ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian is now available here. The topline figures with changes from the previous ICM poll at the end of October are CON 42%(nc), LAB 29%(+4), LDEM 19%(-2).

The Conservatives are unchanged but there is a significant boost for Labour at the expense of the Lib Dems and others (Others are collectively on 10%, one of their lowest scores in any poll since the expenses scandal broke. Certainly there is no echo of ComRes’s big increase for minor parties here. The Greens, UKIP and the BNP are all on 2%).

This is the first poll since the Glasgow North East by-election and I’m sure some will attribute the boost in Labour’s support to that, certainly it is one of their better poll ratings in recent months. Personally I think there is also something of a reversion to the mean here after some outliers – as I’ve said a couple of times in recent weeks, there was no obvious methodological reason for the great big gap between Populus showing a 10 point Tory lead and ICM showing a 17 point lead, suggesting that all along the real figure was somewhere inbetween.

The Guardian’s coverage is rather pessimistic for Labour, focusing on the other questions in the poll which dealt with perceptions of Brown and Cameron’s character. The full details are not there yet, but David Cameron apparently leads Brown by 16 points on having what it takes to be a good Prime Minister, by 33 points on having changed his party for the better and 11 points on being decisive, once upon a time one of Gordon Brown’s strengths.

42% of people would be pleased or excited if David Cameron won the next election, with 36% either angry or disappointed. The figures for Gordon Brown were 27% pleased/excited and 53% angry or disappointed. The Guardian’s interpretation is that this shows there is more to the Conservative lead than just Labour unpopularity. I’m not so sure, after all, one could be pleased about a Conservative victory because it would mean Labour had lost!

70 Responses to “Labour increase in new ICM poll”

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  1. Colin MK2

    Too many – and hold too much power!!!

    We will never know because people would vote differently – e.g. labour supporters in the South might vote Labour rather than tactically LD.

  2. @Jamess
    Would it not encourage more people to vote and would it not be a more representative government.
    The party in power would not be able to push through some really stupid laws having to U-turn after the damage is done.
    Most of all it would give people more say in how the country is run.

  3. ‘ALEC
    …! Four days after the Nats worst by election for 30 years, but life’s OK – the polls say so.’

    Alec what rubbish. A poll on one seat where under a third of the population voted is not the same as one trying to reflect national mood. You need to understand the difference.

    I also have trouble accepting that it was the worst result for the SNP since 1979; if it is that is because they have won so many by elections by landslides.

    The desperate pro Labour slant is a bit obvious given that actual result in the by election showed a 2.3% increase in the SNP vote and winning 4 times more votes than the party which came 3rd. Fine, SNP didn’t win but it’s not a bad result to increase your percentage of the vote and be second…

  4. @Colin MK2

    I’m not convinced that more people would vote – I think the current system gives a personal link between the MP and the electorate wich encourages voting.

    PR might let the BNP into Parliament – I find this abhorent – although it might make people think before voting for them.

    I would favour a system that gives MPs more accountability to their electorate and less party control. PR makes MPs much more in the control of their party.

    The current system will show its strength at the next election. MPs who have acted dishonourably with their expenses will struggle to be re-elected.

    I would admit that something has to change, MPs are been elected with ever smaller minorities of their electorate (under 40%) if the ‘others’ vote holds up this will increase in 2010. That’s not right.

  5. @JAMESS
    I dont think a PR arrangement would create any doubt in a BNP supporters mind. Most of them would never understand the system anyway. However we cannot discount PR just because unpleasant people might be advantaged.

  6. @KH

    OK that would be/is a form of Gerrymandering.

    I live in a bubble of optimism that hopes that a number people are voting BNP to really irritate liberal minded people like me. It sends a clear message that they are not being represented. This rather than because they are unpleasant…I may be reading too much into it!

  7. The electoral sytem that contains the strengths of FPTP, plus the representativeness of PR is the two-election system. At the first election any candidate with more than 50% of the vote is elected. A week, or two, later there is a runoff between the top two candidates who did not reach the 50% threshold.

  8. Yosemite Sam,

    The system you describe is that used in France. It is essentially pure FPTP in round 1, then qualified FPTP in round 2 – the qualification being that you have to have reached a certain level of votes in round 1 to be eligible to participate in round 2.

    It is not “proportional representation” as most people recognise it. It is almost a halfway house between pure FPTP and AV (which is not PR either)

    If applied in the UK, it may result in more LD MPs, but is unlikely to benefit the “minor” parties.

  9. OldNat,

    As a keen psephologist you must surely be aware that UNS is but one of a number of proxies used to predict likely result of a general election from opinion polls.

    Its greatest weakness is that there is no such thing as “uniform national swing”. Scrutiny of any set of GE results (let alone local election results) will reveal numerous instances where the “swing” in two neighbouring seats may not only be significantly different in amplitude, but may actally be in different directions.

    Scotland does not have a “different system” from the rest of the UK, it is merely the case that the regional strengths of the various parties standing in Scotland differ significantly from the UK position.

    The place to discuss / debate the regional / local factors which may deliver a result different from that implied by UNS is on the Constituency section of this site.

  10. I don’t agee with you, Paul, that issues relating to regional factors in voting intentions should be confined to the Constituency Section of this site. Not least, many newspaper commentators make the mistake of using GB wide party percentages to predict the likely Government and majority after the next election, instead of using regional figures to predict how many seats will be won in each region and then aggregating. This applies not least on the articles accompanying reports of polls commissioned by the papers, which Anthony helpfully summarised (or indeed expands using the source data) on this section of the site.

    From comments which are being made for individual “moderately safe” Labour seats, it seems to me that commentators using the GB headline voting intention figures are consistently underestimating the Conservative majority that would result “if the election were held tomorrow”.

  11. Please can someone tell me the swing Cameron needs for a maj of 1. Thanks Al

  12. Frederic

    In principle, you are quite correct about the need for commentators to look at regional trends and aggregate the results by region rather than simple UNS across UK. However, that runs into the following problems:

    1. Pollsters use different regions – with some only having a North / Midlands / South.

    2. Historic information on regional results and seat breakdown is not widely available

    These combined make comparisons across polls harder to make.

    Finally, the analysis involved is simply too much work for lazy journalists to do – and it is not certain it would capture reader attention anyway. Indeed, the oversupply of info and analysis might put off far more readers than it would attract.

  13. Paul. I very much agree with you about the non-standard use of regions by pollsters. Indeed I got caught out on this myself in the Summer when a journalist referrred to Labour being behind in every region, and then posted on the assumption that Labour were behind in the North-East. But these days it is generally accepted (outside political polling?!) that the regions are those used for Euroelections, and for government initiatives led by Europe. Whatever you think of the EU in general, and England’s gerrymandered regions in particular, it is disgraceful that if they do impose regional administration it is not overseen in England by directly elected regional assemblies as in all other sizeable European countries. And if a journalist refers to regions without further explanation, the regionally knowledgeable reader will assume (s)he means the Euroregions.

    If the pollsters’ professional organisation can lay down standards concerning the availability of survey data, can and should it not give guidance concerning the use of regions for political opinion polling? The actual guidance – use the Euroregions – would be simple enough. although there would need to be some elaboration, e.g. to cater for breakdowns reasonable to the sample sizes used and to suggest how Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as well as England should be treated. Of course, such guidance should not be too restrcitive as survey design is part of commercial competition between marketing firms, and freedom to change is important to innovate and improve on psephological techniques.

    There should be some guidance as to which regions are in the North (North East, North West and Yorkshire, clearly), Midlands and South (less clear, as even the South East region contains Oxfordshire – Cameron’s own county – which many ordinary people would regard as being in the South Midlands). There should also be agreement as to whether there should be an Eastern region for analysis purposes and what people should be taken as meaning when they refer to “Eastern England”.

    Personally, I think “The South” should be the SouthWest, London and the South East, and the Midlands should be England that is not in the South or the North. But it should be made clear that the Euroregions are badly drawn in the Oxfordshire should be in the North and Hertfordshire (should be in a redrawn South East region (any comments on this?)

    It is quite inappropriate in particular, c.f. previous discussion on this thread, to treat Scotland and England, in particular, together for polling purposes. Obviously, there is a major party, SNP, to be considered in Scotland which does not operate in England. Further, voters concerns are in principle different because the Westminster parliament now has different repsonsibilities for Scotland as compared to England. And historically (and from recent by-elections it appears at present) there is plenty of evidence to show that opinion in Scotland can change in different directions from that in England.

    If a researcher surveyed 900 cats and 100 dogs and concluded that 10% of animals bark (s)he would in principle, although obviously the comparison is exaggerated, be making the same mistake as pollsters who give GB wide reports about current political opinion. To estimate how many MPs will be returned after the next election, it really is necessary to survey separately for England (and perhaps Wales) and then Scotland. it is surely not too much even for very lazy journalists to add e.g. the number of Labour MPs to be elected in Scotland to the number to be elected in England and Wales to get a total. Particularly as they already do this when they add in the Northern Irish MPs: even bone idel journalists realise it would be silly to include Northern Ireland along with England, Scotland and Wales for polling purposes.

    The London papers are mainly read in England: Scotland has “The Scotsman”, the “Glasgow Herald” and indeed that notable institution, “The Courier”. As the English press largely reports domestic poltitics relating to England, it would be sensible to report the changes in English opinion (of any) that events in English politics (to a not insignifcant effect inflicted by Scottish politicians) caused by English political decisions and debate.

  14. Frederick,

    Yes, it would be nice if we had consistent regions. The problem of course is that within England there is no real regional identity, and, with the exception of London, there are no democratically accountable regional authorities.

    The “euro-regions” you mention were actually invented by Whitehall some years ago when Major’s government tried to rationalise all the multiple quangos, agencies and departments. That these are now used for Euro-elections was again purely for administrative convenience when we moved to a PR system in 1999 since the alternative would have been a “national list”.

    In terms of where some of the boundaries are drawn, I am sure we can all find our own pet quibbles. Herts being in Eastern region is a prime example. I speak as a Cllr in Hertsmere who, like some 60% of my constiuents, commutes to work in London, and has little affinity with East Anglia proper. Another example is Cumbria, which could more productively be united with the NE in a real “Northern” region. But in any case, however drawn, these will still remain artificial creations as far as England is concerned.

    As to regional polling evidence, please remember that even were all pollsters to apply the same regional definitions, we should still be wary of drawing conclusions from the sub-samples since they are not demographically / politically weighted. You will of course have seen that caveat repeated countless times in respect of the Scottish sub-samples in polls where Scotland is treated as a distinct region.

  15. Correction

    That should be
    “who, like some 60% of my constituents in employment commutes to work in London.”

    The actual number of people of working age in employment who commute to London is of course signiifcantly less than 60% of my consituents since we have a fairly large number of retirees and housewives not in full-time employment.

  16. Paul, I spent much of my childhood in Hertfordshire and agree with you that your area of England, like many other counties near London (but see below) lack a regional identity. In Hertfordshire particularly, there is a problem in that the communication routes are overwhelmingly geared to North-South travel. As an extreme example, when I lived in Bishop’s Stortford my mum helped at the CAB, and talked about (without mentioning specific cases, of course) the nightmare for people without cars being called for jury service in St. Albans. The only half-practical alternative to a car journey is to travel by train into London and out again, which involves a journey of several hours each way. If you are a mum on a housing estate, that is not on.

    However, I think you will raise many hackles if you say that there are no regional identities in England. Perhaps above all, what about Yorkshire. And also at least the core of Lancashire (you proposal of administering Cumbria along with the North East not least would imply treating Barrow-in-Furness would treat combine some of historic Lancahsire with the North-East1).

    Even in the South East there are counties with historic identities. For instance, Kent made a separate agreement with William the Conqueror in 1066. Whilst some of Kent has regrettably been submerged into London and suburbia, there still is most definitely a county identity in Maidstone and East Kent. The separation of Medway as a unitary authority is of course a most regrettable gerrymander – again, there was no consultation with ordinary people in Kent.. Incidentally, a significant reason for County identity, in a county with a lack of keading football teams, is the Cricket Club: hertfordshire’s status as a minor county for cricket is unhelpful to solidarity. Compare Essex and witness the development of cricket in Durham.

    The South West of England is another area with a definite regional identity , both in general and in relation to specific counties such as Somerset and Devon. Cornwall of course increasingly regards itself as a country (or duchy) in itself and would like treatment comparable to Wales etc. rather than as part of England.

    Giving counties like Cornwall a separate identity could give them an additional voice in Europe. Why should Kent have no European Commissioner etc. when we are comparable in size and population, and richer in terms of money, than many European nation states?

    The current regions don’t work not least because we the people were never consulted about them. There are many things I dislike about Europe, but the principle of subsidiarity is not one of them. We need devolution, and accompanying voting procedures, for regional or sub-regional (in many cases historic county) units within England. This is as a matter of principle, but I believe it would also bring the UK generally greater prosperity and not least help greatly in addressing the electoral apathy and disillusion which is reflected in very many posts on this site.

  17. Frederick,

    But all of the “regional” identities you mention are County based.

    That is why the only two English “regions” which are recognisable to their inhabitants are London (Middlesex, LCC, then GLC) and Yorkshire / Humberside – though there are parts of the North Riding in the NE region, and Humberside includes bits of Lincolnshire.

    The NE is essentially Northumbria and County Durham, hence has a quasi regional identity, while the bulk of the NW region is formed from historic Lancashire (including some bits appropriated from Yorkshire.)

    Devolution is an ambiguous term. Do we mean decentralised administration of centrally funded facilities or genuine release of control from Whitehall to allow local authorities to pursue their own policies ?

    How is that compatible with a “National Health Service”, still less the plethora of rules regulations targets and controls imposed on local councils from Whitehall ?

  18. It’s “Yorkshire & the Humber” – we lost the side a while ago.

    It’s actually most of Yorkshire with the exception of the towns of Redcar, Thornaby and Middlesborough. Bits have been lost to Lancashire and Westmoreland over the years but we’ve stolen bits off them too.

    Why North and NorthEast Lincolnshire got included, noone really knows. Theres little affinity with the East Riding yet they got shunted together in 1974, and ended up in our region rather than the East Midlands or, if you prefer regimental recruiting areas, Anglia/Eastern England.

    Ask 100 people in Yorkshire to tell you what region they live in (as opposed to county) I think mostly they would say “The North”, (unless they work for/are funded by the RDA or GO)

  19. Frederick Stansfield

    You make an important observation about the separate concerns of the “National” (ie London) press and the Scottish press.

    Before devolution, many things were organised separately including the NHS; Law, justice and prisions; Religion; Education.

    Devolution transferred the responsibilities of the Secretary of State for Scotland to the Scottish Parliament. Because these matters were no longer discussed between Scottish Office ministers (based partly in London) and the “UK” ministers the differences have increased.

    We shouldn’t be surprised at that for that’s what devolution is meant to do. Solutions designed for (and hopefully appropriate to) E&W are not applied in Scotland if circumstances are different, and Scottish ministers can address the needs of their departments without a default position that they will adopt the E&W solutions perhaps with minor modifications or changes in terminology.

    Scottish ministers now look at proposed English-only legislation and take a view on whether or not to take account of the changes but there is no presumption that they necessarily need to take any actiion at all, far less to do the same thing.

    The fact that the Scottish Government is now of a different party has of course increased divergence. Sometimes this is intentional (ending hospital privatised cleaning contracts) but it will also be inadvertant because of reduced contact between ministers.

    The result is that when I now read a “national” newspaper, it is often uncertain whether the report refers to E&W or Scotland or UK.

    Sometimes there is a clue if the name of the responsible minister is mentioned, and I usually assume that data for “Britain” relating to Education or Health relates in fact only to “England and Wales” since it is collected separately. One is left to guess whether Scottish data would show that a problem is twice as bad or doesn’t exist at all.

    This is especially true of health or education statistics.

    It’s bad enough that I waste time reading something I wouldn’t read if I knew it didn’t apply to Scotland, but it is worse when you just can’t tell.

    There is progress. Since Richard Holloway was the Scottish Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh, his successors have resisted the London journalist’s assumption that they speak for the leadership of the national church and the fact that the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland can’t and won’t do that either is beginning to be understood better after only 400 years.

    Readers of the Scottish edition of The Sun are spared Kelvin Mackenzie’s anti-Scottish column and the paper is less openly pro-Conservative since few of its readers are likely to vote Conservative if they vote at all.

    SNP advocacy is the least important of the forces driving us inexorably towards separation. It hasn’t had much effect in the last 40 years and it isn’t working now despite the fact that there are more opportunities to persuade voters.

    The relative competence of the Scottish Government is obvious to all, and some of their policies are more popular than those of NewLabour, not just with the electorate as a whole, but even within the Labour party itself, but media ignorance and insensitivity to Scottish sensibilities, geography and rurality which rivals that of the former Conservative government makes a significant contribution too.

  20. Shopkeeper Man,

    The inclusion of North Lincolnshire was courtesy of Barbara Castle. Having spent £600m (a vast sum in those days) building a pointless bridge, they had to demonstrate some kind of “affinity” and community.

    Peter Walker was happy to go alogn with it when he reorganised the Counties in 1974 because losing Labour Grimsby made Lincs CC safer for Cons.

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