. A similar proportion (81%) support the idea of a windfall tax on utility companies.

On the broader issues, only a small minority (13%) of Labour party members saw the present crisis as the cue for Britain to abandon capitalism. However, many more (47%) thought that capitalism should be “radically reformed”, with much greater regulation of large companies, bans on large bonuses and workers representatives on company boards. 32% said they backed much more limited extra regulation.

Asked directly to place themselves and Gordon Brown on a left-right scale, Labour party members tend to describe themselves as “fairly left-wing”, but Gordon Brown as only “slightly left of centre”. Changing the descriptions into a numerical scale of -100 to +100, as Peter Kellner normally does with these polls, gives an average of -44 for Labour party members, while they perceive Gordon Brown as being at -20.

Before people draw too many conclusions from this, remember that it isn’t unusual, it’s par for the course. You would no doubt find Conservative members to see themselves as much more right wing than David Cameron. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Labour will find itself forced left by its members, nor that members will vote for a more left wing leader after Gordon Brown – just because Labour members are more left wing, doesn’t mean they don’t realise that elections tend to won from the centre and will vote for a leader more centrist than themselves, as they did with Tony Blair.

Finally, YouGov also asked party members whether they thought senior figures were doing well, the bit that the Sunday Telegraph got all excited about.

Most importantly Gordon Brown continues to have the support of his party members – 77% think he is doing well, though a minority (21%) of his party members think he is doing badly. Alistair Darling and David Miliband’s ratings are broadly similar, less popular with their rank and file membership are Peter Mandelson (62% to 30%) and Harriet Harman (58% to 32%). Lowest rated is Jacqui Smith, with 56% of party members thinking she is doing well, but 39% badly.

UPDATE: David Prescott cheekily suggests that Compass asked those left-right scale questions in the hope that Labour members would see Peter Mandleson as more right wing than David Cameron. Needless to say, they didn’t.

18 Responses to “YouGov poll of Labour members”

  1. There was a poll on Labour home the other day (very unscientific) which seems to suggest a large number of labour members want the government to lose so they can elect leader who better fits their views.

    the scary thing for Labour is if they win or lose there is likley to be a blood bath over the next four years as they retreat to their core vote

  2. Hmm, I’m suspicious of polls of Party members (particularly when I’m not one of those asked!) as the samples are likely to be small and unrepresentative, and you can read a lot into a little from some leading questions.

    Forget the Labourhome poll – it is unscientific and plenty of the people who post there are clearly hostile to Labour (I don’t have time to spend trolling on Conservativehome, seems some spend all day doing it on Labour sites…).

    As Anthony says in the post, just because some Labour members identify themselves as being further to the left than the MPs/Government, doesn’t mean that they did not learn from years in opposition, and from the Tory disunity post 97 which may have delayed their return to competitive politics for a decade.

    If Labour loses – and I still think an election fought under unique economic circumstances could provide a closer result than expected or even a re-run of 92 – any meltdown in the Party will probably not be as big as Conservative sympathisers would hope.

  3. Most importantly Gordon Brown continues to have the support of his party members – 77% think he is doing well,

    This for me shows how out of touch with reality Labour is,as the Tory’s were when their term of office could be seen to be terminal.

  4. Not on thread, but thought you would all be interested in an article on BBC wesite by Brian Wheeler .Wheeler says: “The Conservatives are riding high in the opinion polls but many pundits still think the most likely outcome of the next general election is a hung Parliament with the Tories as the largest party.”
    Does anyone know who these “many pundits” are because I don’t know any, let alone many who think that a hung parliament is the “*most *likely outcome of the next GE” sloppy journalism again for the Brown Broadcating Corp

  5. The 77% support for Brown may prove to be crucial in keeping him in power for the next 15 months. But even with this present support for Brown from the members his position is likely to be on a knife edge soon.

    One reason for this is Brown’s inability to recognise his part in the recession and another is his inability to empathise with those under fianancial pressure – hence his refusal to say sorry.

    Both Darling and Balls have admitted that mistakes have been by the government. But when they say ‘we’ have made mistakes they surely primarily mean by the ‘we’ Brown.

    All in all things don’t look good for both Brown and Labour.

  6. i can see why people voted labour in 1997 anyway. well i can the reason why, during the late 90’s the conservatives had been in power for 18yrs and wanted a change in govement and that would have happend anyway but bar it with a smaler majority of say 80 to 100 for the labour party, some of the aligations of bedroom banging at the time were over stated and this did not help the tories in anyway, anyone for a curry. a good dealof what the tories did the labour party has un-done in quite some way, but a new govenment which ever it is must put the person on the street first and give people a break from high tax.

    and no im not making a political point, its just an ovservation of the way things have gone and the way in which the previous torie govenment got wiped out

  7. Could the 77% loyalty rate to the PM be something to do with the lack of any credible alternative?
    This is not a political point, but what is and how can ‘doing well” be interpreted? It seems to beg a supplementary qualifier as to what exactly he’s doing well at.

  8. @Warren – I really do feel sorry for you. “Should have gone to specsavers”, the result will not be close and the reason will be apathy. You will lose because vast numbers of labour “core” vote….well won’t. Whereas the Troy vote is looking like it will turn out in it’s masses supported by everyone who(just like at the end of the last Tory Gov) want a change. I can’t see many people running out to vote to keep things as they’re going (no matter how unique the economic climate is).

    @Shaundubai – absolutely! Gordon got rid of all competition for his roll. By not having a real debate over who would become the PM, Labour robbed themselves (or more to the point Gordon robbed labour) of it’s opportunity to raise profiles within the party. Even now with Harriet looking to position herself (and she isn’t alone) to take the leadership we still see individuals being shot down where there is any danger to Gordon. Does this come from Gordon??? I doubt it, but someone in his addministration does not want to see him go and I doubt it’s for the right reasons.

  9. “Forget the Labourhome poll – it is unscientific and plenty of the people who post there are clearly hostile to Labour (I don’t have time to spend trolling on Conservativehome, seems some spend all day doing it on Labour sites…”

    warren wasen’t trolling i don’t post on it just enjoy reading the tete a tete it is good to get another perspective on life

    Keir you may be right but i would not be surprised to see a small Labour Majority at the next election. which would be the worst possible result for them as they would have to pay the left of the parliamentry party off to do anything.

    Far better to tear yourself apart in oppostion when you don’t have the worry of running the country as well lose once more and come back than govern for five more years like the tories did and then suffer a huge defeat twicein a row

  10. @Kier – note I said “could” and you say “will”. You may be right and I might be wrong – but there’s no certainty in politics. If there were there would be no need for polls or a site like this…

    @onthejob – comment wasn’t directed at you!

  11. sorry i have had a hangover all day :-)

  12. Does anyone know the Labour party membership figures? A year or two ago I read somewhere that Labour party membership was rapidly declining. Is that still the case or have things bottomed out or even improved?

  13. Oops, nevermind. I googled and turns out today’s Telegrap has an article on this very subject. Labour membership is at its lowest since the party was founded in 1900 –

  14. Ignore me again – the Telegraph article is dated July 2008 – not today. I really shouldn’t do anything as complicated as reading until after my second cup of morning coffee.

  15. Anthony,

    just a thought (I do have them occasionally) but would it be possible to compare past polls on labour ( or other party) membership with the fall in the party’s membership to see if they are losing traditional or new labour support.

    Potentially if they have as a party moved to the left while membership fell that might suggest they were losing new labour support not traditional support.


  16. James,

    I know the Labour Party Membership has reduced by at least 1 in the last week. :) (note lack of brackets after my name)

  17. Labour Party membership: my experience suggests that membership levels have bottomed out. We get the occasional new member in Southend West and Castle Point (the two constituencies I can speak about with some authority), as well as the occasional resignation, lapsing of membership, or death.

    I am led to believe that the situation is similar in the other two main parties, but admit that this is based on rumour – I have no spies in their camps.

  18. Steve,

    send me your address and I’ll post you a membership form…..