As soon as there is a leadership crisis in a party, it is only a matter of time before the “how would you vote if X was leader questions” come along. Bang on time they have arrived, with ComRes providing the goods for tomorrow’s Independent.

Now, poll questions like this are an interesting beast. In my opinion they are both of very little use in actually showing how popular leaders would be, but at the same time of massive importance. The first part is because the public are firstly very poor at predicting how they will respond to future events, and secondly know very little about the potential alternate candidates. Even if they are quite well known, like Jack Straw, no one has any clue what Jack Straw would do as leader, what policies he would champion and so on. Anyway, more about leadership polls in general here.

If they are of such limited use, why do I say they are so important? Well, even though I don’t put much weight in them, lots of MPs do. Until now no poll has ever shown an alternate leader doing much better than Gordon Brown, so Brown’s supporters can justifiably say to rebel Labour MPs that there is no evidence that any alternate leader would do any better than Brown. The ComRes poll changes that.

ComRes’s normal voting intention question, with changes from their last poll, has shares of CON 38%(+8), LAB 22%(nc), LDEM 20%(+2). It was conducted between the 5th and 7th June, so after the local election results were out and James Purnell has resigned, but before the European election results. On the face of it, it shows a large increase in Conservative support, but I’d pay that little heed: the previous ComRes poll was that freaky one showing the Conservatives down at 30%, almost certainly a rogue poll.

ComRes went on to ask how people would vote if other people were Labour leader. These showed Alan Johnson cutting the Conservative lead to 10 points, Jack Straw to 11 points, David Miliband to 12 points, Ed Balls and Jon Cruddas to 14 points. Harriet Harman would produce a 16 point Tory lead, and James Purnell a 17 point Tory lead.

Now, for various reasons these figures are not actually comparable to normal voting intentions. Firstly each was prompted with just the name of the hypothetical Labour leader, not the names of David Cameron and Nick Clegg (and to be entirely fair, they should be compared to a question asking specifically about Labour led by Brown). More importantly none took into account likelihood to vote, so we don’t know if any would make Labour voters more or less likely to back their party, only whether they make people actually switch.

For those reasons and the ones I mentioned at the start of the article, I don’t think they tell us much at all about how well all these people would actually do as Labour leader. It doesn’t really matter though, since it provides Brown’s critics with something they can point at as showing that alternate leaders would do better than him.

59 Responses to “ComRes poll on alternate Labour leaders”

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  1. Alec

    I cannot take seriously your claims to knowledge of economic competence when you claim that the latest OCED report shows that the UK would be in growth in 2009.
    Oh and come on off your high horse you are clearly a Labour supporter.

  2. @Nick Keene – sorry, but you are quite wrong. The period since 1997 has been characterised by timid government and wasted opportunities, with an economic model that was grossly over reliant on financial markets and with a view on wealth distribution that is socially damaging and economically illiterate. It’s all stuff I was teaching in the early 1990’s, but I don’t feel any pleasure in the ‘I told you so’ line. I see the first signs in Osborne’s speech yesterday that he is beginning to understand some of the issues, but I have little confidence in the Tory leadership – they have been as culpable as Labour and never once saw the dangers. In the present circumstances I fear a Tory government slightly more than a Labour one – (but only slightly more). If you think that makes me a Labour supporter, then think what you like.
    And if you’re interested, the FT reported on June 7th a survey of city economists the majority of whom believe the UK recession is technically over ‘for now’. You need to accept that, rightly or wrongly, this is a widespread view among economists. The key question is whether the upturn is based only on short term issues like restocking inventories and whether consumer confidence will still hold, or whether there will be a ‘double dip’ recesssion or a very slow recovery, which is my personal view.
    Do try to keep up.

  3. [Snipped straightforward abuse – AW]

  4. Alec,

    On the economy, there are a range of views as to:
    a – the likely path / timeline for recovery
    b – the measures most likely to have an impact on that path in the short-term
    c – the long-term impact of any measures in b (which may differ from their short-term impact)
    d – whether it is preferable to have a double-dip (“W”)or a prolonged slow (“L”) recovery. (a sharp “V” is most unlikely – and probably undesirable).

    Whatever the measures taken and the pace of the recovery, one fact remains, the country has a large structural fiscal deficit which is unsustainable in the long-term. That will require a combination of public spending cuts and tax rises to repair. We can debate the balance as between spending cuts and tax rises, but we cannot ignore the problem.

    I agree that Cameron / Osborne policy from 2006-2008 failed to address that issue, but I think that was probably driven more by political calculations than a lack of economic understanding. The evidence for taht is how quickly the party has adapted to what is a new political paradigm (inasmuch that the public may now finally understand that the economic trajectory for much of teh past decade was always unsustainable) and are willing to accept that (a) we have a problem and (b) the solutions will be painful.

    Brown on the other hand appears to be adopting the Micawber approach that something will turn up to make his problem go away. In all probability taht something will be that time runs out on him and it becomes Cameron’s problem not his.

  5. @Paul H-J – I agree with pretty much all of what you say. I am slightly less charitable towards Cameron/Osborne, particularly with the ‘sharing the proceeds of growth’ line they used to take. Both parties have also largely ignored the enormous imbalance in taxation that favours the wealthy that has been a major part of the structural deficit, and to date no one has come up with any proposals that will enable economic policy and performance to become less reliant on the distortions of a malfunctioning housing market. Over time uncontrolled assett inflation is as bad as retail price inflation, but despite repeated bad experiences with this UK policy makers have steadfastly refused to adapt policy. Osborn is beginning to talk about restricting mortgage credit in one way or another, but unless this is combined with other actions to either boost supply or control demand, house buying will return to something only the middle classes can achieve. But you’re right – there will be pain, and the political argument will be over where that pain will fall. The Tory’s past record on this is not good, but we’ll have to wait and see if Cameron can do better.

  6. Alec,

    I think that where we may differ in our view of the validity of ’sharing the proceeds of growth’ as a policy is that you are looking at it from what is right / needed for the country, whereas (all) politicians have to make a subtly different calculation as to what is “acceptable” to the electorate in order to gain office.

    The sad reality is that the electorate do not have a good track record in rewarding politicians who present honest, but unpalatable, positions.

    The economic predicament in which we find our country is not solely the responsibility of either the government or bankers, but of all those who suspended their doubts and bought into the idea that we could somehow maintain our standard of living on the back of borrowing against inflated asset prices.

    At the risk of getting into a morality debate, the tragedy is that any solution will require the genuinely prudent to shoulder the greater burden while the profligate are supported out of the mire into which they have wandered. But it was ever thus.

    Preventing a recurrence of the problem will however require some serious changes not just to government and welfare policy, but to social attitudes and ideas of personal responsibility – and that is where the “Broken Britain” strategy comes into play.

    Fortunately, that task is not so much about spending programmes and more about moral leadership. In teh long-term it could significantly reduce the welfare burden on public spending – but it will be a long haul (decades, not just years).

  7. Alec

    Do try to keep up? What keep up with you!!!

    Please answer the question originally put to you by Angusa

    Where does the OCED say in their latest report as YOU HAVE CLAIMED that they forecast growth in 2009? Until you answer that question which you have been dodging ever since Angusa put it you have zero credibility.

  8. Until today, as an ex-Liberal, I was intending to vote Conservative come the General Election. However, I have heard on the news tonight that Brown has ordered a look at Electoral Reform. If, and it is a big if, he can deliver a referendum BEFORE calling a General Election AND that at least AV Electoral Reform is as a consequence thus implemented PRIOR to GE polling day next year I will switch to Labour, even if still led by him – as I suspect many current Cameron-leaning ex-Liberals would do?!

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