There is a new Populus poll in the Times. Topline voting intention, with changes since Populus’s last poll, are CON 39%(-1), LAB 29%(-1), LDEM 18%(nc).

It’s another no change poll, but as I’m sure many will note, 10 points is a particularly low lead compared to other recent polls. Populus use very similar methodology to ICM, and I’d expect them normally to show pretty similar pictures. However, the last two Populus polls have shown Tory leads of 10 points and the last two ICM polls have shown Tory leads of 17 points. Technically speaking they are within the margin of error of a position somewhere inbetween, and since there’s no methodological explanation my guess is that it is just that – normal sample error with the real picture being a lead around 13 or 14.

Others are up slightly to 14%, this is mostly a boost for UKIP who are up to 4% from 2% a month ago. It’ll be read as a result of the Conservative Lisbon policy, but I would be wary of reading too much into that – there’s no significant shift in Tory support and the level of support for minor parties does tend to bounce about a bit. For the record though, it is higher than UKIP normally reach in Populus polls (as opposed to around the time of the European elections, when they were as high as 8%)

Asking specifically about the Conservative European policy, 48% of respondents backed the Conservative policy that “it would be pointless to have a referendum on Europe unless specific further changes in Britain’s relations with the EU were being proposed”, with 46% instead saying that “should be a referendum early in the next Parliament on the general issue of Britain’s relations with the EU”. Conservative supporters however were less supportive – only 37% agreed with their own party’s policy, with 59% supporting a referendum.

Populus also asked about MP’s pay. 68% disagreed with the statement that MPs should have their pay increased “to ensure that good quality people from all backgrounds are not deterred from standing”.


157 Responses to “Tory leads stays at just 10 from Populus”

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  1. I guess we must be pretty close to hung Parliament territory with the Conservatives below 40% Anthony?

  2. Others at 14%

  3. Peter – on a uniform swing (with all the caveats that implies) it works out to a Tory majority of 2.

  4. As Anthony has pointed out there appears a huge gulf between populus and ICM, but suppose Populus is right and things are a little better for labour on the night, and Tories are 20 short of overall majority, is there any possiblity of Lib Dems supporting labour when they are on 29 and the Tories on 39?

  5. Thanks very much Anthony.

    As a Conservative myself I can see both bad and good in this poll. Bad becasue we are below 40% and we really should be doing better than that. Good in that Europe is a potentially explosive issue for the Tories and the coverage has been quite negative(not unfairly so when some of that negativity has ben pepetrated by Tory MEP’s themselves plus the likes of Craswell. I support the Cameon policy which I believe is one which downgrades the EU as an issue and we will se him concentrating on cooperation with them. This poll shows that he is basically not out of synch with the mainstream centre ground on this issue although paradoxically he is at odds with a majority of Tory voters. I reckon he went in for a damage limitation exercise and provided it does not take centre stage again he will begun to recover support. I am really struggling to see how Labou CAN recover to actually win outright.

  6. I still believe that on the night the English Marginals will win it for the Conservatives.
    My prediction is still.

    Con ~ 40-42
    Lab ~ 28-30
    LD ~ 18-20

  7. Davey, I do not try to answer your question but invite you to consider another!Why would it be unreasonable for the LibDems to take the view that ALL the parties are minority parties? Given that that proves to be so in the context of a Hung Parliament why should they feel obliged to support the largest minority party? Would it not make more sense to support whichever party comes closest to its own views on the major policy issues – macroeconomic policy – Europe- electoral reform – Afghanistan etc?

  8. Graham

    The SNP governs Scotland as a minority government – and according to the TNS poll today still enjoy 40% of the popular vote for the constituencies, 31 months after the election.

    However parties posture, I’m sure that they all have noted the difference between Scotland and Wales – where Plaid entered a coalition with Labour and are certainly not doing as well (though I know there are all kind of other factors).

    Based on Scotland’s experience, the largest party in the UK might want to have a stab at minority government, if there is a hung Parliament.

  9. It’s certainly a possibility that the Conservatives could win the next election with 38% or 39% of the vote, but they would obviously like to win 40% or more. I think it could well be a close run thing as to which of those scenarios actually happens. One possibility of course is that they win 40% of the GB vote but 39% of the UK vote, which would probably lead to 4/5 years of Labour and the LDs always quoting the UK percentages with the Tories usually giving the GB figures.

  10. Andy Stidwell – I’m not quite clear what you’re getting at. GB is the mainland (Scotland, England and Wales), while the UK includes Northern Ireland as well. As the mainland parties do not normally contest seats in Northern Ireland, I don’t understand your point. Sorry if I’m being thick.

    I’d like to pick up on this from Anthony’s article:
    “Populus also asked about MP’s pay. 68% disagreed with the statement that MPs should have their pay increased “to ensure that good quality people from all backgrounds are not deterred from standing”.

    I’ve seen this point made by various people – that the expenses reforms will mean that only the rich will be able to become MPs. It doesn’t make sense to me. Given that the average wage is about £25,000 per year, why would low-paid or average-paid people be deterred by having a basic salary of £65,000 plus legitimate expenses? I understand that most MPs get extra for sitting on committees, being junior ministers, whips etc anyway.

    I think what these people mean is that those earning 80-150,000 would no longer find it so attractive to become an MP. Boo hoo.

  11. Pete,
    What Andy means is that commentators regularly mix up the GB percentages (excluding Northern Ireland) and the UK percentages.

    The Tories have occasionally contested some NI seats, but generally the GB figures are about 1% higher for Tories or Labour and about 0.5% higher for LDs.

    The opinion polls are only interested in GB.
    Some people also take the view that the mainland where the conventional parties stand is all you should look at.

    People often make the mistake of comparing the polls against the total votes, i.e. the UK.

    My own view is the that NI, for good or for ill, is part of this country so we should be looking at the base of support throughout it regardless of whether those seats are contested by C/Lab etc. and obviously remember to compare like with like.

  12. Lindsay Roy was earning around £68,500 pa before he became MP for Glenrothes. However, he was nearing the end of his career, so he was actually going to be spectacularly better off adding his MP salary to his HT pension.

    I think there’s a lot to be said for politicians being drawn from the ranks of people who have been successful in industry or public service first – rather than from political researchers.

    For those paid a lot less than Roy, £65,000 will be a huge rise.

    PS Roy was elected to the wrong Parliament. He was a respected and able HT within the Scottish education system, and would have been a useful addition to the Scottish Parliament. Waste of time his being in Westminster being whipped through on English issues he probably doesn’t understand.

  13. OLDNAT

    When did the Westminster lot last learn anything from Scottish politics?

    Was it (a) 1997 (b) 1314 (c) Never

  14. This was the bit I didn’t get:
    “One possibility of course is that they win 40% of the GB vote but 39% of the UK vote, which would probably lead to 4/5 years of Labour and the LDs always quoting the UK percentages with the Tories usually giving the GB figures.”

    Assuming that the ‘Big Three” mainland parties do not stand in NI, how relevant is it that a few people over there support one or other of them?

    By the way, I’ve always wondered why they rarely stand. After all, they usually stand in Scotland and Wales, where there are also strong local parties. Perhaps if all three main parties stood in NI it might help to reduce the partisanship over there, as they are all moderate compared to the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein for instance.

  15. @John B Dick
    Did the Scots learn anything about English politics in 1513?

  16. Pete B

    Recent research http://www.elenkus.com/bannochburnRev.html
    suggests that the lessons learned in 1314 were later used by the English to good effect in France, and that the myths you will have heard are less to the credit of the English than is the truth.

    I’m not sure about 1513 but it won’t happen again because of the what the SNP has learned from the Irish over the last 30 years.

  17. Pete B

    Not that I’m defending John B Dick’s post, but he was referring to UK politicians (“the Westminster lot”), not the English.

    As a historian, I’m happy to debate dates, but they are not really relevant here – unless they relate to polling.

    Anthony – please note. I am a reformed character :-)

  18. Tories lead down to 10 points. Thats befor pre budget report Queens Speech. Think Darling will have some very election type tricks there.

    Hung Parliament is where we are now. In 1992 Labour had 14 point average lead going into the election but truth is people lie. When they go to the poll with ballot in hand, they bottle it and vote for the incumbent. I’ve done it myself.

    [Edited – Jayne, comments like that are more for the open thread (same goes for comments I’ve pruned replying to it. If you see a comment that’s really not the sort of non-partisan stuff we aim for here, please don’t reply to it in the same vein! – AW]

  19. Jayne

    Congratulations on voting for John Swinney!

    Anthony – please note. I am not totally a reformed character :-)

  20. Jayne, It is not true that Labour had a 14% lead entering the 1992 campaign. In fact Labour’lead was very small and no poll put it higher than 7% at any time in the course of the campaign- some polls gave the Tories a lead.

  21. @JAYNE

    “posh bloke ”

    Much better to be lead by any old incompetent-provided he’s “ordinary” eh?

  22. Mark, it’s a little rich to chide for labours claims of having fixed the economy, and then imply that they’re responsible for the current crisis….

    I don’t think hung parliament is particularly likely, but reckon that this poll just shows what’s becoming more apparent over time….that sticking with the current system is going to eventually lead to no party getting a parliament majority being the default assumption for elections….

  23. I am disappointed, but not surprised, by the strong sentiment in this poll against improving MPs pay. I think people who argue that £65,000 is a lot of money should take a long hard look at salaries in senior public sector roles. I am sure there are plenty of people who would happily swap their job on £25,000 for an MP’s job, but by and large are these people capable of making a decent MP? You might as well argue that its wrong to pay £80,000 to a headteacher because plenty of young teachers out there would happily run the school for you for half as much. Personally I think that MPs have quite a tough job, and I think it is worth spending a little more to encourage the right people to apply. We are talking pennies in the overall scheme of things.

  24. I firmly believe that we are now into Hung Parliament territory…

    It can be argued that the Conservative lead over Labour has… for some time now fluctuated wildly…

    The fact that in a number of recent polls the Tory lead stands at 10% means that:

    1. During the Intense few weeks of the General Election Campaign depending on who performs the best:

    – Labour as the incumbent may well significantly close the Tory lead… a 5% uniform swing would achieve that… such a result with the FPTP electoral system would give Labour a small overall majority… A poor Tory and a good Labour election campaign would further assist this…

    – Labour suffers badly as a result of a poor election campaign… with Cameron’s Tory’s gaining momentum… and widening their lead… This would result in either a comfortable or a landslide victory for them…

    2. That the “Other” Party’s take a fairly sizable chunk of the vote in Key Marginal Seats…

    – The Conservatives… to generalise… suffering at the hands of UKIP and the BNP…
    – Labour suffering at the hands of the Green’s and the BNP…
    This scenario would see the Conservatives failing to pick up a number of Key Target seats… whilst Labour would suffer lost votes too…
    This would effectively distort the overall General Election result… as there would be a complex exchange of votes between the Conservatives… Labour and the “Other’s”… ie the Greens… BNP… and UKIP…

    I still believe that the outcome of next years GE is still very much “Up for Grabs”… I do not believe that it is a foregone conclusion as to who will win… suffice to say that an outright Labour victory is fairly remote…

    The result of the General Election is likely to be one of the following:

    1. A slender overall majority for Labour (Remote).
    2. A Hung Parliament with Labour the Largest Party
    3. A Hung Parliament with the Tories the Largest Party.
    4. A Comfortable overall majority for the Tories.
    5. A Tory Landslide (Remote).

    Were I to state what I strongly believe to be the most likely outcome of the General Election next year… I would say that… a Hung Parliament… with Labour or the Conservatives as the largest Party…

    However… as I stated earlier in this post… the final result of the Election is very uncertain…

    Whatever the result… it will be one of the most exciting General Elections we have seen for many years…

    As the saying goes… “Only Time Will Tell”…

  25. Colin – Rupert Murdoch isn’t incompetent.
    Jayne – He isn’t posh either

    I wish a party would have the courage to offer an EU referendum, even if only a consultative one.

    We rely on polling questions to guage public opinion on the EU, but a proper three-week engagement in the build up to a national vote would do us all some good, and the eventual result could clarify how EU-friendly we are

  26. IMHO morale in both Labour and Tory Parties is low.

  27. “Rupert Murdoch isn’t incompetent.”

    Indeed not John-didn’t realise he was standing for election.

  28. NEIL A.

    I disagree.

    MP’s are well paid by comparison with the average wage.

    Comparisons with professionals are erroneus. You need no professional qualifications to be an MP.

    If , as an MP you rise through the ranks to hold office, you will be very well remunerated for your skills & effort..
    If you reach high office then your financial future is secured.

    That’s the way it works in the real world .

    MPs have got themselves way out of focus because the priviledges they have voted themselves , and fiddled from the “rules” they wrote have shielded them from the real world in which most of their consituents live.

    They need to join the cleaners & commuters & night workers, who work unsocial hours to feed their families.
    They need to join the mortgaged & the indebted who try to house their families.
    They need to join the working mothers who juggle child care & work.

    They need to understand how it is for most people before they can understand what needs to be done.

    And when they understand -and if they do something with that understanding, to achieve public office, the taxpayer will reward them handsomely.

  29. Andy / Pete B

    Actually, I doubt that Lab or LD will be too keen to distinguish between UK vs GB share of vote after the next election since Con will be the only party fielding a full slate of candidates in NI.

    Moreover, Labour will not be wanting to draw attention to how far they are likely to have slipped back in any of the countries in the union – their decline in Scotland and Wales may be worse than that in England.

  30. Colin,

    Unless you consider politics to be a career whereby you start out as a young councillor, progress to being a back-bench MP, and then become a junior minister, rising through the ranks to Cabinet level before retiring to teh red benches, the idea that MPs can be paid at no more than median incomes is erroneous.

    It if inifintely preferable to have MPs who have some experience of the world outside. That means people who have proven themselves, not those who have failed to progress beyond the junior grades.

    The basic pay for an MP needs to refelect a certain element of seniority, but not the peak of a profession – equivalent to a Deputy Head or junior GP rather than the Head or practice leader. Promotion to ministerial rank or chair of committees should justify pay commensurate with the responsibilities incvolved.

    However, we should also recognise that the role of MP is more onerous than that of an average managerial position, whetehr public or private sector.

    In the private sector the anti-social aspects of a role are rewarded through higher pay or bonuses. For MPs, this has been done through the allowance system – which sadly too many have abused.

    In my view, it is still better to have an allowance system to specifically recognise the anti-social aspects of the role rather than to inflate the base salary, especially as one problem is that people conflate the two to suggest that MPs are overpaid.

    What we clearly do need is a better appreciation of what we expect our MPs to do, and what experience and abilities we require them to have before first being elected.

    Open primaries may well be a way forward, but, like many sound proposals, it does cost money.

  31. It’s the idea that MPs are in control of their own unlimited expense budget that turns people off. I agree there are expensive and onerous obligations imposed by the job.

    If you gave the average professional a pay rise and asked them to fund their own international travel, i think there’s be uproar/resignations all round, plus refusals to travel to meetings.

    It would be green, but not popular.

  32. Paul:-

    “the idea that MPs can be paid at no more than median incomes is erroneous.”

    I would probably agree-I didn’t say they should.
    The actual sum is for debate-I believe the current level to be not at all unreasonable.

    “It if inifintely preferable to have MPs who have some experience of the world outside.”

    I agree-but “the world outside” encompasses people of all social strata & incomes.We need MPs to represent as many of them as possible. A HoC full of professional accountants & lawyers is as bad as one full of Academics & Local Council employees.

    “In my view, it is still better to have an allowance system to specifically recognise the anti-social aspects of the role ”

    I disagree-that’s what has led to MPs fleecing the taxpayer for everything including the kitchen sink.
    The Green Book actually said that their Expenses should always be those incured “wholely, exclusively & neccessarily” in pursuit of their duties.
    In the companies which I have worked in those have always been the guidelines. The rules on BIK reflect this too-except for MPs it seems.

    These rules & that basic guideline clearly allowed for the “anti-social” aspects of the job-ie all relevant Travel , accommodation & subsistence was recoupable.
    But they insisted on stretching those guidelines to breaking point.

    I hope sincerely that the Kelly recommendations are implemented as given, by IPSA-but the initial noises off sound like the boil has not been lanced yet.

  33. Graham,

    Thank you for your thoughts on those who are most close on policy e.g. afghanistan, should consider forming a government.

    Does that mean a labour/tory coalition?

    I think if Lib Dems have say 60 seats and there is a hung parliament they are in a sticky position, inn danger of alienating one side of the party or the other.

    However one thing I cannot fathom is why there appears to be any possibility of an election after the first thursday in May. Surely when the five years are up, the five years are up? Or am I being old fashioned?

  34. Why is this Populus poll any more significant than it’s predecessor , which showed the same picture; but which was followed by eleven polls from other pollsters averaging a Con lead of 14?

  35. Colin,

    [ “In my view, it is still better to have an allowance system to specifically recognise the anti-social aspects of the role ” – I disagree-that’s what has led to MPs fleecing the taxpayer for everything including the kitchen sink. ]

    Misapplication of a policy does not make the policy itself wrong.

    I agree that the system should be more robust so as to prevent abuse. I disagree that the system should be abolished because it has been abused.

    It should also be noted that the Fees office were clearly complicit in the abuse. Whether that was a failure of management or a deliberate policy imposed by parliament is less clear.

    What is interesting is that there does not appear to have been systematic abuse of either the office & staff or the travel budgets – though even here the level of scrutiny appears to have been less than one would expect in the private sector.

  36. Complete Labour blip – 29% is a fantasy result. I also think the Tories are in danger of a long-term dip below 40%, as a result of backtracking and failing to convince that they represent change.

    The Afghan war is political kryptonite, it’s absolutely implausible for Labour to *gain* support in this environment… (i.e.: along with the growing pile of other nails for the New Labour coffin) I’m waiting to see what MORI say…

  37. Paul

    “I disagree that the system should be abolished because it has been abused.”

    The system is not being abolished.

    Kelly has returned to the core Green Book principle-” Wholly, Exclusively & Neccessarily in pursuit of duties”, which the private sector observes at the behest of HMRC day in , day out.- and which MP’s cheated on.

    I think it is quite clear why the Fees Office was complicit.

    It’s very very simple.
    MP’s self policed their own fiddles.
    The Fees Office was run by The Speaker who acted a shop steward for the MPs.
    With the Speaker behind it all, and MP’s in “I am a very important person ” mode-the clerks in the Fees office were mere cyphers.

    IPSA must implement Kelly in letter & spirit.
    It’s Chairman is a very very important figure in all of this & I am shocked that he appears to be yet another from the sphere of influence that surrounds the HoC.

  38. “Others are up slightly to 14%, this is mostly a boost for UKIP who are up to 4% from 2% a month ago. It’ll be read as a result of the Conservative Lisbon policy, but I would be wary of reading too much into that – there’s no significant shift in Tory support and the level of support for minor parties does tend to bounce about a bit. For the record though, it is higher than UKIP normally reach in Populus polls (as opposed to around the time of the European elections, when they were as high as 8%)”

    All well and good, but the long-term trend is clearly upward… bearing in mind voting for “Others” is a not simply “new” but a revolutionary idea after years of a consistent pattern of tribalistic voting that was arguably broken in ’97… it’s taking time for the public to take the plunge… the fluctuation is “toe dipping”… a bit of protest and threat… but there’s enough in the “fire triangle” (fuel, oxygen, and heat) to push unknowable numbers of people towards an avalanche threshold, where small parties can be carried by a momentum that is not of their own making – and I think that applies to all (three) of them (that are regularly discussed).

  39. I think we need to be a little careful to avoid overdoing reaction to this poll. As Colin has pointed out, we’ve had an identical lead before followed by lots of polls with larger leads. That said, the consistent divergence between polling companies is odd, even if AW ascribes it to normal variation. We’ve had a recent poll suggesting a Labour recovery in Scotland, and at least one polling company putting the Tories below 40%. I have said for a long time that I believe the polls would tighten before the GE and marked the conference season as something of a minor turning point in sentiment towards the prospect of a Cameron government. The other issues swirling round, like increased consumer confidence and retail sales and what looks like a major backlash against the Sun’s campaign on Brown’s handwriting are all part of an interesting mix. I may be wrong, but at some point I expect other polls to start converging on the Populus numbers, and then talk of hung parliaments may be a little more justified.

  40. Heckers, one poll showing 10 point Tory lead and the Labour diehards are all over it like white on rice predicting a hung parliament.

    Steady on, old chaps. I say, steady on there.

  41. I love your unquenchable optimism Alec!

  42. WITH REGARD TO THIS POLL RESULT, ARN’T SOME PEOPLE SOMWHAT OVER REACTING. ITS A BIT OF A ONE OF, AND CERTAINLY FLIES IN THE FACE OF AN ARTICLE IN YESTERDAYS GUARDIAN BY NO LESS A LABOUR TROLL THAN JACKIE ASHLEY.

  43. Anthony, what is your latest view on how turnout will affect these percentages on the day of the GE?

  44. @ jayne
    According to you anybody who is worth more than a million is completely unsuitable to run the government. That leaves Tony Blair and half the labour minister out than.
    I would personally rather have somebody with some financial acumen be in charge than some jumped up ex council jobsworth or an ex union useless fatcat

  45. KING HAROLD,

    Yes I agree that people do appear to be over reacting. It does appear that Populus are overstating Labour support if you compare with the last Gold Standard of ICM (25)and Mori (26) and to an extent YouGov (27). They are also the only polling company showing a Tory lead as low as 10. I suspect it is as Anthony says somewhere between 13/14 points !

    However in my opinion ICM are about right with the last poll Con 42 Lab 25 Lib 21 and I bet this won’t be far out come election day !

  46. ‘COLIN MK2
    @ jayne
    According to you anybody who is worth more than a million is completely unsuitable to run the government. That leaves Tony Blair and half the labour minister out than.
    I would personally rather have somebody with some financial acumen be in charge than some jumped up ex council jobsworth or an ex union useless fatcat’

    Surely it depends on how the million was got? Inheritance? Lottery? Earnt?; equally be careful- many intelligent, hard working and admirable people can be in a Council or a Union. This site is meant for reasoned discussion…

  47. RC – Populus factor turnout into their figures, so if they are correct, it shouldn’t make any difference at all.

    Generally speaking polls are interpreted as suggesting that a high turnout is good for Labour and a low turnout is good for the Conservatives, since Conservative voters always say they are more likely than Labour voters to vote. I’ve always been slightly dubious about this.

  48. @Neil A – I didn’t think I was being overly optimistic, but there you go. However, I don’t agree with the view put out by many posters that the Labour vote will continue to implode. At worst, it’s stabilised, at best improved slightly. Labour hit rock bottom a while ago and have bumped along ever since, so the only two realistic choices for the GE would to stay as they are or improve. With the economic outlook offering more hope than was the case six months ago, the odds are for a slight improvement. And of course, the question has to be what if Populus are right and the lead is currently only 10 points?

  49. Can I remind King Harold of the policy on this blog of leaving partisan comments to the open threads. There is more than enough message space on order-order.com for VERY LOUD messages of abuse.

    @Davey:

    I’d like to clarify one mis-conception that people have regarding elections. The first Thursday in May would mark five years since the last General Election and after that date the current Parliament’s mandate ends.

    However, by statute that is only the last possible date from which the Prime Minister can CALL an election. I am not au fait with exact period, but the executive (i.e. ministers under the Crown) still has a grace period of government a few weeks before the last possible date on which to HOLD an election.

  50. @WAYNE
    Thanks for the reassurance Wayne, I shall have to hang on for
    Mori.

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