ICM’s last poll was back at the tail end of May and was something of a sensation – showing the Liberal Democrats up on second place and Labour pushed down to 22% – something that wouldn’t be particular unusual from YouGov, but was incredibly low for ICM, whose polls have shown Labour support as far more resiliant; they very rarely show Labour dropping below the high 20s.

Their lastest poll is something of a return to normality therefore – the topline figures, with changes from their last poll, are CON 39%(-1), LAB 27%(+5), LDEM 18%(-7!). From their poll a week before that the changes are far less radical – the Conservatives unchanged, Labour and the Lib Dem’s down slightly – suggesting that poll with Labour in third place was probably something of an outlier. Certainly while MORI had them neck and neck, no one else has shown the Lib Dems overtaking Labour.

Meanwhile, unlike YouGov’s last poll, there is no sign of the level of “other” support waning yet. It stands at 15%, which includes 6% for UKIP and 4% for the Greens.

On other questions, Cameron leads Brown 48% to 22% as best Prime Minister, Cameron & Osborne lead Brown & Darling by 47% to 31%. Expectations for the result of the next general election show 54% expect the Conservatives to win, 9% think Labour will win and 34% expect a hung Parliament.

ICM also asked about attitudes towards electoral reform. The actual question asked isn’t clear, but the Guardian’s report says 52% supported a new electoral system, with 43% opposed.

92 Responses to “Labour back into 2nd place with ICM”

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  1. Ivan try and analyse polls rather than showing your prejudices.

    And the polls really aren’t as simplistic right wing as you like to believe; Sinn Fein topping the EU, SANP top, proTamil independents doing very well in London, Greens doing very well (although I know you think they are right wing), increasing numbers not voting, a lefty as President in the USA, Sth America turning solidly left wing, Labour in power in Australia, a lefty in Sth Africa etc etc. may not be noticed by you I know but it’s worth thinking about.

    But then even you calledeyourself a dinosaur…

  2. Anthony,

    Is their any evidence that when ICM poll for the Guardian that they are slightly more Labour friendly than when they poll for the Telegraph ?

  3. Ivan has a point about the NHS – there ARE too many managers. Because of the internal market and nonsense like patient choice* we have every NHS Trust needing a phalanx of managers to market themselves to health consumers (i.e. the sick).

    You could cut NHS budgets by taking a layer or two of managers out. I don’t believe this is the Tory proposal however – cuts if not to managers are therefore to rontline services.

    *There is a perception that patient/parent choice is attainable and desirable. To do so you need overcapacity in schools and hospitals – as we have in retail and other industries – which allows the spare capacity that us as consumers can switch into.

    In reality there is little to no spare capacity, and “choice” means a parent 3 miles away from a school taking the place of – and denying choice to – a parent a mile away. At the same time people whine about the post code lottery. Its unfair – they say – that town A spends its money in a way that makes a treatment available when Town B spends its money differently and doesn’t offer that treatment. But isn’t this what people want when they want local decision-making rather than “dictat from faceless Whitehall mandarins”? Logically a locally-made decision must mean things different in each town if its to be effective.

    The sad truth is that the selfish self-centred me me me generation created in the 80s want what they want and screw the rest of you. Choice that benefits them is great, choice that denies them is an outrage.

  4. er

    any chance we could at least try and talk about polls at least some of the time?

  5. Neil Mungeam,

    “any chance we could at least try and talk about polls at least some of the time?”

    Well said, Thats up to Anthony to amplify / enforce !

  6. Wayne and Neil
    As far as I know we were discussing the March 27th YouGov Telegraph poll which Anthony did a post on.

    care to have a look at it and come back with a contribution?

  7. Ian – Ivan’s point about the NHS was that the doctors should run it. I suggest most people disagree and think that taxes should meet the cost of admin (and that the admin should be accountable)

  8. Wayne – consider it amplified. I do hope for some self-moderation round here, though occassionally I’ll shoot an admiral to encourage the rest of you.

    For a while ICM’s Guardian polls were showing larger leads than other ones – but the methodology is and was identical (I checked with Nick Sparrow), so it was either something to do with the fieldwork dates (Guardian polls tend to be done at a weekend, Sunday Telegraph tend to be done mid-week) or pure co-incidence.

    Personally I think it’s more likely to be co-incidence, since at the time it was most apparent quite a few of the ICM/Guardian polls were also being done mid-week.

  9. The Guardian’s report on this poll is interesting.

    Firstly, they show the changes from the last ICM/Guardian poll (nothing surprising in that) – giving C nc; Lab -1; LD -2. This being not much change overall in sharp contrast to the ICM poll later in May that would clearly appear to have been a bit of a rogue.

    Secondly, they home in on the electoral reform part. If Brown’s aim was to pitch for soft LD supproters (defectors from Lab) he would apear to have succeeded nothwithstanding being totally unclear on what he thinks might be delivered. Also worth noting that Cons show a majority in favour of FPTP. Again not surprising, but by implication, don’t expect PR to be a priority for a Cameron government.

    Finally, tucked into the report on perceptions of leaders, apart from the numbers not adding up properly, they comment that one third of Labour voters in 2005 would prefer Cameron to Brown as PM. If this led them to change their vote, that would deliver C45, Lab 24. As it is, this poll shows a swing of about 7%, or about a fifth of Lab 2005 support switching, but perhaps one should allow for the fact that former Lab supporters intending to vote LD may also prefer Cameron to Brown. After all, presumably if they preferred Brown, they would stick to Labour. By voting LD they recognise that the result could be that Cameron wins an overall majority – albeit by a smaller margin than if they switched direct to Con.

  10. FPTP will prevail for any Govt as long as other systems would show no improvement. If post-GE analysis shows another system would produce better results, then enthusiasm for such a change would increase.

    Having said that, it’s naturally less likely for Conservatives to look for change unless the system was clearly broken.

    Offering a referendum as part of the manifesto is possibly therefore an easy win for Brown (the argument against it could only be that he wouldn’t carry out such a referendum id f he won – and he has got form there, etc)

  11. Mike and one or two others

    “I suggest you do not assume there is likely to be a swing to the Governing party as this is not evidenced based.”

    I’m sorry but you are wrong.

    It is more often than not the case that, mid-term, we see voters move towards protest and/or opposition and some of these return to support the incumbent party at GE time.

    If polls were to continue to show the Conservatives enjoying only a 12 point lead, over the next 6 months, I would not be at all surprised to see a hung parliament at the next election.

    What is more, the probabilty of this is increased by virtue of the following two facts:

    i. At only 39% Conservative support is rather weak. One would expect to see them comfortably in the mid to high 40’s. Especially considering the mess of things as they are just now.

    ii. People wishing to see Electoral reform may realise that the best way to achieve this is to vote for a hung parliament. In other words, vote to ensure that the Conservatives do not get an outright majority.

  12. David in France,

    Sorry, but the evidence has been thrashed to bits on this site in the past. The myth that all governments recover as an election approaches came about because we had Conservative governments for most of the second half of the last century, and it is indeed true that the polls generally moved towards the (Conservative) governments in the final year.

    So far this century the opposite has been true – ie the polls moved towards the (Conservative) opposition as the election approached. Conversely, once the election is called, there is typically a shift of 2-3% from Lab to LD.

    On past experience, if the Conservatives continue to enjoy a poll lead of 10-12% over the next year, then the likely outcome of the GE is a Con lead of 12-15%.

    Whether that lead is 39% v 24% or 42% v 30% will determine the size of the Tory majority, but even in a hung parliament scenario it is now more likely than not that Cons will still be the largest party (and that Cameron will be PM).

  13. Paul – Lest complacency set in, I suggest that there is no valid reason for such late swings, either towards incumbents or towards Conservatives, or towards anyone.

    You use logic where it does not necessarily apply. A swing towards Labour from now isn’t out of the question, and a further swing towards Conservative isn’t either. 12-15 points in the clear should indicate there’s still work to be done.

  14. Question: why does everyone always go on about this magical 40%? As someone may already have already pointed out, the Cons can win a parliamentary majority without being at that figure- after all it is only relevent if Labour are holding a polling average of 30% (which clearly they are not).

    And as for the Liberals the reason I speculated about their polling figure is based on a couple of things:

    1. they seemed in the local elections to hold onto their previous support base- only dropping 3 councillors overall; wouldnt this indicate they are holding onto a 2004 level share of the vote (which places them presumably higher than 17-19%)
    2. a solid 28% in the locals and a solid hold on 15% places them on exactly equal performance as the last time these elections were held- and this again would see them matching an actual electoral performance greater than the polling 17-19%.

    Its just that I prefer to compare the polling averages etc with actual electoral examples and they do seem to me to be inconsistant in regards to the Liberals.

  15. John TT

    But you wernt having a discussion about polls were you? You were having an argument with Ivan about policy.

    And there is no need to get snarky with me. For your information i have read Anthony’s bit about the poll and in fact every comment on this thread. I also left a comment about the 40% fallacy so common is discussion of polls right in the middle of your argument so i would have though that you would have seen that i made a “contribution”

  16. Yes Dean that was me!

    Glad someone noticed my post!

    You are quite right that the 40% thing is based on the presumption of Labour being at at least 30. It is an indication of Labours weakness in current polling that this assumption is now obsolete. 27% is being considered a sign of improvement!

  17. Is there a swing back towards governments?

  18. One thing we categorically know is that the polls are in flux – and to a far greater degree than we have seen for many years.

    I would suggest that this means arguments about late swings are a moot point – they are based on normal cyclical trends. And the polls are not normal or cyclical.

    I think that a wide spectrum of election results are possible from small Labour majority to Tory landslide and everything inbetween. Would it take a large swing in the polls for Labour to win? Yes it would. Have we seen large swings in the polls? yes, several. Are there political game-changing events that can provoke a widespread reassessment of voting intention? Absolutely.

    I come back to the same point time and time again – it is madness to state any position as a given. Any position you state as the only game in town is your personal political narrative and not the reality.

  19. @Ivan – “People can ‘coordinate’ themselves. Doctors can run their own Hospitals, Teachers run their own schools”

    Its an interesting point, and one that is part of the debate. In many ways, you can argue that they can’t – very highly paid medical practitioners were not very good at setting NHS priorities for the benefit of patients for example. This is why I cannot book a GPs appointment at 8pm in the evening, or a saturday afternoon, but have to book a day off work instead. Compare this to the hospitality industry, where workers on much lower pay have to work to service customers leisure hours, whatever they may be. You do have a point in that too much meddling in medical matters by civil servants is counter productive, but it is genuinely a major problem trying to measure and improve performance for the tax payer. When I hear Cameron say he will give the NHS back to the doctors, I get very worried. If he also said he’ll give the car industry back to the TGWU then OK, but he isn’t. Management of public services is very easy to get wrong, but its clear there are vested interests ot there that need to be taken on – in many cases it’s not the low paid manual workers, but the very highly paid professionals. Labour’s biggest criticism from me is not that they spent too much, but they didn’t demand enough for the cash from these people.

  20. I don’t think it’s snarky to ask posters who dismiss whole lines of perfectly relevant discussion to make a contributiion instead of complaining. However, I didn’t link your brief posts with your earlier more relevant one, so I can understand you objecting to being ignored

    I was indeed having an argument with Ivan about whether there is a majority (evidenced in the polls) in favour of cutting public spending in order to reduce taxes. That’s very different from discussing policy.

    I also disagreed with Colin, but did so not by asserting that I was right, but by asserting that I thought the electorate would come to the decision that the “sharing the proceeds” idea was wong, and that was where the argument lay.

    It may seem like a subtle difference, but looking at narrowing polling gaps and discussing possible reasons is far different from “discussing policy”

    Sorry I chose not to address your point in the middle of that. I don’t have anything to say about the 40% issue. Malcolm Gladwell wrote a very good book about tipping points. I guess the media seem to think things like 40%, $1.50 xchg rate, 5000 FTSE etc are such points.

  21. I hope Anthony will forgive me, as I know comments should be about polls. However, as I see this is about the only forum on the net that allows real discussion amongst sensible people of all political presuasions about political developments and popular opinion I want to ask contributors’ advice. Like many electors I am jaded with Brown and Labour. I voted for them in 97 but drifted back to LD since at GEs. In both PR Euros I voted UKIP. I occasionally vote Conservative for a good candidate in local council elections, and find Cameron is the first Tory leader since Ted Heath who is likely to make me vote Conservative at a GE. However, two things worry me. Instinct tells me that Osborne would not have any sleepless nights about being fiscally cruel to those least able to fend for themselves. He may be a perfectly nice chap in real life, but he doesn’t come over that way. Thus Cable may draw me back to LD whilst Osborne is Shadow Chancellor. Secondly, I dislike both FPTP and PR. I do wish the Conservatives would consider, of their own volition, some form of Electoral Reform which would give more power to voters, especially those “trapped” in safe seats, or seats which are contests between minority parties or a minority party and only one of the major parties. Surely we could keep say 600 single member constituencies, but allow about 50 top-ups to go to the winners of a direct nationally counted second vote for which Govt we all want. Perhaps the second Govt vote could be like the London Mayoral Supplementary System, thus a Govt would have an absolute mandate of over 50% of the voters? Would this not get rid of the pro-Labour bias of FPTP and avoid forever hung parliaments? This system too would give every voter everywhere in the UK the individual power to “hire and fire” governments. Why are Conservatives so dead-set against any reform?

  22. Tony – I only have an answer to the last bit.

    Conservative ideology is basicallly that if something isn’t boroken, don’t try to fix it. Don’t make changes for the sake of them. Only change if you have to.

    There are I think two main reasons for that (and it’s perfectly reasonable to have that ideology)

    First, you can’t predict that the changes will make an improvement until they occur, and by then it may be too late to repair the unforseeable harm

    Second, in order to bring about a change you need to consult widely over what sort of change is required.
    That….costs….money. The bigger the change, the more money it will cost to carry out the necessary due diligence in preparation.

    That’s why the Conservatives (IMHO) did not argue for a change after 1997 or 2001.

  23. Fair enough John. I am certainly not going to get into an argument with you about the relevancy of comments which would after all make me a hypocrite as it would certainly not be a discussion of polling…

    I would just add though that my remark was nor even specifically addressed to you personally. I was just commenting on all the talk of the utility of or otherwise of NHS managers GLBT coordinators etc…

  24. Neil – I agree that part was off-topic. So was my last post! Perhaps we should run a poll to find out how far the comments policy of this site is perceived to be followed?

  25. Anthony,

    Are you happy that certain people are ruining this great site by posting anything but polling comments ?

  26. John – Thanks for that reply, very interesting for me to re-engage with Conservative ways of thinking after so long! (I left back in 1975). However, I think FPTP is “broke” and many potential Conservatives, if not a majority of current Conservatives would agree. Many of us feel disenfranchised for the reasons I mention above.
    A poll on the relevance of contributions on this site would produce a whacking great majority saying that they are not. But, given Anthony’s tolerance, and our often reverting to comments that are back on message about polls, makes this an invaluable website for those interested in sensible political discussion.

  27. I think in the question, when asked which party they are voting they should also ask why, that would give us a better indication on the amount of core vote in the public each party has and why others besides the core vote are choosing them. Just a thought.

  28. Wayne – I am sorry, and do plead guilty to what you suggest. In mitigation, I do comment on polls as well. Anthony seems very tolerant in allowing discussions to develop.

  29. Personally, I’m glad Anthony is lenient about comment threads that veer off the strictly polling topics. I’ve seen some of the threads on other websites and most of them are appalling strings of useless and ill thought out abuse – these discussions here are generally well behaved and illuminating. We never did get to the bottom of the French Revolution though, which was a pity.

  30. Tony,

    One Tory idea I like, which is fairly new (at least in this country) is to allow local people to elect the chief of police in their area.

    If such ‘people power’ were extended to other major services then I think the feel of having some input in local matters would be returned. It would all be FPTP of course but would at least mean you get more of a chance to ‘have your say’.


    If we don’t discuss some of the background to the polls (policy/public perception) then all that is left are dry statistics which cannot be put into context.

    John and I weren’t nasty or aggressive, there WAS reference to polling and no expletives were used.
    What’s the harm?

  31. First time post on here, so be gentle!!!

    Looking at the polls over the past few weeks, shows that the Tories have suffered from the expenses along with Labour. The Duck House entered the public conscience as the “key word” of the scandal. However the Newsnight panel a couple of weeks ago when discussing this, when promopted about duck houses, kept bringing up the mortgage payments for mortgages that don’t exist, so I suspect that Labour will have got hit a bit harder because of that. Now that has receeded and Brown seems to be a little bit more in control I’m not suprised to see them stabilised.

    Cameron can take solace in that he is still notably in the lead and there is no traffic away from them in great droves. However, now that the services battle has been joined, we are in for interesting times. The Mr 10% could come back to haunt Brown (remember the 10p tax rate?) and the media aren’t buying into the narrative of more and more spending. However, it might just be enough to say it constantly along with “Will you match £x spending on Y?” like Balls did. I think it’s risky but it might swing enough.

    Clearly we are now approaching the end game of this parliament. I think the Tories may well hold back their policies until the conference season. Being last gives them the opportunity to really define the debate in the autumn period. What we haven’t been given is a clear definition of the theme that their policies will fall under – simply offering austerity is not going to win votes.

    Also, I wonder if Cameron’s high personal ratings will help the vote on the actual day. A lot of people voted for Blair and not Labour in 97/01/05. I wonder if the same could happen again?

    The series of polls (and the actual results in the very recent elections) indicate to me, that this is the Conservatives election to win. The question is, can they make themselves a positive choice for another few percent of the population?

  32. @Ivan – electing police chiefs is not something we should do lightly. You open the police up to huge potential for operations being distorted to get votes and the politicisation of policing. Its at the heart of much small town corruption in many places, and is a gimmick from politicans who can’t address basics in engaging voters. Just imagine, a democratically elected police chief who supports the BNP, for example?

  33. “simply offering austerity is not going to win votes.”

    NickR – i suspect Osborne disagrees, or at least will find himself under pressure to promise to fire swathes more “bureaucrats” by the side of his party that believes they can’t lose and can therefore afford to be bold.

  34. It’s clear from reading Yougov’s survey of 27th March, that more than 9% of those surveyed wished to reduce public spending (the true figure was 68%).

  35. John TT – Austerity in government waste will be a vote winner, but there needs to be more of an articulation of the other aspects of their policies. They are there, but there is no coherent theme yet.

  36. NICKR:-
    “simply offering austerity is not going to win votes.”

    No indeed it’s not Nick.
    Osborne & Cameron will try to show that they are being prudent & realistic in recognising the need for public expenditure to fall in order pay down government debt, and reduce the cost to the taxpayer of funding it.
    If Labour stick with the Brown line that they won’t cut, but Tories will , O&C will try to portray that as disingenuous-or worse.

    The wedge Tories will try for is “honesty vs dishonesty”-or even “prudence vs profligacy”.

    The wedge Labour-(well Brown anyway ) will try for is Labour “protects” “public services”-Tories destroy them.

    You can make your own mind up which of these is a winning strategy-but there are two more factors which will have to come to the surface before the game is over :-

    1)What are the spending priorities of each party . Lansley has effectively got Balls & Byrne into a right old pickle on this one-but Cons will have to provide more definition.

    2)Tax policy-everyone is silent!!!!-but it’s going to explode at some point & it may be a game changer.

  37. NickR – don’t you have your own blog over at the BBC?

    I think you might be surprised how much the population in general are looking for commitments to cut expenditure from politicians. They are hurting at home and want to see the public sector taking some of the same medicine. Whether, when it becomes clear what this actually does to public services, the public will continue supporting the government responsible for those cuts, is another matter entirely.

    However, anger at the loss of those services can only be compounded if the government doing the cutting, was in fact promising real terms increases in public spending before the election.

  38. John TT,

    Thanks for the lucid explanation of Conservative “ideology” – Burke would be proud of you.

    Tony Dean,

    FPTP is not perfect. But I refer you to Churchill’s comment about Democracy – it is less imperfect than most of the other systems on offer.

    FPTP is not of itself inherently biased to any party. The perceived “bias” in the system which currently allows Labour to have a working majority on only 36% of the vote, and notionally enables Labour to retain a majority of one even if Cons were 5% ahead has far more to do with three things that characterise Labour’s support, and two that characterise Tory support., than the system itself.

    (a) Lab has substantial support concentrated in a block of seats where turnout is consistently below national average. This means that they can win these seats with fewer votes per seat.

    (b) Lab is competitive in a large number of marginals which in recent years (from 1997) they have been able to hold with relatively small majorities.

    (c) Lab is now almost non-existent in a large number of English seats where the main challenge to Cons comes from LDs

    (d) Con support is strongest in those areas with growing populations, hence on average the electorate in a Tory held seat is higher than in a Lab held seat.

    (e) Outside the shire “heartlands” Con support is widely spread such that it comes second in many areas, but not close enough to put the seat into contention.

    There is one other factor which could be argued to be “biased”, and that is how boundaries are drawn when seats are periodically re-distributed.

    In principle, the Boundary Commission is supposed to be utterly impartial and draw boundaries based on objective guidelines as to size of seat, and within existing local government and natural boundaries. Its proposals are open to comment from interested parties when published in draft form and may be amended on the basis of reasoned objections .

    It is generally agreed that the 1990s redistribution was significantly to Labour’s favour. The new boundaries are notionally marginally less unfavourable to Cons, but we won’t really know until after the election.

    It is also widely recognised that the revised boundaries in Scotland in 2005 could have been drawn with the express purpose of preventing a Tory being elected as they were so unfavourable.

    Just because the boundaries and distribuion of votes at a given election delivers an unfavourable result, it does not follow that one should aim to change the system. It is better to work within the system, and concentrate one’s efforts on persuading voters of the merits of one’s policies. It also helps to target campaign resources on areas where it can make a difference – which is what Tories clearly did in the County Council elections seeing as they won nearly every Council up for election.

    In that context, the absolute % of vote obtained is only significant in terms of giving a party legitimacy for introducing major reforms or taking difficult policy decisions.

    With a potentially divided opposition – which could easily occur if Lab is at 25-28% and LDs at 20-22% – it is conceivable that Tories could win a signiifcant majority of seats with only 40% of the vote – after all, Labour did so in 2001. It all depends on how those votes are distributed.

  39. Greg – no I’m not that NickR

    “I think you might be surprised how much the population in general are looking for commitments to cut expenditure from politicians. They are hurting at home and want to see the public sector taking some of the same medicine. Whether, when it becomes clear what this actually does to public services, the public will continue supporting the government responsible for those cuts, is another matter entirely.”

    I agree with all of this, but there is nervousness about what the Tories will do. If they can articulate a positive vision I think they will seal the deal (which would make me happy). The public is willing to listen – what wil they say?

  40. NickR

    “…..but there is nervousness about what the Tories will do. If they can articulate a positive vision I think they will seal the deal (which would make me happy).”

    Well if that would make you happy, I’m quite prepared to believe you are not that NickR (and to be honest, I don’t think the Tories are going to have to try too hard to seal the deal – Gordon Brown’s doing most of their work for them).

  41. Paul H-J
    Thank you very much indeed for your comprehensive answer to my questions over bias in FPTP. Yes, we will have to wait and see whether the new boundaries are as slanted as they appear. I did an interesting test on EC on this website. If you had a straight fight between Con v Lab (Punch in 49:49;1) without LDs in the equation it gives a pro-Lab bias of 42 seats! Any system that does not take into account differential turnout and is so manilpuable is surely questionable. By all means lets keep FPTP for the vast majority of seats to keep the constituency link, would not a corrective top-up of about 50MPs for the winning party iron out the dodgy boundary drawing and low turnout in the likely Labour inner-city seats.
    Michael – I too wish more motivation questions were asked in polling, rather than just a snap-shot. The Euro one which analysed BNP supporters was so informative. I suspect this is costly though?

  42. Tony,

    One other factor to bear in mind is that there is possibly a “tipping point” which neither UNS nor other swing calculators take into account (not to mention tactical voting).

    In the 1980s Labour complained that the FPTP system delivered large Tory majorities on c40% of the vote. That was one reason why Mandelson orchestrated a coordinated and effective campaign to influence the new boundaries in the early 1990s. The result was better than they could have hoped.

    I am not in favour of “top-up” systems because they create a two-class structure. You can be sure that any top-up list will be stuffed with party placemen who failed to get re-elected in their own constituency. That is an effront to the voters who booted them out.

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