There is an ICM poll in tomorrow’s Sunday Telegraph. The topline figures, with changes from ICM’s most recent poll, are CON 44%(+2), LAB 31%(+1), LDEM 18%(-2). The poll was conducted between the 25th and 26th March.

It’s a very slight increase in the Conservative lead, but none of the changes are really significant. Realistically speaking, this is just another poll showing a pretty stable position. For the record though, since ICM tend to give the Conservatives some of their lower scores this actually equals their third highest rating from the company.

Still, for those getting rather bored with the voting intention figures, we can look ahead to several potentially significant events – many commentators have suggested Gordon Brown is putting great weight in the G20 summit this week to give his premiership a boost, beyond that is the budget, which could work either way, and past that we have the local and european elections, which often lead to realignments in the national opinion polls.

ICM also asked about inheritance tax, revealing an even split amongst the public. 48% agreed that increasing the inheritance tax allowance should be a priority for the next government, 48% disagreed. Amongst Conservative voters 59% said it should be a priority.

55 Responses to “ICM show 13 point Conservative lead”

1 2
  1. The Labour vote is holding up incredibly well, considering the country’s circumstances.

    ICM had them down to 25% last June, and while that may have been a blip, they were consistently below 30% for months. I can’t see a reason why their figures should be up around 30% and holding steady. Any ideas anyone?

  2. The Tories flatlined around 30% for 13 years from 92-05. Perhaps this is where Labours core vote is, just as it was with the Conservatives?

  3. The difference is that 30% in 1992-97 was about 13% less for the Tories compared to the 1992 election whereas 30% for Labour is only 6% less, and the Tories still need that swing to be in the region of 7-10% to win a majority.

    It’ll be interesting to see what effect (if any) large scale disturbances on the streets of London have on the polls. It’s difficult to say whether they might increase or decrease support for Brown.

  4. Just wonder if this poll is starting to show the effect of the comments from the Governor of the Bank of England. Not sure that Labour can continue to argue that the Tories economic policy is totally isolated whilst the Government have the support of the vast majority of the G20, as each day passes, to a non partisan person like myself, it appears the reverse could even be true.

  5. Pete B,

    Remember though that when Labour were down to 25% the publicity for them in the press and media were awfull. Speculation every day about the leadership, internal squables, the shambles over 10p etc, actually worse than now.

    The recession is different – everyone has opinions about what not to do but few in the public are 100% sure what to do. Yes there is bad news but its not as obviously directed at Brown as it was and Labour can still say ‘we are acting, here are our solutions”. Whether you agree with Labour or not (and I dont) a number of the electorate may still be unsure about blaming Labour or wanting to punish them until they see whether they have failed or see a direct link between the recession and Labour.

    Personally I see a strong link between the two, but I’m not sure a slice of the electorate does (yet).

  6. Thanks Chris. I wonder if the Dan Hannan speech will have any effect in the next poll?

  7. no real change in the overall picture still tor majority exspected around 60 seats with no landslide exspected, big gains yes landslide no a fluied swing from one to the other and a win for the tories swing from labour to conservative 7.3% with the polls this month but the drop in the lib dem vote is helping.

  8. soory should say conservative victory

  9. I do not think the Hannan speech will register with anybody beyond political obsessives such as ourselves! Its effect on the polls I confidently predict to be nil.
    The fieldwork for this poll was carried out at the same time as that of yesterday’s Yougov poll – the two ,therefore, are best viewed together.

  10. taking the scotland figures in drops the conservative number of seats by 5 labours seats up by 3 and lib dems down unchanged SNP UP TWO.

  11. David Brace , my suspicion is that the Mervyn Kings intervention will prove to be very damaging to Brown and Labour. Its unfortunate that this poll doesn’t ask an economic confidence question, because I reakon support for Brown/Darling will be collapsing after King ruled out another stimulus. By contrast Cameron/Osborne could soar. As we move through April I would expect Labour to sink sub 30% on most polls again.

  12. I don’t think the recession itself will drag Labour’s vote much below 30% for the simple reason that

    i. core Labour voters will not switch

    ii. it is clearly a global recession – and some people are well aware that – whichever party had been in power – the recession would still have happened.

    In other words, in order for Labour’s vote to drop to – and stay around – 25%, Labour need to make bad headlines for more reasons than the recession.

    Which is what happened last summer.

  13. @Anthony – Do we know if any of the polling companies show a political bias to asking questions? I only ask because as GIN says no question re the economy was asked (you would have expected one though I presume).

  14. Keir, I can answer this. The polling companies ask exactly what the client asks them to ask. So, if theres no economic question its because the Sunday Telegraph didn’t tell them to ask an economic competence question.

  15. @Gin, thanks GIN but does that mean that the requestor decides the question or the polling company?

  16. You pay for the poll so you get your questions asked. What you can’t do is dictate the exact wording or placement of the question though.

    The good name of a polling company would be ruined unless it’s basic poll structure, no matter who the client is, remains unbiased and able to give an objective result.

  17. well it’s time for bed but before i go yes it’s sunday and yes im p****** buti do see the magitued of being a man on the side i wish i had a full time job but anybody who wishes to have such ajob would be a dreamer.

  18. Please could someone explain to an amateur like me why such a high and (as time goes on) seemingly steady Consrvative lead translates into an overall majority of only 40+?
    Also, why does this consistent lead of between, say, 10-12% keep meaning a reduced size in that majority everytime a poll comes out? Surely the same figures must give the same results?
    I apologise for being such a philistine on the venerable subject of polling (lol).


  19. sorry, should have said ‘Conservative lead’, especially as I support them!

  20. Looking at the detailed ICM data for Feb, it was interesting to see that while 3% of people who voted Conservative in 2005 intend not to vote next time round, 6% of 2005 Labour voters intend not to vote. Do polling companies take the effect of abstentions into account? I’m under the impression that they do not.

    We know that Labour suffers in general when it is a poor turnout. They are going to need to change the minds of those who won’t vote if they’re to translate their polling into election results.

  21. The figures will change. The G20 with Obama in London and an apparent rift with Germany (maybe) will set the scene for the election battle to come.
    Brown will want to push his International credentials – and he might just succeed. The polls are not that far apart.

  22. Keir, it means ICM ask the questions the Sunday Telegraph want them to ask. If the ST don’t tell them to ask an economic question, they won’t ask an economic question.

    ShaunDubai the differance is entirely down to the way FPTP favours Labour. There are lots og technical reasons for this, but essentially it means the Tories need a swing of at least 6% to get even a tiny majority.

    John, actually I would say a 12-13% lead just one year before the general election is quite a large differance for Labour to make up. We can see now that the G20 isn’t going to achieve much and thanks to King, Brown isn’t going to be able to implement a further stimulus. The figures in the budget will look horrendous. The country council and Euro elections are going to be horrible for Labour. I can see nothing on the horizon to allow Labour to close the gap and if anything I see it widening again through the rest of spring and on in to summer.

  23. ShaunDubai

    The problem here is whether you look at things through the eyes of a national uniform swing or through an assessment of each region. It may well require a swing of 6pc for the Tories to get even a tiny majority but equally it may not. Take out Scotland and focus on the areas with the largest number of marginals and you can argue differently. People will tell you on this site that they KNOW how it will work out . They don’t .

  24. “whichever party had been in power – the recession would still have happened.”

    Maybe so, maybe not.

    The UK Banking crisis however has been homegrown.

    Our Regulation regime failed because the Tripartite system left huge cracks through which macro oversite fell. Yes the failure of wholesale credit supply was US sub-prime driven, but it was our system which allowed our Banks to grow by tapping in to it.

    And as Soros has just observed, we got hit badly on Banking because we let some of our Banks get bigger than our economy-thus leaving us exposed to the potential inability to summon enough domestic resources to correct the problem…without IMF help.

  25. I think I’ve said this before but I really don’t go along with this argument that given the situation the Conservatives should be further ahead.

    If you look back at the polls you’ll find that the 16,17,18+ leads which the Conservatives enjoyed occured in the summer of 2008, well before the credit crunch had really hit the UK and even longer before the affects hit the real economy (which is obviously far more important for the electorate).

    It was because of the onset of the economic crisis that Brown recovered in the polls, not despite of it. The reason is that he was able to turn the political debate into the old-style “Labour for jobs, Conservatives against them” narrative. And this worked for him.

    There is nothing to suggest that if the recession were to end tomorrow that the Conservative lead would fall, in fact just the opposite. The polls show that Cameron/Osbourne are preferred to run the economy after the recession and Cameron leads Brown on who would make the best PM. The Conservatives also lead Labour on most public services (if not all of them).

  26. The polls for Labour are relatively good for the same reason they improved in the Autumn of last year. Many were persauded that during this difficult and challenging time it is best to stick with the experienced Brown under whom Britain has enjoyed many years of prosperity.

    Past polls show that Labour’s resilient core is about 26%. For now, at least, 5% additional voters remain convinced that they are better off ‘sticking with the devil they know’. The polls do ask who people would vote for if there were an election TOMORROW, not in fourteen months from now.

    After many months of recession people will judge Brown, the man of experience, by results. And the sense that it is time for a change will have become very strong indeed, I think.

  27. It seems very likely that Labour’s vote a the next election will 30%, +-2%. It’s difficult to envisage scenarios involving them doing either better or worse than that. Maybe they could manage 33% if things go really well for them.

  28. I think it is far too early to say what Labour will poll next time – though there is a fair chance it will be somewhere between 30% and 40% !

  29. @Graham well done for stating the obvious, although between 30% and 40% is where they are at at the moment (31%) so not really sure what your point is?

    @Andy and how much do you think they will get if things go badly for them? Anyone on here an author who fancies writing the novel “The Wilderness Years”

    Seriously there is no way to tell at the moment which way the final poll will go, except the current stability in the poll seems to favour the Conservative pulling off a strong election win but not attaining a landslide. The outside bets are on a hung parliment – and I don’t believe anyone know the outcome if that happens.

    What will be really interesting are the Euro’s and June elections (assuming Crash doesn’t go for an early election)

  30. I agree there is still some if not much of a possibility of an early election.

    IF the G20 is demonstrably the damp sqib it is widely forecast to be and IF the Budget three weeks later is equally open to widespread criticism then the prospect of a very poor Local and European elections result on 4th June is almost certain.

    In those circumstances will GB really want to go through the summer with the inevitable backstabbing he endured before?

    Why not say we’ll have a GE on 4th June and I can do a TB and do something on the world stage away from these unappreciative people at Westminster?

    Just a thought that perhaps Sarah might put to him!

  31. Keir, my comment was – at least partly – in jest!

  32. David, doing something bold and exciting like calling an early election and catching everyone off guard doesn’t sound like the GB we all know and love. ;)

    Logisitcally, if there was going to be a general election for June 4th wouldn’t a lot of the preperation have to be in place by now? How far ahead to advertising boards have to be booked? What about buses and helicopters and public venues? When the the election broadcasts have to go into pre production with actors being hired, scripts being wrote, etc….? Wouldn’t we be seeing some signs by now, if there was going to be a summer election? I don’t think these days its really the case of just calling an election and thats it. Theres a lot of planning that has to go into it, surely?

  33. *Repost, please deleate the first post Anthony*

    David, doing something bold and exciting like calling an early election and catching everyone off guard doesn’t sound like the GB we all know and love. ;)

    Logistically, if there was going to be a general election for June 4th wouldn’t a lot of the preperation have to be in place by now?

    How far ahead do advertising boards have to be booked? What about buses and helicopters and public venues? When do the election broadcasts have to go into pre production with actors being hired, scripts being written etc….?

    Wouldn’t we be seeing some signs by now, if there was going to be a summer election? I don’t think these days its really a matter of just calling an election and thats it. Theres a lot of planning that has to go into it, surely?

  34. @Graham – sorry tired, put smileys in, it makes it easier :-)

    @GIN – well thats the point, hasn’t GB been campaigning over the last few months? Outside of an election campaign, Gordon’s current level of Media coverage must be the highest for any PM ever since Churchill during the war. The cost must be astronomical (and it ain’t labour funding it) – so maybe this is his way of running a labour affordable election in June (campaign using state funds).

    Maybe not, but you can bet mandy would be pushing to get GB to use as much as he can out of state funds in case the opportunity arises in June.

  35. At 13pc the ICM poll lead for the Tories is not a million miles away from the likes of 17 and 18 pc last summer so the face of it there is not a lot to discuss.
    However folk are right when pointing out that at 31pc the Labour vote is demonstrating a degree of resiliance which was lacking in 2008 and the reasons advanced on this thread are sound ones. I suspect -but have no supporting evidence-that a preponderence of these voters live in Labour’s traditional heartlands like Scotland and in the clusters of safe inner city seats around the UK plus areas where the public sector-who have done well out of this government-dominate the jobs market. I would add to that the return to the fold of some of the anti Iraq voters who deserted to the Lib Dems in 2005 but whose worries about a Tory victory have overcome their distaste for the government.
    In the marginals I believe there is very little of this going on and that the Tory lead may be 5pc greater than nationally which is why I just don’t accept that the Tories have to be 7-10pc ahead overall to secure a small majority. But I could be totally wrong .

  36. @GIN. I think that an election campaign can be started very quickly if it has to. Back in 2007, the strong speculation following the Labour conference was that Brown would call a snap election (that he supposedly chickened out of) which would have been only 4-6 weeks later. On that basis, we are at least 6 weeks ahead of the deadline for calling a June election I’d have thought.

    I think that a stronger deterrent though than G20 etc. is the fact that the government have pinned a lot on “focusing on getting us out of the recession” and could be open to charges of opportunism if they went for a snap election. Whether that would be seen as a major or minor handicap depends I suspect on the state of the private polling at the time.

  37. It looks like everyone agrees. If you are a Tory, you are happy to be 10+points ahead. If you are a Labourite you are happy that it is not worse. For the Libdems you feel the polls have finally begun to turn around. For the SNP responsibility has not caused too bad a midterm trough.
    Everyone is happy as far as I can see?

  38. Gin,

    I agree with Kier. The government has been spending a fortune on advertsing recently. Anything and everything. Mostly on radio (where you can sometimes find three different govt ads back-to-back) but there has been TV advertising too.

    Of course this is not “party political” but just “the government” working on your behalf – and spending your money in doing so.

    In terms of “party preparation” – it is also all in place. All major parties have already got their planning (including hoardings) in place for the Euro elections anyway. It is cheaper, and less demanding in terms of party organisation, to canvass a street once to cover two or three elections on the same day than to go over the same ground three times – that was why the Government moved the County council elections to 4th Juen in the first place – to save the Labour party some money and lots of shoe leather – both of which are in short supply.

    There are many reasons why Labour should prefer an election this year rather than wait until 2010, and very few sound political arguments for holding out in the hope that something turns up to improve their poll position.

    If we do not have a General Election on 4th June it will be because Brown has bottled it yet again.

  39. Graham,

    I think it is far too early to say what Labour will poll next time – though there is a fair chance it will be somewhere between 30% and 40% !

    And probably a greater chance it will be below 30% than that it will be above 40%

  40. @ Keir and Paul – another thing I’ve particularly noticed over the last 2-3 months is that Brown makes the news daily with stories that begin “Brown urges …” or “Brown calls for …”. Now you’d expect some of that from a PM and any time of year but this has been so frequent and so consistent of late that these endless urgings and calls for are a means of staying in the news without actually doing anything and making it look as if Brown is enormously proactive all the time. Seems straight out of the Mandelson ‘maximum spin for minimum effort’ handbook and would fit in with the possibility of a June election.

  41. James,

    I think at least in part the reason for Browns costant appearance is that tactically the Government decided before Christamas to label the Tories as the “Do Nothing Party”.

    For that to be sustained and effective the government has to be seen as highly active even if it means saying nothing loudly on a regular basis.

    It keeps the government on the front pages and makes it difficulty for the Tories to be seen as critical because then Brown can respond with the ” While I am fighting for Briatin thay do nothing but snipe” line.

    I do think the government is genuinely active ( pro active would be pushing it) and is trying to manage the banking crisis, but I do worry that their political narrative is having to much influence over actual policy and that they are rushing proposals out before they are ready to appear to be driving things.

    It’s a bit like the “First 100 days” idea.

    Something that started as a bit f camapign spin to show vigour, which has evolved in to almost a must for all incoming governments tand which now probably leads to poor policy making.


  42. Someone commented that Labour does worse when turnout is poor. This is a myth as far as general election performance is concerned.

    In elections since 1950 Labour’s share correlates positively with turnout (the greater the turnout, the greater Labour’s share) but the coefficient is not statistically significant – there is no significant relationship between the two.

    There may be a confusion with variations in turnout across constituencies in an individual election. Labour constituencies do have lower turnouts but that is not the same as saying anything about the overall turnout and Labour’s performance compared across elections.

  43. D Denver

    That was me. I think the rule of thumb (I don’t know any figures) is that Labour does worse compared to the polls when the turnout is low. I’ll have to check if that’s the case. Sadly we don’t have masses of pre-election polling data availble for all previous elections.

  44. Ok, I’ve looked at the data and in fact, Labour’s lead suffers more on a high turnout (r-sq 86%).

    I’ve taken the average Labour lead of the latest 5 polls before each election and compared to the actual Labour lead that came from the election. My data (in CSV form) is


    Of course, the situation could change for the next election (this is only looking at four elections) but it’s food for thought.

  45. Ok, apologies for 3 posts in a row, but I’ve just had a look again at the data in ICMs ‘likelihood to vote’ section and that suggests Labour would be hurt by a low turnout.

    The %ages among those who say they are certain to vote (10s only) is 49/26/18/7. This would be the situation with the lowest turnout and is clearly the worst for Labour. The best situation for Labour is on a high turnout.

    My head hurts.

  46. A high turnout usually helps Labour. In 2001 Labour would have probably won a majority of 200 seats if turnout hadn’t fallen so much from 71% to 59%. 1983 had a pretty low turnout when they had their worst result since 1945.

  47. Mark M

    Mori applies a likelihood to vote filter and this generally increases the Con lead.

    However, I don’t think the position is anywhere as simple as High turnout good for Party A; low turnout good for Party B.

    In 1992, Kinnock actually secured a very high number (13.5m) of actual votes for Labour (possibly the highest ever for Labour ?). Unfortunately for him, John Major managed to secure a record number of votes at 14m, as evidenced by the high turnout.

    In 1997, Blair won his landslide with fewer actual votes than Kinnock had won in 1992. The difference was that the Con vote had collapsed by more than 4m, hence a lower overall turnout favouring Labour.

    2001 was a bit of an aberration in that turnout fell to a record low. By 2005, turnout improved, but that was mainly due to increased numbers of Con and LD voters, hence a much lower turnout in 2005 than in 1997 left Labour with a far smaller majority.

    Who knows what the turnout will be next time ? But if the polls are any indication, voters leaning to Tories are more inclined to vote, while those leaning to Labour are more likely to stay at home.

    The only common thread to your chart is that the Polls during the campaign over-estimate Labour’s relative strength – though they have been getting more accurate. Who knows, they might even be on target next time.

  48. @ Andy Stidwill

    What evidence do you have for your statement “In 2001 Labour would have probably won a majority of 200 seats if turnout hadn’t fallen so much from 71% to 59%”


    If my memory serves me well-and it does’nt always do so- then the turnout in 2001 fell more heavily in Labour’s strongholds than it did in the marginals because the election was considered to be such a forgone conclusion.
    There was no evidence that the lower turnout in 2001 cost Labour any gains in the then Tory marginal seats but there was some evidence to suggest that their share of the national vote dropped because voters stayed away in their safe seats.

  50. CharlieJ

    I refer you to my post above. 2001 was a peculiar election, not just in terms of the record low turnout, but also in that it had the lowest number of seats change hands in living memory. There were more changes from Feb 74 to Oct 74 than from 1997 to 2001)

    Andy Stidwell’s claim would only hold true if the higher turnout had been almost exclusively among potential Labour voters in those seats that the Tories had not lost in 1997 – a bit of a stretch given that many of those seats had only become “marginal” in 1997 as a result of falling turnout among Conservative supporters.

    As Nick Keene correctly points out, the fall in turnout between 1997 and 2001 was mainly in Labour strongholds, so any change in turnout in those areas would have had little impact in number of seats won.

    On the other hand, had turnout been higher in the marginals, it is more likely that this would have resulted in at least some of those seats being lost by Labour. The validity of that point can be seen from the change between 2001 and 2005, when the total Labour vote changed little, but an extra couple of hundred thousand Tories came out to vote – lifting the turnout by 2% and cutting Labour’s majority by 100.

    Differential turnout has far more influence on how many seats a party wins than changes in how any given group of individuals vote.

1 2