The first poll since the Telegraph began reporting the details of MPs expenses suggests the public are taking a plague on all your houses approach (or at least, a plague on both your houses, since the Liberal Democrats haven’t suffered).

The topline figures, with changes from Populus’s last poll, are CON 39%(-4), LAB 26%(-4), LDEM 22%(+4). Other parties are at 13%, up four points (though it’s worth noting that this isn’t some sort of unprecedented boost which that might imply, Populus have quite often had “others” up at 12% over the last year).

This is the first poll of 2009 to show the Conservatives below 40%, and leaving aside ICM, who always give them a higher level of support, it is the highest level of support the Liberal Democrats have recorded since 2006. It is the highest figure Populus have given them since 2005. It’s tempted to ascribe this solely to the expenses scandal, though it’s worth remembering that this is also one of the first polls since the government’s defeat over Gurkhas, an issue that the Liberal Democrats lead upon.

The poll was conducted between Friday and Sunday, so after the Telegraph had begun publishing Labour expenses, but prior to them turning the focus onto the Conservatives. Whether that means the Conservatives will suffer more damage in coming days is debatable, given that the public already seem to be putting just as much blame on them as the government. Asked specifically if “all the parties were as bad as each other”, 86% of people agreed. 79% of people also rejected the defence that MPs were acting within the rules, agreeing with the statement “if MPs had any integrity they would never have claimed for the cost of many things they did”.

Finally Populus asked their regular question of asking the public to rate the party leaders out of ten. Gordon Brown’s rating stands at 4.47, down from where it was at the end of last year when it got up to 5.04, but substantialluy above the depths it reached in the summer of 2008. David Cameron stands at 5.39 the highest of any Tory leader since Populus began the question 6 years ago. Nick Clegg is at 4.71, his highest figure so far and now above any score that Ming Campbell achieved, though Charles Kennedy was more positively regarded.


135 Responses to “Labour and Conservatives both suffer in first post-expenses poll”

1 2 3
  1. I suspected the Conservatives would get high 30’s low 40’s in the latest Poll due to the expenses, my bet is they will bounce back and its finally good to ee the Lib Dems polls going up, its about time due to the Gurkha issue, Labour still doing very badly.

  2. Interesting that the Conservative rating is down given that the poll was carried out before the Telegraph began publishing their claims.

  3. @ Freddie

    Maybe im wrong, it may just be a blip in the polls, another couple of polls will reveal if it is.

  4. i told you all a few days ago not to rule out the tories falling back due to having there nose in it but not much real change in the long run and a return to normal polling will come soon but be awere the lib dems could beacome the second party at the next GE in 2010 as the labour party falls to bit.

  5. BNP must be laughing their socks off.

  6. From what I’m seeing on the news looks like this is going to hit the cons very hard, although there may be stuff to come from the lib dems, it seems as if they’ve firmly moved on from lab to cons atm and it sounds very bad….and just by numbers the lib dems should in theory come out much better. Have to wait and see, but this looks like it’s going to go well for the lib dems, and to a lesser extent the traditional total protests greens/raving etc

  7. There is an opportunity for Cameron here-when DT publishes the rumoured further Tory expenses abuses tommorow, he must start sacking the worst offenders.

  8. show time colin the public will get what they want a cleaner parliment and a govenment that should claen our pig of a parliment clean of all phoneys and robbers caoron and gordon bewaere the lib dem will be back again!

    i’ve just looke at my monthly average and ts changed alot

    CON 384
    LAB 194
    LD 42
    OTH 30

    CON MAJ 118 NOT 166 WHICH WA PREDICTED LAST NIGHT

  9. If David Cameron is true to his original statement, then several large Tory heads should roll. This is quite a test of his stated resolve. Will he have the courage to do the deeds?

  10. SOORY CAORON SHOULD READ cameron and yes i would like to see all mp’s sign a register that stats they should all claim a maximum of £2k per year for office and no scond homes for mp’s who live less than 100 miles radius from the house of commons

  11. I’m looking forward to the first poll after all the Telegraph stories are published; that’s probably after the EU elections…

  12. Interesting that the Conservatives should suffer so much before any of their details came out. Suggests that if Cameron actually acts to remove those who are the worst offenders, regardless of status, then he could possibly gain those points back. On the other hand, perhaps people are bored of him just talking and want to see what he actually stands for.

    Very good poll for the LibDems, puts them right amongst it and well in with a chance of main Opposition if they can continue their push while Labour continues to stuggle.

  13. I’m looking forward to the first poll after all the Telegraph stories are published; that’s probably after the EU elections…

    2nd home allowance only for those representing the Northern Isles and the Hebrides…

  14. I reckon “none of the above” must have got a boost too.

  15. Jack – the euro & local elections themselves are likely to have a significant effect. Most recent local elections have seen a Conservative boost afterwards, presumably from the halo effect – looking like winners.

    If it’s anything like the last election we’ll also see a temporary boost for whatever minor party does well, UKIP or the BNP probably.

  16. I expected Labour to reap most of the whirlwind on this one, purely because governments tend to take the flak when politics in general is being scorned. This result has surprised me, and tonights revelations don’t look great for the Tories although I doubt they will suffer unduly. What I think might worry Cameron more would be intense media interest in his front bench team’s string of second jobs. To be fair to him, he did try and alter this, but his lack of courage in forcing this through does not bode well for his firmness of resolve when he gets to No 10. It’s open season on politicians, and while they need to wake up and recognise the public mood, I suspect a great deal of damage will be done to the many perfectly decent parlimentarians in the process.

  17. This expenses thing will hit the Liberals in due course, although they enjoy the advantage that :
    a) no one seriously expects them to form the next government
    b) most of their number are entirely unknown

    I wouldnt worry, this expenses thing debate shall start shifting onto the solutions rather than the current shock stuff. Although it is worth noting that the DT got its claims wrong in regards to Grove, he didnt home-flip at all, he merely moved family home and therefore was obliged morally to realign the status of this second home. Just worth noting that many of the DT claims are perhaps speculative deductions rather than actual proof; its damn unhelpful what the DT is doing- it will cause a whitewash so that actually corrupt MPs can escape by the change of focus from indvidiauls under scrutiny to what is now sadly the case where its a case of ‘look they are all at it’, its the rules that are at fault.

    I am disapointed that the DT is engaged in all of this, as it would have been more condusive to proper debate had this been released in full at the parliamentary agreed June date, then it would be properly investiaged by legal experts and univerally by journalists with MPs having a chance to explain individual issues. Now it is a case of take the DT’s word for it.

  18. I think Brown is going to be booted pretty soon and now, which will throw everything up in the air much as a landmine throws up body parts.

  19. soon and now? That’s the whisky typing.

  20. Dean,

    What we would be getting in June would be the edited version and much of the apparent abuse we have seen wouldn’tave been detected.

    Peter.

  21. As a minority of us said recently, the recent polls where only good for the Tories, not great – I guess 50pts is a long way off now ITT.
    Just seen newsnight and the real damage the the Cons could be the reminder of Tory Toffs, just cos it did not work in Crewe don’t think it won’t impact in a GE.
    My fave was Ollie (too busy with my other jobs to be shadow Chancellorbut I will take a lesser role) Letwin and his 2 grand for swimming pool repairs.
    Alec is right second jobs will become an issue as the media decide the Cons have had too easy a time of it.
    What price Cable chancellor after the Election with Cammo his boss?

  22. Peter,

    Spot on. They were going to have their addresses blanked out, so the second home scams would not have been revealed.
    Surely, if the taxpayer furnishes, pays the mortgage interest and council tax etc etc on a second home, the proceeds should be returned to the taxpayer when the house is sold (less whatever deposit was paid by the MP – unless we pay that as well!)

    Also, although the DT has backtracked (been leant on?) on Gordon Brown, why should the taxpayer pay ANY expenses to do with his private flat when he’s been living in Downing Street for 12 years?

    Anyway, on the assumption that the dirt on the Liberals will soon be dished, I think that there will be a big shift to minor parties (including presumably SNP in Scotland) in the forthcoming elections.

  23. Pete B,

    The expenses revelations are not going to boost the minor parties at the next G.E, that is a year away and the core issues and debates will shift on soon.

  24. Mark, the Tories always do badly when Sleaze is the main news story – Even when the Tories aren’t the ones being exposed. It really goes back to what happened in the 90’s. The fact the Conservatives dropped over the weekend, even while Labour were taking the hit shows how badly they will perform now they are in the media spotlight. Tories have the most to lose and to fear from all of this. Cameron will need to be tough and show resolve quickly to claw back some of this lost support, however many people need to be sacked/demoted he’ll have to do it.

  25. Dean,
    Sorry if I was unclear. I meant the forthcoming elections on June 4th for local councils and Europe.

  26. I hate that word “rogue” poll – but populus are way off track with their latest poll – so far nothing bad has been thrown at the Tories over the expenses & if there were anything on the scale of the Labour expenses allegations heads would need to roll, but the Telegraph are running out of steam – they have published the worst offenders so far – that’s why they picked Labour first – lol.

  27. Pete B

    Ah, now it makes more sense to me!

    Gin,

    I agree D.C ought to sack one or two top names involved in order to kick the spotlight back onto Gordon Brown- create a new media story around his sacking of ‘corrup’ MPs and Browns failure to recyprocate the same act. Get the issue back on Browns indecion.
    Cameron however I fear will show too much loyalty to his collegues (and school friends?).

  28. Weighted Moving Average 43:26:19. Populus has a very slight anti-C bias (about 0.5%) and frankly I’d be surprised to find the Conservatives suffering major damage over this.

    The narowing of the Labour:LibDem gap is however a major trend – on the WMA it is down from 20 in Nov to 8 now. There is a real chance that Labour will fall into 3rd place if Brown soldiers on until May 2010.

  29. This poll, if not a rogue, is bad for the Tories. The real comparison is not with Populus’ last poll (both major parties down 4%) but with the recent polling trend. On this basis, Labour at 26% are about where they’ve been recently on other polls but the Tories at 39% are a good 5% down on the recent polls. This explains the large fall in projected Tory majority.

    I think this may support Gin’s claim that financial sleaze is always a Tory problem even when it’s not them in the spotlight. And now that they are too, the next poll could be very poor for them (although that depends if anything is carried out before other factors like the Euro/local elelctions impact).

    On a different point, much as I’d like to think that the LDs will make a break-through at the next GE, they are going to have to do more than just out-poll Labour to become the second-largest party. The nature of poliical heartlands is that the LDs would have to beat Labour by 5-6% and concentrate their vote. There just aren’t that many Lab-LD marginals around. Having the second largest share of the vote in 2010 would be a moral victory and strengthen the case for electoral reform but that would be it.

  30. I don’t think the “£400 a month for food when Westminster’s in recess” story will exactly have helped Salmond or the SNP.

  31. Clearing moats and swimming pools, £12,500 for a housekeeper, thousands for a gardener, repairing tennis courts – isn’t it gratifying to know that after the next election we’ll just have such a better class of corruption?

  32. It’s going to be rather difficult for Cameron to discipline MPs – where does he draw the line? Presumably somewhere between his own claims over the years before his leadership push and the highest claims. And he needs to be careful not to catch any of his closest allies too.

    It’s a right mess. On the one side, we have the Govt , who are more culpable because they were in a position to force through proper changes for years. And on the other, we have the Tories, who have been screaming loudest about Govt wasting tax-payers money, while at the same time snouting the system up to their eyeballs.

    Logically, the only party who should benefit will be the LibDems.

  33. Assuming there are revelations about the Lib Dems in the pipeline too, it’s possible that the ‘Other’ parties will benefit most from this in the Euro and local elections. Including, and perhaps especially, the BNP.

    After that, my guess is that the polls will revert to the sorts of results we’ve been used to seeing lately. If Cameron takes charge of the situation with the Tories and is seen to act decisively, I doubt this will harm the Conservatives in terms of the next general election. As for Labour – well, it’s just one of a great many nails in its coffin.

  34. Jim Jam,

    I agree. I must admit that the extent of revelations about Tory MPs has surprised and angered me. I know it shouldn’t have but it has.

    I really did assume they’d be ‘cleaner’ than Labour. Maybe the old line I hate so much; “they’re all as bad as each other” has some truth to it after all!

    I still think if Cameron is as savvy as I hope he is that this can end up with the Tories shining brighter than their rivals, but he has to act soon and hard ball.

  35. I am not suprised to see that the Liberal Democrats are increasing their poll ratings ,they alway increase by a margin of 2-3% from their poll rating from the 4 weeks prior to the actual elections in first past the post.
    It is possible that they will gain even more at the European because it is proportional.
    With revelations of their MPs expenses yet to come out
    this should not effect their ratings as they are not deemed as The Government.
    They could be the second party in the County elections with Labour being pushed into 3rd or even 4th.

  36. Bill Furness,

    LDs are already teh second party at County Council level – but Lab could well be pushed down to third or fourth – assuming they don’t get wiped out completely.

  37. Paul H.J,

    Thanks for reminding me Paul,well they will retain their 2nd position regarding their present County Council seats and increase their numbers.both at County and European level at the expense of Labour.
    Will the BNP push the Labour party into 4th?

  38. I’m not sure Cameron’s task is that difficult.

    The Green Book spells out in terms, what the “spirit” of the expenses rules is at 1.3 “Fundamental Principles”.

    These include :-

    “Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was
    necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties.”

    and

    “Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.”

    These two principles clearly should have excluded the relatively small sums expended on “Pools , patios & Tudor timbers”, and the major financial scam of profiteering on property at the taxpayers’ expense, aka “flipping”.

    It is open to Cameron to interpret these rules & pronounce any case in breach worthy of discipline ( whatever that discipline may be).
    At the same time this enables Cameron to highlight the utter failure of the Fees Office & Speaker Martin’s management of HoC administration.
    It also invites Brown to take a similar stand.

    At present, I agree that LibDems are reaping the benefit-but when their turn comes in DT ( ?Wednesday) Clegg must choose too- blame the system/the leakers/the press-or show leadership & principle.

    The public are sick to death of the former choice & will reward any leader who exhinits the latter.

  39. ‘I don’t think the “£400 a month for food when Westminster’s in recess” story will exactly have helped Salmond or the SNP.’

    I don’t think it’ll be noticed much in the overall swill of things. One can legitimately even be at Westminster when it’s not in session (I dont know if he was…). One can also be stocking for the future I suppose…

  40. I believe the publication of MP’s expenses by the Telegraph to be a very good thing for british politics. It is of course no suprise that members of all fractions have been having their dip in the jampot.
    Now the Conservatives have also gone down in the polling statistics but I imagine that in a week or so when the majority of the public have got over their momentary wrath, they will rise in the popularity scale again.

    Hopefully the expences scandal will not influence the result of the EU poll so much that the public give their vote to politically inexperienced splinter groups as a sign of their protest against the main parties.

  41. “or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.”

    Since almost all of the rest of us use our salary to buy goods and services, that covers just about everything apart from rent and travel to and from constituencies.

    If I were found guiltier than others by Cameron, i’d be quite keen to point to the excesses of those eacaping his discipline, particulary if I had to face re- or de-selection soon. Is claiming a few thousand to clean the pool really worse than claiming a similar amount to expand one’s property portfolio?

    The problem is , there’s a lot of it about.

  42. john tt

    I don’t understand the relevance of your second para.
    I was not refering to what MPs spend their salary on -but what expenses they wish to reimbursed by the taxpayer.

    I repeat, The Green Book tells them what they must not claim for-ie anything that is not” necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties.”

    Now of course this is subject to interpretation to a degree-but Cameron is Leader of the Party-he is entitled to interpret & act accordingly-that’s what leadership is all about-putting his judgement on the line.

    It’s the same for Brown-he did it this morning by supporting Speaker Martin following yesterday’s circus act in HoC-now we can all decide if we agree with his judgement or not.

    In my view the “Nuremburg Defence” is simply not available to MPs:-
    a) becauseof the Green Book’s “Fundamental Principles”
    b) Because the Fees Office has chosen to ignore these “Fundamental Principles” in some instances.

  43. @ Bill

    If it is to be any party to displace Labour into 4th, it will be UKIP, not the BNP, however, Labour being completly destroyed could actually be a bad thing for the Conservatives and the Lib Dems, lets look at it this way.

    If Brown and Labour get knocked down into fourth place a leadership challenge will probablby happen, if Labour get a new leader it coul just save them from complete destruction in the next GE, my hope, labour does badly in the euro-elections but just well enough for Gordon Brown to stay as leader. Aslong as no leadershp challenge happens Cons are still in Landslide territory and the Lib Dems still could gain alot of the Vote from Labour.

  44. Colin – most of us pay for our everytijng out of our salary apart from business travel. Most will therefore think that anything in excess of that is excessive. The job is in two places, so travel and basic accommodation is part of the renumeration package, but everything else falls into the “improper personal financial benefit” category.

    I can’t see how anyone can discipline anyone else unless a commonly accepted line is drawn. That’ll be quite tough, given that some very senior people have made significant claims.

    I don’t understand why offers to pay the money back only happen at the latest possible moment.

    I think Tebbit’s exhortation to vote for a minor party in protest (I wonder which one?) was disgraceful. You kip if you want to Norman, but don’t turn this into an anti-Europe crusade.

  45. john-I just think that The Green Book + reasonableness & common sense gives the right answer.

    Its not rocket science-many many private sector employees spend their working week away from “home” and are re-imbursed for the cost of their accomodation whilst away.

    I agree with you about the late paying back syndrome which seems to be in the air on both Labour & Tory sides now. I still don’t think these people understand the public mood.

    I heard Tebbit on BBC tv-he said dont vote for any of the main parties-ie abstain. When pressed to say who he would vote for he said anyone but BNP.
    He didn’t identify UKIP.

    If he did Cameron would have had to act against him.

    Actually I think Tebbit has a point.

  46. john-I just think that The Green Book + reasonableness & common sense gives the right answer.

    Its not rocket science-many many private sector employees spend their working week away from “home” and are re-imbursed for the cost of their accomodation whilst away.

    I agree with you about the late paying back syndrome which seems to be in the air on both Labour & Tory sides now. I still don’t think these people understand the public mood.

    I heard Tebbit on BBC tv-he said dont vote for any of the main parties in the EU election-ie abstain. When pressed to say who he would vote for he said anyone but BNP.
    He didn’t identify UKIP-The Greens are a “minor” Party.

    Actually I think Tebbit has a point.

  47. Ivan –
    “I really did assume they’d be ‘cleaner’ than Labour”

    I’ve no idea why anyone would think that. The Cameron front bench is stuffed full of wealthy people earning very nice incomes on second jobs, (including many with unholy links to somewhat disgraced city firms). The Tories open sell access to Cameron (£50,000) and Osborne (£25,000) through their fundraising club system, and they are still accepting nearly £2m pa from an umbrella organisation used to hide individual doneors names.

  48. Colin – he’s an avid “out of Europ”ean. He’s hardly a stalwart of the Green party, and of course he’s going to advise against the BNP.

    Cost of accommodation whilst away – yes. Almost every MP has claimed for more than that, though, so what is “reasonable” leaves the line drawn at a low enough level for almost everybody to be disciplined.

    Comparing with private sector makes it even worse – most private sector companies require receipts and justifications for every last quid, and would almost certainly fire some-one for claiming decor “On The House.”

  49. “Cost of accommodation whilst away – yes. Almost every MP has claimed for more than that, though, so what is “reasonable” leaves the line drawn at a low enough level for almost everybody to be disciplined.”

    john-I’ve just read the Green Book in detail-it’s all there in black & white-plus as I say the Fundamental Principles.

    It just has to be applied. The Fees Office haven’t-or even worse have been complicit in accepting claims outside the rules.

    Yes the lack of need for receipts until very recently has not helped.

    Some MPs have chosen not to exploit allowances-many have not “flipped” their way into property profits & CGT evasion.

    Its up to the Leaders of the parties-they can take your line & say it’s all too difficult-or they can try & lay down some discipline. We shall see.

    Re Norman-I think your commentary & that of the Press is innaccurate.
    He did not advise people to vote for UKIP-he said vote for any minor party other than BNP.

    Given that this is for the meaningless & very poorly attended EU elections, I think that is a good idea for a warning shot across the bows of the Westminster elite.

  50. Colin,

    (pehaps unusually) I am at one with John TT on this.

    It is not quite enough to say that the Green Book is there to be followed, since it assumes a greater level of “allowance” than should be acceptable.

    In the private sector, not only would the majority of these claims have been disallowed, but in many cases they would form grounds for dismissal (especially if one’s perfromance has not been up to par and the employer is looking for valid grounds to reduce costs).

    The main difference between MPs and most people who travel on business is that MPs are required to be in the same two places on a regular basis, rather than peripatetic, so it actually makes more sense for them to have two permanent bases – one at Westminster and one in their constituency. Logically, they should either be provided with accommodation in central London at public expense, or an allowance with which to obtain their own.

    If one compares that to the Green Book, then you can see that there is still a “gap” even if MPs had been diligent in following the “spirit” and not just the “letter” of the rules.

    This inevtibaly damages trust in the sytem and the reputation of all MPs, even those who have been abstemious or parsimonious, and gives succour to the pathetic posturing of parties liek teh BNP.

    Which brings me on to Lord Tebbit – he has probably over-stepped the line this time, and Cameron should discipline him publicly. He for one cannot hide behind the excuse of his precise words rather than the overall impression he undoubtedly created. Even if he had intended people to understand they should abstain he was wrong. But many will have taken his statement as encouragement to vote BNP, not UKIP.

1 2 3