Summer polls

It seemed briefly that we would get a new poll this morning, but disappointingly it was just the Independent calculating a poll of polls for last month, and there’s already one of those in the top-right of the screen!

Politics has, of course, stopped for the summer (unless you are deputy leader of the Labour party, in which case now is your hour :) ). We should get most of the normal regular polls this month, but I wouldn’t expect many beyond that. The exception might be Populus, who have sometimes skipped August in the past.

As with polls conducted over bank holiday weekends, polls carried out in the summer holidays are potentially a bit shaky anyway, since people being on holiday may skew samples. In theory pollsters can correct for this (a standard demographic question asked is how many foreign holidays people take each year), and in practice the figures in August polls don’t actually look out of line, but I’m always a bit wary.

In the meantime, later on in the month I’m I hoping to do some nice round ups of the last year, and what lies ahead in the final parliamentary session before the general election.

100 Responses to “Summer polls”

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  1. Actually, if you look back to recent months, the regular polls have started to cluster towards the end of the month, so jsut because there hasn’t been anything in so far does month doesn’t mean it won’t turn up.

    The only one that consistently turns up at the start of the month these days is Populus, and they might be skipping August.

    I’d expect to get the normal two YouGov polls mid month in the Sunday Times and at the end of the month in the Telegraph, the normal ICM poll in the Guardian will probably next week, I’d expect MORI’s normal monitor late in the month. I don’t know if ComRes will do both their Indy and Sunday Indy poll, but last month they turned up mid-month and at the end of the month, so they aren’t “missing in action” as it were.

  2. Last August we had 10 polls!

    The recent unemployment figures show a 220,000 rise in the jobless to 2,435,000.

    If my calculations are correct we will probably have new figures published in mid May which will show unemployment to have risen above the psychologically important figure of 3 million.

    As the end of May is a likely date for the General Election it may play a significant part in the result.

  3. Philip jw
    The way things are going we could be hitting 3million unemployed by December. The latest figures do not include school and further education leavers!

  4. Don’t know if people have noticed this but in the last couple of weeks, we have been treated to a glimpse of what things might be like if Labour overthrew Gordon Brown and someone else got the job instead. Fascinating, but not very impressive thus far. Is it Alastair Darling’s go next week?

  5. @PhilipJW & Wayne – be very careful assuming anything with unemployment figures. There is a possibility (only a possibility, but one that is getting more likely) that we will not pass 3m unemployed at all. UK manufacturing is already growing and the source of future unemployment will be the public sector. The news today that France and Germany are out of recession is very significant and suggests the recovery will be quicker and stronger than many have forecast. My personal view, and one that I have said here for a long time, is that the doommongers have over done the gloom, and that the economic and fiscal position is likely to be better than forecast.
    I remember reading comments from many Tory posters suggesting the spring pickup was based entirely on restocking, how we would have 3m unemployed by June 09, and how the whole nation would collapse under the PBR debt and the currency would collapse. These predictions were born out of political prejudice and were wrong. In my last post I said I doubted that a recover could substantially help Brown, as his credibility with voters was shot. On balance I still feel that, but I’m not as sure as I was. The economic outlook is moving fast, the BoE has got it wrong again and is looking backwards too much, and there could yet be some dramatic political outcomes from a surprisingly good performance in the face of the worst economic condictions since the 1930s. Cameron got every major call on the crisis wrong, and as I have said earlier, his agressive message on cuts could yet prove to be another bad call come the next election. I believe he fired that gun too soon before the smoke had cleared to see the real battlefield. Brown could yet claim to have steered the nation through tough waters and have done that well. We could be in for an interesting few months.

  6. Ahhhh.. Lack of polls.

    Quick prediction though:

    Con 40-43
    Lab 25-28
    Lib 18-21
    Con lead 12-18

    Anything outside these ranges would be a bit of a surprise.

  7. Alec,

    Your analysis makes good sense IF we have a V shaped recession and have a lot in common with the major economies in Europe.

    However financial commentaries this morning (?including yesterday’s from King) all cast serious doubt on that and either suggest a double dip or a very serious decline later in the year. Of course the electorate may not see it that way and it’s certainly possible to use your analysis to fight an election campaign this Autumn.

    Whether GB would take the risk of announcing it when he returns to London after the Bank Holiday is up to him of course – but if he doesn’t then he and also you don’t, I think, have much option but to wait and hope for the best.

    Having said that

  8. “his agressive message on cuts could yet prove to be another bad call come the next election”

    Alec I think that is certainly the Brownian version-and indeed the Mandelsonian version as “tried” on Evan Davies on Today yesterday morning.

    That interview was interesting as ED refused to let Mandelson go on about Tory “cuts” without spelling out Darling’s post 2011 plans for Public Finances.The media -at least the informed media-are now uniformly dismissive of Labour politicians who cry wolf about “Tory Cuts” whilst refusing to reveal the governments plans for curtailing perrenial Budget deficits , and reducing structural government debt.

    Osborne’s clever finessing of Tory plans into Public Sector Reform=Less crude cutting than Labour=Tory “progressive” politics has clearly riled Mandelson-hence his article in the Guardian.

    You may -possibly ,prove to be correct Alec-but at present Cameron & Osborne are clearly winning this argument. I think it will take some kind of economic miracle to put them on the wrong side of it before the GE.

  9. I think the public are also wiser than to just accept the “Labour Investment” versus “Tory cuts” argument as a purely black and white one.

    Labour may be the party of “investment” but it is of no use at all if the money is spent on ever more Quangos, snoopers, surveillence and administraion of red tape.

    We need robust funding of front-line services, an elimination of red tape (especially in areas like Policing) and nothing else.

    This is not a “partisan” comment just a statement of common sense and I would support any party that invested wisely.

  10. ‘Red tape’ removal is needed from many areas–but the party of central control and pointless targets hasn’t learned. But then the tories when in power also liked central control.

    This is why devolution is good; politicians can’t say they know everything when the devolved govts are doing the opposite action…

  11. I keep meaning to pick up some previous comments which replied to me – thanks. But here is a quick response to Andrew Myers.

    Whate everybody seems to overlook is that there is something even more important than front-line services. And that is industry and commerce that will earn the money the UK now desperately needs.

    The real cost to the UK of the two C20 World Wars was not the people who got killed and injured, tragic though that was. People can be replaced. But the UK lost hugely, particularly by comparison with other countries, financially. In particular, we lost far more than Germany. And the Credit Crunch last year incurred the UK debts comparable in magnitude to the World Wars.

    Niether Labour not the Tories are facing up to this. The Tories talk about across the board Cuts, except for popular spending Departments like Health. What Labour means by investment is generalised stimulation of the economy to generate growth through a multiplier effect.

    But what is desperately needed is targettted investing to generate income that will pay off our debts over time. In the first World War, huge industries were created within a couple of years through a Ministry of Munitions. They same was done in the Second World War, particularly in relation to building heavy bombers (what a waste!), by the Ministry of War Production, although perhaps less sucessfully. One reason sucha activity was less in the Second world War than the First was that the Ministry of Munitions was led by Lloyd Goerge, where as the iminister in the second World War was a peer. Which may have current relevance.

    Everybody is right, there is huge inefficiency in the UK Government at present. Particularly in the “sacred cow” Departments, Education, Helath and the Home Office, as well as parts of defence. But much of the money which is going astray is tied up in outrageous contractual agreements, and it is difficult to see an acceptable solution to this.

    We cannot afford 2.4 million plus unemployed. Apart from the human costs, the people involved need to be deployed into productive work, paritcularly given how many of us these days have many years education and skills. And you are not going to get 2 million plus people into work by some schemes for a few thousand people each, or by encouraging employers to create jobs (at the moment, they are highly discouraged, because if they advertise a job the JobCentre presses literally hundreds of people to apply, which lands the poor hopeful employer with impossible admin costs).

    In the First World War, the Government intervened , with the help of leading business people, to create whole new industries such as what became ICI (remember them! How do you hope to have a prosperous UK when such companies have disappeared). A leading politician, at the moment it is Lord Mandelson’s task, if he is up to it, has to identify the new industries to be created (e.g. to combate climate change) and to get projects going on the huge scale needed.

    No, I don’t believe in Five Year Plans or state socialism either. There is plenty of history that they don’t work, and some irrefutably theoretical reasons too. But that does not mean that politicains annot successfully lead economically on the large scale, witness FDR in the United States. Adn again, I know that the UK had a dreadful history of trying to encourage industries that failed after the Second World War, e.g. gas-cooled nucelar reactors, Concorde. But that doesn’t mean it cannot be done. There were reasons we failed. Firstly, our civil service is amateurish rubbish, and has been since the nineteenth century. And secondly, we didn’t recognise that you cannot cheesepare investment, and that you must either find niches where the UK will survive international competition (mainly by picking innovative areas other people haven’t got to, and then maintaining our lead) or investing comparably to other countries.

    Well. what has all this to do with psephology? Quite a lot actually. One reason the UK fell behind after both World Wars was that, as appears to be happening now, electors here were less willing than those abroad to make temporary sacrifices for long-term economic sustainability. For instance, after the First World War Germany and the US mechanised their coal mines, so the UK lost out in what was then the largest industry (of course, the general Strike did not help). And after the war we built loads of houses, which Thatcher sold at a huge loss to public welth, instead of the transport sytems (particularly electrified railways) of France, Germany etc.. The question is why, our electoral system produced this result, and what can be done to persuade electors to prevent its repetition.

    A more specific, related, question, is how voters’ opinions lag after economic crises. The precedents of the 1930s and the 1970s suggest that electors may demand “Cuts” when they see what has happened as a result of a downturn, but actually this results in their electing scorched-earth Governments at exactly the time when the Government needs to invest. And is this going to happen later this year or, more probably, next?

  12. @David D – firstly, please don’t equate my desires with GB’s – as I have repeatedly said, I don’t support him or like his governance. I’m merely pointing out what I see as the issues on the economy.
    Some points to note are that the likelihood of a V shaped recesssion globally and in UK are much better I think now than 3 months ago. My hunch right now is that UK will be out of recession shortly, a little later than France/Germany, but after having entered recession later. The BoE is fixated on the banking situation, which is still messy, but largely based on valuation of assetts (or liabilities) that will ease if the real economy starts to perform better than expected. I don’t think the BoE has covered itself in glory in this crisis, keeping rates far too high as everyone knew a big crash was coming, and now quite probably stoking up future inflation by QE as the economy is probably turning the corner. They seem perpetually 3 months behind.

    @Colin, Andrew Myers and Jack – I agree with pretty much everything you said. Labour have a made the classic mistake of being too controlling but have made some significant improvements on the issue of removing some pointless targets, but there is no question that targets have helped improve public service delivery vastly since the Tories were last in power. The question is the balance between targets and unnecessary red tape. My point is that if by next spring the requirement to balance the budget looks much easier, Cameron’s very stern message on cuts will look misjudged.
    Labour is also currently miles ahead of the Tories in terms of delivering choice based reform in public services – Cameron’s answer seems to be to hand back power to the professional vested interests, which in my view would take us right back to the days when a rogue GP could quietly murder dozens of patients while the well heeled BMA ensured the doctors were looked after.
    I think Jack’s last point is very true – devolved choice, which means accepting a ‘postcode lottery’ for services.

  13. “if by next spring the requirement to balance the budget looks much easier,”

    What does that mean Alec?
    IFS have pointed out ad nauseam the structural nature of the government’s debt, which will not be addressed by a “waiting for Godot” attitude to economic recovery.

    Brown has run deficits for years-even when tax revenues were bouyant. It has to be corrected-sadly at the end of a recession he failed to prepare for.

    I heard an interview today on Radio2 with the newly elected English Democrat Mayor of Doncaster. As he detailed the positively mind boggling waste & excess which he is cutting out of his Council’s expenditure, one began to get a glimpse of the black hole into which
    our taxes are being poured.

    The “requirement to balance the budget” is structural in this country-it is not something which can be wished away by the Mandelson’s of this world by willing the end to the recession in time for a GE.

  14. @Alec,

    I think you are overoptimistic about what the “end of the recession” means for the country’s finances. It’s a bit like like being attacked by a shark and saying “It’s OK now, its stopped biting me”. All it means is that the economy has stopped contracting. The government’s tax income will remain vastly reduced, and its spending obligations in relation to benefits and “make-work” schemes will remain vastly increased. The fact remains that there will have to be tax increases and budget cuts regardless of which party forms the next government, so I very much doubt that Cameron is going to feel that his comments were misjudged. His number one political problem is going to be selling the necessity of cuts to the public and that is why he is setting out the agenda well in advance.

    And I think effectively blaming Tory policy for the Shipman murders is crass, and completely misjudged. The idea that central government policy creates the circumstances where such things can occur is Westminster-Village daftness. It is human nature to want to believe in and trust “benign” figures of authority, and it is very very hard to be the one who points the finger. That has nothing whatever to do with Tory health policies. And nothing Labour has done directly will make any difference. The media exposure of the facts of the case, and subsequently shifting of people’s outlook, may well have made a big difference to how future cases will be investigated but that is not in any way a party political point.

    Besides which, Shipman is believed to have started killing in either 1971 or 1975 (depending on which report you read) and it was under a Labour government that he was found to be a pethidine addict and yet carried on practising.

  15. At the moment unemployment is sadly rising fast, around 200 thousand every 3 months. At this rate unemployment will surpass 3 million by more than a hundred thousand by the end of May. So even if the rate slows somewhat we are still likely to reach 3 million before the end of May.

    It is reasonable to think that by the end of the first quarter of next year the British economy, like Germany’s and France’s is now, will be growing by 0.3. However, it must damage Labour if we are seen to be lagging behind other major countries.

  16. ‘Labour is also currently miles ahead of the Tories in terms of delivering choice based reform in public services – Cameron’s answer seems to be to hand back power to the professional vested interests, ‘

    I know of no-one who wants choice based reform in the public services. It’s a classic new labour pointless change, We all just want our schools / doctors / hospitals to be equally good. t’s just another labour change for no reason. That’s what they have wasted their time.

    New Labour did not listen on issues which matter – no to Iraq War, no to ID cards, less importance to religion, real freedom so professionals can do their job rather than be slowed down by red tape, no to targets, even put a tax on plastic bags rather than wimp out – but on issues which didn’t matter and which are a pointless added expense, such as choice based public services then they wasted money. I actually trust professionals do do their job- after all that’s what they trained to do. Choice based is just a totally stupid waste of time (remember when we had money to waste on such activities?)

    The sooner New Labour goes the better – and I’m a swinging voter!

  17. The conservatives have been polling between 38-42% for most of this year this seems to be their benchmark.

    Labour have managed to recover their poll ratings from the dire low 20s they were in the spring to 27% in last poll.

    All things considering Labour have an ok press this month given what they are used to and their past form for finding banana skins to slip on.

    Mandleson and others for once have been effective in their sustained attack on the tories e.g. Alan Duncan’s gaffe about expenses and pay or Daniel Hannan’s comments on US television about the NHS.

    If Labour can somehow stay on this course and avoid infighting they should poll between 30- 32% where they were at the begining of this year.

    which would make the general election a very close call.

  18. The main point about future spending is that the media have so far bought the Tory narrative that Labour are not being honest about their future plans and the cuts they would have to make.
    The Labour point, dismissed as wriggling, is that it is too early to say now 7% cuts needed (hence 10% in unprotected areas) as given the dramatic, unprecedented financial and uneconimic collapse it is difficult to judge the outlook for the next 12 months let alone the next 2-5 yrs.
    It is in this context that Camerons, currently popular or at least well received, austority messages may seem as Alec says a bad call by the time of the GE if the Economy picks up better than most expected.
    It is not just GB fans who say he is getting most big things right now but that he lost credibility over many years. Starting with double (ney quardruple sometimes) announcements, then the non GE, 10p tax etc.
    Alec’s right, of course about the BoE getting it wrong again and G.O wants to give them more power?
    Policy made for short term political gain (in this case to show the regulation failure would not have happened without the FSA being created as if the BoE would have been any better!!) is often bad and comes back to hurt long term the 10p rate being the best example recently.
    Time scales suggest, though, the Tory’s still to win (probably outright) but no landslide.

  19. @Alec

    If memory serves, Shipman’s killing spree peaked in 1998 which was well into Labour’s first term.

    In fact he would actually have been my GP at exactly that time had I bothered to register in my new (but short lived) home in that area in 1998. But at the age of 28 I think I fell outside of his demographic!

  20. @JimJam,

    It may well be “too early to say” exactly what the budgets of the next couple of years will need to contain, but absolutely nobody believes they can sustain the current level of spending with the current level of taxation. Not knowing exactly how bad things will be is not the same as not knowing IF they will be bad. They will be bad. Very bad. Labour doesn’t want us to realize that until, hmmm, say the second half of 2010. ie after the next General Election. Funny that..

  21. It is clear that some Labour supporters and assorted fellow travellers are still in denial over the electoral prospects of the government and worse deluding themselves over the state of the economy and the national debt
    According to the poll of polls on this site the Tories are currently heading for a majority of 80 seats with the government just having seen its vote in a by election reduced from 45% to 18%
    As for the economy we the so called doomongers have been told for the last 3 months that the recession was over. Well these pundits were WRONG. All that can be said at the moment is that we have hit rock bottom. Everyone knows that when you go into a tunnel it is dark but eventually you will come out the other side into the light. All we doomongers are saying is that we don’t know how long that tunnel is or precisely at what point we will emerge from it. Personally I stick to my line that until the banks start lending again business will struggle to grow and thus any meaningful recovery simply won’t happen.
    As for the national debt how anyone can fail to understand the crisis we face is beyond me . Anyone with half a brain can work it out. Whatever government gets in next M ay will have to introduce massive cut and anyone who denies this is simply living in cloud cuckoo land.

  22. @Alec

    “the doommongers have over done the gloom, and that the economic and fiscal position is likely to be better than forecast.”

    The problem I have with that is that the last two announcements of UK GDP ‘growth’ were both worse than forecast. Of course, it’s possible forecasters will undershoot next time because of their previous overshooting, but I wouldn’t like to suppose it’ll be better than forecast given recent news.

  23. Neil A. I agree with much of what you say.

    But like too many people you overlook a central issue in relation to tax increases and budgetary cuts.

    A large part of the reason why Government finances are in a mess is that the tax revenue is hugely reduced by economic recession. At the same time there are unavoidable increases in Government financial commitments, in particular in the form of benefits to millions of unemployed.

    To get out of this the Government must ensure that there is effectively targeted investment, either using Government money or private finance (not least the huge sums Labour has given to the banks) to invest in industry and commerce, and hence to create employment. Note that such targeted investment is not the same as the generalised giveaways, such as temporary VAT Cuts, which Labour has wasted taxpayers money on during the last year.

    It is meaningless to identify appropriate levels of taxation and Government spending, a better way of expressing things than “tax increases” or “spending cuts” (which contain prejudiced assumptions about the direction in which changes should be made) without considering the level of economic activity in the economy and how sustainable growth can be resumed, or shrinkage minimised.

    Our politicians seem to me to present the UK’s financial problems to voters in over-simplified ways which damage their ability to plan sensible solutions. The question for us as psephologists is whether our electoral processes are optimal in enabling voters to choose the political policies that will improve their financial wellbeing. If, as I believe, the answer is that they are not optimal, the issue arises as to what can be done about the situation whilst also protecting (and I fear restoring) the imperatives of human freedom and dignity and of democracy.

    I hope some of this post puts in a clearly way points I have written about on this thread before. I am currently unemployed myself and you will have to forgive me if I am passionately angry at all the politicial parties seeming inability, and I fear to some extent complacency, about the UK’s unacceptable levels of unemployment. Unemployment rates were disgrceful even before the credit crunch, and indeed have been so continuously since the 1970s. That unemployment has been over a million since 1979 does not mean that unemployment of over a million is in any way acceptable.

  24. dose anyone know if yougov,icm, comres or mori are putting out any polls this weekend, as im sure we had the first poll of the month at this point last auguest

  25. @Frederic,

    I share your concerns about the size and capacity of the UK economy, but I absolutely do not believe that what it needs is a government “investing” and trying to pick winners. What it needs is a level playing field, sensible and equitable tax arrangements and a government that provides economic stability. I think there is a role for some state aid, in short-term and limited circumstances (for example subsidy for short-time working, where the government is really just redirecting the money it would have spent on benefits into some “first-aid” for the job that’s at risk). In general though I don’t think that creating jobs out of nowhere is good for the long term health of the UK economy, particularly if they are paid for with borrowing.

    There is a role for government in indirect support. For example, why the hell are we making maths, physics and engineering undergraduates pay through the nose to get themselves educated when the country is crying out for them? Support for research and development, vocational training, business start-up assistance etc is genuine “investment”. Most of what the government calls “investment” is really just “spending”.

  26. Neil. Firstly, I very strongly agree with your last sentence: “Most of what [this] government calls “investment” is really just spending.”

    I also strongly agree with your point about making science and engineering students pay fees. Although there is no point in training engineers if there is no manufacturing industry to go into. And there must be lifelong learning. I worked in IT for ten years, but effectively got stranded because I was working on obsolte mainframe computers, and once I was out of the employment loop no employer would pay for a couple of months training to get me onto up-to-date software. And when I got another degree in applied psychology I found that there were younger graduates to take such posts as were available. The Government is currently concentrating exclusively on getting new graudates jobs, but unless they provide retraining for the many people like me who are unemployed in later middle age, and relaz retierment ages, their successors will be landed for decades with paying benefits because we have insufficient pensions. And I did see it coming. I wrote responses to Governments reports etc. a decade ago pleading for immediate action to stop age discrimination. Finally on this point, if this year’s graduates are found jobs by pushing out able and experienced older professionals, which is what is happening, the generation now entering employment can themselveslook forward to being unemployed in a decade or two’s time.

    But I would go back to the point I made in my previous post. The Uk’s current financial problems are akin to those the country incurred in fighting the two world wars. And nobody has ever advocated during major wars that the Government should abdicate economic decisions to the free market, the persistent failure of which is why we are in our present straits. Frankly, the free market is pursued becuase it results in transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich, at the expense not only of the poor but also of the total size of the economy. The rebellion against Labour in working class seats, for example see recent posts on this site for places like Wakefield, Morley and even Hemsworth, to mention just Yorkshire seats, shows that ordinary people Know this. At present, they are going to the Tories as the major alternative, but my guess is that many voters are going to move violently (I fear literarly violently, which I hope my many comments on this site will help politicians avoid) in the opposite direction when a Cameron Government disappoints.

    It is not as though we do not know where to invest. We depsperately need to build up industry, such as transport, energy plants and sustainable agriculture, that will address the climate crisis.

    To repeat my precious posts, we need whole new industries to address the climate crisis and to get two million people off the dole. You cannot encourage industrial leaders to invest when the industries concerned do not yet even exist (e.g. new generation sailing ships). Government, including professionally trained civil servants, not todays’ amateurs, needs to take the lead and to be competent, as they presently are manifestly not, (and nor do the opposition parites appear likely to be).

    Little of what I am saying matches what the current parties are offering voters. But my impression is that once the issues are clearly set out people in particular acdept the need to give industrial investment priority over very desirable social expenditure. The psephological question is why this state of affairs should be.

    Finally, I may appear far to your political left, I probably am, but I am to your right in relation to short-term working and “first aid”. All too often such measures prop up declining or even dying industries such as car manufacture, and perhaps even international banking based in London (or Halifax, where political pressure is retaining jobs that should really have gone instead of ones in more efficient offices in places like Gloucester). During the Credit Crunch the UK must resist pressure to throw good money after bad towards failing old industry and commerce rather than look for new opportunities where our industry and trade can, with the support of excellent and suffieicent R & D, compete effectively.

    P.S. I have been subnitting quite long posts already on this thread, so I have not found spaces to respond to you concerning concerning your suggestion that my observations on behavioural economics, or economic psychology, are over-general. I approach such issues from the direction of degrees in psychology rather than economics, but can I assure you that I have looked at this area a little as a researcher, specifically in respect to the history if inter-war applied psychology and also to quantitiative models of the economics and psychology of housing.

  27. Although the more “minor” parties are very unlikely to win any actual seats in the GE it surely remains a distinct possibility that their proportion of votes in many hitherto pretty safe North western and possibly even some rock solid Yorkshire Labour seats could cost Labour victory even in these seats.

    If this possibility becomes reality the scale of Labour’s humiliation will be far greater than the present polls (which still seem to exist in a world where nothing has really changed and the Euro election results were a freak blip when an ear to the street tells us they were anything but ) would indicate.

    And genuinely threaten there chance of ever recovering as a major party…

  28. Fido, the psephological scenario you envisage is perhaps not a probability, but it is at least a possibility. It does look as though working class voters in “safe” Labour seats may be plumping for whatever party is the most plausible challenger. This is the LibDems in for example Ashfield or Burnley, whereas in more seats it is the Tories. Perhaps particularly in Yorkshire where native Yorkshiresman William Hague is tasked to revive his party, and to judge from reports being posted for traditionally very safe Labour seats, e.g. Morley and even Hemsworth, there is the possibility of quite spectacular upsets. It doesn’t help Labour that they have “parachuted in” some leading figures into Yorkshire seats: it is quite likely some ministers will have “Portillo moments” in seats where a local candidate would have survived (although this is a bad analogy as actually Portillo comes from Enfield Southgate, the seat he lost).

    Opinion polling practices grew up to a considerable extent during the post-war years when Britain had effectively a two party system , with some Liberal interventions that on close analysis tended to have comparatively little effect on swings between Labour and Conservative. It is indeed questionnable (as I have pointed out in previous posts) how far it is statistically legitimate to aggregate voting intentions from seats where different parties may be standing or not (consider UKIP and the Greens) and where their chances vary widely. To take an onvious example, a Great Britian figure for Other support obviously conflates the higher Other support in Scotland, given the SNP vote, compared to England.

    Opinion poll results are traditionally analysed by region, when actually the differences between types of set withn region (e.g. city centre, rural, ex-mining) may be considerably greater than differences between (English) regions.

    The only real answer is to poll not about 1,00O people nationwide, but sufficient in each seat to make at least a rough prediction for individual constituencies. PopulusHome did this last Autumn and it would be very useful indeed to have a repeat, not least for the purposes of longitudinal comparison. However, such an exercise is expensive, and given the current diffucult market for opinion surveys I am not confident there will be a repeat. Anthony, can you say if Populus Home are doing a repeat of their large 2008 poll?

    In the nineteenth century, the Tories recovered from some very severe setbacks. Labour came back from being reduced to just over 50 seats in 1931. In 1931 Labour lost almost all their leaders, but in 2009/2010 some of Labour’s minitsers, e.g. David Miliband, Alan Johnson, Harriet Harman, Yvette Cooper, will be standing in seats where they could withstand a 20+ swing, larger than in the Crewe and Norwich by-elections.

    I suspect that another Labour humilation would be terminal for them not because of the loss of seats per se, but because Labour have come back from disaster too often already. After the wilderness years of 1931 – 1945, 1951 – 1964 and 1979 – 1979 Labour grassroots people hoped for economic redistribution, not the betrayal of a previous Labour Government. But with the possible exception of the Atlee Government they were disappointed. Much more so now than after 1974 – 1979, which was bad enough. Frankly, Labour has broken its promises once too often. People, not least former activists, just won’t believe them if they make redistributive promises.

    Labour is in a far worse position organisationally than in 1979. It has many fewer members and less money. And in particular some of the unions, e.g. RMT, have deserted. I remember when I belonged to the Labour Party and the SDP was formed. I thought about going across, but I didn’t specifically because the union resources stayed with Labour.

    So, Fido, whilst you are right: if Labour are badly beaten at the next General Election (say less than 125 MPs) they may well never recover, I think this will be because of the Party’s history and organisation rather than simply because of its lack of MPs.

    Of course, it will also depend on how the Other parties, in particular the LibDems, do. The fate of the LibDems is hard to predict because of the likelihood that they will be losing votes (and seats?) to the Tories whilst gaining them from Labour.

    It is quite possible that the next Tory Government will eventually be followed by a Government formed by a party that does not yet exist.

  29. Frederic,

    The sorts of employment subsidies I had in mind were more for industries where the crisis is short-term rather than structural. If an engineering firm suffers a cash flow crisis because their customers defer spending by a year, it is reasonable to finance short-time working for their staff in the expectation that they will go back onto full time hours 12 months later. The alternative is that they are laid off and the firm may lack the capacity to resume supply. A great example would be the brick-making industry (something I heard about on Radio 4 a couple of months ago) where there has been a catastrophic fall off in demand but noone doubts that the long term prospects are good.

  30. “Frankly, the free market is pursued becuase it results in transfers of wealth from the poor to the rich, at the expense not only of the poor but also of the total size of the economy. ”

    Frederic-I disagree.

    Can you tell me of a command economy anywhere in the world which has raised standards of living in general for it’s citizens (not just for ruling party hierarchy),whilst allowing them freedom of expression & travel.

    With regard to your comments on unemployment, what level of unemployment do you believe is “acceptable”?

  31. Any one else appalled by the nut Tory MEP comments on the NHS? What an idiot.

    But it sort of goes with the Tory group in the EU _ the right wing fascist idiots group (oops, we tories didn’t realise the rest were so silly)…

  32. ‘With regard to your comments on unemployment, what level of unemployment do you believe is “acceptable”?’

    in the old days 2%was viewed as acceptable as the amount required to allow transfer of jobs with some rights for both employee and employer…

  33. ‘It is quite possible that the next Tory Government will eventually be followed by a Government formed by a party that does not yet exist.’

    The wish fulfilment idiots are back again; on what basis do you predict the election after next will be won by a party not yet formed? What polling supports this? Get real and stop day dreaming…

  34. @Jack,

    I think what was being suggested is that if there is a massive landslide then there may be a major realignment of the left, with the Labour party splitting and parts of it merging with other centre-left groups (LibDems presumably, maybe greens) to form a new movement.

    I can’t see it happening myself, but it almost did with the SDP split. I think the difference now is that the SDP were rebelling against a Labour party that had veered to the left. I don’t think the current Labour problems are anything to do with leftward inclinations. More to do with hubris, arrogance and groupthink.

  35. Jack.

    I agree with you wih one priviso,1-2 years ago i predicted that 2009 would be the breakthrough year for the BNP & UKIP.

    The BNP could be massive in the North of England & West-Midlands within 5-10 yrs.

    I believe we are facing 2.5 million unemployed for the next 10 years,or more precise it will be that in 8-10 yrs time,it wll peak in the 3.5-4m range,as i pointed out above.Government unemployment will rise even when private unemployment will fall cancelling each other out over the next decade.

    I recently went with a family member from Leeds to Barnsley for a drink and something to eat,the BNP is not so much a political party it s becoming a movement there,the BNP don’t go away they are there all year round not just elections & PEOPLE ARE LISTENING,YOUNG & OLD!

    The 16% they got in the Eu elections could easily grow to 25%+ in a future GE,maybe not the one in 2010 certainly after that though.

    I believe in places like the North of England & my neck of the woods the West-Mids unemployment could be very high like the 80s,unlike the 80;s however we didn’t have the immigration problem we do now.

    I do fear for the social problems that would rise from 80s style depression over jobs amongst certain places in the country turning to violence, especially Barnsley & Stoke-on-Trent in particular.

    Places that have totally turned against Labour like Barnsley as i witnessed & thought would never happen,but places that would never vote tory are rich pickings for the BNP & this is not being addressed.

    In Stoke and Barnsley the turning point could be the young out of work,what would have become Labour voters truning to the BNP through blaming the immigrants enviroment they grow up in amongst their family & friends,if this happens it could be a huge problem,that without a total revision to immigration may never go away.

    I find that people do not want to believe the BNP a problem ,it is & it is growing by the day,the media think thy can ignore it & it will dissapear it will not.

    The BNP is not a rag bag bunch of thugs they are becoming a well funded and well run organisation with professional people replacing the thugs we associate them with of the past,my point is not he politics but the problems this violence and trouble it could cause.

  36. UKIP

    Like the BNP there seems to be a un-willingness to admit we have an immigration problem amongst the main parties & UKIP is a problem.

    Again i am not taking sides, just pointing out where i think things stand.

    Voting UKIP for a lot of people is a sanitized version of voting BNP,they want immigration stopped or dramatically cut,they cannot bring themselves to vote BNP however.

    I do believe with rising unemployemt,if UKIP’s concerns are not met head-on this will mean a UKIP vctory in the next EU Elections,a dilemma for whom ever is in power of being forced into a ‘IN’ ‘OUT’ referendum.

    The BNP & UKIP are linked through wanting to halt immigration,personally i believe this is behind the rise of both parties but we are to British & polite to talk about it.

  37. @Neil.
    I am not a LibDem fan, but I recognise that even their static percentage can deliver more MPs than might be expected due to the regionalisation of results… Plaid have weakened, and even hostility to Labour can’t guarantee even a begrudging Tory vote… for too many it’s out of the frying pan and into the fire.

    I don’t think national generalisations are going to provide reliable projections as much as they used to; so I think they could retain a significant presence.
    I would also like to see Labour go below 200 MPs, but I suspect they’ll retain more than 200, again, due to regional effects.

    I can see the SNP, and other minor parties hacking into Labour to quite an extent; but I don’t see the Tories grabbing any majority of significance… I expect “others” to do a lot better than ever before and to split votes.

    …I think it’s a fair bet to place on the result being a Tory minority government, by two or three MPs..

    There are simply not enough people who actually *want* a Tory government compared to those who simply want rid of Labour.

    When I say smart money, I do not mean people who agree with me; I mean people who are able to look objectively beyond the surface polling trends.
    Can you remind me when last delivered a convincing projection?

    The NHS issue is going to be an interesting ride. Labour is in ideological trouble (aren’t they all), and it does give them something to trumpet about… but it’s pretty crowded on the “centre-left” these days, and polling does not suggest that “centre-left” is where most people are (or have been for some time).
    It will be hilarious to see what happens to Labour if they get the much-vaunted kicking, despite what Jack says, they are a party as riven with splits as any other.

    It might be tempting to think that Dan Hannan has committed political suicide; however, he might be forging links with people in America, and become a potential threat to Cameron, if Cameron fails to pull off a convincing victory – which is entirely possible.
    It is a valid point that health care functions a lot better across the channel in many respects and for a similar cost. I’d like to hear what’s so bad about the French NHS compared to ours…

  38. Surely everyone on here agrees that the Tories should be doing better than they are by now?
    They are hovering around 40% on a very likely MINORITY turnout, facing one of the most tired and hapless governments in history in one of the biggest periods of economic crisis, technological change, and social unrest in national history; and with a clone-like third party that can’t seem to stimulate an increase in interest share with a falling turnout.
    Even Blair managed more on a falling turnout when these clowns tumbled into power… There are no leaders in British politics; yet plenty of contempt.

  39. We’ve had this discussion before, Promsan. The Tory support has to be seen in the context of a smaller “pie” for the main three parties. In the current circumstances 40% is a winning number. Of course, I am sure they’d love some comfort zone on top of that; who wouldn’t.

  40. The Left continue to whine about the possibility of the Tories ‘only’ winning the next election with around 40% of the vote.
    I don’t recall these people complaining when Labour won the last election with just 36% of the vote.
    The last time a Labour governemt faced defeat in 1979 the great and good of the Left marched through the parliamentary lobbies to vote down the new parliamentery boundaries which had the effect of reducing the majority won by Maggie Thatcher by some 20 seats.
    These people just can’t stand losing.

  41. Nick Keene,

    People who support Labour are by no means on the left.

    This is probably the most unpopular government since World War 2. Labour were polling in the 60’s around 1995-1996, and most polls showed a bigger Labour victory than it actually was. The same thing happened in 1979.

    The fact is that people are not as enthusiastic about having the Tories back in power as they were about having Labour back in power in 1979, or the Tories back in power in 1979.

    Why? Well, it’s hard to say, but i think it’s possibly because Cameron is too liberal for the hardcore right-wing Thatcherite base of the Tories. It couldbe compared to the 2008 US Presidential Election. A lot of hardcore conservative Republicans thought John McCain was not conservative enough, which probably cost him a few million votes, and picking Sarah Palin as his running mate didn’t help, as she was considered to inexperienced to be Vice President.

  42. Oops. i meant Labour back in power in 1997, not 1979.

  43. Several rather disjointed points more or less by way of reply, or several replies.

    Firstly, Rich has put a very important post concerning the BNP. It is right to say the BNP has a more sophisticated leadership than in the past. They are not to be rejected out of sheer prejudice. But I cannot say a BNP led Britain would be a very nice place. The BNP has inherent problems, apart from its past, because it depends upon support from people with prejudices and what the famous political theorist Adorno referrred to fifty years ago as “The Authoritarian Personality” (in his famous book with that title).

    If we are against the BNP, we should also condemn the anti-BNP cliques who seem to start most of the scuffles that surround BNP events, and who sometimes seem little more open to democracy and rational debate than stereotypical BNP supporters.

    Next point, I live in Dan Hannan’s Euroconstituency. I actually think he is right to raise issues about the NHS by comparison with health arrangements elsewhere. It has become a sacred cow which, because beyond challenge, has become a haven for inefficiencies and self-interest. Although I am sure I would strongly disagree with Mr. Hannan about the solutions. And in particular he should not have involved himself in the political debate of any other independent country, whether the USA or anywhere else outside the EU.
    If Dan Hannan acquires a test for outspoken controversy, a sort of successor to Boris Johnson when he was an MP, he may become an electoral liability to the Tories.

    Colin, I do not believe in command economies, any more than I believe in unregulated free trade. But I do believe strongly that the impracticality of total economic control is used as an excuse by politicians, bankers, civil servants etc. so that they do not have to do their best. We must do what we can to improve the economy. Perhaps I can explain by likening the economy to a sailing ship. We cannot sail a ship directly upwind – if you like that is what Stalin tried to do. But we can tack across the wind to get where we want. Too many politicians, and their supporters, seem to think that because we cannot metaphorically sail directly into the wind we can only do the easy thing and sit back in the stern of the boat as it is swept towards the huge waterfall we can see all too clearly not so far off, and in whose eddies we are already being buffeted severely.

    Sweden and other Scandanavian countries between the 1930s and the 1990s had economies with a considerable, but not total, degree of political and economic direction. They produced high levels of economic growth, equitable distribution of wealth and not least high levels of wellbeing and social and political satisfaction.

    The acceptable level of unemployment is that represented by “frictional unemployment” i.e. mainly people out of work for a day or two as they change jobs. The number of people unemployed that is consistent with this floor is an empirical matter, but from the levels achieved in the arly post-war years it is almost certainly less than 500,000, even allowing for the increased working population now as opposed to fifty years ago. Remember also that we are morally bound also to help poorer countries, which currently have huge levels of unemployment, to become prosperous by deploying their labour effectively.

    Neil, I take your point about sustaining industries subject to cyclical economic forces. I am not sure I totally buy your example of brick-making. One of the UK’s problems is that a huge proportion of our wealth is tied up in houses, particularly, and other property. But this ignores the possibility that our current houses, like steam trains, may become obsolete for reasons including the materials used in their construction.

    Indeed, even last week there was a very important Government report highlighting the inadequate floorspace of recently built UK houses as opposed to those elsewhere in Europe, One reason the UK sturggles economically is that there is insufficient regulation to offset the short-termism of the free market, so that our capital is used on goods, in this case houses, that become obsolete.

    If the UK is to compete with other developed nations, we have to provide housing (and traport etc.) which is competitive with that elsehwere. Does anybody think this is true of the pathetic houses built in the last twenty years or so. (consider the post-war Parker Morris standards)? From our psephologists’ point of view, our new houses are storing up big political trouble for time to come.

    People treat houses as a “fetish” investment, which willl last for ever. They tend to forget that actually houses, and many other buildings, are designed with a notional life of 60 years, and certain components are expected to need earlier replacement.

    Jack, I never said that a new party would take over from the Conservatives at the general election after next. Tony Wells has pointed out that with the excpetion of 1970 – 1974, when Heath threw things away becuase of the “three-day week”, every change of Government has been followed by re-election at the following General Election. The Conservatives being replaced by a new party might happen in the longer term. Although actually the past failure of existing parties to some back quickly is to my mind a reason for the left trying something different. We don’t want to repeat past failures, particularly if we believe that the next Tory Government is likely to be disastrous.

    I did not mention it in previous posts, but if the Tories become unpopular there is a likelihood of many SNP, and possibly Plaid, MPs being returned at the election after next, with all the issues that that raises for the very existence of the UK.

    It is commonly said that oppositions don’t win elections, Government’s lose them. Which may explain previous comments about the current Tory position. It also helps explain my pessimism about the UKs electoral future in the medium term.

  44. ” I do not believe in command economies”

    “it is almost certainly less than 500,000,”

    Frederic-in my opinion these two opinions are mutually exclusive.

    RE Sweden-as I understand it, Swedish employment levels were high during the Social Democrat administrations, in part because many workers had two jobs-one to pay the sky high taxes levied to support government policies, and the other to live off.

  45. On Conservative home it says there is an ICM poll for the Sunday Mirror out later tonight, it says the tories are unchanged from last month and that Labour is up but does not say how much by.

    It also says there is some “intriguing” news for Peter Mandleson!

  46. Two polls due to tonight. One in the Mirror, other unknown location.

  47. Lotsa talk here, think I saw someone ask someone else produce a poll showing ‘a party that does not yet exist’ in the lead….now that’s gotta be religious style logic…

    Politics is more advanced in this country, things can change faster….and the older generation getting less and less active…it’s likely they will. It seems that the big growing parties are BNP and UKIP, both pretty similar…but I’ve often thought (or hoped for perhaps) there’s big room for a centre ground economic party that’s extremely liberal in the classical sense, and definitely ignores PC rubbish.

    You could say that this is the ground Cameron is going for, but….I just don’t like the man, and I don’t think the rest of the tories would want to follow into that centre in any but a lipservice way.

    I can’t see UKIP dying off until either lab or lib dems (or some other centre or left party) take a far more anti-EU approach….but BNP, shouldn’t be around in the first place… my mind the only reason they’ve got so big is that the powers that be refuse to debate them….that they’re physically attacked in public. As long as this state of affairs continues then Griffin can continue to stand in halls telling daily mail readers how the PC leaders are oppressing him and refuse to debate him….and he’ll get support because it’s true, the BNP are oppressed….treat them like a proper party and force them to debate actual policies and it’ll become fairly obvious that theirs are pretty stupid….

    I’ve got way off topic anyways

    Tl;dr – Anti-EU is a big topic and is here to stay a while, politics can change faster these days and new parties are a big possibility, oppressing the BNP just makes them stronger.

  48. Wood, regular contributors will not be surprised when I point out that the Greens are also growing.

    It would be technically possible to ask in opinion polls about hypothetical parties, although how reliable or valid the results would be is another matter. Something similar is in effect done when pollsters ask whether people would change their voting intention if a party changed its leader.

  49. I thought about the greens, but I wouldn’t say they’re growing as fast as UKIP & BNP lately, and I’m not sure they’ll contiue to….in time like these some people get a little tired of global warming.

  50. A reply to Colin. Many people in Sweden may have had two jobs in the Social Democrat years, but I don’t think they worked excessive hours. Also, a number of second jobs will have related to their participative democracy, for instance farmers holding positions in the producer’s co-operatives that sold their goods.

    Another reason people have second jobs in places like Sweden (and indeed parts of Scotland) is that in sparsely populated areas people have to fill a number of community functions.

    Taxes may have been high, but so was prosperity. I remember going to Sweden as a child in 1961. Their standard of living was staggeringly high by comparision with England or other European nations at the time. And the people were generally happy.

    I think many politicians in Sweden were part-time – strangely, some were civil servants “running round the table”. I don’t believe in conflicts of interest, but the problems that docttors, dentists etc. are going to encounter in the UK, that they cannot become MPs because they cannot retain their professional sklills through part-time work, and the isolation of careerist MPs from the perspectives and interests of their constituents, is an example of a situation in which reputable second jobs are actually beneficial.

    Specifically, people in Sweden had a better life than the workers in Britian subjugated into Tayloristic factories where they did a mind-numbingly broing job all day. And when they did little else in life but smoke and dring. There is data from the time concerning declining intelligence which suggests that this life regime actually made people stupid. This, imprtantly, has continuingly damaging effects because ill-informed civil servants and politicalns assume that intelligence declines with age when actually the results on which they base their gross prejudice were the artefactual result of poor working conditions.

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