Another day, more rather over-exaggerated reporting of public opinion on the NHS. The HSJ headlines some MORI polling as showing “Public split over use of private firms in NHS as Labour doubles poll lead on health”. It’s behind some big paywall so perhaps the article itself gives a much better picture (it would be far from the first time that a headline makes a story seem more exciting than it is), but essentially it shows Labour’s lead on the NHS is double what it was at the election. However, it shows very little change since the last time MORI asked the question in June 2011. As we’ve seen in the more regular issue polling from YouGov, the big drop in people preferring the Conservatives on health happened in late 2010 and early 2011, it isn’t a recent thing.

Here is what we actually *know* about attitudes to the government’s health policy, stripped of all the exaggeration and hyperbole.

1) Amongst people who actually have an opinion it isn’t popular. If you ask whether or not people support the government’s health policy based on what they know, more people are opposed than support the policy. However, an awful lot of people don’t seem to know enough about the policy to have any opinion. The last time YouGov asked at the end of last month only 14% supported the policy, 48% were opposed, but 38% didn’t know.

2) Questions about the actual contents and principles behind the Bill also generally show public opposition. When YouGov asked last year about GP consortiums in May last year the public were opposed by 55% to 25%, more recently they found that people thought more competition in the NHS would make things worse rather than better (by 46% to 18%), as would giving doctors more control over their budgets (albeit, by a smaller margin – 36% worse, 26% better, 17% no difference)

However, the Ipsos MORI poll today showed a more even divide on whether people agreed with the statement “as long as health services are free of charge, it doesn’t matter to me whether they are provided by the NHS or a private company” – 44% agreed, 41% disagreed.

3) What little evidence we have suggests most NHS workers don’t support it. There have been a large amount of voodoo polls and claptrap cited as evidence of NHS workers not liking the NHS reforms and an almost complete absence of any proper polling of them. There was a proper poll of doctors commissioned by the Kings Fund, but that was back in 2010. More recently there was a YouGov poll of NHS staff in general for 38Degrees which found 66% of staff questioned thought the reforms would make the NHS worse.

4) It hasn’t necessarily damaged government support, nor further damaged people’s trust in the Conservatives on the NHS. We have seen Labour move ahead in the polls of late, but as I wrote a couple of weeks ago, this is just as likely to be the unwinding of the European veto effect, or Ed Miliband getting less bad coverage than in January.

On the NHS Labour re-established a strong lead on the issue of the NHS back in 2011, since then there has not been any obvious trend in the data on which party people prefer on the NHS in YouGov’s regular tracker (graphed in this post). The MORI data today also showed little movement since they last asked in June 2011 – back then Labour lead the Conservatives on the issue of the NHS by 37% to 21%, the figures are now Labour 37%(nc), Conservatives 19%(-2). Essentially not many people trusted the Conservatives much on the NHS anyway, they don’t have much of a reputation to lose.

(While I’m here, it is worth noting that “best party on issue” questions tend to move in tandem with one another, if a party becomes less popular overall the proportion of people preferring them on crime, immigration, the economy, health, etc tends to go down at the same time – hence even the big drop in people preferring the Conservatives on health since 2010 isn’t necessarily anything to do with health. They’ve also dropped on all the other issues, and a significant part is just a more negative perception of the Conservative party overall)

This is not to say the issue of the NHS could not do more damage to the Conservatives in the future, that it isn’t doing deeper damage to perceptions of whether the Conservatives care about public services, or that not being trusted on the NHS isn’t preventing the Conservatives gaining support they might otherwise be getting. All these things are perfectly plausible… we just don’t have the evidence to confirm or deny them.

147 Responses to “Public opinion on the NHS reforms”

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  1. Do the politicians voting to “reform” NHS England understand the changes? If not, then the ignorance of its patients would also be understandable.

  2. AW……………The 38% living in ignorance shows a lack of clarity in the Coalition presentation, or, perhaps people simply don’t care enough………as you point out, it’s no big deal since the Tories are devils incarnate to the left wing cohort, and no amount of persuasion will change that. I don’t think that people generally even know that the changes have been introduced, and are working satisfactorily in some areas.

  3. Ken,

    Please, please, please, bombard CCHQ with the suggestion that the only problem with the NHS policy is presentation.


    By the way, how much do you think the public really understood about the 07-09 global financial catastrophe when they were deciding which way to cat their vote in 10?

  4. Con – 37%, Lab – 41%, LD – 9%
    Perhaps yesterday’s Con 36% wasn’t too out of line?

    We’ll have to wait for the next few days – it could be that this is just MOE and it’s back to neck-and-neck soon – but it could also be an expanding Labour lead (not caused by an increase in Labour support – but a decrease in Con support).

  5. I saw a clip on the news yesterday, making much that the Papworth was working fine with about 6% of it’s patients as private. Will it work so fine when that 6% increases to 49%?

    38% don’t know. Should not be taken that they do not know changes are already happening in the NHS to which they are ignorant of.

  6. LEFTYLAMPTON…………At first glance I read, GCHQ, and thought, if they need to up their game we’re in real trouble. Anyway, my views on the financial meltdown sound boring even to me, they have been aired too often now. :-)

  7. All the questions on NHS polling show opposition to the bill…The Tories need to be sure about this bill because unlike the economy they can`t blame this one on Labour.

    On today`s poll,Youguv could be catching up with other recent polls which showed Labour lead increasing.


    “On today`s poll,Youguv could be catching up with other recent polls which showed Labour lead increasing.”

    41% though. No increase over and above the norms (39/40/41). Lib Dems on 9.

    All suggests general gov unpopularity so far.

  9. NHS,economy,no,I told you it was the horse.

  10. Good Evening.

    Why are Lib Dems doing so well in the polls?

    Are they all Outliers?

  11. CHRISLANE1945

    “Are they all Outliers?”

    Of course, all the LDs are outliers – as are all of SNP, PC, UKIP etc who aren’t part of the glorious alliances that are Lab or Con! :-)

    `NHS,economy,no,I told you it was the horse.`
    To use your own expression, Neigh.

    But the lead may be increased by decreasing conservative VI

    `Why are Lib Dems doing so well in the polls?`

    I am expecting them to be doing better shortly.They look like they might get mansion tax and increasing tax threshold.If that doesn`t increase VI,what will?

  13. OLD NAT

    How about SF and the Stoop Down Low Party?

  14. 38% DK, aren’t 25% at least totally disinterested in the news and find politics boring etc.
    So perhaps 38% DK is really only 15% or so of people who we might hope to know?

  15. CHRISLANE1945

    I was simply adopting the convention on UKPR that UK =GB. Hence, these parties define themselves (rather appropriately) as “beyond the Pale”! :-)

  16. Tonight’s 4% Labour lead, following on as it does from yesterday’s 5% lead, may well be pointing to a widening gap between Labour and Tory, primarily due, it has to be said, to gradual Tory subsidence rather than any appreciable Labour surge.

    Since February 21st we have had 13 published polls, 9 showing Labour leads, 3 showing Tory leads and 1 all square. The three Tory leads have all been by the margin of 1%, whereas five of the Labour leads have been between 4-6%, and none of the others less than 2%. This seems to suggest Labour are clearly ahead now, with the lead starting to drift into 3-4% territory.

    This is interesting in the sense that in the latter part of 2011 and throughout January, it was more or less neck and neck, suggesting that opinion started to move, albeit glacially, through February and now into early March. Anthony has rightly pointed to the EU veto bounce unwinding as being one of the clear reasons for the widening gap, but I sense also a growing perception amongst the public that the government is returning to muddle and confusion again. I think it was Alec who observed a sharper operation in Downing Street emerging in the latter part of 2011 and this led to a clearer and more cohesively delivered communication and political strategy. The EU veto and benefits cap was one of the obvious resulting successes and Miliband and Labour were regularly wrong-footed during this period. The polls moved accordingly.

    However two simultaneous things may be now be occurring to shift the paradigm a little. At a time when the government seems to be far less sure-footed (NHS Reforms, reform of the House of Lords, tax changes, Cable letter, industrial policy etc), our favourite whipping boy and general n’er-be-good, a certain young Mr Miliband, seems to have developed a bit of a spring in his step and has alighted on some crisper and more telling lines of attack. Recent PMQs have suggested a growing self-confidence from a man who may slowly be learning the ropes of this quasi-farcical weekly parliamentary punch and judy show. It could be that the dark days of December are behind him. Maybe, just maybe, the polls are slowly rewarding him. We’ll see, but I sense a man hanging on in there and starting to trade some punches now. That’s good for him personally and good for our democracy too.

  17. Wouldn’t more people be able to form an opinion if there wasn’t a strange black hole where a free press used to be?

  18. Not sure if this has been picked up elsewhere on the threads I’ve missed, but has anyone noticed that the Spainish have completely torpedoed the Euro fiscal compact and announced that next year they will disregard the budget deficit limits?

    This is no bad thing for Spain – without devaluation, such an enormous fiscal tightening that the compact requires would be folly, but the anti German language that has accompanied this announcement is eye watering.

    Europe is currently a seething mass of resentment, and with the Euro crisis only in abeyance, not solved, something will crack before too long.

  19. “… the big drop in people preferring the Conservatives on health since 2010 isn’t necessarily anything to do with health.”

    Worth bearing in mind that Lansley’s white paper was published in July 2010.

    The coalition agreement, the pre election manifesto/campaign, gave no hint of what was to come (in fact hinted at the opposite) – the Telegraph on July 9th reported it as “the biggest revolution in the NHS since its foundation”.

    “ … as long as health services are free of charge”
    Free at the point of use only applies to the range of services that being offered at any one time.

    Currently the “won’t pay for unless there are special circumstances” list runs from 36 – 213 treatments depending on postcode. Some areas ration GPs to four referrals per week atm.

    As the “veto” bounce and attacks on Miliband faded, the NHS rose in prominence… though those who are particularly concerned about this issue have probably been following the chequered progess of Lansley’s reforms for the last eighteen months.

  20. @ Crossbat11,

    Excellent analysis as always. I also think, looking at the two recent outlier extremes (1% Con lead, 5% Lab lead) I’ve been thinking we were more likely in the 2-3% lead territory now.

    One thing I disagree with is that this is anything down to EM – his negatives have been just as dire recently (-44 this week down from -41 the week before) so I really don’t think any credit can go his way. Certainly not if we are to be discussing polling … which of course we always are … :-)

  21. Gracie said, “I saw a clip on the news yesterday, making much that the Papworth was working fine with about 6% of it’s patients as private. Will it work so fine when that 6% increases to 49%?”

    The first thing to ask is: realistically what percentage of potential UK-based patients could afford to go private? I very much doubt if the percentage is much more than 20% and probably only half of them would choose the option. So, my guess is that the actual rise might be from 6% to 10%. If, however, the hospital uses the freedom to raise its percentage of private patients to 49% by touting for patients from overseas, I think that this could benefit the hospital much more than it would cause harm. This is because foreign patients will pay much more than British patients or their insurers and, if the demand exists, the hospital can fully finance an expansion in staff from the new revenues. There is a lot of evidence that with certain conditions, such as cancer, coronary heart disease and strokes, very large centres perform much better than smaller ones.

    There may be a hospital somewhere that does attract 49% private patients but I think that the overwhelming majority of hospitals will see quite a small increase in private patients, except possibly from overseas. I don’t think there’s any need to panic about possible adverse effects on NHS patients.

    `There may be a hospital somewhere that does attract 49% private patients but I think that the overwhelming majority of hospitals will see quite a small increase in private patients, except possibly from overseas. I don’t think there’s any need to panic about possible adverse effects on NHS patients`

    Interesting you say that because Papworth is exactly that kind of hospital…It`s a tertiary `state of the art` cardiothoracic centre ,arguably the best in the UK…Many private patients from all corners of the UK and the globe probably would want their treatment there and it is entirely possible they may fill their 49% quota

    As waiting lists,go up private healthcare tends to increase.So actually there is almost a perverse reason for trusts to inflate their waiting lists

  23. I am 19 and will be able to vote for the first time soon tell me whats the point?
    All 3 main parties are the same lie,and rob us,all my friends feel the same.And people wonder why young people have no faith in Labour and lib dems parties that are meant to be working class that have rich men as their leaders that have never done a hard days work in their life,
    And a tory party that should of died in the 20th century run by total and utter ——-
    Where is a party for the youth????

  24. ALAN NEWMAN…………There has never been a better time for youth, with all the social media opportunities, why don’t you rally a few of your friends and start something……everyone under 23 or similar in your constituency, for instance, you can soon exert some influence, perhaps a lot. Your best bet is to follow the Tory model of course……it actually makes sense. :-)


    Of course political parties spin (and sometimes lie) to gain votes. They want to get into power.

    Although I wasn’t allowed to vote till I was 21, the general pattern of the young being disengaged from politics was generally just as true in the 1960s as it is 50 years later.

    The sad reality is that parties pander to us oldies because we vote. The young get screwed because they don’t.

  26. An interesting article, Anthony.

    Here’s my expert opinion: there has not been a single general election since the war which has been decided on the NHS issue. In 1987, Labour enjoyed a huge lead on health but were slaughtered on polling day.

    Yes, people do have enormous affection for the health service, but they vote on a general sense of which party and leader is most fit to govern and who can be trusted on the economy.

    Next month The Parliament Channel will presumably be re-running the election night tapes for 9 April 1992 (to coincide with the 20th anniversary of Labour’s shock defeat). Half way through the evening, as the trend starts to become clear, Michael Heseltine is interviewed. He puts the point very eloquently:

    FRANCINE STOCK: “Linda Chalker says the country doesn’t really know what it wants. Aren’t you going to have to modify your next period in government to reflect that?”

    MICHAEL HESELTINE: “No. I think the country knows exactly what it wants. It wants economic prosperity… The debate between the two parties clearly revealed that we were going to pursue the policies to bring us out of recession whereas the Labour Party wanted to talk about other things like the health service which is of course a very important part of national ife but not central to the economic dialogue.”

    That said, it probably does no harm for Labour to keep banging away on the NHS issue, and it’s certainly helping to stave off questions about EM’s leadership.

  27. @alan newman “I am 19”

    I was about that age a year or two into Thatcher’s first term of government.

    If you are interested in politics, read up on the history of how we got here (I’m still trying to do that).

    I’m not sure that young people are “disengaged”, it is more that they don’t engage through the “orthodox channels”. Consequently their demands can be dismissed as incoherent, or unrealistic, though their creative ideas will be eagerly appropriated – usually to sell things, even when the impetus (hippie, punk, rave etc) is diametrically opposed to dull commercialism.

    But don’t be disheartened, you will always be one step ahead – until the next lot comes along.

    Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem. Which one (realistically) is likely to make things worse at a slower pace than the others? ;) (Things can also get better over time.)

  28. @ Amber Star (from the previous thread)

    “You didn’t say which poll had you almost flipping cartwheels! A good one for the President?”

    Yes. FOX News poll of Latino voters came out yesterday. Of Latino voters who voted for Obama in 2008, over 80% are going to vote to reelect him. Not a bad number. But here’s where it gets interesting, of Latino voters who voted for McCain in 2008, 40% of them are planning to vote for Obama. I forget the numbers for each individual Republican but in fact, the highest number any of them get of Latino McCain voters in 2008 is 38%. That’s an incredible number and bodes very well for the President.

    He also has a 73% approval rating among Latinos and the highest a GOP candidate gets against him is 14%.

    Btw, check out this video. I think this is the closet Americans will ever get to the great British tradition of having your Prime Ministers and victorious MPs addressing their local party clubs:

    And if you’d like to see more of this amazing woman:

    h ttp://

    h ttp://

    h ttp://

    h ttp://

    h ttp://

    Now, if you and Valerie and all the other feminists here don’t like or admire this woman, don’t know what to say….

  29. @ Charles Stuart

    This is totally OT but who do you think is going to win the by-election in the Toronto-Danforth riding?

  30. @ Smukesh (from the previous thread)

    “I understand that with tax cuts,some of the advantages of outsourcing can be neutralised but the wage bills are so considerably different in the developing world that I find it difficult to see this working at the present time.”

    It’s not a bullet proof plan and it’s not going to bring back every job. And some jobs are being taken away not due to outsourcing but simply by technology getting rid of it. But it helps to create a competitive environment that rewards businesses for creating jobs that we want without giving into conservative demands of abandoning labor protections and environmental regulations (I mean, we might as well give up if that’s the solution).

    “I know Obama has talked about providing tax reliefs to American companies employing local people but am not sure whether he has gone ahead with this or not.
    When you are suggesting benefits for those who invest locally,what you suggest is a reversal of globalisation.I still think big shareholders are more likely to make big profits outsourcing and paying themselves big dividends from the profits rather than wait for small government sweeteners for investing locally.”

    He’s talked about it but he can’t unilaterally enact this. He needs Congress to act and right now they’re not going to do so. They’re not going to do anything that at all helps him.

    If investors can get extra return on their investment because they invested in British jobs, they’re more likely to do it and they’re going to create a demand for at home jobs. I don’t think that is a reversal of globalization, I think that is finding a way to compete and take advantage of natural strengths in an age of globalization.

  31. Robin hood

    RE 1992 GE coverage likely on TPC

    1992 is also a timely reminder for Labour- especially comrades who are younger than 32-33 (and therefore cannot possibly be expected to have understood the issues and reasons for labours defeat)- that labour cannot possibly win an election (no matter “how bad it is out there”) with a leader who has *not* convinced the majority of the British electorate.

    EdM has 21 months to do so.


    We seem to have a genuine move at the moment from neck and neck to small Labour lead: the news has been awful for the Tories recently (and for Cameron in particular who has been right off his game since being outed as a horse riding hunting old etonian bullingdon toff- something a small proportion of the electorate seem to have forgotten till he always has been until recent days).

    I agree with those saying Lib Dems will get a boost if they can get the mansion tax- though it might be wiped out by fact they have caved on both welfare and NHS reform (as they did on VAT and tuition fees).

    Planning reform is the next bad news story for the Tories- a quiet assassin that will eat away at a not insubstantial chunk of their suburban and shire support.

    The wheels have not come off by any means but they are audibly loosening. I still think its odds on for a coalition break up before mid 2014.

  32. Wow, Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) lost reelection tonight in an incumbent vs. incumbent battle to Marcy Kaptur (D-OH). Kucinich is the mousy socialist in the House who is married to the 5’10-6’0 modelesque English woman from Upminster he met on a dating contest tv show (I suspect she’s an arch Tory). He’ll be missed by a number of lefties. I like Kaptur though. She’s a good progressive. She was the one who pointed out the massive foreclosure fraud over three years ago.

    ‘Mean’ Jean Schmidt (R-OH) also lost reelection tonight which is surprising because I didn’t know she was under threat or even being challenged for renomination. This quasi-psychotic woman who’s outbursts and hardright positions foreshadowed the Teabagger and Birther craziness seemed to be locked in for life. But she’s gone now.

    I never saw a representative or really ANY politician who did so much to try and lose an election (I swear she had to be trying at times). She was like George Costanza towards the end of his tenure with the Yankees. He tried to get fired multiple times and failed. But a few episodes later, he got fired out of a mistaken assumption. Lol.

    Ohio is too close to call thus far but it seems like Romney has won it. Notwithstanding, this wasn’t a stellar night for Romney.

  33. Hello Socal

    What results are in from Super Tuesday so far and do you have percentages?

  34. Oh never mind….NBC just projected Romney the apparent winner in Ohio.

    Well anyway, this Super Tuesday is fairly interesting. Romney’s campaign isn’t in freefall but tonight was pretty underwhelming for him. I mean, he couldn’t even get immediate projections in Vermont and Virginia, which was laughable. He was badly beaten in Georgia by Gingrich. Santorum had a good night and took three states, beating Romney decisively in North Dakota, Tennessee, and Oklahoma.

    The only states where Romney really performed to expectation were Idaho (huge Mormon population) and Massachussetts (his home state and one of the few places with moderate Republicans left).

    Santorum’s narrow losses in Ohio and Michigan are probably due to his positions on contraception. I think there is a point where you can be too socially conservative for even GOP voters.

    I don’t know what will happen next. The contests over the rest of this month are not good for Romney for the most part. If either Santorum or Gingrich would get out of the race and endorse the other, that one would defeat Romney. But that’s unlikely to happen. So it’s all donnybrook.

    It’s not completely over yet but I have to decide whether to wait up for Alaska results.

  35. @ BT

    “What results are in from Super Tuesday so far and do you have percentages?”

    Gingrich won Georgia.

    Santorum won North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Tennessee.

    Romney won Massachussetts, Virginia (where only Paul was on the ballot), Ohio (the big one but very narrowly), Vermont, and Idaho.

    Alaska Caucus has no results yet. They only started caucusing 40 minutes ago.

    Oh and do you guys remember “Joe the Plumber?” Did he make international news? (I swear, Mrs. Duffy was more intelligent). He will be Marcy Kaptur’s Republican opponent in the general. He won 51-49 in a non-contested primary, which shows you just how disliked and what a bad candidate he is.

  36. Oh comment of the night was from MSNBC’s Martin Bashir who I think is British (he has a British accent anyway). He called Romney the Prince Charles of the United States. Apparently, both are the same age, both are extremely wealthy, both have been waiting forever to assume the throne, both have been trying to convince the public to love them, and both have been about equally successful. Your thoughts?

  37. Thanks Socal!

  38. @ BT

    You’re very welcome.

    Alaska results are starting to trickle in now. I’m not sure they have counties up there. Mitt Romney is ahead but Paul is running a close second with Santorum closely behind him. Only 16% of precincts reporting though. I may have to go to sleep before we learn what their results are.

    I thought about it tonight. I think Mitt Romney is the nominee I want Obama to face. He’s unelectable now and he’ll be unable to defeat Obama.

  39. Socal – would Gingrich endorse Santorum?
    I wonder if the latter is so conservative even for a very right wing Gringitch.
    Also when Paul dros out, inevitable, will he endorse anyone – I understand he has will do what is best for his sons political career.
    Endorsing Newt or Rick may not endear him to the GOP establishment.

    Re Bashir’s comments – he is best known for interviewing Diana when she revealed alot (and for Wacko Jacko). Comparing a hereditory Prince waiting his turn with a politican seeking Election is rather tenuous in my view; his sub text seems to be to remind people of his past interview’ triumphs’ and he is not a journalist with any standing in the UK.
    Prbabaly why he has stayed in the US.

  40. Sori mi tipin gest woser adn woser.

    I understand Paul has to do what is best for his sons political career when he drops out which is inevitable…..

  41. Alec,

    Yes it seems an important development in European politics that Spain is going to disregard the fiscal compact. They are treading a fine line, of course, presumably they calculate on never needing a bailout.

    If Hollande wins in France as the polls predict, then the fiscal compact (or whatever it is called) will be effectively dead.

    But that doesn’t guarantee Europe will successfully reflate. It could just continue with more policy paralysis. The crunch will come if the ECB ever stops rolling over cheap money.

  42. if the NHS bill goes through then the Tories will find that they are unelectable


    YouGov/The Scotsman

    ‘Scottish independence poll: Scottish support for UK institutions grows’

    …  the new poll also shows that the SNP still has a huge task in hand to convince people of its case, with only 32 per cent saying they would back independence, as against 53 per cent who would vote no. YouGov found that the “third option” of a more powerful Scottish Parliament within the UK was easily the favoured position among voters.

    …  a gradual change in attitudes on whether Scotland should rely solely on its own tax revenues to fund schools, hospitals and other public services, without any backing from the rest of the UK.

    Support for such a system has risen from 41 per cent in 2008 to 44 per cent today. Similarly, support for the status quo, where taxes are pooled and then divided up by the UK government, has dropped from 43 per cent to 40 per cent today.

    But, on a host of questions about UK-wide institutions, the current British model is overwhelmingly more popular than a go-it-alone Scottish option.

    A total of 82 per cent of respondents support the retention of the pound, up 9 per cent on 2008, while 60 per cent want to keep the Queen, up 5 per cent. Two-thirds of people, 67 per cent, continue to want Scotland to contribute to the British army – up 1 per cent from five years ago. Only 22 per cent back a “separate armed services”, down 1 per cent. On broadcasting, 63 per cent said they want to keep the UK-wide BBC Six O’Clock News, with the Scottish news following afterwards, up 3 per cent from 2008. There is also backing for maintaining a British-wide Olympic team, with 54 per cent wanting to keep the status quo, up 3 per cent.

    … On constitutional reform, the poll also offered people a three-way choice between independence, the status quo and full fiscal powers. The most popular choice was more powers, with 36 per cent, followed by the status quo, with 33 per cent, and then independence, with 24 per cent. 

  44. @Steve

    Has that come down from God? The Bill is unpopular although most people do not understand it. If it works and the service slowly improves why would that make the Government unelectable? I also do not think the excellent thread summary supports your bold statement

  45. @Adrian B – certainly most of it doesn’t seem to be down to Ed Miliband, as his personal ratings aren’t much changed and if there is any movement (I think we need a few more polls to assess if it’s significant) it’s due to the Tories slipping back, not Labour moving towards the mid-40s.

    That said, he is the face of Labour these days, because whilst most people don’t know much about him, he’s got a bigger profile than anybody else in the party. That we’re still around the 40% mark suggests he isn’t becoming a lead weight.

    That’s not to say he’s popular and the Tories will certainly shape their 2015 campaign around a ‘This guy as PM? Seriously?’ line of attack which could shave a few points off the Labour VI, but he’s also not actively repelling people.

    The challenge will be turning that into not passively repelling people and hopefully actually attracting voters. I remain hopeful, because the content is good and the fact he doesn’t seem entirely normal is probably not that significant, since we don’t expect politicians to be entirely normal.

    My working assumption is Miliband is widely disliked, but not deeply disliked in the way Brown was. That means his personality ratings can improve, whereas Brown’s had a very low floor.

  46. The Other Howard

    I suspect it’s more of a “I dream of a situation where labour are permanently enshrined in power and I really hope that it’s going to happen” than being drawn from any evidence.

  47. EdCB,
    I don’t think EM is disliked he is just not veiwed yet as Primeministerial material by the Electorate as a whole, maybe he never will be.

    Hague and IDS weren’t disliked other than by partisan Tory haters just not seen as credible PMs. Howard was credible but disliked, whether fair or not.

    Hague is a good case to look at when considering Ed M as he clearly is a capable man and, regardless of political differences, would make a decent PM.
    As L.O.O though he had no chance at that time and became a figure of ridicule, partly due to errors (baseball cap Notting Hill) but really it was just the timing and he was on a hiding to nothing.

    Labour was unpopular when losing in 2010 but not despised as widely as the cons in ’97 ; clearly it was going to be very difficlut for any LOO to be heard and to gain credibility.

    Whether a change of leader (end of 13 as per Rob S) will make much difference is open to debate.
    Personally, I would only do this if there was candidate availaible who would clearly make a difference other wise the disruption is too great.

    Anyone seriously see such a candidate?

  48. @JimJam/RobS/EdCB/RobinHood/Adrian B

    Or should that be, as Rob S might say, comrades?!

    On the subject of Miliband’s popularity, or lack of it, I have to say that at this moment in the probable electoral cycle (i.e, 38 months still to go), I’m much more ambivalent than I am sure about his eventual prospects. Let me explain what lies behind my ambivalence.

    Firstly, he has had a double edged sword of an inheritance. On the one hand, following the Lib Dems decision to go into full blown coalition with the Conservatives, he has been gifted about a third of their May 2010 vote, automatically boosting his party’s ratings from 29 to 40%. He didn’t have to do anything to merit that surge of support and, you could say, he was an unwitting beneficiary of political circumstances that he neither influenced nor initiated. A lucky break for a new Leader of the Opposition. Now, what was the other, rather more painful side of the sword? Well, he took over a party that had just suffered the second worst electoral performance in its history and he emerged as leader after a protracted and fairly sterile internal contest against his brother. His victory alienated the pro-David wing of the party, who thought that the leadership was his by right, and the psephology of his support also provided his party’s enemies with productive lines of attack about him being the “Union Barons” paid man. Not a particularly auspicious start for a newly elected leader.

    Secondly, we have to remember that all new Leaders of the Opposition, with the exception of Blair (more of him later) struggle in the shadow of their incumbent opposite number, certainly in the early days. Thatcher wasn’t thought Prime Ministerial until she was elected, and then for a good time after that, and Kinnock, Smith, Hague, IDS, Howard and Cameron all had periods when they seriously underwhelmed the electorate. Some recovered, others, infamously, never did. Blair was an exception, as he was with most things, but he was a lucky politician too. I don’t doubt his extraordinary political gifts, almost unrivalled in post war British politics in my view, but he inherited the Labour leadership at a most propitious time. Kinnock and Smith had done the hard yards that led the party back to electability after the long wilderness years of the 80s and early 90s and Blair found himself running against a weak Prime Minister presiding over a deeply dysfunctional and unpopular government. What wasn’t there to like about that little lot? Miliband has enjoyed no such conjunction of politically favourable circumstances.

    Thirdly, let’s come to the man himself. I think he’s a bit of an enigma and while his approval ratings are undoubtedly poor, and would be terminal if they persisted into 2014, I don’t detect a dislike or hostility towards him amongst the public, which there undoubtedly was for both Kinnock and Howard, but more a sense of bemusement about what sort of a political leader and personality he is. This takes him a little into Hague territory where people could detect a keen intellect and a vaguely pleasing personality, but couldn’t quite escape the sense of ridiculousness about the perceived persona. The good news for Miliband, if I’m right, is that Cameron is no early Blair and that a lack of credibility is more easily redeemed than visceral dislike. Hague’s task was impossible in the late 90s, baseball cap or not, but Miliband has some important things in his favour, not least a coalition that mitigates against the Tories dearest electoral friend; the reappearance of a split left vote in 2015.

    Will he pull it off and lead Labour back to power in 2015 or, if Rob S is right, a little earlier? Sitting here, where I am now, in March 2012, I have absolutely no idea. Not the foggiest, in fact, but I’m going to enjoy the ride and give young Ed all the support I can. The last time that I looked he was the only leader that the party I support had got!!

  49. I’ve said for some time that labour will win next time and win big(gish). Doesn’t reslly matter who the leader is.


    Because the NHS reforms, the disability cuts and, most of all, the lack of economic currency just undermine the Coalition. Sooner or later voters will leave and they won’t come back without prosperity. and the “nasty” tag will stick.

    Lab will stay over 40% and Con will slowly sink back to mid to (very) low 30s. Can’t see Lib dem getting over 15%. Incumbent Governments just do NOT improve their vote share.

  50. currency should be recovery.

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