At the end of conference season voting intention is pretty much as it was at the beginning – a Conservative lead of 3 or 4 points. Each party enjoyed a small boost during and straight after their own conference – the Lib Dems peaked up at 15% in YouGov’s daily polls, Labour went into the lead during their conference and the Conservatives re-established their lead during their own conference. In short, conference season was a score-draw.

Some of the underlying figures though suggest the Conservatives won the economic arguments during the conference season. The proportion of people thinking the government’s cuts would be good for the economy rose to 50%, up 10 points since the start of conference season and the highest since June. The proportion thinking the cuts were being done fairly rose to 39%, up 9 since before the conference and the highest since July (though more people, 46%, still think they are unfair). The proportion of people blaming the spending cuts on Labour rather than the coalition also rose – 47% think Labour is most to blame, 17% think the coalition are most to blame, once again, the coalition’s best position since June.

These all set the coalition in good stead for what’s ahead, but could all be completely reversed come the announcement of the cuts in a fortnight’s time.

Another measure worth noting is YouGov’s regular tracker on party image. On which party “its leaders are prepared to take tough and unpopular decisions” best applies to, following their conference the Conservatives hit 62%, with Labour dropping to 11% – their highest and equal lowest respectively (and the most lop-sided of any of the party image questions). Even amongst Labour voters the phrase was seen as applying more to the Conservatives.

Back in June the budget itself was surprisingly positively received, considering its main planks were the announcement of large cuts and an unpopular hike in VAT. Presumably the reasons were that people did see the cuts as necessary, did see the government as cleaning up a mess that was not their fault, and saw the government as making “tough and unpopular” but necessary decisions. If the public reaction to the CSR is the same then it won’t necessarily be a huge negative. My expectation however is that people will still react much more negatively to specific cuts and that Labour will move ahead after the CSR, but time will tell.

Other party image trackers worth looking at are “it seems rather old and tired” and “it seems to have succeeded in moving on and left its past behind it”. The proportion of people seeing Labour as “old and tired” has fallen steadily since the general election – in May 54% thought they seemed old and tired, now it’s dropped to 39%. On “moving on and leaving its past behind it” the election of Ed Miliband saw Labour rise from 15% to 19%, their highest since the election. A lot further to go of course, but a first step towards renewing the Labour party.

76 Responses to “The end of the conference season”

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  1. Thanks for this round up thread – it’s useful.

    It looks like the government is still in a fairly strong position (as I’ve posted elsewhere, the 1979 government was already losing significant support by this point).
    But the cuts still haven’t hit many people yet.

    I think Labour have made the right call in not allowing Mr or Mrs Balls the Shadow Chancellor post. That would be a very easy target for the government as deficit denial.

  2. As a Tory supporter, I wanted Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor

  3. It looks like the government is still in a fairly strong position (as I’ve posted elsewhere, the 1979 government was already losing significant support by this point).


    I would say that The Conservatives are in a good position, but this time The Labour Party are not in the state they were in the early eighties.

    Now they are unified, with the differences between wings actually very small. In the early eighties this was not so.

    Don’t forget too, that in the early eighties the opposition was massively divided, resulting the anti-tory vote being split. Now I believe it will fall mainly to Labour.

  4. @ Rob Sheffield

    The current Labour economic strategy is risk minimising. In two years, if the deficit is not reduced &/or growth has halted, it will be time to bring in Ed Balls with an attack brief. 8-)

  5. @Amber

    “The current Labour economic strategy is risk minimising. In two years, if the deficit is not reduced &/or growth has halted, it will be time to bring in Ed Balls with an attack brief”

    Huhne amongst others has said this weekend that the current coalition approach is not ‘tied to the mast’ and that it can be changed if growth does not come or conversely comes in strongly.

    In the former the approach would be extend the timescale of the cuts and ease off on the machete; in the latter it would be higher growth and taxe receipts meaning the need for fast-deep cuts is reduced.

    Either way both amount to the same thing: that is the current AD-EdM-AJ approach as contrasted to GO-DC!

    We won’t need an attack strategy at this point- as events will have won that agrument for us. 8-)

  6. Another female in the shadow team:

    “Diane Abbott has been given as a top job by new Labour leader Ed Miliband – as shadow public health minister.”

  7. Regarding the debate in the thread on the possible economic approach of EdM-AJ, Campbell had some interesting things to say at the Cheltenham Literary festival:

    h ttp://

  8. I still think politically speaking that the best strategy
    may still be an almighty big axe job on spending now, get the pain over with, worry about the next election when it comes. Perhaps by then there will be money for a tiny tax cut to help win a majority. For this to work
    the axe needs to fall ASAP. It’s just that the economy looks increasingly as if it won’t support such bold action for at least 12 months.

    On the other hand a more cautious approach might work if spun right, chopping away useless fat and perhaps a little meat where it hopefully won’t be noticed. Just don’t mention “prudence”.

  9. Rob,

    I think Campbell is 100% correct. (To be honest, I think he usually is. His critical judgement is superb. Every time he is in front of an audience or questioned, he is better than most Ministers).

    Ed needs a good plan (sufficiently flexible for changing circumstances), and ensure that the Party delivers this message clearly morning, noon and night, every single day.

  10. I’ve just read Michael Meacher’s Blog

    h ttp://

    I don’t really agree with him, as he would appear to not want to fight the centre-ground.

  11. Not sure cutting the Navy will be bad for the Tories. Its performance in Iraq and in anti pirate actions in Somalia has been rather pathetic.

  12. @ ChrisTodd

    ps. I should perhaps add that my last comment is related to the findings “Who is to blame for the cuts”. The point being that both left and right are blamed/are not blamed in different countries.

    I’s called incumbency, Chris! If you’re in power at the time of the maximum economic pain, then you’ll carry the can more times than not, irrespective of whether your policies have caused or mitigated against the problems. Doesn’t much matter what political hue the incumbent government is, electoral retribution usually awaits. No better example than the expenses scandal. Terrible abuses in both the main parties, but Labour, as the incumbents, aided by a uniformally hostile press, took the major hit in the pre-election polls and eventually in the GE. The only major government to buck the incumbency trend was Merkel’s in Germany, but she only just limped over the line and needed the help of other centre right parties to form an administration . She’s deeply unpopular now, however.


    “I wonder if EM will try and revive the rainbow coalition if things start going down hill as the cuts are implemented.”

    I was thinking about this the other day, aided and abetted by seeing Charles Kennedy on Andrew Neil’s late night Politics Show last week. It’s manifestly obvious he’s emotionally disengaged from the coalition and he spent most of the programme paying unconvincing lip service to the coalition’s political performance thus far before going on to rubbish Baroness Warsi! He remains a hugely popular figure and potential rallying point in the Lib Dem party and where he eventually plants his standard will have huge implications for the coalition. The clever political observers should watch Charlie Boy, and his fellow ex Social Democrats, Cable, Williams etc. I wouldn’t rule out a return to Labour for some of them if Milliband plays the canny game I think he’s capable of and Clegg continues to drag his sullenly compliant party further right. Keep an eye on Kennedy is my advice and he’s starting to look like a potential king across the water for disillusioned Liberal Democrats. Maybe not now, but I have a feeling some time down the line.


    “AJ is the least dislikeable poltician in Britian”

    I think Johnson’s political narrative is one of the few genuinely inspiring ones in British politics. His likeability is his genuineness and I loved the story that when he visited Chequers as a newly appointed Cabinet Minister it was the first time he’d been there since delivering post to the address as a postman! A story that warms the cockles of my heart in a political world still dominated and skewed by privilege and seamless journeys from pubic school to Oxford to Parliament to Cabinet. Here’s a man who’s lived a life that most of his fellow citizens can recognise and relate to.

  13. Nick – interesting thoughts on Charlie boy, and completely agree about Johnson. I just wish more of them on both sides had had real careers.

  14. @Alec

    If I switch from a monthly £15 phone rental to a £10 monthly one, then I can announce I’ve saved £60 over the year. I can’t then re-announce that I’ve saved £60 again each month.

    Remember, the cuts are being announced as their grand-total reduction over the life of a parliament. So re-figuring them as cumulative year on year is already factored in.

  15. So Vince has written to all Lib Dems members stating why he says no to the Graduate Tax.

    h ttp://

    Is this a conversion on the road to Damascus?

  16. Gary K,

    Eudcation is the greatest acess to equality for the under classes. I know- because that is how I got to where I am.

    £80k is now the reported figure for an under-graduate qualification.

    For the LDs to go from abolishing tuition fees to hiking/ramping/escalating the cost for ordinary people to educate themselves is probably the biggest diversion they could take from the party that Charles Kenedy led. their stock among young voters, will decline steeply after this.

  17. Eoin,

    I work with a range of people, who earn between 25K to 40K. Many of us has children (I have 2).

    All of us are terrified of what may come, as fees of 10K PA would mean many us finding an additional 20K+ PA just to just fund our kids education, or leave them in an unimaginable level of debt.

    All we aspire to is for our Kids to have a chance to do the best they can. The probable level of fees would stop them getting a University Education,as people like simply cannot afford it.

    This makes me very, very angry..:-(

  18. New ICM/Sun Tel poll

    Con 38 + 3
    Lab 34 -3
    LD 18 N/C

  19. Gary K,

    Anger is a very appropriate word. It is not directed at blue- they never were the greatest exponents of widening academic entry- and credit where it is due, they did not seek to garner votes on the back of it…

    The superalitives to describe the other pos-Kennedy manifestation that is the LDs (ggrrr…).

  20. Eoin
    “Eudcation is the greatest acess to equality for the under classes.”

    I know it’s just a type, but i had to smile… :)

  21. TypO !

  22. Pete B,

    :) :)

  23. ICM – Conservatives 38 (+3) Labour 34 (-4) Libs 18 (n/c)
    53% back the CB cuts.

    Cam will be relieved after a Conference that was protrayed in a wholly negative light on our TV screens day after day. It ought to shake up any Labour complacency too – to be on 34% after the nightmare week the Tories have had should ing some alarm bells for the eRds.

  24. Anthony,

    The ICM results seem very odd compared the usual YouGov results. The LD and Lab look strange. Do they weight differently?

  25. @peter buss

    “to be on 34% after the nightmare week the Tories have had should ing some alarm bells for the eRds”

    Wait for any other sunday polls- but if they are similar to this then you are absolutely right.

  26. The end of the Liberal Deomcrat Party?

    h ttp://

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