Let’s start with what the polls are actually showing. The Conservatives level of support has fallen to around 39%. Of the ten polls this month, 7 have put them below forty, when every single poll in October had them at 40 or above, so it’s pretty clear they have dropped slightly (though to put this in context, they were polls showing them below 40 in September and almost all of of June). There also appears to have been an increase for Labour, more often than not they are now polling in the high twenties. Despite a couple of big increases in individual polls this month though, their average in November’s polls (27%) is actually fractionally down on October (27.6%). Labour are clearly doing better in the polls than they were earlier in the year, but it’s a more longstanding advance and we can trace it back to around about conference season.

So, what’s causing it? The harsh reality is that voting intention polls only tell us how people say they’d vote. They don’t tell us why, or why they might have changed their mind, so the rest of this post is by necessity conjecture.

I should start by knocking down some things that it almost certainly isn’t – whenever there is a move in the polls I tend to see comments saying it is the result of the story in the Mirror that morning about David Cameron beating his butler, or the MP for Backwoods West having claimed a plunger on expenses or whatever. I think I spotted one comment saying it wasZac Goldsmith’s tax status (a story that came out half way through ComRes’s fieldwork and only really got traction once it had finished!). Trivialities do not change the polls, they may have a cumulative effect upon how the parties and politicians are perceived, but taken alone they are not significant factors.

Here’s what I see as the four main hypothesis for what is going on:

1) David Cameron’s “reverse” on Lisbon has resulted in the Conservatives losing support to UKIP. In theory this seems plausible. Europe is an issue with very low salience as Ipsos MORI’s monthly issues monitor repeatedly shows (this month’s poll found 3% of people think it is an important issue), however, that tiny minority do care about it a very great deal and it is possible that it would shift their vote. The theory looks very strong if we look at ComRes’s polling over the last two months – prior to David Cameron’s announcement at the beginning of November they were showing UKIP at around 3% of the vote. In their two polls since then they have shown UKIP at 5% and 6%. However, other polling doesn’t back it up – prior to Cameron’s announcement YouGov were consistently showing UKIP at 4%, and in their two polls since the announcement UKIP have stuck resolutely at 4%. The other companies have also failed to pick up any great jump in UKIP support. Taken alone ComRes’s polls are pretty convincing, looked at in the wider context, I’m not so sure.

2) Increased economic optimism and confidence has brought people back to Labour. On the face of it this would seem a good explanation, the problem comes with the timing. Economic optimism has been strongly recovering since the spring, but hasn’t made much further advance in the autumn – yet that’s when we saw the narrowing of the gap. Perhaps it is just a slow burner and it takes a while for increased economic confidence to translate into support for the government. If this is the reason, and economic recovery is translating into government support, it raises two very interesting possibilities. Firstly, the formal end of the recession is still to come, and as regular readers will know, I think think that announcement has the potential to have a real impact on public opinion. Secondly, if we cast our minds back to the end of last year, back then we saw the government’s popularity increasing on the back of economic confidence, and we saw both of them collapse when a series of high street stories went to the wall in January. Earlier this week there were reports that insolvency practitioners were predicting another wave of closures this January as stores who fail to do well enough over Christmas fold. I’m no economist, so I’ve no idea how much water that holds – but it suggests we have the potential for further increases… or knocks to consumer confidence in the months ahead.

3) Labour have been performing better. Sometimes it isn’t what is happening that affects the polls, it’s what hasn’t been happening. The Labour party had a pretty good conference, and since then there haven’t really been any great plots or infighting, speculation about Brown’s future has largely faded, to use their own phrase, they’ve been getting on with the job. Disunity and incompetence are hugely damaging to a party’s image and support, so I think it is quite possible that this is a factor in the narrowing lead.

4) Oh those horrible Tories, run away! Strangely explanations for the narrowing polls I see proposed on blogs and forums tend to more often focus on the Conservatives having done something to drive people away than Labour having done things to win back support. My view is that voting intention will still largely be governed by people’s attitudes and opinions of the Labour government, it is a vote against Labour, not in favour of the Conservatives – as the well worn cliche goes, it is governments that lose elections, not oppositions who win them. Most things the opposition parties say and do are probably noticed by very few people anyway. For that reason, and because the Conservatives haven’t done anything overwhelmingly disastrous that would impinge on the public consciousness, I think it’s far more likely that a better performance from Labour and increased economic optimism are behind their recovery, but as I wrote at the beginning of the piece, we can’t tell for sure.

225 Responses to “Why the polls are narrowing”

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  1. @WOOD
    So sorry for giving offence. It is this concern of mine for my countries future. And yes I am very serious about it.

  2. What’s going on here?
    Some folk are clearly getting rattled by Labour’s improving poll position.
    I have been visiting this site for only a short while, but in that time the Conservatives have dipped and the gap between Labour and the Conservatives have narrowed.
    I think Alec has stood his ground well even before this change. I am with Alec regarding his thoughts and would go a bit further even.
    I don’t find David Cameron convincing enough and at a risk of braking AW’s rules I’d just say. Cameron rides his bike with his car following behind, he visits the North Pole riding in the snow for a photo shoot, and has Zach (non-dom) advising him on green issues. His IHT policy is clearly unfair when we are all being conditioned for cuts and he’ll probably repeal the hunting ban.
    Not vote winners I’m afraid.

  3. KH Sorry just read your post 11.51am

    I think it’s fair to say we are all concerned. We all just have different ideas of how to put things right.
    Don’t fret -it’ll be allright in the end!

  4. @ King Harold.
    I have been very hacked off with Labours treatment of the British Army in recent years. This matters little to, for example the Guardian readership, who appear to have more support for the Taliban.

    Usually you ain’t too bad King Harold but the comment above is just ridiculous!

  5. AL J
    I also have respect for Alec, however the likes of Wood may call me a Troll ect until he is blue in the face. I still cannot agree that Camerons bike and photo opportunities equate to the appaling
    “govenment” of the last 12 years and particularly the last 2.
    To put the current polls in perspective, many regular posters still see a Conservative victory. No less a person than Anthony Wells still reads that into the stats. Therefore it is not Tory panic, but Labour supporters feeling more confident which creates endless debate. The many posts which mention some minor
    matter most people in Britain are not even aware of, as if it compares with illegal war, horrendous debt, utterley irresponsible immigration non policy, sending troops into battle ill equiped (and its cost some lives), is not realistic.

  6. I feel somewhat strange. I rather got used to being accused of having madly optimistic ranting leftie nutter views from some quarters, and now everyone is being nice to me. As they say in Norfolk conservative quarters, ‘thankyou for your support’…

    @Colin – I’m not sure how QE will unwind either, and worryingly, neither is anyone else. Its one great big experiment that will either be inspired decision making or foolish betrayal of the national interest. Overall I suspect it will eventually be seen as a necessary evil, with the only other available option the 1929 approach that was disastrous. However, I think there is a strong case to argue that any fiscal stimulus should have been more targeted at the real economy, rather than the financial system, as this in the end is where the battle will be won or lost.

    One point of interest re the UK debt that is worth bearing in mind is that for various arcane reasons UK government bonds have a much longer recycling period than every other major economy. On average UK debt is turned over (ie bonds cashed in and new ones issued to replace that portion of the debt) about once every 15 years. This is about twice as long as our nearest competitor, with some countries recycling the debt every 4 – 5 years. Last month the Treasury sold a chunk of bonds with a 60 year maturity date, the longest dated bonds ever. In this the Treasury is being very canny, in that interest rates are fixed for the duration of the bond, in this case 60 years at very low rates indeed. The much longer time period for replacing bonds also means we have a buffer to an extent from any rapid rise in interest rates that could arise as a result of QE. This makes it easier to service the UK debt levels and less risky, as we can be sure interest rates will not go down from where they are, but the full impact of higher rates will not affect UK debt as quickly as say France or the US, hopefully giving us more time to move into surplus. The risk of losing AAA status is not a simple question of the size of the debt, but is much more linked to the costs of servicing it, and the structure of UK debt does give us some cause for optimism in this regard, whoever happens to be in power.

  7. I think it is a vindication of the claim that the Tory level of support has been ‘soft’ over recent times. Much of what happens between now and the election will depend on whether the government can continue without making huge blunders. If they can then it is looking increasingly likely that by the time we reach next May Labour will be favourite to form the largest Party.

    If my comment was a bit OTT Jack, I am sorry, however I am even more sorry that there is a serious element of fact attached to it . Do you read the Guardian posts? The things I have read on days when soldiers deaths have been the main news headline are appaling. I am afraid the numbers of people who think it is fair to call an 18 year old kid from a sink estate “a f…… murderer
    because he joined the army is very disappointing.

  9. With respect KH it’s slightly unfair to suggest that Guardian readers (of which I am one), don’t care for our troops etc.

    May I just add that I was merely trying to describe the image a lot of people have of David Cameron.

    As regards to Labour policies I can think of at least 10 just at the drop of a hat, which have made real substantial improvements to people’s lives.

    I am also concerned about our deficit but I am not convinced that the Conservatives have the most equitable polices to deal with it.

  10. @ johntt

    “The FTSE’s improvement clearly shows the markets are not as worried as they were.”

    Some 65pc of earnings from FTSE companies come from overseas john-it really isn’t a reliable indicator of UK economy fundamentals anymore.

    This is an example of the market reaction I was talking about :-

    according to a recent client note by Morgan Stanley.:-
    •Britian risks becoming the first country in the G10 bloc of major economies to risk capital flight and a full blown debt crisis over the coming months,
    •“Growing fears over a hung parliament would likely weigh on both the currency and gilt yields as it would represent something of a leap into the unknown, and would increase the probability that some of the rating agencies remove the UK’s AAA status,” said the report, .
    •“In an extreme situation a fiscal crisis could lead to some domestic capital flight, severe pound weakness and a sell-off in UK government bonds. The Bank of England may feel forced to hike rates to shore up confidence in monetary policy and stabilize the currency, threatening the fragile economic recovery,” they said.
    •Morgan Stanley said that such a chain of events could drive up yields on 10-year UK gilts by 150 basis points. This would raise borrowing costs to well over 5pc – the sort of level now confronting Greece, and far higher than costs for Italy, Mexico, or Brazil.
    •High-grade debt from companies such as BP, GSK, or Tesco might command a lower risk premium than UK sovereign debt, once an unthinkable state of affairs.
    •A spike in bond yields would greatly complicate the task of funding Britain’s budget deficit, expected to be the worst of the OECD group next year at 13.3pc of GDP.
    •Investors have been fretting privately for some time that the Bank might have to raise rates before it is ready — risking a double-dip recession, and an incipient compound-debt spiral – but this the first time a major global investment house has issued such a stark warning.
    •No G10 country has seen its ability to provide emergency stimulus seriously constrained by outside forces since the credit crisis began. It is unclear how markets would respond if they began to question the efficacy of state power. (utter panic comes to mind)
    •Morgan Stanley said sterling may fall a further 10pc in trade-weighted terms.
    •Morgan Stanley said Britain’s travails are one of three “surprises” to expect in 2010. The other two are a dollar rebound, and strong performance by pharmaceutical stocks.

    Maybe this particular firm is overly bearish-who knows?

    But doubts in the market are there.

  11. @AL J
    You will see my comment above re troop support or otherwise.
    I would only add to that the keeness to jump on unconfirmed stories of brutality by the editorial staff.
    I do not claim David Cameron is the 2nd coming. However Browns performance has made Cameron or indeed Donald Duck look good. As for your 10 policies which have made life better, They do not impact on me or mine. My kids were Thatchers children, my daughters kids are Blair/Browns children. I see nothing to show my grandchildren are better of than my children were.
    As for there future, they can be gratefully paying back Mr Browns debt in 25 years time.

  12. @Al J – “I am also concerned about our deficit but I am not convinced that the Conservatives have the most equitable polices to deal with it.” I think this line sums up an awful lot of the political debate at present. Ian Dale has already blogged that Cameron had hi worst PMQ’s today and is being hurt by the IHT and Eton jibes. Unlike Crewe & Nantwich, Labour have got more subtle on these attacks while further doubts are emerging over the Tories wider substance (see todays Independant).

    Colin is right about the city concerns over the debt issue, but it’s whether voters agree, and if they do, we’re back to Al j’s point about who would do it equitably. This is the Tories achilles heel.

  13. @COLIN
    I was informed of Morgans outlook a couple of days ago.
    As you say say it could be a bit Bearish but the general trend in the financial press is not wholly joyful by any stretch of the imagination.
    May I say your comment regarding the FTSE not being the holy grail these days is the most accurate post of the day.
    I must say that the putting it on your visa until after Christmas Brown style, is ok if you are sure your new year bonus will cover
    the debt. Where will Browns new year bonus come from do you think?

  14. @ALEC VIA AL J
    Once again rose coloured specs (on the NHS of course).
    Brown wouldnt answer the question about Labours plans for IHT.
    As for Eton, when will the Labour front bench spokes persons apologise for their private educations.
    And anyway you two champions of a “fairer society” dont you think mocking someone whose choice of school was made for him when he was born is a bit like mocking someone with defective eyesight ?

  15. Colin – I knew all that from reading Allister Heat in City a.m. The stock market isn’t the only indicator of course, but you referred to the wisdom of the markets in doing the maths so should really recognise a steady improvement in prospects being reflected in FTSE gains.

    Unles you simply pick and choose what you want to see through those blinkers.

    Similarly, complaining about a 12bn reduction in VAT as a waste, the car scrappage scheme too, doesn’t really sit well with describing fiscal stimulus as “minuscule” It’s just hypocrisy.

  16. Life has just got a bit more interesting:

    ”The Government is set to introduce paving legislation over the next few months, guaranteeing a referendum on voting reform by October 2011. Justice secretary Jack Straw will introduce the change in an amendment to the constitutional renewal bill.
    The referendum would consider whether Britain should abolish the first-past-the-post voting system in favour of AV.”
    I wonder what the good folk of ukpolling, think of this new development?

  17. @King Harold – I was only reporting Iain dale’s view of PMQ’s and other general observations – I didn’t necessarily say that I agreed with the views expressed. It’s a question of which party has rising confidence and whether voters are swayed, not whether you or I individually agree with the views expressed. I only mentioned it as I thought it was interesting that such a commentator as dale was quite savage about Cameron’s performance, which is unusual I think.

  18. Colin – I knew all that from reading Allister Heath in City a.m. The stock market isn’t the only indicator of course, but you referred to the wisdom of the markets in doing the maths so should really recognise a steady improvement in prospects being reflected in FTSE (ie “market”) gains.

    Unles you simply pick and choose what you want to see.

    Similarly, complaining about a 12bn reduction in VAT as a waste, the car scrappage scheme too, doesn’t really sit well with describing fiscal stimulus as “minuscule” It’s just not consistent.

  19. On the whole debt / rating thing, has it occured to the Government that the markets have for some time factored in a Con win in 2010. If that is put into question, then the markets will look at lot more closely at Brown/Darling plans for managing the deficit and debt going forward.

    Alec has often commented about the efefct on Con lead when scrutiny focuses on Cameron’s policies as the election approaches. Can the country afford a thorough scrutiny of Brown’s fiscal positions by the markets ?

  20. @ KH
    Where will Browns new year bonus come from do you think?

    Massive tax rises & big spending cuts-implemented after the GE.

  21. Al J

    The government is not in a position to guarantee anything after May 2010. They can’t even guarantee that this Bill will get on the statute book by April 2010 – and it probably won’t make it to Royal Assent.

    Given that they promised us a referndum in their 2005 election manifesto which they blatantly failed to deliver, how genuine do you think this “guarantee” is ?

  22. @Paul HJ – you make a very good point regarding the factoring in of a Tory win. I think it’s more than that though – they were factoring in a big Tory win. I suspect the markets would favour a big win from Labour however if the choice was between that and a hung parliament – increasing uncertainty is not good news at this time. One key factor (the key factor I think) is the PBR due very soon. There appears to be a battle between Brown (wants a political budget to define battle lines etc) and Darling (more prepared to provide stronger debt control and spending cuts). I have said on several occassions that there are a number of taxation changes that could in effect do both, but what happens will be very interesting. Overall, I feel currently that the threat of a UK debt crisis is slightly overstated at the moment. However, I’m fairly sure there will be a sovereign debt crisis somewhere in the world in the next year or so, and such an event could easily spook the markets and ultimately effect the UK. The other factor is whether the UK real economy improves and by how much – if markets see the annual budget deficit falling quickly this will help greatly. These are all uncertainties, and could tip one way or the other, which explains why I have always kept open the possibility that the Tories could struggle at the GE.

  23. @ Colin
    Oh b…..r thats what I think as well.

  24. The government is not in a position to guarantee anything after May [email protected] PAUL-HJ

    Indeed so Paul-but is that the key point?

    This will go into Brown’s manifesto for one reason only-it forces Cameron to say whether he would oppose it or support it.
    If he says he would oppose it GB will say he is “antidemocratic” or some such tosh.
    If he says he will support it he has then changed his mind.

    Everything Brown does will have a huge political component in it. I expect the PBR to be a spectacular example-it will have very little to do with the economy I suspect.

  25. Colin & KH – I think they come in in April don’t they? Apart from VAT which goes up in Jan.

    I don’t think the old days of keeping schtum about tax rises until afterwards are back with us. We were a bit more gullible in 1992.

    I foresee the most transparent election campaign with regard to the issues. I actually give credit to Osborne and Cameron for making public their unpopular plans – it’s forcing Brown and Darling to follow suit.

  26. I always feel that the press has an influence which can produce a swing of 2-3 points. Take today as an example.

    In the early afternoon I did a quick scan of the papers and the blog sites regarding PMQ. All reports were of Brown being “on fire” and Cameron hopelessly wrong-footed. When I watched the footage 10 minutes ago it was nothing of the sort.

    Mr “No more boom and bust” was certainly not running rings around Cameron. It was the same old soundbites, and the same old lies.

  27. @Andrew MYERS
    Thanks for that Andrew, not for party political reasons but for confirming I dont live in an alternative world.

  28. @Andrew Myers – that is interesting. I didn’t watch PMQ’s today but have picked up some stinging criticism of Cameron. This could be the danger point for Cameron – as I have said before, the media suffers from ‘bison syndrome’ – they charge off in a great herd,and every now and then, for no explicable reason, decide to change direction. The coverage of his health & safety speech has been largely negative and today in the Independent there is a piece claiming Cameron is more like hague than Blair – ie lurching to the traditional Tory comfort zone after a promising start. This media reaction was bound to happen at some stage, but I thought he might have got through the election first.

  29. Alec,

    Re Markets. Yes stability from a government with a solid majority is generally preferred to the uncertainty of a small majority – never mind the stasis that may arise in a hung parliament.

    However, I am not so sure the markets would be pleased if they thought Brown was going to be returned with a solid majority. That would imply a collective burying of heads in the sand by the UK public. It would not only spook the financial markets, it would frighten away investment in the real economy too.

    The tension between Darling and Brown remains palpable – even if it has been kept under wraps for most of the past few months. The delay in the PBR – it should have been last week not next week – is just another example. Indeed, this tension may be the final straw that forces Brown into a March election since the possibility of his Chancellor resigning on the eve of a budget is too frightful to contemplate.

    If you recall, this year the delay in the budget was attributed to the G20 summit, yet there was nothing therein which had any implications to justify holding up the budget. Next year Brown has no room for manouevre since he cannot have a pre-election budget in April. He either has the Budget in March followed by GE in May, or goes to the country first, with all the bad news delivered in a post-election budget.

    Of course, that would require an enormous leap of faith in terms of Brown’s election promises on tax and spending, but I am sure neither Brown nor Mandy will give a hoot about manifesto promises once they are back in office.

    It comes back to a question of credibility. I believe Darling understands this, hence his resistance to a purely political “dividing lines” approach. One thing is now probably for sure – Darling will not be Chancellor next May. Ironically, that actually strengthens his hand over the next few months rather than weakens it.

  30. Interesting comments Paul.

    I wonder how a Balls Chancellorship is thought of in the City?

    Re G20-is that before or after Brown’s PMQ ?bestowal of membership on Spain ?

  31. I should add as a caveat that nor was Cameron running rings around Brown (as he has done on occasions in the past) – it was a level battle today which is very much at odds to what was reported in the press.

  32. @ALEC
    I agree with you, boredom has set it regarding constant Gordon
    Brown knocking – “Brown trips up again” I mean among the non chattering classes, who cares.
    “Cameron destroyed as confident Gordon commands respect at the dispatch box”. Based on today that would be a gross over statement, however with the Tory lead getting narrower, lets not let accuracy get in the way of a story.

  33. @ ALEC:-

    “The coverage of his health & safety speech has been largely negative”

    The Telegraph said this :-

    “Cameron is right to think in terms of removing this yoke of overbearing regulations from acts of charity, which are aspects of humanity to be celebrated rather than regulated.”

    I happen to think that this is becoming a major irritant.
    For Cameron it chimes with third sector initiatives & top down busy body government.

    It,s an expression of a political philosophy.

    The electorate will decide who has it right.

  34. I just love the Tory howls of exasperation on this site whenever a poll suggests that British people might not be totally sold on the idea of DC for number 10.

  35. @ Toby Perkins – my howls are of terror at even the sniff of a chance that we might have 5 more years of Gordon Brown. I would vote for whatever party was best positioned to ensure that this didn’t happen. If the Lib Dems were the main party of opposition, I’d vote for them. I think Cameron is okay, as it happens, but my main political motivation right now is to see the back of Brown and his consorts. It really does fill me with fear to think of 5 more years of him, Mandelson and company.

  36. seems partisan comments only barred on this site if you are not a Tory supporter. Had comments barred twice for expressing hope/belief that polls will narrow. Anyway, now they are as people begin to focus on choice of which party can really be trusted with our economy and public services.

  37. @ KH
    “Oh b…..r thats what I think as well.”

    Have a read of Brogan in the Telegraph.
    It will make your eyes water.

    If he is anywhere near the truth PBR is going to be spectacular.

  38. We have a great example of how ones own outlook can affect your judgement.
    Take todays PMQs which I watched and saw as an unreserved victory for GB.
    It was not just the exchanges but the Body Language he looked confident and in possession of his facts.
    Cameron was uncomfortable and I swear he went red once.
    KH ( who has taken on the mantle of the Oracle and Ivan TT who have gone to PB where partisan comments are encouraged) and Andrew M saw it differently.

  39. Paul H-J

    **The government is not in a position to guarantee anything after May 2010. They can’t even guarantee that this Bill will get on the statute book by April 2010 – and it probably won’t make it to Royal Assent.**

    You have a good point. I’m not sure of the time-table. As Colin says it’s probably a political ploy to wrong-foot Cameron at the election, but I do believe Labour will at least try to pass it before the GE.

  40. Bribrad – it’s best to skip throught he blinkered self serving stuff – doesn’t leave much else to read mind. Anthony does well to moderate with a light touch and will let anti-Tory comments through if they pass the test of not being ddesoigned to wind people up. Anti-Labour remarks seem to sail through in greater numbers, but like I said, it’s better to ignore them and onlyoccasionally point out inaccuracies and inconsistencies..

    I have a strong impression that Brown’s finally getting a grip of speaking in public off the cuff. The posture’s improving, and the downward finger-prodding has gone. He still needs to cure the M stammer. He could probably get away with “ster Speaker”, to avoid the M in mister. He’s clearly taking advice (though probably from the likes of Alistair Campbell rather than a coach.

  41. Re PMQs I would tend to side with Jim Jam. I didn’t see/hear it today, but pretty much all commentators from what I can see think Cameron was roasted. I’ve often been on the wrong side of this myself. I watched Cameron’s full conference speech this year and thought it very poor, in both content and delivery. One commentator watching broadly agreed with me, but no one else did. I think it’s a lesson in political analysis in general – it’s almost impossible to disassociate yourself from the analysis, which is why polls are so interesting. The added complication is when there is good news for party x on discussion threads like this, lots of party x supporters get stuck in, which exacerbates the sense that party x is on the move. That’s why poll movements, in any direction, tend to stimulate over reaction. The old football chant ‘it’s all gone quiet over there’ springs to mind. It’s an odd world.

  42. I think a mixture of issues have led to a slight drop for the Conservatives – Lab not in-fighting openly; perhaps a slight economic lift in mood; but also a becalmed Conservative approach. It is almost as if they have been deliberately quiet.

  43. @ Jim Jam

    I saw a similar performace from Cameron to normal (maybe slightly below par but nothing significant) and a stronger than normal perofirmance from Brown.

    My view was that it was even-sided rather than the usual roasting that Brown gets off Cameron but certainly not the other way around as reported by many sources.

  44. The very fact that so many people think it remarkable that the PM was able to stand his ground against Cameron for once speaks volumes. We’ve come expect so little of Brown that his getting through the regular weekly event of PMQs without falling apart practically makes the headlines.

  45. Regarding the topic, “why are the polls narrowing?”.

    Whilst the conferences, the referendum fiasco, the Sun’s grieving mother and a number of presentational problems have probably eroded the tories from 42 to 39, Labour at 27 is pretty poor compared to early 2008 and before. In other words, the recession has battered Labour.

    I have looked at the polling chart and notice that the tories are heading into december with their biggest december lead ever (I’m sure we’d be heading back to the 1980s since they were 10 or 12 points ahead).

    Maybe Labour does well as Christmas approaches?

    More likely I think I sense the ebb and flow of politics. There is no major shift in opinion.

    FWIW I expect election night to give us 38/32/20 and the tories to do well enough in marginals, with ashcroft’s money, to get small majority.

    Anyone got any opinions on why December might be a good month for Labour and a bad month for the tories?

  46. Regarding PMQs, what proportion of the posters on this site watch the Daily Politics or BBC Parliament to catch up on PMQs? Half? In which case it is quite important to us.

    I understand that Less than 300,000 people actually watch the programme, or a little less than 1% of the potential electorate.

    PMQs might influence the politicos, and may influence the media, but surely i can be no great shakes as regards public opinion. If it were, William Hague would have been PM years ago!

  47. Shopkeeper man – exactly, and it goes a long way past PMQs (which in comparison to some things does have a minor effect – it impacts on MPs morale, and the party leaders are pretty much guaranteed to get a soundbite from it on the evening news). It is very easy for people who follow politics closely to remember just how little attention the majority of people who aren’t political anoraks pay to it.

    Most of the gaffes, announcements, policies, interviews, etc, etc, etc will not have been noticed by the majority of people who have better things to do with their lives than worry about the minutae of politics (and, therefore, will have little or no effect on the polls)

  48. The thing that struck me from watching PMQs yesterday was Brown’s body language. He looked confident and at ease, and happy to be stood at the dispatch box. If (and it is a big if) this is a taste of things to come, then the GE leaders debates (if they happen) will not be as one sided as the majority are anticipating. Things are getting more interesting; I (as a Labourite) had given up hope of a hung parliament sveral months ago, now I think it is a distinct possibility.

  49. AW – I would tend to disagree in part with what you say. PMQs has little real resonance with voters, but you do identify party confidence as an important factor, which is true. However, the other stories, gaffes, leaks etc, while individually not having great traction, collectively set the tone in which the political game is played. We know this is very important for political opinion forming as the parties spend vast amounts of time and effort trying to manipulate the myriad of small stories every hour of every day – see Campbell and Coulson at work.

    This is why I don’t believe the present dip in Tory support is a general drift due to them being a bit quiet etc – its a serious change in the way the political debate is being framed. All over the media there are now a host of minor but negative stories about them. Boris and his attempts to push poorly qualified friends into jobs, U turn on prisons, cash for access, non dom cadidates, goodbye to Cameron’s green agenda, trounced at PMQ’s etc – these are just from the last 48 hours. Individually nothing, but collectively very important. Another key issue is that the media feeds on itself – if this general tone persists, the media will start to ask tougher questions and open new angles on Tory problems. New Labour recieved an very extended and very unusual honeymoon and got away with an awful lot due to some very timid media scrutiny. This isn’t going to happen with this opposition, and I’m beginning to see more and more risks for cameron as this media trend continues.

  50. And the LD’s are sounding better with regional reports of them doing better in the SWest and as we have heard from our Scottish Experts they will retain most of the Scottish seats.
    GB of course has the potential for a few Gaffes of his own.

    Alec- It is nice to have some comapny on here is it not and that tells you something in itself perhaps.

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