The fortnightly Opinium poll for the Observer has topline figures of CON 29%(+1), LAB 35%(-3), LDEM 8%(nc), UKIP 17(+1). I am always extremely cautious about reading movements into polls – more often than not they turn out to be no more than the result of random movement within the normal margin of error – however we do seem to be seeing a consistent trend. YouGov’s dailing polling for the Sun which normally shows Labour leads of around 10 points has produced leads of 7, 8, 11 and 7 this week, Ipsos MORI showed Labour’s lead dropping by four points, ICM by two points and now Opinium by four points.

Just as I’d advise caution in deciding whether or not there is a change in the polls, one should be equally cautious in assuming what the cause might be. Don’t just leap at the most apparent story in the news! Clearly one obvious explanation would be the coverage of the Thatcher funeral, but it doesn’t follow that this is automatically the cause (if it is, of course, then I would expect any narrowing to be very short lived. A bit of positive TV coverage of a leader from long ago is probably not going to lead to any long term shift).

217 Responses to “Opinium/Observer – CON 29, LAB 35, LD 8, UKIP 17”

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  1. Bill P

    I’ve wondered about that Balls position on the inflation target.

    The cynic in me wonders whether he is playing politics. Put pressure on GO not to change the target now. But know that, once in power, (and with, anyway, no prospect of higher office and a reputation for being a nasty b*****d who would sell his grandma if it helped, what is to be lost?) you could find something in the figures to justify a volte face.

    But I expect too much of my politicians.

    EB is sticking to the 2% target because he was an architect of it. And he is now at an age where intellectual flexibility is tough. I’ve been there myself for a decade or more…

  2. Bill P

    On NGDP.

    You might be interested in Wren-Lewis’s take.

    The detailed nuances are over my head, but I guess the difference between you and him are that he wants a more lexible approach than a rigorous NGDP target, whilst you don’t trust policy makers to make the calls correctly to balance linked growth and inflation targets?

    But, doctrinal differences apart, you both seem to be pulling in the same general direction.

  3. @Bill Patrick

    “I don’t think the VAT rise was a key controversial part of the Thatcher program”

    You don’t think the very clear statement during the election campaign that there were no plans for a VAT rise made the subsequent immediate VAT rise a teensy bit controversial?

  4. 1979 & all that.
    The following link is to an article by (well-respected?) Anthony King on the ’79 election.
    His view is that while Thatcher promised to reform certain I. Relations laws and to lower direct taxes, she carefully avoided outlining any other detailed policies! If King is right, then the notion she had a “clear mandate” based on detailed policy prescriptions is simply incorrect.

  5. Lefty and Bill P (and others)

    Dropped in and ploughed through and concluded how sensible I was (without knowing it) to emigrate in 1977 and return in 1992.

    Actually, I should have waited until 1997 but I picked up a cheap house in 1992, due to the recession.

    Self first self last, typical Lib Dem.

  6. Lefty Lampton,

    “EB is sticking to the 2% target because he was an architect of it. And he is now at an age where intellectual flexibility is tough. I’ve been there myself for a decade or more…”

    I’m not sure I’ve ever been any other age!

    Yep: I think that an NGDP target gives you everything you should want out of a dual mandate, since RGDP growth = NGDP growth – inflation. It’s hard to predict the path of prices, output, and the effects of taxes on prices. An NGDP target means that all the central bank has to do is to focus
    on one statistic and keep its growth on a steady path.

    For example, a 5% NGDP growth target would have implied that interest rates should have been higher prior to 2008, then lower in 2008, and that QE should have been much greater in 2009. We had good NGDP growth in 2010, but since then monetary policy has been too tight. The difference between the very strong 1930s recovery and today’s recovery, I believe, comes from the difference in monetary policy.

    I’m not actually an economist, so it’s easy for me to set my trust in economists like Mervyn King at a very low level!

  7. I suppose that should be- today’s “recovery”.

  8. Robin,

    It was pretty low on the list of controversial things Thatcher did, even within just the 1979-1983 period.

    Robbie Alive,

    “Detailed” is a relative term. Detailed compared to actual government policies? No. Detailed relative to Labour right now or the Tories prior to 1970? Yes.

  9. @ Robin.

    Yes, the decisive shift from direct to indirect taxes is another policy which had no mandate in the ’79 election campaign.
    The policy has not been reversed and the notion that direct taxes can never be increased is one of her most important effects.

  10. @ Bill P.
    “Detailed” is a relative term. Detailed compared to actual government policies? No. Detailed relative to Labour right now or the Tories prior to 1970? Yes.

    That doesn’t wash.

    (A) 2 years before the ’79 election Thatcher had given no policy details worth the name.
    (B) Read King’;s conclusion.
    “But there is one lesson that today’s Tories – and indeed any political party – can learn from the experience of 1979. . . . Don’t promise – or even give the impression that you’re promising – more than you can perform. Don’t go into detail. Don’t give hostages to fortune. , ,. Don’t disappoint: surprise.”

    Time for the wooden hill to Bedforshire.

  11. Robbie Alive,

    I didn’t say that Labour need to give as many details as the Tories had in 1977 (however much that was) but rather that they need to give some before the election.

    It’s one thing to be modest in promises and coy in details of policies. It’s another thing to be short on policies.

    Also, Thatcher in 1979 didn’t have to worry about UKIP competing for protest-votes.

  12. @bill p,

    I totally agree. You might also argue people are more politically astute now, with quicker and more direct channels of media. Therefore I am pretty certain that people will demand some policy from Labour, particularly on the economy which I would hazard a guess many of the electorate hold as a weakness for Labour.


  13. Bill P

    I’ve been musing on this topic all day, and I am, to some extent, coming round to your Heath70/EM15 analogy.

    in both cases, the 25-35 year status quo was crumbling, but there was no coherent ideology to displace it. So, in 1970, we saw a victory on a platform that promised to give the old approach a push in the Right direction, which proved to be a failure.

    It would be another 6 years before the new approach emerged. and a decade before it ‘fessed up to what it was.

    If, in 1970, someone had suggested that the IEA had called the economic agenda for the period 1980-201?, they’d have been laughed out of the debate. But that call was correct.

    So where are the big ideas coming from for 2020-onwards?

  14. Lefty Lampton,

    Somewhere in the head of Frank Field, I hope. A contributory model of the welfare state is a very good idea and a potential way to address (a) the problems of welfare in an ageing nation and (b) a lack of incentives to invest.

  15. Bill P


    Compared to the revolutions of 45 and 79, you’re describing little touches on the tiller.

  16. Perhaps, but that’s largely because of what I do and don’t think is wrong with Britain today. For me, it’s not so much that the post-1979 approach fails to address the problems it was designed for, but rather that large chunks of it (e.g. the entitlement approach to the welfare state and the paternalistic approach to drugs policies) are fundamentally inadequate to the challenges of the 21rst century.

  17. New thread. Sunday YG + R&T local elections ‘forecast’.

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