ICM’s monthly poll for the Guardian, conducted after this week’s budget, has the Conservatives back ahead – CON 37%(+2), LAB 36%(-2), LDEM 16%(-2). Changes are from their February poll, before both the budget and the intervention in Libya.

This is the first poll to show a Conservative lead since December, and the first time ICM have done so since October. I will add the caveat I always offer when a poll shows something unusual or unexpected, that it may just be an outlier and we should wait to see it confirmed. Having said that though, YouGov’s polls this week have also shown a post-budget, post-Libya movement back to the Conservatives. The two companies actually have the Conservatives at the same level of support – 37% – the difference is in Labour and the Liberal Democrats, with ICM continuing to show the Liberal Democrats at a much higher level than other companies, and consequentially showing Labour lower.

Looking at the rest of the poll, ICM also found a significant movement of support in favour of the scale of the government’s cuts. While 35% people still think the cuts go too far, this is down from 45% in November. 28% think the balance is about right, and 29% think the cuts are not severe enough, up by 15 points since November. That last figure here is particularly startling – suggesting a third of people would like even bigger cuts. Compare it to YouGov’s regular trackers on whether the cuts are too deep, too shallow or about right. YouGov too have shown the proportion of people thinking the cuts are too deep falling (down to 44% from 51% a month or two back), but they only find 9% thinking the cuts aren’t big enough.

Heading back to the ICM poll, on the budget itself, the biggest chunk of ICM’s respondents (48%) think it will make no difference to the economy, of the rest those thinking it will help the economy outnumber those thinking it will hurt it by 9 points. Finally on the cuts in fuel tax 21% think the measures in the budget were about right, 4% say they went too far, 70% say they didn’t go far enough.

90 Responses to “ICM show 1 point Tory lead – CON 37, LAB 36, LD 16”

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  1. These surges tend to last a week…. but the great worry for reds will be the softness of their support. In boxing terms its like getting into the ring with Audley Harrison. He looks big, he looks like he’s gonna hammer you but one jab and he keels over.

    George Osborne will eradicate the budget deficit
    George Osborne will sustain growth through to ’15
    George Osborne through sale of bank shares will enter the home straight with a low tax budget.

    Labour allowed the terms of reference of this parl to be all about the deficit.
    Labour refuse to outline policy
    Labour will lose the next election.

    Infuriating to watch.

  2. ‘While 35% people still think the cuts go too far, this is down from 45% in November. 28% think the balance is about right, and 29% think the cuts are not severe enough, up by 15 points since November’.

    It is an amazing turnaround in public opinion, be it only one poll. I wonder what has triggered this change of view.

  3. Using these figures and modelling for AV Electoral Calculus gives:

    CON 273
    LAB 304
    LDM 48
    NAT 07
    OTH 00

    Under FPTP the figures are

    CON 286
    LAB 309
    LDM 28
    NAT 09
    OTH 00

    They don’t model yet the 600 seat HOC as boundaries have not been settled.

    They were the closest predictors of the 2010 GE…..

    As I said earlier this week: let’s see what the You Gov poll next Wednesday says (or any poll from then onwards for that matter).

    Budgets tends to have an small immediate positive impact- before falling away to trend as either the facts of life rudely intervene again or the nasty concealed surprises- pace Brown- are unravelled.



    is another reason (and one I have been pointing out to UKPRers for months)- along with the fact that there is only one national centre left party now- as to why matters are already quite serious electorally for Cameron (et al).

    When you pick a fight with almost every section and social group in the country you store up a lot of dissatisfaction that- when it’s been a factor for years not just months- tends to stick…

    We rightly support masses of people protesting (and fighting) against their zealous and domineering leaders who seem deaf to ordinary peoples wishes.

    We’ll see a couple of hundred thousand on our own streets tomorrow from all walks of life.

  4. @Henry
    I think the multiple eurozone bailouts (and the likelihood of more in the future) and all the talk of debts and deficit will have contributed. Now that the Conservatives are in power they have more opportunity to create talking points and will do everything they can to bring up deficit/debt.

    Certainly is an interesting result with Tories in the lead, but I can’t see it lasting very long.

  5. Rob Sheffield

    When you pick a fight with almost every section and social group in the country you store up a lot of dissatisfaction that- when it’s been a factor for years not just months- tends to stick…

    We rightly support masses of people protesting (and fighting) against their zealous and domineering leaders who seem deaf to ordinary peoples wishes.

    I presume you are referring to cuts. I agree that the position might well change; however at the moment any demonstration against the cuts would appear to reflect a definite minority view of 35% against the 57% who think the cuts are balanced or not severe enough.

  6. I think this is an errant result, but AW is right that it adds weight to YG’s polling picture.

    It certainly seems there is a relapse, however temporary, in Labour’s march to dominance in the polls.

  7. Thomasgreen

    I agree with your analysis and that the sudden change in party support will not last.

    However, the opportunity for the coalition as government to highlight the debt problem and blame labour will remain.

    I would have thought that even a blip for the Tories will be a surprise to them as their aim is surely to have 3 tough years and then say one and half years of plenty, which may result in a significant pro government swing.

  8. Con stuck at 37, but I am staggered at the amount of churn between Lab and LD ICM are showing. I know this is just about within MOE for a slightly falling Lab score, but LD as high as 16 (down from 18) is not what the other polls have been showing for months.

    I’d put the above down to a bad day at the ICM office, but the incredible rise in approval (or non-disapproval) of the govt’s cuts is also almost off the radar considering the steady drip of news about the cuts. Can we some some kind of thought about ICM’s methodology? It seems like one heck of an outlier.

  9. Tark,

    Last night’s YouGov did show a decrease in the disapproval rating.

    I did think a Conservative revival was due, but not so soon!

  10. Its all very strange.

    Through both this Poll & the YG Poll there is a movement towards the Government on all the deficit reduction questions.

    I wonder if the economic plight of the Irish , their change of Government etc has made people more aware that UK is , at least, not in that boat.

    RoI is a place lots of people have family & contact with.

    Is there a feeling that “they have kept us away from a disaster like that -so maybe they are doing the right thing.”

    I am nervous about this-I would almost prefer Cons to be behind just now-its kind of where we ought to be.

    I’ll wait till after 6th April to see what effect the redundancy notices & the tax changes have. I still think this is temporary.

  11. France & NIgeria to propose a new UN resolution on Ivory Coast.

    What on earth have the 10,000 strong UN peacekeeping force been doing in Ivory Coast.

    There seems to be a fatal flaw in UN blue beret operations.

    When it comes down to it, they never seem to actually intervene-they just stand and watch the combatants.

    How long have they been “keeping the peace” in Lebanon?

  12. Colin,

    Lebanon? 45years… The kids have Irish accents :) [Irish blue hats over there.. we lost about 70 troops there so not all futile]

  13. All your correspondents should try door knocking to see the true picture.
    This poll reflects the true picture.
    People out there are a bit sharper than some give them credit for and know the reason we have this financial problem!

  14. Colin,

    For years I have considered the UN totally unfit for purpose.

    Don’t forget in Yugoslavia they just stood and watched as the Serbians rounded up Muslims and put them on buses, to be murdered elsewhere.

  15. One major effect could be the increased personal allowance, which is taking 800,000 people out of paying tax next month. These are very large numbers of people and even if the amounts involved are small, the psychological effect of not paying income tax at all is a big one.

  16. @GarryK
    Thanks – I know YG showed a lower disapproval rating, but not to the extent that justifies the startlingly higher proportion who do not disapprove of the cuts/direction. It looks like a real outlier after all these weeks of news about cuts. I wonder if – if this is accurate – it isn’t a collective exhalation that the sky hasn’t fallen in (yet)? Plus DC has had good publicity over Libya. Which leads me on to …

    This is my specialisation – UN peacekeepers have mandates and terms of reference which are very limited and differ between missions. They shouldn’t be confused with UN-mandated enforcement action (like Libya). Peacekeepers create a buffer between warring parties to make space for diplomacy, etc. That’s what they’re doing in Cote d’Ivoire – they don’t have the right to actually intervene. I know it seems perverse, but adding another combatant in already incendiary situations is usually disastrous. They are actually pretty useful IF the parties get together to negotiate a truce/transition, but they can’t force it. So if Gbagbo doesn’t want to talk, there isn’t an awful lot the peacekeepers can do. I know it can look redundant, but it has worked often enough.

  17. Staggering poll. Presumably an outlier but solid confirmation of the recent erosion of the Labour lead.

    Tomorrow is another day however; this poll is further incentive for miscreants to trash Central London (can I just say now – go piss on your own doorsteps). The legend/myth of Trafalgar Square 1990 lives on. Inevitably the Labour poll numbers will improve.

  18. Although temporary, confirms Red Support is soft. As everybody has said all along its going to come down to the shape of the econonmy in 2015, and if the Tories win, they will win big, lose and they will lose big.

  19. Robert C,

    GO is indeed planting small seeds.

    If some of these grow Ed will have his work cut out.

  20. Nick Clegg in a hole today on a phone-in:

    “Dismissive” of one caller who mentioned the cut in winter fuel payments – “don’t believe everything you read in the papers/Balls makes it up as he goes along/scare stories”.

    A second caller backed up the first, and it emerged that NC was unaware that there had been a change to the payments (hidden in the small print and not announced on budget day).

    PM on R4 prefaced this news item by replaying Cameron’s pre-election assurance that Labour’s claim about winter fuel payments were an outright lie.

  21. GARRYK

    Yes- I know-it was to their eternal shame.

    Which is why I was so pleased about the speed on Libya. But my growing fear is that air strikes will not save the civilian population there.

    How does the UN stop his snipers in Misurata with Tornado jets ?

    Doesn’t it always come down -in the end -to putting troops with blue berets between the oppressed & the oppressor?

    And it doesn’t work-Peacekeeping troops only keep the peace if there is one.

    If there is no peace , they cant make one-and/or the “international community” won’t authorise them to do so.

    Syria is incredible-after all those years of dictatorship-people have suddenly had enough.

    I think the west has been taught a very severe lesson in the middle east.

    That old horror story-Arabs don’t do democracy-they only do authoritarian regimes -or fundamentalist regimes-is completely wrong.

    Doctors ( who have been at the heart of it in Egypt & Libya) , Lawyers, Students, Business people, journalists-and they just want what we have-Freedom & Democracy.

    Lets remember how this all started- an unknown Tunisian street vendor struggling to feed his family by selling fruit. earning the equivalent of barely $10 a day, gets fed up with government inspectors confiscating his produce and demanding bribes,-sets himself on fire.

  22. Tark

    Thank you-yes I can understand how difficult it is to accomplish “peacekeeping” on the ground-as opposed to “peace monitoring”.

  23. Will EM or any of his colleagues be marching tomorrow on a march entitled, ‘No cuts’, when he has already stated that if they were in power, there would be cuts. How does that persuade the public any better, that he & his shadow cabinet know what they are talking about? He desperately needs some consistency. Either he is against cuts or he is in favour of them.

    Being against is a perfectly legitimate position to take but if he is in favour of some but not all, then he needs to say which ones he agrees with and which ones he doesn’t.

    Whilst it is good to see blues ahead for once, I agree with everyone else that it is temporary and at this stage in the game, irrelevant.

  24. Robert,

    Your critique of Ed is shared many in the Labour Party too.

    Ed needs to answer two essential questions:

    1. Where does he want to take the Labour Party and the country?

    2. How will he lead us there?

  25. GarryK

    If you don’t like the answer to 1. then question 2. should be redundant.

  26. Fwiw Tories could be deluding themselves if they take too much comfort from “who do you trust to get the deficit down” type questions.

    There is some reinforcement going on because a) it is first and foremost Tory policy (we must cut the deficit at all costs) whereas Labour say the deficit needs to come down, but…

    and b) some repondents may think – silly question, Labour aren’t even in government.

  27. @ ROBERT

    “it is temporary and at this stage in the game, irrelevant.”


  28. This seems to me to be by far the more telling poll of the day.

    It was just given big billing on ITN and is hot off the pres today. It’s the ComRes/ ITN budget and Cuts polling.

    Hopefully AW will give it a separate thread ASAP…..

    “A ComRes/ ITV News poll shows that two thirds of the public feel that the Government should reconsider its cuts programme

    Following Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget statement earlier this week, the latest Cuts Index conducted by ComRes and to be broadcast on ITV News at Ten, shows that two thirds (64%) of the public agree that the Government should reconsider its planned spending cuts programme. Just one in five (20%) disagree.

    Since the Cuts Index began, the number of people who agree that the coalition Government is cutting public spending too much and too quickly has risen from 45% last October to 58% this week.

    Moreover, nearly three quarters of the public (71%) think that Chancellor George Osborne should have done more to help tackle rising fuel prices. 16% disagree and 13% don’t know.

    Asked if Osborne was right to describe Wednesday’s Budget as a ‘Budget for growth’, only one in four (26%) agree. Nearly half disagree (44%) with 31% of people unsure. 44% of people believe that the state of the UK economy will get worse in the coming months, while 34% believe there will be no change following the budget statement.

    Finally, more than half of the population (51%) thinks that their personal financial situation will worsen over the next six months. Just 22% are optimistic that it will improve.”

    This Blue Rinse matrons from Cheltenham and Stroud– who are going to march against the cuts in services tomorrow- were given a decent billing on BBC news at 10 tonight.


    @Robert Newark

    There are many people in the Labour Party- and in my South Yorkshire branch- who believe that EdM is doing absolutely the right thing on several fronts- and I was a doubter last summer.

    Here are some:

    In particular:

    * that Labour should stay policy lite for the first 12-18 months after the May 2010 defeat- during the period when the Conservatives set out and then implement their policy agenda and Labour *thinks through and then develops* its own alternative- something that anyone with an ounce of political sense knows takes time ;-)

    * to point out the fact that this is categorically a Tory government in terms of policy agenda

    * the decision to leave the Lib Dems to sink all on their lonesome with no unseemly pushing down on the head below the waterline

    * the choice not to rise to the ‘Flash man’ bullying often leaving Cameron looking rather nasty and unattractive

    * the decision to unequivocally support AV.

    Today EdM announced a major public consultation exercise on future Labour policy- another clever tactical stroke.

    The boy done good thus far…

  29. Rob S,

    I know we’ve been here before.

    Detailed policies needs time, of course. However, having the faintest, smallest, slightest whiff of a vague general direction from Ed would really be good at this point. What do we get?


    I know Ed likes to be Consensual, but he needs to provide some leadership – giving us a clue he actually knows what he’s doing.

    I wonder if he doesn’t pick his own socks in a morning – maybe he consults broadly first, as he might not want appear too bossy….

  30. Vote DM Garry? :p

  31. Joe,

    No, well not first.

    I supported:

    1. AB
    2 EB
    3 DM

  32. Rob S

    Why is it by far the more the more telling poll? Because it supports your prejudices?

  33. The reaction in Scotland (to the oil levy) among the LDs appears to be frustration and terror


  34. @GarryK

    I thought you were ‘never going to rise to it’ nod nod wink wink.

    Anyway, I have to say you- and a minority of others on the ‘red’ side- are simply being incredibly naive, or impatient, or both.

    The better strategy (surely…?) is the one Cameron followed and Blair before him. Namely, burlesque-style you gradually reveal your platform: but even then *only up to a degree* always leaving significant elements for the manifesto and GE campaign.

    I do find it strange that the most vociferous proponents of the ‘it’s definitely going to last the full 5 years’- coupled with the prostate posture this red minority has before the perceived brilliance of an omniscient Osborne- are also those most loudly shouting for us to have a fistful of polices ‘yesterday’. That’s what the Tories want!

    This government is slowly and remorselessly bruising the toes and wrapping the knuckles of almost every section of our society.

    If Labour gives them a role in the policy review- as announced by Ed today- and waits till the cuts actually are being implemented (and they start 2011 financial year) I think the release of the policy review conclusions can be maximised against the worst excesses- and effects on real people- of the governments agenda.

    Letting rip with detailed policies now is premature in the worst definitions of that word. It also lacks intelligence. Which is why the Labour leadership aren’t doing it. We are lucky the labour leadership has good advisors and doesn’t read every ragtag and blog out there.

  35. Sergio

    “Rob S

    Why is it by far the more the more telling poll? Because it supports your prejudices?”

    No: its because it does not support yours….

  36. Rob

    Why is it a more telling poll because it does not support my prejudices? Without wishing to nitpick.

  37. Sergio

    “Without wishing to nitpick.”


  38. Rob, Rob, Rob,

    I would begin by saying I haven’t posted that Labour needs detailed policies now. Just a hint of where Ed sees the future. Please read that again – I haven’t posted that Labour needs lots of detailed policies.

    I have to say, following Cameron’s plan would be poor – being so vague, so close to the GE, which turned what should have been a good majority for him into just a largest party.

    The country is not in a good way. It needs a Government that has ideas and firm road map to recovery. Voters out there want a Labour party with something to offer them. I ask again – what is Ed’s vision?

    Ed’s current plan only works if the economy goes south badly and our public services are wreckage at our feet.

    Even a modest recovery (likely I think) would suffice the Tories, and our world will not end with these cuts – it will be tough, but we will cope (in the real world you have to). Bear in mind the Blue core vote (easily 32% minimum) support these cuts and would support more. The groups most hurt by the cuts don’t vote blue anyway.

    I’m sure we won’t agree on this, but there you go.

    I shall consider if I am naive, impatient, ragtag or a combination of those qualities :-)

  39. @ Old Nat & Garry K

    If you don’t like the answer to 1. then question 2. should be redundant.
    You don’t believe in the old saying: ’tis better to travel hopefully than arrive. ;-)

  40. You have to wonder where the LD rating of 16% (down from 18%!) comes from when the concensus seems to be more like 10%. If we assume that this extra 6% really have gone over to Labour then we still have a healthy Labour lead and nothing much has happened apart from an upward bob in the Conservative vote.

    As for cuts, I personally keep hearing lots and lots of stories about things being up in the air and generally poised to happen, but nothing has actually happened that is tangible or more importantly has had any effect on me. Thus I feel it reasonable to conclude that once things actually start getting cut, there’s eventually going to be something I want to use that will be cut, and thus there will be a noticable effect in the opinion polls other than “hurray, the deficit’s been cut a little”. It’s going to take a while to filter through, but once there, it won’t shift easily.

  41. An un published yg poll will show that 52% back aims of 26march demo compared to 32% against

    but dot tell Anthony I told you :)

    It should appear tomorro night

  42. If it’s true that Labour’s support (no matter how great) is soft then it provide a self-fulfilling prophecy that ex-Sun editor said which is that Ed Milliband could be Labour’s Ian Duncan Smith and that Labour might start drawing out it’s knifes and forcing him out in place for his brother David (forgot his name, don’t worry i am not a fan of him nor the The Sun although I was surprised on Question Time when he said the one thing Labour got right was the NHS and was better than some private healthcare).

    Anyway, if Labour wants to be a crediable opposition and DOES want to get rid of ED and have DAVID then it would have to do it no later than 2013 or else it just won’t give Labour or David the enough breathing space for him to get his support. My only problem is if the economy improves far beyond expectations in 2013, the Lib Dems support is still sluggish and Conservatives get a big boost then I can see the Tory right demanding an election which would cripple Labour’s chances to win.

    The real question is should Labour get rid of ED and have David Milliband is will David be Labour’s own Michael Howard (i.e. he can get the core base and a few swing voters but still classed as a failure) or will he be a David Cameron (new ideas, fresh and attractive to the voters, although I would say he may want to do better than have create another hung parliament).

    For any LibDems out there I’m sorry but chances that you guys will pull a hat-trick and win more votes and seats are doubtful because even with “right-wing” David Labour will still feel more home to Labour. This is not agaisnt you personally and I am not point scoring because I actually think you lot are the “nice side of this government”, hypocritical but avoided a more right-wing government and I would sooner see the LibDems as the alternative opposition than the Tories any day.

    Also, to be balanced, for any Tories out there congrats that you are 1 point ahead of us but i would not get too over excited because you’re still no where near the support you were getting in May-October (somewhere in the 40’s I think) and if this was in a general election would only put you guys 1% up from last time. Not exactly a resounding victory but it’s not good for Labour either this poll I will admit.

  43. Amber

    “Travelling hopefully” over a cliff or into a minefield, just because the leader has decreed that he has a really good map, seldom leads to a good outcome.

    I’d like to say that such behaviour is “lemming like” – but lemmings are far wiser than party tribalists. :-)

  44. GarryK

    1. AB
    2 EB
    3 DM

    So, in fact you voted for DM. Surely you knew neither of the other two were going to win?
    DM lost get over it. Ed is growing into the job, his Budget respone was spot on and funny as well.
    By the way I voted for DM.

  45. @ Old Nat

    I agree, I’ve always thought that ‘travel hopefully’ saying was really stupid.

    I also agree that having our oil industry finance a cut in petrol price at the pumps is silly. North sea oil isn’t used for petrol. It’s speculators (e.g. our good ‘friends’ the investment bankers) who are making out like bandits on the current mini-crisis.

  46. Scots LDs do seem to be accident prone!


    Mike Pringle, who is running for re-election as an Edinburgh MSP, agreed to repay the £2,830.65 after he broke Holyrood rules with his annual report to constituents.

  47. Amber

    Taxing the crude-oil futures traders on London’s ICE futures exchange would be more appropriate

  48. @ Old Nat,

    I hope that the NS Oil industry make that point to Mr Osborne when next he speaks with them….

    ….My mistake, he doesn’t speak with them, that’s another thing they mention in the Scotsman article.

  49. And that Mori poll – which nobody except the Guardian wants to talk about – keeps popping up:

    Lansley faced criticism this week over his failure to publish the results of an Ipsos Mori study documenting satisfaction ratings with the NHS, after accusations from Labour that the government was trying to “bury good news” in order to make the case for its radical health reforms.

    The report, dated December 2010, found that 72% of people polled said they were satisfied with the NHS – up from 63% when the poll was last published in 2007.

    It said: “Satisfaction with the running of the NHS remains high at 72% … suggesting that there has been a decisive positive shift in the public’s perceptions of the NHS.”

    “Pride in the NHS also continues to climb and is at its highest recorded level; 71% agree Britain’s National Health Service is one of the best in the world.

  50. Amber

    No doubt GO is quaking in his boots (do toffs wear boots?) that Malcolm Bruce has “vowed to speak to Treasury ministers about the tax”.

    Though that no doubt just means he’s going to have a coffee with Danny Alexander.

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