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. @ Rich

    Re: Inheritance Tax & similar; I believe what you are describing is known as triangulation.

    And triangulation was one of the New Labour strategies which the media adored & strategists admired but it made actual Labour supporters very uncomfortable, to say the least!

  2. Re: Inheritance tax

    The biggest problem with inheritance tax is that it is easily avoided (legally).

  3. Quite a lot of ad hominems floating about, currently via the mechanism of accusing folk of being partisan. Ironically from people tossing in prototypical loaded party political soundbites like “tax and spend” and the “debt crisis!!” thing. As for parties changing tack and wearing others’ clothes… they all do it. Tories of old put in section 28, now they vote for gay marriage. Lib Dems wore Labour’s clothes on the economy rather more until entering coalition. Cameron announced his renegotiation on Europe gambit once UKip seemed more of a threat etc. The Tories changed lots of things about last year’s budget after realizing it wasn’t playing well. Little different from Brown trying to recover after the 10p tax debacle. Changing tack with the prevailing wind is not uncommon…

  4. TURK

    You have to laarf don’t you?

  5. Yesterday I suggested that if EB proposed a fiscal policy which resulted in higher debt levels than currently forecast, this would be ,in effect, be saying that another Fitch downgrade was a Labour policy objective.

    This logic derives from a reading of the Fitch statement on UK.

    My post got me into a little hot water, and the discussion came to a swift halt.

    This evening, in an interview with Sky News, Fitch UK stated that if UK Debt rises above the levels Fitch have currently forecast, and because of which, have issued a downgrade, then they would downgrade UK further.

    Putting aside the Janus Mask which allows Fitch to urge more time to reduce deficits, but no increase in Debt levels, their statement this evening, and indeed the Fitch downgrade will feed nicely into GO’s June spending statement & Labour’s response.

    The June statement is important for all parties , because it takes fiscal plans into the next parliament.

    As we have seen, both EB & AD have both begun to anticipate their reaction to the June Statement, and the Press too have begun to speculate whether Labour will refuse to commit to it -or not.

    Being able to point to a further Fitch downgrade as the prospective result of a higher debt policy will, I think be a key part of GO’s attempt to criticise Labour policy on public finances.

    No doubt Balls will also try to use Fitch in his own defence.

    What the public will make of the ensuing exchanges is difficult to judge.

    But I can’t help feeling that GO will be thanking that Sky reporter for the ammo he needs to keep hammering home the risks of high debt.

    If you believe that the public have followed every word of the Reinhart/Rogoff spat, then GO will be wasting his time.

    But if you believe, as I do, that the public approach these things from a more prosaic & empirical point of view then GO could be about to set one of his more successful elephant traps.

    Something to look forward to anyway!

  6. You might larf, if Turk was right. But are people actually saying it’s Thatcher’s “fault”? Seems rather they are noting Cameron’s/the media’s leverage of the event. Even AW notes above a possible explanation is the coverage…

  7. “Being able to point to a further Fitch downgrade as the prospective result of a higher debt policy will, I think be a key part of GO’s attempt to criticise Labour policy on public finances.”


    Hard for Osborne to criticise Labour on a potential downgrade when his own policies were intended to thwart a downgrade but didn’t, and when Labour’s policy after the crash despite the spending didn’t earn a downgrade either with growth liable to have helped with that. The lack is growth is also a concern of the IMF who are coming to see Osborne about it shortly. ..

    That said I agree it won’t stop him trying and he might pull it off. …

  8. I’m surprised by how well UKIP is doing to be perfectly honest with you. They’ve got great strength. I also wonder if UKIP, despite being considered right wing, is taking some votes from Labour.

    @ Billy Bob

    Check out this latest poll:,0,6905333.story

    We’re a month out from the election exactly today and vote by mail ballots will be sent out tomorrow. I may see about voting early in person. It’s an interesting polling dynamic that you guys don’t really have in Britain (well I don’t think you do) where you poll a race as voting happens among the most reliable voters, making those polls all the more valuable.

    Btw, funny story. Yesterday, I went down to Westlake to grab a sandwich at Langer’s Deli (the world’s greatest). Unbeknownst to me as I headed down there, the restaurant was shutting down early because it had to be cleared for a Bill Clinton campaign event. Still got there in time and still got my sandwich though.

  9. Nothing on TV, time to watch This Week on catch up…

  10. colin


    You have to laarf don’t you?”

    You must be a comedian’s dream.

  11. Laszlo,

    I know of many definitions of Keynesianisms, but none that I consider useful are so broad as to include Thatcher’s policies after 1982.

    Lefty Lampton,

    (1) The unemployment rate didn’t treble after 1979.

    (2) Very few people predicted quite how violently unemployment would rise after 1979. Much of the unemployment cannot be attributed to the disinflation.

    (3) I don’t think it’s at all reasonable to say that the Tories won in 1979 just because they offered something different. Had they campaigned on a platform of “Make it easier to strike!”, I don’t think that the Winter of Discontent would have been in their favour, so it was clearly something to do with WHAT they were offering, as well as the fact that it was different.

    As for the article: that’s a rather embarassingly piece from a professor. Was Jack Jones (let alone Arthur Scargill) going to team up with Thatcher to create a German-style corporatist model? Was (and is) the decentralised structure of British unions at all suitable for such a model? Or would the unions have tolerated forced agglomerations without a general strike?

    Inflation didn’t come down more rapidly than was intended: it was actually HIGHER in 1980 than in 1979; it was only a little lower in 1981 than in 1979; and the 1982-1983 fall in inflation was almost entirely due to a recovery of output rather than a squeeze on demand. So he’s factually mistaken on that one.

    While monetary targets failed, they were always a means towards an end (relatively low inflation plus growth) which was achieved by 1983. It was less luck and more good judgement on the part of Geoffrey Howe in response to the expected rise in the broad money supply in the second half of 1980- a lesser chancellor might have pushed interest rates still higher or (even worse) foregone any sort of restraining targets. Could it have been done better? Yes. Was it a total failure? No. Was luck on the Tories side in 1979-1981? No.

    And finally, that the left is “less inclined” to hero-worship its leaders than the right is too broad a claim to take seriously, but I don’t think that ‘hero-worship’ is an unappropriate description of how Attlee is remembered by the left in Britain.

  12. “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.”

    I agree that a/the crucial issue in 2015 will be the actual voting behaviour of the large group who appear to have shifted from Lib-Dem to Lab: & yr results look interesting.

    But I could not follow your methodology as described at the beginning of this post.

  13. * inappropriate.

  14. @SoCalLiberal

    Thanks for the polling news, its seems like the Thatcher tribute was part of a strategy – campaigning to elect the first female LA Mayor. She has ground to make up now though.

    I’m not that good on name recognition, so when one of the presenters on Radio 4 (he used to be BBC Washington correspondent) mentioned Deval Patrick as a possible contender for the 2016 nomination. I recognised the name but couldn’t put a face to it.

    Anyway, just watched his speech again (DNC) – at the time I remember thinking the tempo was pretty awesome, with a digression about the Orchard Gardens elementary school before building to the final climax. I now learn that he came up with Obama’s “Yes we can” slogan in 2008.

    Maybe a bit early to start thinking about the range of possible candidates, but that is one important decision to get right.


    What an interesting post.

  16. Bill P

    My apologies. There is no verb for “To increase to a level 2.6 times an original value” so I played fast and loose with the language. Thank you for correcting me. I’m sure the difference between 2.6 and 3.0 was of great consolation to those on the dole at the time.–discontinued-/january-1996/unemployment-since-1881.pdf

  17. Lefty Lampton,

    Around 900,000 employed workers aren’t insignificant in my book, so it’s consolation to me.

  18. @Bill Patrick

    As an aside, in 2009 BBC Parliament showed the entire election night coverage from 1979.

    Lots of period detail… Robin Day puffing away on a cigar in the studio, full ashtrays on the table, and quite a few pipe smokers… one such was Sir John Methven (in conversation with Len Murray).

    The CBI’s director general was genuinely worried that Thatcher was going to take a confrontational approach towards the Unions. Legislation was not the way forward he said… we have our disagreements, we negotiate, we work together, and that is how it should be (or words to that effect).

  19. Interesting post Bill, some good points.

  20. Bill P

    By the way, I am a self-proclaimed amateur on these issues. You are clearly far better versed. I’d be interested to see you put your criticisms direct to Wren-Lewis and allow him the indulgence if a reply. It’s free and easy to register on his blog page, and he does appear to respond to direct criticism.

    I’d also be fascinated to be pointed in the direction if the evidence that demand wasn’t hit by double digit interest rates and prolonged double digit unemployment rates.

    Finally, of course inflation was higher in 80 than in 79. The price of oil trebled (alright – ALMOST trebled) in the year from May 79. The point is that a reduction in inflation from 22% to 4% in three years was rather rapid. Wren-Lewis who was a (lowly) Treasury official in 80-81 claims that the fall was faster than intended. I have no idea whether this is correct, but it would seem to be a strange point on which to lie.

    Thank you for your post. Great details.
    On the unemployment figures, there is the fact that about two million people went on to the disability figures, and off the ‘dole’ count figures.

    Attlee was a giant also. It was nice when Lord Tebbit paid tribute to the social policies of that Govenment in his Lords speech, on the day of the Lady Thatcher Parliamentary occasion.

  22. Journalists, as A. Wells often points out, are not to be trusted with the facts.
    Rawnsley is v. good on UKIP & the local elections in the Observer today, esp. re their supporters’ backward-looking views & their indifference to the fact that UKIP’s manifesto is a “nonsense of contradictions.”

    He then asks whether UKIP’s fielding of numerous candidates in Manchester’s elections will provide an effective challenge to Labour in the North.
    My prediction is the challenge will fail utterly; mainly because er … there are no elections in Manchester.

  23. Bill P

    I usually try to avoid getting into stones and glasshouses wars. Rarely does anyone emerge unscathed. But since you fired the opening salvo, fire will be returned this once.

    That ONS link shows that unemployment was 1.299 million in May 79. Three times that is 3.897 million. The peak unemployment total in Aug 82 was 3.343million. So I was out by 554,000, not 900,000.

  24. I am reminded that Mrs T increased VAT from 8% to only 15% so she could deny Labour’s election campaign slogan that the Tories were planning to double VAT. Literally true, but sophistry nonetheless.

  25. @ Lefty.

    I don’t see why you apologise.
    The “debate” was about economic data & if yours are correct then you should report them.
    Ironic that the Tories’ famous poster in ’79 “Labour Isn’t Working” emphasised Labour’s dreadful record on unemployment..

  26. Lefty Lampton,

    We could go into the pragmatics of ‘around’ but that would be even more tedious.


    The best single article I remember seeing on the period’s unemployment figures had unemployment being much higher than official figures suggested in 1980-1981 (12-14% rather than 8-11%) and had the recovery in employment beginning much earlier i.e. in about 1982 or 1983 rather than 1984 or 1985. That would make more sense, given how unemployment and GDP figures usually move together- a regularity known as Okun’s Law.

    Billy Bob,

    The clever thing the Tories did in that period was to avoid a single “big bill” like “In Place of Strife” or Heath’s Industrial Relations Bill. There was no single, all-encompassing bill that went far beyond what the general public (including ordinary trade union members) wanted.

    On industrial relations, I’d attributed Thatcher’s success less to her personal attributes and more to the fact that her government was able to learn from the failures of Wilson, Heath and Callaghan in dealing with the unions. The last hero to fight the hydra has the advantage of knowing how not to fight it.

  27. Ronnie

    Mine weren’t. Neither were Bill’s.

  28. And Attlee makes for a good hero- to carry on the Greek theme, an Icarus figure with an unusual ability to avoid hubris. I think he was a very bad prime minister, but because I disagree with him, rather than that I think he was a bad person; he was the kind of boring, sensible and yet visionary collegiate type that is generally the best for PM.

  29. Today’s YG is interesting in that it is yet another in the past two weeks where Con are polling higher amongst women than men.

    This has been unusual over the past year (the average has been 2% higher support from men). It will be interesting to see if this persists in the next two weeks.

  30. That campaign was the most successful ever because of the basic, yet clever double meaning, It attacked all aspects of the administration in three words. I doubt we will ever see a campaign as effective as that again. In fact, it would be a great topic for debate to discuss whether advert, broadcast and poster campaigns actually move the vote much now.

  31. Bill P

    Apologies for the piecemeal replies – I’m doing this between bouts of hushing crying bairns back to sleep.

    The issue about the resonance with the electorate of Thatcher’s plans for the unions doesn’t stand scrutiny I’m afraid. According to the Ipsos-Mori figures, by Election Day, Labour had a substantial lead over the Tories on the question of who had the best policies for dealing with the unions and industrial relations.

  32. I wonder why labour didn’t campaign using the catchphrase “who isn’t working now?” In 83

  33. Bill P

    We could. And it would. Which is why I make a policy of not being pedantic on such issues.

  34. @ Lefty

    Ah well.
    At least you didn’t write an article that may have caused unemployment, the basic errors in which were detected by a PHD student.

  35. RIN
    I wonder why labour didn’t campaign using the catchphrase “who isn’t working now?” In 83.

    Bit pithy for the “longest suicide note . . .”

    Kaufman commented in his bi-weekly column in Manchester freebie that he respected Thatcher because she reponded to his requests for discussions on Manchester’s economic problems. Cameron won’t deal with letters from non-Tory MPs.

  36. Robbie.

    As a young graduate civil engineer in the early 90s, I did make a spreadsheet cock-up on a construction site that cost £100k and screwed up the sight lines in a major English football ground. And no-one but me[1] ever knew about it.

    [1] And you lot as well now, of course.

  37. Lefty Lampton,

    But I’m sure that a considerable gap had been closed by May 1979.

    Anyway, after all that, I’m still unconvinced that the 1979 victory for the Conservatives constituted a primarily protest vote, as in 1970.

  38. @ Lefty
    Very funnny! But it only affected football fans’ enjoyment, so of no importance.

  39. And, to return to my main point, people knew the key policy platforms of Thatcherism prior to 1979, whereas Heath’s u-turn involved doing exactly what he’d promised not to do.

  40. Bill P

    My apologies. I had mis-remembered the Ipsos-Mori figures

    Labour was ahead by polling day, but not by a substantial amount. But the figures are all over the place. Take mid-78 to 1 April 79 and you’d be correct that the Tories had made a massive swing. Take 1977 to Late April 79 and there’s not a blip in the Labour lead.


  41. Would you agree that people at least had a broad idea of what Labour and the Tories’ policies WERE on industrial relations?

  42. Bill P

    Yes I would.

    Do you accept that the public that thought the Tories had the better policies on unemployment had no idea whatsoever what the consequences of Tory policy were likely to be on unemployment?

  43. A few contributors might be interested in this –

    Further destruction of the false targets for debt reduction, held by pro austerity parties, and the ratings agencies. Which brings me on to @Colin’s post.

    There are two potential flaws in thinking that Osborne could use threats that higher deficits under Labour would lead to another download.

    Firstly, you can only cry wolf so often. GO was the one who told us that AAA was essential, but nothing happened when we lost it. He also failed to protect it. Why should anyone listen to him again?

    However, the major point is the potential spoiler that higher spending could lead to a lower deficit. This is what Labour is proposing, and it is perfectly possible to achieve. It’s by no means guaranteed, and I have some issues with Labour’s approach to stimulus, but austerity certainly hasn’t produced growth – well structured spending could.

  44. As I said, I don’t think that even the Tories knew.

    Anyway, you accept my key point: Thatcher had a much better mandate for her policies in 1979 than Heath in 1970, because people knew what they were. That is the danger in winning on a protest vote, quite apart from the danger of losing due to another party picking up the protest votes.

    And that is what Miliband would be wise to avoid if he wants to be a successful PM. This year would be a good year for Labour to “test-drive” some policies with the British public, with more detail coming in 2014.

  45. Alec

    On the AAA issue, I thought EB played it perfectly in Feb. when interviewed about Moody, he said that the AAA was irrelevant, but the policies pursued to retain the status were the Importnat issue.

    Colin. With that in mind, you posed a false dichotomy for EB in your comments last night. (I’ve been accused of doing the same today, so you’re in excellent company.)

  46. Alec,

    As I’ve said before, I don’t think that fiscal policy has anything to do with demand in an economy with an independent flexible inflation-targeting central bank. British governments can change the distribution of debt and demand from the private sector to the public sector and vice versa, but under the post-Brown system fiscal stimulus is incoherent.

    As the hilarious EconomistHulk put it-

  47. Within Ashcroft’s ethnic minority poll of a week back, there’s a table for a parallel poll of the population as a whole. Whilst it served only to provide a reference point, it seems of equal relevance to that of Opinium conducted only 3 days later.

    After the standard turnout adjustments and weighting:
    Lab 42%, Con 29%, LD 8%, UKIP 9%, Other 12%

  48. Bill P

    No I don’t accept that at all. I accept that people had a decent idea about her union policy. We agree that people hadn’t the foggiest what the economic policy was going to be. On taxation, she had attractive policies on income tax, but she had explicitly said that she wouldn’t double VAT (but given my form today, I can hardly play J’Accuse on how that one panned out).

    Given that Osborne’s political genius in 09/10 has effectively ruled the obvious and efficacious economic policy in a zero-lower bound environment to be politically toxic, I agree that Labour has a big problem. If they were to take the Thatcher lesson, they would win the election and THEN implement a fiscally accommodative policy. Forget the immediate legitimacy question. Let the Electorate decide based on results 5 years hence.

  49. Bill P

    And your takedown of my amateur economics is already taken as read…

  50. I don’t think the VAT rise was a key controversial part of the Thatcher program that required some sort of mandate.

    If I were the Labour Shadow Chancellor, I’d argue for a switch to a NGDP target. The additional revenues from the greater growth would allow for less in the way of public spending cuts, even while continuing a deficit-reduction program.

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