The weekly YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is now up here. Topline figures are CON 31%, LAB 42%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 11%, so pretty much normal. The fieldwork of the poll straddled Thursday and Friday so was partially after the Eastleigh result, but I wouldn’t necessarily expect any significant impact until next week’s polling.

On the other trackers there is a drop in approval ratings for both David Cameron and Ed Miliband. Cameron’s approval rating is at minus 23, the first time he has dropped below minus 20 this year. Ed Miliband’s rating is at minus 31, the first time he has dropped below minus 30 since last August.

Economic figures remain extremely bad. On the government’s policy 31% support the government’s basic policy of prioritising the reduction of the deficit, 40% prefer what is essentially the Labour party’s alternative message of prioritising growth in the economy. Looking more specifically at the cuts, 49% think that the government are cutting too much and should reduce or slow the cuts, 35% think they should either speed them up (15%) or that the current balance is about right (20%).

33% of people say they have confidence in Cameron and the coalition to get the country out of the current economic mess, 61% do not. Just 20% of people say they would like to keep George Osborne as Chancellor (very low, but actually marginally up from when YouGov asked the same question last September!). A majority (53%) would like to see him replaced. Amongst Conservative voters a narrow majority (53%) want Osborne to remain.

There were also some questions on Clegg and the Rennard affair. It remains to be seen whether Eastleigh has moved the political narrative on from Rennard – for the last two days it looked as if the story had died a death, but this morning’s Marr show is full of it again. Anyway, for what its worth only 14% of people think that Nick Clegg has been open and honest and only 7% think the Lib Dems have handled the issue well but, as we’ve seen in voting intention polls over the last week, it doesn’t really seem to have had any impact on Lib Dem support. Asked about Nick Clegg’s own future 39% think he should resign, 32% think he should remain… but those thinking he should go are mostly opponents of other political parties. 63% of Lib Dem supporters think Clegg should stay.

242 Responses to “YouGov/Sunday Times – CON 31, LAB 42, LDEM 10, UKIP 11”

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  1. Interesting read, thanks. Does seem like Osbourne might be costing them some support/votes, regardless of whether his policies are right or wrong. Is this personality driven?, or just because the chancellor is most associated with the austerity measures?

  2. ..perhaps because of the ongoing recession that started as soon as his spending review took effect and is still ongoing two years later?

  3. Strong and revealing evidence of the break down of the LD 2010 vote, half going to or going back to Labour – social democrats, as I and others have argued? A volatile vote or steady for 2015?
    Does this signify a quite different mid-term fall in support for an incumbent government, in fact not mid-term but rather withdrawal of a specific expectation now definitively felt not to have been realised, and not to be repeated?

  4. I think that’s a bit partisan nick (rich coming from me I know :-)).

    There is no guarantee, in fact I think it’s unlikely, that the country’s finances would be in a better state if labour were in. There would be higher spending for sure, so you are making the assumption that the higher spending would be offset by disproportionately higher growth, which I personally strongly doubt. I guess we will never know, but I am basing this on Brown’s period in charge, which was economically a mess, and too often relied on public sector job creation.

    I’ll say it again, this was a very good last election to lose for Labour. It follows a pattern of conservatives coming in after lengthy labour govts have left very poor finances (3 last long spells in power have led to near bankrupty for UK plc on each occasion), and therefore tough decisions have to be made. Ironically, I think this pattern has actually benefitted labour, in that cons are associated with harsh spending cuts, which doesn’t help the brand for many people.


    I’ve addressed your point on the previous thread on the previous thread


  6. Richo – in this context it doesn’t really matter what would have happened if Labour were in, they aren’t, the Conservatives are in, so what happens gets blamed on them*

    (*though of course, we also know from other polling that not all of it does, and a fair old proportion of people blame Labour more than the Conservatives for the cuts or for the state of the economy. That won’t insulate the government completely from taking the blame for what happens on their watch though)

  7. @Richo,

    Spot on. The problem is for the Conservatives is that too many people genuinely believe NickP’s version, however flawed it may be.

    The Cons really need to point out Labour’s past economic performance on a regular basis as proof that their ingrained ideologies and economic policies have consistently backfired.

    I’m an independent/floating voter who has now grown weary of Labour promising a new approach every GE but then reverting to the same age-old policies with the same results.

  8. Yes, steve and rich, but:

    CON 31%, LAB 42%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 11%

    rather trumps that. wouldn’t you say?

  9. AW
    ” the Conservatives are in, so what happens gets blamed on them”

    It would be good to know how much of VI is a product of blame, and how much – given, for example, the global banking crisis as not attributable to government – is judgements as to who overall – not just in management of the economy, but in achieving redistribution, job creation, management and financing of the NHS, pensions, that is, what we get from the economy – will be able to do what voters want; how steady they will be; how much they will give a damn;

  10. I am able to confirm, officially, that this is a “new thread”.

    Also that Osborne does NOT HAVE A U IN IT.


  11. It’s not long until the budget – so it’ll be interesting to see what happens to Osborne’s ratings after that (I’m sure YouGov will ask the same set of questions post-budget).

    As far as media-narratives go, Osborne is in a Catch-22 situation – if he ignores the deficit targets to cut taxes (to boost growth), he’ll be a u-turner (Plan B, etc) but if he sticks to his original plan he’ll be blasted as stubborn and not able to change with changing situations.

    I guess that they’re still gambling on improved growth by 2014 for rescuing them from the current narrative situation.

    Oh! Not a communist paper?
    April 2012
    “That editorial stance is anchored in the programme of the Communist Party of Britain, Britain’s Road to Socialism, and regularly reaffirmed by the shareholders of the PPPS.”
    Have you read Britain’s Road to Socialism? Standard Marxist-Leninist Dictatorship Of The Proletariat stuff.
    The sort of policy that argues that we need a ‘Revolutionary Vanguard’ who will use the state to run things in the worker’s own best interests, but promise not to abuse that absolute power.
    And they then have the gall to call anybody on the left who oppose that programme (of which they and only they would be in charge of) “ultra-left sectarians” who put “their own interests above the interests of the Labour movement”.

  12. Much talk on the World at One about a lurch to the right or not. Seems Cameron thinks there is no such thing as a free lurch.

  13. @RichO

    ” It follows a pattern of conservatives coming in after lengthy labour govts have left very poor finances (3 last long spells in power have led to near bankrupty for UK plc on each occasion)”

    That’s a bit rich isn’t it, er, Rich? Incoming Tory Government’s inherited growing economies from outgoing Labour Governments in 1970, 79 and 2010 and while nobody would argue that there weren’t some economic difficulties at the time, hence Labour being voted out of office, many of them had global dimensions and causes (oil crisis, global stock market crash, credit crunch and worldwide banking collapse etc).

    And surely, not even the most diehard, partisan Tory supporter could claim that outgoing Tory administrations always bequeathed golden inheritances to their successors. Think Barber and Heath’s malign economic legacy in 1974 and good old Reggie Maudling’s note that he left Jim Callaghan in 1964. I think it read something like, “Awfully sorry for the frightful mess we’ve left, old boy”. Said it all really.

    1970 was interesting, as was 1979, when opinion polls suggested Labour would be returned to power, but instead Jenkins last pre-election budget in 1970 eschewed pre-election bribes and erred on vote-losing austerity and Callaghan, rather than going to the country in late 1978, decided to go with another round of his incomes policy in the face of trade union hostility. One could argue that Jenkins and Healey put country before party as opposed to Barber who blew up the economy to try and get Heath re-elected.

    I wonder which way Osborne will go in early 2015? My money is on an electoral bribe.

    History, as with most things, is nuanced and doesn’t lend itself to black and white partisan generalisations.

  14. Anthony, you missed the most important piece of opinion polling news of the year: UKIP have gained their own column in the UK polling report tables. Now, never mind Rennardgate, that is an earth-shattering development.

  15. STEVE2
    Don’t you think that, away from the blame game, your suggestion might be rephrased as “too many people believe that ‘the ongoing recession that started as soon as his spending review took effect and is still ongoing two years later’ are connected”?
    The sequence of spending review and recession was not – correct be if I am wrong – Nick’s version, but a factual statement. Which, of course, he may have got wrong, but then so must a lot of other people. By “too many people” I gather you mean, a Labour lead of 12% in current UKPR VI.

  16. Steve2 both Tories and lib dems already do start almost every sentence with “it’s all the previous Labour governments fault” but as the Tories have been in power nearly 3 years the public won’t buy it for too long. Particularly as most of their forecasts and promises have failed.

  17. TF @ MikeMS

    “….. use the state to run things in the worker’s own best interests, …”

    What about the non-workers? This is dictatorship by the minority.

    I am afraid you may be in need of re-education. By the State is meant the workers and intellectuals, in which you would be included, if don’t make too much of a nuisance of yourself.

  19. I quite like being the resident centre right person! and yes @nickp, I agree the polling is looking very good for labour, and right now I can’t see how the Tories can turn opinion round as much as they need too, as they seem to be in big trouble in the younger growing demographics.

    On a footnote, there are quite a few recent past labour politicians I really liked. Robin Cook, Blunkett, and in particular Alistair Darling I thought had great resolve and dignity in an incredibly pressurised position.. If Labour do get in, I would have loved to see Darling back as chancellor rather than Balls. It’s the current shadow cabinet that worries me, although Yvette Cooper I think is very capable.

  20. @ Richo

    I quite like being the resident centre right person!
    Please do continue posting – but there’s at least two ahead of you for the coveted ‘resident centre right’ title:
    1. Colin
    2. Neil A

  21. RICH O
    Cook, Blunkett, Darling – that’s more like Left,Right – if not About Turn.

  22. Crossbat/Rich – a forewarning now, lets keep it away from whether past Lab & Tory government have been any good on the economy (that way lies boneheaded party partisan stupdity) and keep it to the effect that being in office when the economy goes down the toilet, or stays in the toilet, or fails to emerge from the toilet has on public opinion.

  23. Anthony,

    Just in case you are up for more earth-shattering developments, could I suggest you add another column to the tables showing the sample size?

    This would be rather handy for anyone wanting to do some further crunching of the time-series data.

  24. Of note is that the 5-poll running average shows the Tories at their lowest VI since the election, matched on only a handful of previous occasions.

    Meanwhile, the LDs are retaining the 2 point bump they received late last year (at about the time Leveson was in the news), and UKIP have recovered most of the dip they suffered at around the time of the “EU referendum” speech. (Plus the last 2 polls suggest the possibility that they might be about to see a 1-2 point boost from Eastleigh.)

    And Labour have been almost unchanged for 10 months now…

  25. The tables did not reveal much that one might not have filled in anyway. Half Con voters think DC should ‘lurch’ but they are gong to vote Con anyway so if DC reads these (and he will or someone will for him) then it will be ‘steady as she goes’. It will not have escaped his attention that 38% of Lab voters and 47% of LD voters would consider voting Con if he became more moderate and inclusive (so they say anyway).

  26. @anthony,


  27. The nexus of time and blame is a very interesting notion. At some stage, governments run out of road with the argument of blaming the other lot, and even if there is still a rich seam to be mined for incumbents, they still have to convince voters that they have made the best of the hand they were dealt with, even if voters agree that it was a poor hand to start with.

    This, I think, is the risk area for the government, but Tories in particular. Being objective, there are still lots of voters out there who will not be happy with Labour for what happened in 2008 – 2010. Labour could persuade a few of these back with recognition of errors and coherent policies for change in the future, and for some of those who were perhaps more left leaning in the first place, this will be sufficient.

    However, there are others, possibly many of those who voted Labour for the first time under Blair, who would struggle to describe themselves as natural Labour voters and who will find it much harder to be attracted back. For them, disillusionment with the current government is more likely to make them turn back to Labour, go elsewhere, or just stay at home. I suspect the latter of the three will end up being the most critical group.

    Three years in, and I suspect government economic credibility is now very strained, but not necessarily irretrievable. From this point, I can’t see them getting above their 2010 scores, but I would still expect some kind of recovery from where we are today – although this isn’t guaranteed. Triple dip, more bad news on the deficit, and deeper cuts could well lead to a worse melt down.
    Each month that passes makes blaming Labour more troublesome, and they will really need to show some strong progress on their key debt and deficit metrics by 2015 if they are to sustain a fear campaign against the return of Labour.

    What will be interesting to watch is where the blame for the coalition’s perceived faults will fall. I think Lib Dems have been reasonably clever in the timing of their maneuvers, as they will spend two year now distancing themselves from Tories and presenting themselves as the nice half of the coalition. This incenses Tories, who are now realising how dangerous this attack is for them.

    My personal guess is that Tories will primarily take credit where things go well, leaving Lib Dems struggling, while Lib Dems will be less prone to a drubbing if things go wrong, with the Tories taking the greater hammering. Of course, I could be wrong on this.

  28. @Rich O. @Amber S

    The term might persist, but most of the right gave up any claim to being “centre-right” around the time of Heath’s demise.

  29. @Anthony W

    Fair comment, but it’s probably best to nip the original boneheaded party partisan stupidity in the bud before there is any temptation to reply in kind!

    Mea culpa for taking the bait, but maybe you should prevent the bait entering the water in the first place, perhaps?

    Enough of the angling metaphors for now

    [I normally do, but I thought there was actually a sensible conversation to be had if we put that bit aside, hence leaving both comments up! – AW]

  30. I think Labour are right that the Tories need to stop blaming Labour for the current mess 3 years after they left power.

    But at the same time Labour needs to stop blaming Thatcher for all the country’s ills 23 years after she left office.

  31. I class myself as centre right probably for the following reason more than any other. I have no problem giving 40% in tax, and then the additional % of NI, but I just have a problem with any Govt that feels it needs to take over half your pay to fund public spending and expansion of the public sector much north of 6m people. I simply agree with more power to the individual and less power to the state, which doesn’t by the way exclude a welfare system for those that most need it.

    I don’t think the Tories are doing well enough in getting this message across, which I suspect a large volume of working people do still broadly agree with, especially, you would think, a good chunk of the 23 or so million people in the private sector.

  32. I think that the Tories certainly do hammer away at that divisive Public v Private message.

    Truth is we have a mixed economy and a ratio of 6:23 in favour of private (if that is what it is) doesn’t sound skewed to me. Shrinking the 6 certainly sems to lead in the 23 shrinking rather than growing in the current experiment.

  33. @MiM

    “But at the same time Labour needs to stop blaming Thatcher for all the country’s ills 23 years after she left office.”

    There is a difference in my view. It is true that there was a large structural budget deficit when Labour left office, and a high borrowing/debt to GDP ratio, although let’s not debate, as Anthony advises, how avoidable all this was in a global context or argue whether “real” growth had returned to the economy by the time they left office. Whatever the verdict, good or bad, on Labour’s economic record over their 13 years, I don’t deny that the Coalition inherited some serious economic challenges. Did they exaggerate them and have they since aggravated them? Let’s avoid that partisan imperilled debate for now.

    The Thatcher legacy is a different issue altogether because the argument about her time in office doesn’t centre on a cyclical and transitory economic inheritance but on the sea changes to our society that she ushered in. I’ve argued previously that she, along with Attlee, are the two political giants of our post war history because both changed our country, socially, politically, culturally and economically beyond recognition and for generations thereafter. Again let’s leave out verdicts about whether these vast changes were for the better or for worse, but it is wholly legitimate to debate the Thatcher legacy, unlike a Major or Wilson legacy, this long after she’s gone because what she did with our society and economy still reverberates now.

  34. Heard a viewpoint on the radio this afternoon, which made me think -yes -that’s it!

    It was this:-

    The government have failed to communicate the difference between Deficit & Debt to the voting public.

    They have compounded this error by concentrating on the Deficit in their announcements .
    These announcements are always-and must be -about how it is being brought DOWN.

    So when the Public are told that DEBT is going UP, they think-government failure , instead of thinking-ah yes , this was always going to be the case.

    ie.the narrative should have been , from the outset :-

    We started with a Deficit of £159 billion.-some 11% of GDP. We intend to reduce this to zero over time-but while we are doing this , DEBT will go UP.
    There is a level of DEBT which is structurally dangerous; and our task is to avoid it being reached, whilst reducing the DEFICIT at an appropriate speed.

    This would have facilitated a much more meaningful political debate-and forced a factor on Labour which it is not currently required to address.

    It’s probably too late now to inculcate this message-but I do think they should try.

    A good start would be to always describe Deficits as “annual” & always describe Debt as “total cumulative”.

    Not only does this mode of communication avoid the uninformed shock which the radio interviewee foresaw, but it constantly introduces the idea of a Debt trajectory , and a Debt Total , which form part of the narrative about Deficit reduction speed. A part which simply doesn’t get discussed currently.

    Another way of looking at this is to fast forward to Balanced Budgets , and a Government faced with Debt of say 100% GDP & higher interest rates; telling the public that an unsustainable Debt level must now be reduced .
    The present levels of understanding suggest that the public reaction would be-what!-we thought that had been done.

  35. NICKP

    @”Shrinking the 6 certainly sems to lead in the 23 shrinking rather than growing in the current experiment.

    I had the distinct impression that ONS keep telling us that whilst Public Sector employment is shrinking, Private Sector employment is expanding.

  36. Yes

    as I thought :-

    “Between September 2011 and September 2012, the number of people employed in the public
    sector fell by 324,000 and the number of people employed in the private sector increased by
    823,000. These large annual movements reflect the reclassification of some educational bodies
    from the public sector to the private sector. See Background Notes to the September 2012 Statistical
    Bulletin for further details. As shown in Chart 5, excluding this reclassification, the number of people
    employed in the public sector fell by 128,000 between September 2011 and September 2012 and
    the number of people employed by the private sector increased by 627,000.”

    Labour Market Statistics.
    Feb 2013

  37. @ Colin

    …the number of people employed by the private sector increased by 627,000
    The 627,000 includes people on work placements which may last as little as two weeks & for which they receive no wage. I believe it also includes people on zero hour contracts.

  38. AMBER

    ONS provide analysis on that .

    This is an explanatory note to the data:-

    “The Government supported training and employment programmes series does not include all people on these programmes; it only includes people engaging in any form of work, work experience or work-related training who are not included in the employees or self-employed series. People on these programmes NOT engaging in any form of work, work experience or work-related training are not included in the employment estimates; they are classified as unemployed or economically inactive.”

    THe sector numbers for July to Dec 2012 were :-
    Employed + 133k
    SElf employed + 25K
    Unpaid family workers -1k
    Government supported employment & training programmes -3k

  39. @colin – I actually think the troubles the government have are a little more fundamental than how they explain debt and deficit, but I do get your point.

    One really, really big problem in this area for the right, both here and in the US, is their recently adopted approach to national debt, which displays a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of debt in national accounts. It is this, far more than the nuances of message over debt and deficit that has caused them real difficulties.

    The talk of debt as something bad in itself, and the attempt to portray national debt as the same as household debt (maxed out credit card analogies, letting our children pick up the tab etc) leave them in a real quandary.

    The clear implication of this simple message is that debt is bad – but we know from four centuries of experience that national debt is actually very, very good. It is the engine of growth, and is one of the most important reasons why developed countries developed, and how poor countries can stop being poor. In fact, it’s almost unarguable that debt is essential to nations.

    By implication, deficits are also therefore essential, but as ever, the issue with both is scale and cost. The idea of balanced budgets would be pretty disastrous for western economies, with our pensioners suffering greatly and in all probability our infrastructure crumbling away, with a very toxic legacy of poor economic performance left for our children. Hammering away on the message about debt and deficits as if they were the same as a personal or company budget means you stymie yourself when you try and deal with real national accounts.

    By contrast, Brown’s messaging on this was quite brilliant. Borrow to invest and the ‘golden rule’ of balancing over the economic cycle were both quite brilliant political concepts. They were nuanced, displayed a real world understanding of national accounting, and were not difficult to convey as a political message. Of course, he trashed the rules on the cycle by changing his definitions to suite, but that’s another story altogether.

    I think the right of centre has made the mistake of trying to simplify the message to far too great an extent, getting their analogies hopelessly wrong, and therefore being unable to meet their own apparent targets. In my view they only have themselves to blame.

  40. I saw a piece that suggested that all the increase in private employment is as a result of moving public sector jobs into the private sector. Find that difficult to believe but the fact is that if a job is unproductive when in the public sector it don’t suddenly become productive when outsourced and its really mad to call them private sector jobs if its still the taxpayer that is paying the wages

  41. Polling has shown that the public would like taxes and tax collection to be the priority in deficit reduction. We’ve yet to see any evidence that lowering rates increases tax receipts. We probably won’t know that until mid-2014 at the earliest.

  42. I don’t know how many times I have to say it, but borrowing is printing money, if I borrow 100k from the bank they print that 100k and when the govt borrows 100 billion thats also printed by the banks

  43. @ Colin,

    So let’s rephrase to un-adjust the adjustments.

    …the number of people employed in the public sector fell by 128,000 between September 2011 and September 2012 and the increased number of people employed by the private sector for July to Dec 2012 was 133,000.

    Well documented by the mainstream media (e.g. the Telegraph): The NHS has shed thousands of nurses who the NHS is now employing via private sector agencies costing considerably more than it cost the NHS to employ them directly. The civil service (including Whitehall) has shed hundreds (some say thousands) of employees & is now employing temps & contract workers, again at a higher cost than the employees they’re replacing.

    The sector switch is a mirage. The government is most likely still paying for all these people out of our taxes.

  44. Colin

    Even if it is true that all the full time jobs that were lost in the public sector have been replaced with equivalents in the private sector, the resulting loss in wages, spending power, related economies has clearly led to a downturn in GDP.

    The adjustment is sucking demand out of the economy (as well as pushing wages down). The rebalancing we need is between exports and imports, not public and private…and any such rebalancing is being caused by reduced spending on imports rather than exporting much more.

    What happens next? Even if the public sector was cut in half, it’s clear now that that doesn’t “make room for the private sector to expand” without some other stimulus or adjustment. When is it all supposed to “work”?

  45. If all debts were paid tomorrow 97% of all money would disappear. All that would be left are the notes and coins

  46. Colin,

    I think that backs up Amber’s point. The large number on the JSA workfare scheme count as employed as far as the Labour Force Survey (which produces the unemployment figures) is concerned. I don’t remember the total numbers, but think it was in the 100,000s.


    I don’t know why you think jobs in the public sector are unproductive. Many are vital to the functioning of the economy.

  47. Hal

    I don’t believe that jobs in the public sector are unproductive but I have often heard it said but I have never heard that jobs in the private sector are unproductive(but I can think of lots that are) I was just taking the pisss out of the idea that moving jobs to the private sector immediately makes them productive

  48. ALEC

    @”By contrast, Brown’s messaging on this was quite brilliant. Borrow to invest and the ‘golden rule’ of balancing over the economic cycle were both quite brilliant political concepts. ………….Of course, he trashed the rules on the cycle by changing his definitions to suite, but that’s another story altogether.”

    Actually , I think it is the same story.

    “I will only borrow for investment & not for current pending…………..until things get difficult …………in which case , what the hell.

    I think the left has a problem message too Alec-Debt doesn’t matter.

  49. NICKP

    I am familiar with your attachment to the ideal of a large government payroll & headcount.


    @”…the number of people employed in the public sector fell by 128,000 between September 2011 and September 2012 and the increased number of people employed by the private sector for July to Dec 2012 was 133,000.”

    THe comparison to be made in respect of y/e Sept 2012 is the one ONS give in my quote.

  50. Debt doesn’t matter because its not real, there is no need to pay someone to print money when the govt can print its own unless the private sector is better at printing money but that argument is dead and buried after the events of 2008

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