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. But now the big question is this – will it last? If this is a turning-point for Cons, that’ll make a very interesting poll movement. But it could just be a ‘Thatcher-bounce’, because Cameron has had largely positive coverage and has had the opportunities to look like a good statesman.

    -As none of the underlying indicators have changed it is difficult to see how it can be anything other than a Thatcher effect but time will tell.

    Personally I would give it a couple of weeks and see how the locals play out.

  2. Earler in the week I was very sceptical about comments made on here about the Labour lead narrowing which was based on no more than about 3 polls. However there have been enough polls since to suggest this is true.

    I am struggling to come up with reasons for this change. People have talked about Thatcher effect and Benefits policy but I just don’t those issues would have had such an immediate and significant effect. The benefits thing in particular is about negatives not positives- ie people may think it is right to cut benefits but it doesn’t immediately mean those people get more money in their pocket and I’m a great believer that people vote according to their own personal living standards. So basically I don’t understand why the polls have moved.

    Having been absolutely convinced of a Labour landslide in two years, that still remains my opinion but not sure it is quite as strong as it was. My belief was based on the opinion that the Lib Dem to Lab movement was permanent and there could be no conceivable reason for those people to move back, other than for tactical voting reasons which would have no effect on the Lab result.

    It’s possible that the real numbers who moved Lib Dem to Lab are exagerated, and we seem to maybe have a group of protest voters with no strong political conviction rather than liberal minded people defecting or ex Labour coming home. This is shown by some moving to UKIP with an ‘anything but’ attitude. The other thing that backs this idea up is that we know there was an immediate move after the GE from Lib Dem to Lab but it wasn’t quite enough to give Labour those regular 40%’s and very occasionally the Tories were still leading during the first year or so.

    Still nothing that makes me think the Tories can improve on their 2010 GE election votes and nothing that makes me doubt that Labour will be in the mid 30’s at worst.

  3. Since the leader ratings show quite a bit f movement today, it’s worth burrowing down not them a bit more. I used to do this quite regularly but haven’t for a year or so, so it’s interesting to see if things have changed.

    My contention back then, and still so now, is that the crucial issue for Labour is the solidity of the support that they have won (back?) from the LDs since GE10. So their opinions of the leaders are of particular interest. The more so since opinions among 2010 supporters of Lab and Con are pretty much rock solid (78% of 2010 Tories think EM is doing badly, 82% of 2010 Lab voters thing DC is doing badly)

    So, what about the lost LDs? My methodology back then was crude but it’s a decent stab and I’ll do it again now. Calculate the number of LD supporters I’m 2010 and now holding a given view, take the difference between them and convert that into a %age by dividing by the difference between the number in the sample who voted LD in 10 and the number who support them now.

    Here we go with the lost LD opinions

    Is DC doing:
    Well? 16%
    Badly? 77%
    Net: -61%

    Is NC doing
    Well? 9%
    Badly? 82%
    Net: -73%

    Is EM doing
    Well? 24%
    Badly? 59%
    Net: -35%

    And I hereby declare the least loser of this Ugly Contest to be EM by a street.

    The serious issue being that the quality of the leaders seems unlikely to play a role in shifting lost-LDs back from Labour. Their contempt for Clegg and Cameron has very nearly the same intensity as that of Lab 2010’ers.

  4. Bloody iPad

    Burowing down INTO them
    Calculate the number of LD supporters IN 2010 and now

    I wonder how long before a perverted form of English called Apple-ish becomes established? One where we all know what a sentence means even though every third word has been auto-corrected (sic) into something else.

    If you want to imagine the future Winston, picture this: Everyone writing like a John Prescott speech.

  5. While Cameron was orchestrating the ten day Thatcherfest, Farage was going round the country telling people that he used to vote Conservative, and would do still if a proper Thatcherite was in charge.

    Locally UKIP stood candidates in 22 out of the 44 wards in 2009. BNP had 7 candidates, but only in wards UKIP were not contesting.

    In 2013 UKIP are contesting 43 out of 44, BNP none.

    Anecdotally, I know one of the UKIP candidates… a shock to me as he is a longstanding die-hard Conservative activist and fundraiser.

    I could be wrong, but I think there a good chance he will defect back to the Conservatives at some point if he is elected – when circumstances are favourable and at an opportune time – I see it more as a coup attempt.

  6. The real benefit to the Tories of the Thatcher coverage has been the effective smothering of rather a lot of poor economic news over the last week – rising unemployment – IMF criticism – loss of triple A rating.

    @ Bill Patrick
    ‘The Falkland factor is a comforting myth for some, but a myth nonetheless.’
    The reality of the Falklands factor is very clearly revealed by comparison of poll findings in late March 82 with what was being shown by mid June that year as the conflict ended.. In that period of ten weeks the Tories went from being a bit behind to some 20% – if that wasn’t evidence of a Falklands factor I’d like to know what further evidence was needed!. Whilst the Tory lead slowly declined by the end of 1982 it jumped again when Thatcher visited the Falkland at the beginning of 1983.
    As to economic recovery being the root cause of the 83 landslide, there was no sense – unlike 1987 -of people feeling that conditions were improving – whatever the economic data might have implied- particularly as unemployment was continuing to rise. I suggest that The Falklands War had the effect of bestowing credibility on the entire range of Thatcher’s policies for a good couple of years beyond its conclusion. I recall very much the attitude of ‘If she can sort out the Argies she can do the same thing to our other problems’

  7. @ Croftee

    Are you thinking they are going to set up penny-shoe shops?
    Yes, I think that would be a very popular policy. :-)

  8. @Leftylampton

    Bloody ipad ….

    Why not turn off autocorrect?

  9. @Graham

    Nothing to do with Labour imploding and the formation of the SDP, splitting the left vote?

    Short term events tend to have short term effects on the polls. Ascribing long-term changes to the Falklands is at best a guess.

  10. Gosh, there is a lot of Labour bashing about in the press this morning. Faintly amusing to see raging tweets about how dire Ed’s 6% lead is, with no mention of the fact that the Tory score is a crushing 29%. Devastating, if true, but ho hum.

    This is an interesting period, and the momentum could go either way, but on reflection I suspect that the Thatcher effect was probably more to do with suppressing some really very poor news.

    Interestingly, the record that the coalition will have to defend is going to be very shaky. The debt and deficit is not going to give them a very big hand to play, although Labour also has it’s problems here obviously.

    What I’m beginning to sense is that public services could yet play an important part. Three key area come to mind.

    In education, there is a realisation that free schools have at best failed to address shortages in primary places and at worse exacerbated them. This summer, experts think that 80,000 parents will get letters rejecting their schools choices. This could be a problem for Gove, which is likely to get worse rather than better.

    On the NHS, there have been increasing signs of strain of late, with rising waiting times and falling public satisfaction – difficult to gauge, but the pinch on spending was known, and looks to be having an impact.

    Last week saw an interesting statistic from the police, with sharp falls in arrests across the board. Crime is still falling, which is welcome, but the arrests and charges seem to be falling relatively much faster. This suggests that cuts are indeed affecting front line services.

    All in all, the theme seems to be developing that services are being affected, possibly badly so, by cuts. This may not matter – the deficit was and is a key justification for such problems, which voters generally seem to have accepted, at least in general terms.

    Where this could matter is when voters see a failure to sort out the deficit as planned, along with the declines in services. Added to this, Tories promised us that cuts ‘would not affect front line services’, yet it seems that across the board, standards are slipping.

    Pretty much every area of policy has been going in the wrong direction for the Tories of late, which is why this apparent poll bounce is so interesting.

  11. Lefty Lampton,

    Your question presents a false dichotomy: what happened was that the Winter of Discontent discredited the Labour approach and thus support shifted to the Tory approach, giving them a mandate for their strategy.

  12. Graham,

    It is a myth that the 1983 election was only won because of the Falklands war. It is not a myth that the Falklands war had a big impact on polling and was a salient cause of the landslide nature of the 1983 election.

    There was ample sense of an improving economy: a notable headline at the time was “4% and Falling!” regarding inflation, GDP figures were good, the rise in unemployment was slowing down, and bank rate had come down from 17% to 9%.

  13. Oh, and by 1983, the 364 economists who had predicted further depression after 1981 were seeking explanations of why they were wrong.

  14. @ Bill Patrick

    Thatcher started to move away from monetarism at the end of 1982 and a version of mixture of supply side economics and Keynesianism was introduced by 1984.

  15. I have finally found myself unable to resist the temptation to join in with the utterly pointless speculation any longer.

    I am guessing that the drop in Labours lead is due to three factors:

    – 10 days of almost non-stop reporting of Thatcher
    – barely any political news because parliament has been in recess
    – barely any reporting of the sparse political news on TV screens

    Labour hasn’t held the media because it’s been full of Thatcher & now Boston.

    This will change as Parliament resumes tomorrow & according to Andy Burnham on Murnaghan today, he & Ed Miliband are tomorrow setting our their plans for a more integrated Health & Social Care policy.

  16. The current polls IMHO point towards Labour likely winning the most seats in 2015 but it being a close election. Still all to play for.

  17. Rawnsley’s article in today’s Observer is interesting and, in terms of an analysis on what makes a typical UKIP voter tick, as good a one as I’ve read on the subject. There’s no doubt that while they are predominantly a party of the right in terms of both membership and policy direction, and their core voters lean very much that way too, they have become a convenient repository for a general “plague-on-all-your-houses” anti-politics vote. In those terms, they pose a threat all the major political parties, not just the primary victim of their rise, the Tories. If you were a committed and ideologically based Labour or Lib Dem voter, it’s very unlikely that you’d ever be tempted by Mr Farage’s dubious wares, but both parties have voters who travel, politically anyway, fairly footloose and fancy free. Now, these sorts of people could well, primarily due to general disillusionment, wander off to UKIP, certainly in the risk-free environment of an opinion poll, council elections or parliamentary by-election. In a GE, less likely, but still possible, I suppose.

    I was struck by some of the sentiments expressed by the focus group of UKIP voters quoted by Rawnsley. They were quasi-nihilistic in tone and betrayed a total alienation from modern Britain. I still think that sounds like a deeply conservative cri de coeur to me and, in that sense, they may well be essentially disillusioned and homeless ex-Tory voters. Nothing works, it was all better in the past, all politicians are charlatans, there’s a moral crisis in the country ety etc; a Daily Mail-esque counsel of fear and despair. It’s difficult to see a Cameron-led Tory Party, desperately trying to hold on to the centre ground of politics, ever winning back these sorts of voters who, I suspect, flocked to the party in their droves in the Thatcherite glory years.

    It is for that reason that I still think UKIP pose a mortal danger primarily to the Tories, not just electorally, but also existentially in the long term, particularly if we see some leading party members, maybe even MPs, defecting. That’s another part of the UKIP threat that I think only applies to the Tories because I can’t conceive of defections from either Labour or the Lib Dems. It’s just too far a distance to travel politically.

    In summary, I think Labour needs to find a way of disarming UKIP on policy areas that may tempt traditional Labour voters who harbour anti EU sentiments and have concerns about immigration. However, it would be silly, in my view, to equate Labour’s potential concerns about UKIP with the monstrous threat that I think their ascent now presents to the modern Conservative Party and the continuing erosion of their core vote.

    I’d tend to put it this way. From time to time, UKIP could be a potential pain in the neck for Labour in some electoral circumstances but, for the Tories, I think they represent something more like a virus.

  18. I guess the big question is this: would a Cons-Lib or Lab-Lib coalition last the full 5 years in 2015 if the number of Lib seats falls significantly, as currently projected? I’m not sure it would.

  19. Rather enjoying the desperate desire to see the apparently narrower Lab lead as the fault of MT.

    Anything else would start to shake a few cosy assumptions perhaps .

    lol as CB11 is won’t to say.

  20. Bill P

    Interesting theory.

    Of course, it ascribes to the public a level of knowledge and judgement of policies in Spring 79 that they have rarely shown before or since.

    As I asked, do you think the electorate really knew that they were voting for policies that would double VAT and treble unemployment? The polls suggest otherwise, because within 10 months of coming into power with a clear lead on the “Best for employment” question, the Tories’ figures on that question had collapsed. But it had collapsed whilst they were applying the policies they had espoused before the Election.

    We frequently see momentous political events changing voters’ thoughts about politicians even on issues not related to the events in question. I posted yesterday on how the percentage of the public seeing Foot as inexperienced shot up in the wake of the Falklands. In the wake of the fuel protests in 2000, the percentage of people giving negative responses to questions about Labour suddenly spiked, on topics as diverse as its appearance of unity, whether it had a strong team of leaders, whether it understood the problems (plural) facing Britain, whether it had sensible policies (plural) and whether it was prepared to say anything to win votes. The Tories at the same time saw a broad increase in positive responses on question like the sensible policies and problems facing Britain ones.

    Clear evidence of a political shock producing a knee-jerk across the board and I’ll-considered reaction in the electorate. Your argument requires the electorate in 79 to be more sophisticated in their analysis than they appeared to be in 82 or 2000.

    At best, I’d suggest that, in a Yes Minister stylee, there was a feeling after the WoD that something different must be done, Thatcher was offering something different, therefore what Thatcher suggested was attractive.

    But I suspect we’ll have to agree to differ.

  21. @CROSSBAT11

    thanks….very good piece, much enjoyed reading it john

  22. Lefty,

    Thanks for that breakdown. That’s the key demographic I’ve been wondering about. I suppose it’s conceivable that Labour could lurch so far left they lose some of their own 2010 voters, but it doesn’t seem terribly likely. If the Lib Dem defectors are solid I’d say that 35-37% are pretty well locked in.

    It seems to me the other potentially volatile group, apart from the Ukip defectors, are the 2010 first time Tory voters. Presumably anyone who wanted to put Michael Howard in Number 10 won’t be turned off by a core vote campaign on Europe, immigration and welfare, but some of the hug-a-hoodie types might be. Does anyone have any information on who these people were and where they are now? I tried looking at the April 2010 YouGov polls but they don’t give party affiliation cross-breaks even though they must have had that data to do their demographic weighing.


    What’s interesting with the NHS polling is that there was a drop in satisfaction last year even before the waiting times increased. Another trust problem for Cameron?

  23. Colin

    I’ve been keeping away from the TV and papers whilst the beatification of the Blessed Margaret rolled on. So I might have missed some other news that would explain a huge reduction in DC’s net disapproval figures. Can you fill me in?

  24. @ Colin

    Rather enjoying the desperate desire to see the apparently narrower Lab lead as the fault of MT.
    Yes, I know what you mean.

    I’m rather enjoying the fact that the ‘EU veto that wasn’t’ seemed to be more effective vis-à-vis polling than all the pomp, ceremony & celebration of Thatcher & Thatcherism.

  25. Spearmint

    You are welcome.

    IIRC, AW’s data on self-placement on the left-right spectrum indicated that these lost LDs saw themselves generally as some way left of centre. Many of them had been attracted to the LDs by a decade of the LDs branding themselves as a soft-left party in response to the argument that Lab was socially illiberal and economically Thatcherite.

    Broad brush generalisations of course, but there’s a strong-ish case to be made on those foundations. In which case, THE worst thing that Lab could do would be to veer rightwards. That would risk losing this vital group of supporters in search of the mythical Con-Lab switchers.

  26. LEFTY

    I expressed an opinion earlier.

    But since no one actually knows , we must read the YouGov Runes as we may.


    Not sure I follow that-but pleased you’re happy about it.

    I have completely different impression of The Funeral from you, which doesn’t include “pomp”-and not much “ceremony”.

    But I expect we were watching different events really.

  27. @ Colin

    I have completely different impression of The Funeral from you, which doesn’t include “pomp”-and not much “ceremony”.

    But I expect we were watching different events really.
    Yes, I’m sorry you missed Margaret Thatcher’s funeral; you’d have enjoyed the pomp & ceremony.

    What were you watching at the time?

  28. Good Afternoon All.
    LEFTYLAMPTON: Before beatification someone has to be declared venerabile.

    In terms of social conservatism, UKIP might appeal to a 58 year old man like me who is frightened of what Labour might do to church schools for example.

  29. Amber

    Guddun: if the bit I saw wasn’t pomp and ceremony then I dunno what does count as that. The plumed horses did NOT remind me of the old days of the rag and bone man that’s for sure.

  30. AMBER

    MT’s Funeral

    Fifteen All-your serve.

  31. Bill Patrick,

    It is certainly true that the worst of the recession had passed even by early 1982 and that unemployment was rising more slowly than in 1980/81. Nevertheless there was nothing akin to a ‘feel good’ factor. Bank rate peaked at 17% as early as Autumn 1979,so it seems unlikely to have been very salient in electoral terms. The Falklands Factor inclined people to give Thatcher the benefit of the doubt – without it I suspect the electorate would have taken a different view and the Tories would have fallen short of 40% in 1983.

  32. @robin,

    I think their is quite a bit of partisan leanings in your postings. Impartially, as well as argue the move to the Conservatives is slight, you could also argue that a circa 7% lead for Labour in what are as near to perfect conditions for a Labour opposition, is at best unspectacular, and at worst simply not good enough.


  33. Speaking as a Labour voter, I see nothing to worry me in the polls and still can only see landslide for Ed.

    What WOULD worry me is parity in the polls, which is only likely to come with economic recovery, so there would be a plus there anyway.

  34. The official title of the event was Ceremonial Funeral.

    So if there WASN’T any ceremony, someone wants sacking.

  35. @Robin, You are being partisan again with your emotive language, so prepare for you post to be removed.

    I am saying that the perfect conditions for a centre left opposition, are to have a centre right Govt imposing austerity. (If I was been partisan I would say imposing necessary yet difficult spending cuts)

  36. BillP

    The beauty of economics of course is that everyone has their own take in the same basic facts.

    Here’s an alternative one on the Monetarist Revution from an Oxford Prof who was a junior Treasury economists at the time.

  37. I cannot say that I’m surprised that the Labour score is falling.

    In recent weeks, Ed Milliband has said that he may not repeal the bedroom tax after all.

    Labour has continued to adopt the Tories ‘scrounger’ rhetoric (it is a fact that most people in reciept of benefits are in work).

    Many Labour MP’s abstained on a vote about backdating sanctions retrospectively, the command to do so came from the top.

    These things do not play well with traditional Labour voters at all. Many will stick with Labour through gritted teeth, but, others will be looking around for other options.

    At the same time, there is also Blair sticking his nose in, again, something that will not play well with traditional Labour voters.

  38. Turns out ICM does have 2005 vote cross-breaks. Labour lost about 18% of their 2005 vote in 2010, the Tories gained 3.7% of the electorate from somewhere.

    Looking at the cross-breaks and averaging the figures from their last five national polls before the general election (blah blah warning cross-breaks, warning excludes Don’t Knows, warning calculations I whipped up in Excel in two minutes), the “data” show the following movement in the 2010 election:

    Lab -> Con: 9 %
    Lab -> LD: 17 %

    LD -> Lab: 6%
    LD -> Con: 7%

    Con -> Lab: 2%
    Con -> LD: 9%

    So to the shock of absolutely no one, 2/3 of the lost Labour voters went to the Lib Dems.

    The new Tories appear to be about half Lab and half Lib Dem, although of course we don’t know how many of them are ex-Ukip/BNP/etc or ex-non voting and some of those prospective Lib Dems would have chickened out on the day and voted Tory.

    It should worry Labour that despite the performance of the government/economy/etc they haven’t managed to win many of their Tory defectors back, but I suspect this group is still a vulnerability for the Tories. Lynton Crosby couldn’t get their votes in 2005 and there’s no reason to think a core vote strategy will be any more appealing to them this time.

  39. @spearmint,

    Totally agree, this was the point I was trying to make in that it is technically pretty good conditions for a Labour opposition. I wonder if what might happen over time as we get nearer the election, is that it gets proven that it was easier to be a protest opposition than oppose on the basis of policy? (Which can and will be scrutinised)

    We shall see. I am most interested in what Labour do around welfare and taxation.


  40. @rich @robin @spearmint

    As someone from outside the fold, I do find the arguments between Labour and Conservatives akin to those between the People’s Front of Judea and the Judean People’s Front.

    Both parties buy into the austerity model to varying degrees. The approach to welfare isn’t greatly different either in truth.

    So pots and kettles to both parties!

  41. Rich,

    Well, insofar as they just got thrown out of government with their worst result since 1983 and the electorate blames them for the worst recession since the 1930s, the climate is terrible for them. You could equally well argue that Ed Miliband is a miracle worker (or David Cameron is cursed) to have an 8-10 lead.

    The reality is somewhere in between, I think. Labour have been lackluster but they’re doing a good job holding together and avoiding serious mistakes, and the Government is in a difficult position which both coalition parties have compounded for themselves with a series of unforced errors. Honestly, everyone except Ukip should be doing better in the polls right now.

  42. Interesting article from Alistair Darling. It indicates there is some debate in Labour circles in terms of when they should release policy detail, and more interestingly, whether they will either stick to the Tories spending plans for the first two years, or immediately go for higher spending if they get elected. I found the last part surprising, as you would assume sticking to Conservative spending plans is unlikely, but I suppose it’s exactly what Blair and Brown did.

  43. Just about the only stated policy that I can recall the Conservatives having 2 years in advance of the last General Election was the commitment to match Labour’s spending plans.

    This would seem to show
    a) that Opposition parties CAN achieve huge swings to them without having to announce policy over 2 years in advance;
    b) that said policy announcements are not worth a hill of beans

  44. @Woodsman

    They can but the last election swung to Labour the party in power.

  45. @ Rich

    I found the last part surprising, as you would assume sticking to Conservative spending plans is unlikely, but I suppose it’s exactly what Blair and Brown did.

    I am fully expecting Labour to stick to the Tories spending plans in 2015.

    I think Labour may tweak who is taxed slightly, and where spending goes slightly, but that will be it. Of course, the claim always made by every opposition going into a GE is that they will spend more wisely will be restated.

  46. Have the Tories/coalition stuck to their own spending plans?

  47. @Rich

    There’s a long precedent, especially in recent times, of Labour opposing Tory policies to then adopt them wholesale. Today’s Labour aren’t even opposing, and when they do it’s half-hearted (“we’d impose your policies fairer”, “we disagree with the policy but we can’t say we win’t be doing it in 2015” etc).

  48. Colin

    It makes me laugh as well, the left blamed MT for just about everything, the nerve of the woman keeping them out of power for 17yrs, now she’s dead it’s her fault the polls have narrowed. If EM does a Kinnock it will her fault as well.

  49. Labour would be very foolish to commit to spending plans now when the economy is balanced on a knife edge and all policy makers freely admit to being in uncharted waters.

  50. @craig,

    I agree. A good example is what happened with inheritance tax, something you might think was an area where there would be differences. The Tories in opposition stole a march on the idea of increasing the threshold, and Labour quickly doubled the threshold and implemented it almost immediately.


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