Historical polls

After hours of slaving in the library Mark Pack has put up a spreadsheet of all the polls he’s been able to locate since 1943 – you can download it from Mark’s site here. It’s relatively easy to find polls back into the 1980s when MORI and ICM’s predecessor Marplan were active. It becomes more difficult as you go back into the 1970s and before, when increasingly one can only find the regular Gallup polls, and polls from the election campaigns, with mid-term figures from NOP, RSL, ORC and in-house newspaper polls not easily accessible.

Guilt tripped by Mark’s hard work, I’ve updated the historical polls listed down the right-hand sidebar of the site to go back to 1970 (pre 1992 data is mostly courtesy of Mark!). I shall try to add some nice graphs to them all… assuming I don’t get sidelined and forget about them like I did last time.

231 Responses to “Historical polls”

1 2 3 5
  1. Wow, back to 1970, is that before or after you were born, Anthony?! :-)

  2. Amber

    A lady never asks a gentleman his age (or should that be the other way round?)

  3. Terrific effort Anthony.

  4. Thank you very much for all this work.

    I just looked at 1979-1983 period on the spreadsheet.

    Very, very interesting and very fine work.

  5. Interesting polls for the Lib Dems back in the 60’s and 70’s…With the polls showing around 10-11% mark now, we can work out how many Lib Dem MP’s will be standing after the next general election, not very many!

  6. A veritable “statporn” tour de force.

    We salute you.

  7. Thanks for this late Christmas present.

    I read somewhere that Attlee’s colleagues were supposedly dumbstruck when he called a snap 1951 election out of the blue, and from the polls then you can see why.

  8. Thanks for this, and for Mark Pack for compiling the data. Fascinating stuff.

  9. Yes – great stuff. I’ve only just started looking at the data, but the ‘Falklands effect’ is certainly noticeable. Tory support suddenly jumping when it became obvious that the war was won (May 1982).
    As I remember, the popularity was helped along by a Labour MP going on for years about us sinking one of their battleships. It was as though he didn’t realise that one of the aims is to sink the enemy fleet. It just looked like a cross between treason and sour grapes to many people.

  10. @ DAVID
    “Interesting polls for the Lib Dems back in the 60?s and 70?s…With the polls showing around 10-11% mark now, we can work out how many Lib Dem MP’s will be standing after the next general election, not very many!”

    One thing that we can safely say from the historical record presented by Mark Pack is that the polling ratings of all parties, in particular the Lib Dems is extremely volatile and responsive to events.

    Therefore, I think I have to say that any GE prediction this far out is utterly worthless. After all, the Lib Dems were down at 5.0% in June 1988, yet by 1992 they recovered to 18%. Given that we managed to get 52 seats with that percentage in 2001, which would easily give us the balance of power.

    I well remember as recently as 2007 being told by Tory triumphalists that the LDs would be obliterated by them come the next election….

  11. Thank you for sharing this with us Anthony. I have been trying to find polls like this for ages and it has be very frustrating trying to get my hands on them. These polls are a treasure trove of knowledge and to be honest, are the only reason I stumbled on this fantastic site in the first place.

    A very Happy New year to you all.

  12. Thanks Anthony. Now that we’ve back-tracked to 1970 for the UK wide polls, I suppose it might now be possible to hope that the Scottish polls on this site will be updated from 2010…


    Oooooh! :-)

  14. @ OldNat

    Couldn’t resist…the independence polls are even more out of date. But maybe there is another site tracking them I’m not aware of.

  15. Talking of old polls (no, Chou, not old Poles, before you get started on the EU and immigration), I was fascinated to read in one of today’s newspapers that Cameron’s personal approval ratings circa 2006 were very similar to those that Miliband enjoys today. This is a like-for-like comparison in that it compares the ratings of the two leaders after 18 months in their respective jobs and, at the very least, puts the “Miliband is dead meat” assessment in some sort of perspective, don’t you think?

    Of course, there is a way at looking at this comparison that isn’t entirely encouraging for Miliband in that Cameron’s poor 2006 ratings might explain his continuing lukewarm relationship with the electorate, one that has endured into his time as Prime Minister, but it does give Miliband an entitlement to be fairly sanguine about the current hastily written political obituaries now circulating in parts of the press.

    One other thought on this. Party politics, as opposed to the development of political thought and policy, is largely a tactical battle for narrow advantage. In this sense, it’s a little like the competition that exists between sporting teams. Some of that competition consists of psychological warfare or mind games. Offer mischievous and malignly intended advice. Plant the seeds of doubt in opponents. Get them to do what is most disadvantageous for them and best for you. Undermine confidence in their leader/captain. Spread dissent. This is straight out of the Sir Alex Ferguson cookbook of “How to undermine your opponents” and is the black art that what was once described by that great Australian cricket captain, Steve Waugh, as causing “mental disintegration” amongst the opposition.

    When you consider that the greatest gift that the Coalition government could be given over what is likely to be a hellish 18 months or so for them would be a highly divisive Labour leadership campaign, my advice would be simple. Don’t do it!

    Keep calm and carry on, I say. Game-changing political gifts aplenty await, methinks.

  16. CROSSBAT11
    When you consider that the greatest gift that the Coalition government could be given over what is likely to be a hellish 18 months or so for them would be a highly divisive Labour leadership campaign, my advice would be simple. Don’t do it!
    Infact, the only way Cameron is going to get an overall majority without the new boundaries is for Labour to start fighting or for him to win a war for the UK


    But you have to remember why this site is called UKPR – it’s about GB polling. :-)

    Happy New Year Anthony!

  18. Crossbat
    “When you consider that the greatest gift that the Coalition government could be given over what is likely to be a hellish 18 months or so for them would be a highly divisive Labour leadership campaign, my advice would be simple. Don’t do it!”

    I think that there might be an element within the Tory strategic planners who would be hoping that Miliband stays in the job, though it’s a good point about the comparison with Cameron’s ratings at a similar stage.

  19. @Robert C – “… the Lib Dems were down at 5.0% in June 1988, yet by 1992 they recovered to 18%.”

    Are you quoting Mori polls there?

    I have flagged up this anomaly in the UKPR tables before.

    UKPR tables show Lib Dem scores only… IpsosMori archives show the score for Lib Dem – and a separate score for SDP, which combined brings the total into the low/middle/high teens (in line with other the other polling for that time).

    Post 1990 the Lib Dem score is still in the low/middle/high teens (SDP score is now n/a).

  20. Crossbat – “Talking of old polls, I was fascinated to read in one of today’s newspapers that Cameron’s personal approval ratings circa 2006 were very similar to those that Miliband enjoys today.”

    Crossbat – I’ve seen the same thing being bandied about amongst various sympathetic journalists. It doesn’t withstand much scrutiny. It is essentially a result of focusing on a particular part of the results, and on a particular pollster.

    The figures are based on MORI’s monthly monitors – if you compare

    Miliband (last five ratings of 2011)

    satisfied: 36,31,34,34,34 (average 33.8)
    net satisfaction: -7, -16, -14, -15, -16 (average -13.6)

    Cameron (last five ratings of 2006)

    satisfied: 29,30,31,25,28 (average 28.6)
    net satisfaction: -2,+2,-1,-6,-5 (average -2.4)

    You can see the problem straight away. Look solely at the percentage of people saying they are satisfied and it looks good for Miliband, he’s actually doing a bit better than Cameron was. Look at the net figures and it becomes clear why – David Cameron had much higher don’t know figures at that stage, so was getting slightly lower satisfaction… and much lower disatisfaction (incidentally, I can hear people asking whether a better comparison might be early 2007, given Cameron became leader later in 2005 than Miliband did in 2010. Alas, MORI didn’t ask the question in Feb and March 2007).

    The second issue is choice of pollster. Because of their sampling MORI tend to show better figures for Labour in their non-voting intention questions, so I suspect that looking at other polling companies the comparison would be somewhat different.

    Alas, this is not easy to do. There is a sad lack of pollsters asking comparable questions over long periods of time. For example, the closest ICM approval rating I could find for Cameron was from March 2006, much too early. Populus used to ask good questions asking people to rate the leaders out of 10 and I’ve plenty of data for Cameron from around the right point in his leadership… but couldn’t track down good comparable data for Miliband.

    In short, apart from MORI’s data, the only other company with good comparable leadership ratings from both 2006 and 2011 is YouGov’s Sunday Times series (YG used to ask two sets of leadership ratings with different wordings. The Telegraph version of the question is no longer asked, the Sunday Times version remains directly comparable).

    YouGov’s well/badly question for the Sunday Times for Cameron in March 2007 (it was only asked irregularly then, not every month) was 50% well, 37% badly. Their latest figures for Ed Miliband are 28% well, 59% badly.

  21. Billy Bob – yep, that was one of the things I meant to correct with this update.

    Check again and you’ll find a column for the Continuing SDP during their brief existence.

  22. @AW

    Excellent. :) Thanks.

  23. PHIL

    The 1951 GE was called by Mr Attlee as a result of a request from King George V1.
    Amazing, now, but true.
    The King was going on a tour of part of the Empire- Australia, and he wanted the GE out of the way before this tour.
    Cripps had refused a loose budget in 1950 which he could have afforded, owing to the excellent economic record which he had built, but he told Attlee this would be immoral- prompting Churchill to say of Cripps: ‘There but for the grace of God goes God.

    So Labour’s majority was very small in 1950, people liked the NHS etc but not the taxes and state ‘controls’. Churchill had fought a vicious campaign against the NHS calling Bevan the ‘Minister for Disease’ which prompted the ‘lower than vermin’ speech.

    The 1951 fiasco was made worse by the Bevan v Gaitskell split over the prescription charges introduced by Gaitskell, partly to fund the Korean War and re arming adventure which the UK could not afford and which Churchill scaled back.

    Corelli Barnett disagrees, but most economic historians argue (Clapham and May etc) that the decline of the UK accelerated after 1951- owing to the encourgaement of consumption over exports and investment under Butlerism.

    Peter Hennessy says in his study of the 1945-1951 Government that it was the few governments which created a better society than the one that it inherited.

    Giants they were: Attlee, Bevin, Bevan, Cripps, Ede, Morrison.
    How wrong were the Tories to say that they were like the Gestapo.

  24. ChrisLane1945

    Thanks! That’s a whole lot of detail that I didn’t know. (If I was still running a school, I’d offer you a job! :-) )

  25. OLD NAT.
    Wow, eased out and then eased back in again.

    A mirror of what was said of Churchill. ‘I didn’t know a rat could re rat!

  26. @Anthony W

    Thanks for the interesting additional detail, although it’s still interesting to see the comparable satisfaction ratings, albeit with a greater proportion of don’t knows/no opinion in Cameron’s case as opposed to Miliband. Maybe this suggests that Miliband is polarising opinion more than Cameron did at a similar stage in his leadership, although what the long term significance of this may be, I’m not sure. If you were being generous, maybe you could argue that Miliband was enthusing more people at an equivalent stage of his embryonic leadership!

    As for your caveats on different pollsters, I’m starting to get a bit sceptical about all this, I have to say. We seem to be segregating them now into those that “show better figures” for Labour and then those that don’t. Surely the only meaningful criteria is who’s right in terms of their gauging of public opinion? You appear to like the YouGov comparison between Cameron and Miliband whereas other pollsters seem to be much more ambivalent about how these personal approval ratings compare over time.

    I’m also intrigued about your reference to “various sympathetic journalists” bandying about opinion poll findings that show Miliband in a slightly better light. Might there not be similarly motivated journalists providing an equivalent service for Cameron? Or are they merely just telling it as it is as opposed to those left-wing charlatans twisting and distorting the truth? lol

  27. CHRISLANE1945

    I thought you would like that! :-)

  28. Many, many thanks to AW and especially Mark P for this nerd’s delight of data.

    A couple of days ago, I posted a fatuous musing on the similarity between EdM(2010-?) and the Blessed Margaret (1975-9). Looking at Mark’s data, I’m starting to firm up on the similarities between the two periods:

    1)Main Governing party’s performance relative to the previous GE:

    2) Opposition’s performance relative to the previous GE:

    3) Lib/LD’s performance relative to the previous GE:

    With the stunning correlation between the two eras thus established, I confidently make the following predictions:


    Cameron resigns in January, stating ill-health, but with rumours of MI5 plots circulating darkly…

    IMF bailout in late summer (subsequently turns out to have been unnecessary, and to have been provoked by Treasury manipulation of figures).

    Some vacuous quartet wins EuroVision song contest.

    Modern equivalent of Punk Rock saves us from the bland nightmare that popular music has become.

    Nick Clegg denies conspiracy to murder Justin Bieber.

    David Cameron is widely expected to call GE in the Autumn, but goes to Conference and taunts Ed Miliband, singing: “Can’t read my, can’t read my, no he can’t read my….poker face.”


    Militant Local Authority workers refuse to bury Margaret Thatcher.

    Ed M leads Labour to a storming victory in May …

    …more importantly, some minor north midlands side (Donny Rovers) wins the European Cup.

    …interest rates go up to 17%.

    Miliband’s epic speech states that, although his critics say he’s as pliable as butter, the Ed is not for churning.

    2017: Unemployment in the Home Counties black spots reaches 2%.

    Some bunch of fresh faced upper-middle class kids storm the charts with a spooky ska-based song about how all the clubs in Tonbridge have been closed down.

    The Tory party splits in two, with the corpse of Kenneth Clarke resurrected to lead the One Nation Conservative Alliance.

    With Labour 20% behind in the polls, Ed Miliband finally comes of age after reaching agreement with President Platini to allow us to send one of our shared aircraft carriers to wrest back Rockall from the Scots.

    Miliband wins a landslide second term on 15% of the vote.

    Miliband finally takes on the vested interests of the Banks, sending in the riot squad and “on leave” soldiers to force the bankers into a suicidal riot outside Liverpool Street.

    Same bunch of kids from Tonbridge have a socially aware smash hit with “Free Mikhail Khodorkovsky.”


  29. First link should have been:


  30. @crossbat11 – “various sympathetic journalists”

    It has been reported this weekend that Milliband is frustrated that “the pro-coalition Rupert Murdoch-owned stable, run prominent stories about their own opinion polls only when the Tories enjoy a surge but not when Labour is comfortably ahead, as it was for most of last year.”

    There are also concerns that the BBC has become an “echo chamber” for this kind of slanted reporting.

  31. Crossbat:
    “Maybe this suggests that Miliband is polarising opinion more than Cameron did at a similar stage in his leadership, ”

    Hmm.. I’d have a different take.

    I’ve posted previously that Miliband’s apparent problem in the net approval figures is not all that it seems. He’s simply not as well loved by left-leaning voters as Cameron is by right-leaning voters.

    Both Cameron and Miliband are despised by the voters on the other side. Cameron however, has a solid body of support from Tory voters, so his net figures are (relatively) good. Whilst Miliband has not convinced Labour voters, so his figures are less good.

    But I’m tempted to say, “So what?” Will Labour-leaning voters vote Tory in 15 because of this?

  32. Anthony

    Thanks for link to Mark Pack’s spreadsheet – hours of fascinating time-wasting lie ahead. I wouldn’t feel too guilty as I believe Mr Pack is actually identical quintuplets, the amount he churns out. The historic information that you and he are providing is especially useful as the BBC not only stopped updating their polltracker but deleted all pre-2002 data.

    I hadn’t realised that polling went back to the war years (I bet there was a fuss about ‘undermining morale’) and those figures make you wonder why anyone was surprised at the 1945 election result. I’d also forgotten how long Gallup had the field to themselves, though thinking about it ‘Gallup poll’ practically became the generic term for all opinion polls in the same way hoover came to mean all vacuum cleaners (yes, I know you’re too young to remember this).

  33. moraylooninbrussels

    Thanks Anthony. Now that we’ve back-tracked to 1970 for the UK wide polls, I suppose it might now be possible to hope that the Scottish polls on this site will be updated from 2010…

    To be fair the London polls haven’t been updated since 2008. At least he’s an equal opportunity British nationalist. :P


    Perhaps more accurately “an equally unequal Brit Nat”? :-)

  35. The Atlee governments were recent at the time I first took an interest in politics, and my strongest impression at the time was that despite wholly negative press coverage, and irrespective of whether you thought they were doing the right things or not, the quantity of change they introduced was far greater than subsequent government achieved or promised to achieve.

  36. An excellent initiative, Anthony. Many thanks to you and Mark Pack.

    Yes, it would be good for you do do graphs of this data. I have had my loyalty to the Labour Party called into question by another Labour member on this site because I opined that we were not so far registering the sort of poll leads required to sustain us through to a victory in 2015.

    The data illustrates that weak mid-term poll leads for opposition parties generally result in the re-election of the incumbent government.

    Where the opposition has enjoyed double-digit poll leads over a sustained period of time (1963/4, 1968/9, 1976/7, 1995/6, 2008/9) they have gone on to win the subsequent general election. In the case of 1970-74, the situation is more confusing: Labour by and large failed to secure the necessary mid-term poll leads, with just eleven of them being in double-digits (and only three of those being consecutive, in the summer of 1971) but then remember that the Tories did actually win the popular vote in February 1974.

    What an opposition really needs to secure victory is the kind of mid-term performance registered by the Tories during 1974-79, i.e. 39 polls giving them double digit leads, of which eight were consecutive (in the summer of 1977).

    It should be said here that despite the above pattern, there are no absolutely hard and fast rules about this. In late 1980/early 1981, Labour did enjoy a spurt of double-digit leads, however this was before the launch of the SDP (on March 26 1981) and long before the Argentines invaded the Falklands (on April 2 1982).

    Perhaps the most uncertain parliament was 1987-92. Throughout pretty much all of 1990 Labour enjoyed double digit leads, even reaching into the twenties in the spring. This led me and Bob Worcester to co-author an article for MORI’s British Public Opinion newsletter. From memory, it was published in the spring of 1990 and carried the headline “Both Thatcher and Kinnock must make precedents” or something similar. (Anyone got a set of BPOs from around that time?).

    The jist of our article was that Thatcher was unlikely to win the subsequent general election because she had been sustaining poll deficits of 20%+ (and history taught us no government could come back from such a nadir). On the other hand, Kinnock also had to defy history, because the pro-Labour swing had never reached 4% in a single post-war general election.

    Of course, this conundrum – whereby either Thatcher or Kinnock had to achieve something unprecendented – was soon solved by John Major’s ascendency to the Tory leadership in November 1990. Henceforth, Labour would never regain double digit poll leads again during that parliament, and the party managed just a 2% swing at the 1992 general election.

    [NB: Of course we now know that unprecendented things DO happen – as Tony Blair proved when he won a 10% swing in 1997!].

    One final comment about the historical poll data: doesn’t Labour’s narrow advantage over the Tories throughout 2011 remind you of the situation throughout most of 1985/6… Which led to an 11.7% Tory margin in the subsequent (1987) general election?


    I remember the 1987 election well. The anti-Tory vote in Scotland got its act together and of the 14 seats here that changed hands, 11 were Tory losses, while 3 were switches between anti-Tory parties. 2 Lab gains from SNP, 1 Lab gain from SDP/Lib Alliance.

    Fat lot of good that did us!

  38. Robin Hood

    “Of course, this conundrum – whereby either Thatcher or Kinnock had to achieve something unprecendented – was soon solved by John Major’s ascendency to the Tory leadership in November 1990”

    Which is why he became leader.

  39. oldnat @ ROBIN HOOD

    I remember the 1987 election well. The anti-Tory vote in Scotland got its act together and of the 14 seats here that changed hands, 11 were Tory losses

    Fat lot of good that did us!”

    The anti-Tories were good to you in 2011. Be nice to them, no party can be in government without them in Scotland.

    You could call them middle Scotland.


    Nice post.
    Good to see TB mentioned.

    The 1974 GE result is further complicated by the fact that Ted Heath alienated the 11 Northern Ireland Protestant MP’s (unionists) who left the Tory Party and became opposition Mps.
    Heath bravely insisted on universal suffrage for the ‘province’ and closed down Stormont, and then set up the appalling, for unionism, Power Sharing Executive- under the Sunningdale Agreement.

    Harold Wilson capitulated to the Ulster General Strike when he became Prime Minister, when Unionists made it clear that they would not obey the Law made by the UK Parliament.

    (just as happened in 1912).

  41. John B Dick


    Except that they weren’t “good to me”, they were “good to themselves”!

    The centre-right are a legitimate political voice in Scotland. They just need to decide to unify under one party label, whether that turns out to be Labour, Tory, or LD remains to be seen. All three parties are equally valid choices for those on the right.

  42. Here is another one for Anthony’s Voodoo Polling Report, again courtesy of the Press Association, but this time faithfully red(r)afting a Scottish Conservative Party press release:


    Scottish sub-samples of GB-wide Westminster VI polls are obviously of interest to certain folk outwith the SNP! ;)

  43. It is perhaps worth mentioning that we now know that some of the historical poll data was not accurate – particularly that relating to the latter part of the 1987-92 parliament.

    There is a chapter in the Butler/Kavanagh 1992 General Election book entitled “The Deceptive Battle: March-April 1992” (which is followed by the chapter entitled “The Waterloo of the Polls”) but I would judge that the polls were starting to get it seriously wrong as early as the beginning of 1990.

    In May 1989, the local government elections pretty much reflected the relative strength of the two main parties in the polls. However, in May 1990 Labour failed to translate anything like its huge poll lead into the ballot box (winning by only 0.5% in the capital, for example, a failure that cannot solely be attirbuted to the then “London Effect”).

    This is an important point when judging the historical data because it helps to explain how the Tories came back from a seemingly impossible poll deficit. (By the way, the significance of Labour having not hotherto achieved a 4% swing in a single general election is that this was the swing Neil Kinnock required just to knock out the Tory majority in 1992: on paper, he needed a full 8% swing to achieve outright victory himself, though the stronger Labour performance in the marginals suggests a swing of as little as 5 or 6 would have sufficed).

  44. BILLY BOB.
    Good Morning, and thanks for the post of 8.55 am.

    The Butler/Kavanagh series is so good.

    Harold Wilson’s 1964 swing to take power, on a tiny majority was about 5% I think, but you will be able to correct me. I remember the GE of that year, as a nine year old boy I joined with a ‘mob’ of school children who taunted the school caretaker on the yard with chants of ‘Labour’ and he shouted back: ‘its not over yet’

    The Tory MP, Peter Griffith who won Smethwick, was called the ‘parliamentary leper’ by Harold, for his ‘If you want a ****** for a neighbour, vote Labour’ motto finally left Parliament in 1997 (portsmouth north) when a certain Tony Blair won a huge swing to take power.

    In the same school year a young teacher, Seamus Heaney wrote a poem in which he said: ‘An explosion is coming’ – about his land- the North of Ireland.


    I wonder if we will have to wait another 33 years for a large anti Tory swing at a General Election. Before 1964, we have 1945, 1906 and 1880, where there were large anti Tory swings to actually take power. Is Ed a Harold, a Clem or even a GOM- WEG?- who, OLDNAT will tell you started his campaign- age 72 in Midlothian.

  45. Robin Hood.

    An interesting analysis, but as ever, different folk can and will have different interpretations. Personally, I don’t think we’re remotely in 85-86 territory, primarily due to the utterly different political and economic circumstances.

    As I posted above and the other day, the economic and political circumstances are far more like 74-76, and will become even more do if we go into double dip recession thus year as seems frighteningly likely. The graphs I posted above also show that the three main parties’ post-GE VI figures are quite astonishingly similar to 74-76.

    Now, I wouldn’t be so simplistic as to state that the rest of the Parliament must play out like 74-79 did, but there are lessons from that period. The biggest one for Labour being that the Opposition should set out a clear philosophical position, criticising both the mistakes in it’s own previous approach and that of the current incumbents. That positions them in a strong place to offer an alternative when patience with long term erosion of living standards finally snaps.

    I think 1974-1976 is not quite the same, as the major threat was massive inflation- bequeathed to the labour Government by Tony Barber’s boom and the OPEC price hike.

    Living standards, i think, get eroded more by inflation than by unemployment and deflation, which affects a minority of about 10%.

    In the 1974-1979 period Mrs Thatcher was able to position herself in the centre, their manifesto was moderate in 1979.

    This is due to the apparent leftward march of Labour, with ‘Foot and Benn’ the words to scare the natives.

    Denis Healey’s autobiography TIME OF MY LIFE is brilliant on this period.

    The Liberals and the scot nats brought down ‘Sunny Jim’ in the vote of confidence, having seen the Union ‘Movement’ destroy his economic strategy.

    A post grad teacher training college student in Manchester lost a dark haired girl from Belfast City that summer of 1979 as well, only to be re united in May 2011 in a PGCE reunion party.

    (And Man United recovered a 2-0 deficit at Wembley, only for Arsenal to score a third in as many minutes, since Gary Bailey was like Dracula- he did not like crosses!? Liam Brady to Alan Sunderland I think


  47. @ChrisLane1945

    No, I think you’ll find Harold Wilson’s swing in 1964 was only about 3.2% (hence my comment that Labour had never managed a swing as high as 4%). It certainly wasn’t as high as 5%. It would have been a bit higher had the final results from East Anglia not been so good for the Tories (before they came in Labour looked to be on course for a clear overall majority, rather than just a 3-seat advantage).


    Recession does not necessarily result in victory for the opposition: Anthony’s recent graphs show people are more inclined to blame Labour for our economic woes than blame the Tories. Even if that were not so, John Major’s 1992 victory (in which he won the largest ever popular vote mandate in British political history) shows an incumbent government can win despite a recession if there is an underlying perception that the opposition is not credible. The old mantra that “oppositions don’t win general elections, governments lose them” is not entirely true.

  48. ChrisLane.

    Of course the root cause of our current economic malaise is different to the mid 70s. But that wasn’t what I meant by “similar economic circumstances”. What matters more (for polling) is the public’s experience and perception.

    There is already strong evidence that real living standards have been depressed for the thick end of a decade. (As an aside, I don’t know why you think only 10% of people are struggling…) When we go back into recession this year, the prospect of real improvements in living standards will recede still further into the distance. We’ll be looking like a country mired in long-term economic woes. So the prospect of a sunny 86-87 era boom to put smiles on folks’ faces before the GE is highly unlikely. That is why I think that Robin H’s comparison with the mid-80s is not realistic.

    Go back to the mid 70s, and the very striking similarities in the polls between now and then seem to me to be more than a co-incidence. We have a Govt which couldn’t win a working majority despite extremely propitious circumstances. We have a Govt that inherited an appalling economic situation, then made it worse by imposing dogmatically-driven policies that exacerbated the worst of the problems. We have a ruling party led by someone who paints himself as a moderate, but with the most radical backbenchers since the war. We have an opposition painfully trying to re-invent itself under an unpopular new leader. We have a centrist party that has emasculated itself by signing up to support Govt policy.

    Parallels all round.

  49. Chrislane,
    ‘The 1974 GE result is further complicated by the fact that Ted Heath alienated the 11 Northern Ireland Protestant MP’s (unionists) who left the Tory Party and became opposition Mps.’

    Actually , only 10 of those Protestant MPs had previously taken the Tory whip – Paisley never did.

  50. I seem to remember that the Ulster Unionists defection in 1974 was strongly influenced by Enoch Powell, who had joined them by then. It was his revenge on Heath.

    Had it not been for that very particular circumstance we would probably had a Tory/Unionist government in 1974, though how long it would have lasted given Heath’s total incompetence is anyone’s guess. Would Mrs T ever have become leader? The whole of recent political history might have been different if it were not for the rift between Heath and Powell.

    There is no comparable situation now.

1 2 3 5