The Times this morning has some intriguing YouGov results on Ed Miliband. Taking the simplest bit first, Yougov asked if people thought Ed Miliband was a better or worse leader than Gordon Brown, and a better or worse leader than Tony Blair. Miliband was seen as better than Brown by 32% to 17%, and worse than Blair by 41% to 20%.

All straightforward so far. However, YouGov also repeated a bank of questions asking about Ed Miliband’s qualities that had previously been asked about Gordon Brown in May 2010, immediately after the general election. Miliband got higher don’t knows than Brown for obvious reasons, but looking at net figures Miliband had better ratings than Brown on being in touch and being honest, but worse (in some cases MUCH worse) on being a strong leader, on being decisive, on having a sense of purpose, on caring about ordinary people and on trying to do the right thing. So people think Ed Miliband is a better leader… but also give him worse ratings than they gave Brown?

It’s interesting to ponder the apparent contradiction – there are several possible explanations. One is that the Gordon Brown polling was done right at the very end of his premiership, and his personal ratings increased during 2010 so these figures are how Brown was seen at a comparatively positive point, not Brown when his ratings were at their worst. It’s possible that the “folk memory” of Gordon Brown that people are comparing Miliband to is Brown at his lowest point, or an image of Brown that is actually much worse than the reality at the time.

There is also a question of people’s changing perceptions towards an incumbent party leader – in many ways the “right” answer for a Labour supporter in May 2010 was to give Brown a positive rating, while the “right” answer now is for them to say Miliband is an even better leader. That’s not to say people are somehow not giving their genuine opinions – I am sure they are. It’s just, if you are a Labour supporter you are going to see the party’s leader in a positive light, overlook his weaknesses, notice his strengths. Labour supporters in May 2010 would have seen Gordon Brown in a positive light, now Ed Miliband is leader they’ll note his strengths and perhaps take a more neutral view of Brown. In just the same way Conservative supporters in 2002 told pollsters that Iain Duncan Smith was a good leader… and I’m sure if asked today would recognise that, when all is said and done, he was a bit of a duffer as leader.

While we are here, we should stop to look at the figures in their own right, whatever people thought about Gordon Brown, they are also a chance to see how people see Ed Miliband as a politician in his own right. Looking at them that way, Ed Miliband’s most positive rating by far is on honesty – 39% think he is honest, compared to only 24% dishonest. His ratings are also comparably good on “trying to do the right thing” (39% v 41% serving his own interests) and caring about ordinary people (36% v 42% caring about only a select few). He scores much more negatively on being dithering (57% v 19% who think he is decisive), weak (56% v 19% who see him as strong) and being unclear what he stands for (53% v 27% who think he has a clear sense of purpose).

I’ll end up with by my normal summary about the Ed Miliband question, since it’s always a subject that provokes a lot of discussion and some very entrenched views – I invariably see Labour supporters wedded to the idea that Miliband’s ratings will be irrelevant come the election, and Conservative supporters convinced that it would be impossible for Labour to win under Miliband.

Suffice to say, Miliband’s ratings are bad, and are bad compared to past opposition leaders. It seems likely that he is having a negative effect on Labour support. HOWEVER, Labour are ahead in the polls, and have a lead that would give them a comfortable overall majority at an election, so the idea that they cannot win with Ed Miliband is clearly false. Right now, people are telling pollsters that they will vote Labour regardless of Ed Miliband’s negative ratings. The question is whether or not those negative opinions of Miliband (assuming they don’t change) will play more of a role in influencing people’s voting intention as the general election gets closer and voting intention becomes more of a choice between alternate government as an anti-government statement. Current polling cannot answer that question – and the key to interpreting polls is often as much about recognising what they can’t tell you as what they can.

317 Responses to “YouGov/Times poll on Ed Miliband”

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  1. I was reading up on Patrick Mercer and he was a Sandhurst cadet, taking part in a Panorama program in 1975.

    Interesting video, and the scenario mentioned is quite amusing:

  2. According to Today’s Daily Mirror ” He is thought to be just the first of a number of MPs and lords caught in an investigation by the Daily Telegraph and BBC’s Panorama.”

    Now if they happened all to be Tories this might change the parliamentary dynamics

  3. BFR – Just on a point of clarification.

    I’m just saying that the LDems have always said (subject to that post from postageincluded that I can’t find confirmed anywhere) that – if offered from both other parties – the LDs would first talk to the party with the most seats.

    I think NC has always gone for the rather vague but flexible biggest mandate position not necessarily seats and it may be that postageincluded has made a rare (in his or her case) error.

    In reality as has been posted the arithmetic means it would be very unlikely that the LDs would have enough seats and the other 2 close enough to allow a choice.

    I agree with GRNIPORTS who suggest EM would prefer a coalition with the LDs to a minority Government; in fact he may prefer a coalition if he has a small majority on only 35% of the vote to give more legitimacy and get a more proportionate voting system introduced for Westminster.

    I guess to a degree, how many votes the LDs actually get and if they have the 35ish seats many of us think they will secure or collapse to less than 20 will affect the judgement.
    A coalition with a party with half or less the votes and/or seats as in the previously election implying rejection by the Electorate would be difficult for either of the main 2 parties.

    Can you imagine the uproar if the LDs tried to go with the Cons with a combined seat count close to LD+Lab at the moment having stated it was unsustainable in 2010?

  4. @Steve

    Even tho the expenses scandal was practically even spread across all three major parties, Labour were disproportionally hit by it due to a) the Telegraph publishing on Labour party involvement first, b) Labour being the government at the time. I would expect to see the same effect here even if there’s cross-party involvement.

  5. Feels like the calm before a media s**t storm. Who else is gonna be targetted?
    Interesting times,hopefully!

  6. I suspect the media had some sort of “intelligence” on Mercer. Perhaps a rumour about some previous discussions with a genuine lobbying company.

  7. Huge Irish flag borne aloft at the Lions v. Barbarians match at the Hong Kong Stadium bearing words: “The Chinese – a great bunch of lads”.

  8. @ Jayblanc

    “Even tho the expenses scandal was practically even spread across all three major parties”

    No it wasn’t. Only Labour had MPs go to jail. The Telegraph had to work very hard to spread the muck around enough to inculpate the Lib Dems.

  9. @Jim Jam
    As it happens I agree with pretty much everything you say in your last post – in particular that below 30 seats and LDs credibility to participate in any coalition is greatly impaired.

  10. Neil A – there were unproven accusations about him receiving payments lobbying for a security firm a year or two ago (they are mentioned in some of the coverage today), so I expect that’s the reason the press chose him as a target for the sting.

  11. @Jim Jam

    maybe that helps…
    most votes not seats…

  12. @Tojim

    The story just makes the factual statement that the Tories won the most votes in 2010 in the first line. It then goes on to say that the LDs agreed that the Tories ‘as the biggest party had the right to seek to form a government first’.

    To me ‘biggest party’ implies most seats?

  13. @bigfatron

    I don’t know where you get the “most seats” thing from… go to the horse’s mouth and all you will find is “strongest mandate” (as in “if a party with no majority has the strongest mandate, we accept the principle that that party has the right to govern either on its own or to reach out to others”).

    In fact there was a lot of discussion about Nick Clegg ducking the votes/seats question. At a press conference I remember him giving “both” as the one-word cut off to an over persistent journalist.

    Logically, in that context (UK electoral dynamics), “both” means “either”.

  14. JimJam
    I am sure the LDs would always try to form a coalition (if such were needed) with the party that won the election (ie most seats). Because we have FPTP, that does muddy the waters if, say, Lab got fewer seats than Con, but more votes, but I suspect that is unlikely, even after the failed redistribution of seats that would have reduced Lab’s current inbuilt advantage.

    Thereafter it is just a question of comparing programmes. The Con stance was so wishy washy last time, that dropping a few right wing Con longed-for bits was no problem for the Cons. On the LD side the equally wishy washy deals on AV and other items were found acceptable and the MPS voted unanimously to accept the deal (except CK who went off and sulked / abstained on principle)..

    The problem with the rainbow option was that. It provided no hope of a full parliament.

  15. Howard – I agree Rainbow was never realistic and even if it was Labour did not deserve to stay in power after that result.
    The only issue was Coalition or C&S for the LDs; they chose coalition either in the national interest and to avoid a second election in the Autumn or opportunistically to enjoy their first taste of peacetime Government since the 1920s, take your pick.
    I wonder if NC will get away with the strongest mandate vagueness in 2015 or will be forced to say seats or votes.
    FWIW I think there is a real chance of Tories most votes Labour most seats but as above little arithmetical chance of the LDs being able to take both over 323.

  16. Howard
    ‘The problem with the rainbow option was that. It provided no hope of a full parliament.’

    But why was that a problem? I would have thought that the Lib-Lab pact which ran from March 77 to Autumn 78 would have actually have been a useful precedent for the LibDems – ie providing the country with a period of stability at a time of great economic uncertainty. Whilst that would still have alienated left of centre LibDems, the wounds would not have run so deep.

  17. Rainbow was indeed a quite ridiculous concept. Whatever your political persuasions, excluding the largest and at the time most popular party in the country would have been undemocratic.

  18. RC

    All 3 parties were involved – the LD do not smell of roses on this as you try to suggest. Bringing David Laws back into Government after his erm ‘mistake’ was an act if complete arrogance by the party. I could find no other example of an MP being brought back as a minister after being suspended for an irregularity such as this, especially without facing the electorate. Funny how he campaigned on not having been implicated the scandal and only came clean after the election.

    The police were not particularly active in bringing politicians in front of the beak and many were very lucky indeed, from all parties.

    Labour were hit hardest as incumbents at the time.

  19. To clarify, I meant to suggest a LibDem- Con pact for 18 months after the 2010 election would have been better for the LibDems.

  20. I thought it was really unfair at the time that only Labour MPs got charged and jailed and the posh boys got away with it as usual. They obviously can afford better lawyers and have friends in higher places

  21. @couper2802,

    Probably the silliest note of the day. You get charged based on the weight of evidence in this country. And…you only need your lawyer once charged.

  22. Rich

    You really believe that everyone is treated equally before the law. Really?

  23. @Rich

    And that must be one of the naievest posts of the day! I’m sure that Patrick Mercer isn’t going to wait to be charged before he gets solid legal advice…

  24. I think it is probably true that the arrogance of power (i.e being the Governing Party) led more Labour MPs to think they could do what they wanted than opposition ones.

    Seems they were not as sophisticated with their fiddles as well.

    With Laws and Huhne discredited a whooping 40% of the initial LD cabinet ministers being demonstrably dishonest must be some kind of record – may be that is what a ‘different kind of politics’ means?

  25. @rich

    Some probably got legal advice pre fiddle so they could make sure they got away with it – in the same way they avoid tax. There didn’t seem to be much moral difference between the ones that got away with it and the ones that got charged but there was obviously a legal difference – so if the Lab MPs had been smart enough to get early legal advice they would have been home and dry same as the Tories and Libs. Though how Laws wasn’t charged I don’t know if he was using the same excuse – which surely can’t be a legal get out – about cheating benefits he wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on.

  26. The most recent & relevant comparison to the Mercer case must be the Sunday Times / Dispatches Cash for Influence sting of early 2010.

    Twenty politicians were approached ; fifteen agreed to meet, ten arranged meetings, and of those ten, nine were secretly filmed.

    The nine included Sir John Butterfill , Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt, Geoff Hoon, Richard Caborn, Adam Ingram and Margaret Moran.

  27. As the Americans so horribly say – do the math.

    Labour had loads more MPs. LDs relatively few. Therefore if all three parties were proportionately guilty in equal measure most would be lab, fewest LD and smewhere in the middle the cons.

    This actually should be fairly obvious to people interested in statistics je pense.

  28. Just sad to see people still throwing out the ‘posh’ slur instead of reasoned debate. Imagine if the word posh was substituted for poor, how bad would that look? It would look awful, and rightly so. Whatever happened to the best traditions of the left?, intelligent debate, Fabian society etc!

  29. Prior to that was the 2009 Sunday Times Cash for Influence sting.

    Ten Peers were approached, six declining or failing to respond.
    Four Peers stated that they could use their political influence to amend legislation. They were Lords Snape, Moonie, Taylor of Blackburn and Truscott.

  30. And not to be outdone by Westminster-MEP’s got a taste of the Sunday Times-in 2011.

  31. @rich

    To pretend there is any similarity between being poor and being posh in terms of power and the ability to protect yourself is absolute nonsense. Quite obviously the rich and powerful have a much easier ride than the poor. So your point makes no sense at all

  32. Thesheep

    Do you mean charged with something in a criminal sense, I understand that he may have broken parlimentary rules, but and I’m no legal eagle so I could be completley wrong, I’m struggling to see what is the criminal aspect of this case is.

    Was he accepting money or attempting to obtain money dishonestly under the criminal law, bearing in mind this was a sting operation so none of the promises or deeds he did were dishonest acts against the Telegraph or BBC as thay were complicit in the act, certainly they were against those parlimentary rules that govern Lobbying but that doesn’t make it a criminal act or does it.

    Was there any financial loss to Parliament or the tax payer, I don’t think so, who in the criminal law would be the aggrieved are the Telegraph and the BBC going to accuse him of obtaining money by deception very unlikely as they encouraged him to take the fee knowing the whole thing was fictitious so they could hardly claim he had defrauded them, infact the Telegraph it could be said would make money by increased sales of there paper.

    I would be interested if anybody has a legal background to hear what there thoughts on this case is it criminal or not, the only thing I could think of was there could be a case under the legislation the police use when they mount sting operations to trap criminals, but in those cases the act must be under the criminal law, I’m not sure if Lobbying infringements are under the criminal law.

  33. @Rich

    There’s a world of difference between punching up and punching down.

  34. JimJam

    Since Labour is on course for a comfortable if not landslide majority, then I suspect our musings on coalition are academic.

    EM must say his atheist prayers every night which have the punch line -‘come friendly thickos and vote UKIP’ (with apologies to JB).

    What interests me is what EM will do with his majority. Will he behave as though in fact he was in coalition with PR loving, EU loving, environmentalists? (Because that is what I think he thinks, as does his brother).

  35. @TURK theSheep

    Legally wouldn’t Mercer be similar to a council planning official that takes cash to advance a developers interests ? That is illegal.

  36. To suggest that Tory MPs didn’t get gaoled because they had friends in higher places is utterly ridiculous.

    Next it will be how the whole police force is corrupt…. (yawn).

  37. TURK

    I think you are right-this is a potential breach of Parliamentary rules-hence him referring himself to Parliament’s standards commissioner.

    I suppose asking questions in HoC about Fiji-on behalf of the good people of Newark cannot be illegal?

    Amusing-but not illegal.

  38. Turk

    I’m sure that Mercer has committed no criminal act. But the thing he is apparently accused of is far more heinous that a technical breach if a “no victim” law.

    If it is to be accepted that MPs have the right to hire themselves out to bidders who meet their asking price, to act as their paid representatives in Parliament, then the whole concept of our parliamentary democracy collapses.

    Of course it is NOT accepted that this should be allowed to occur. This sort of behaviour has been specifically banned since the herd of Tory MPs were caught doing it in the early 90s. So, even if there is no criminal offence here, there has to be a painful sanction (losing the Whip, standing down -ideally immediately – public humiliation) pour encourager les autres.

    I’ve said before that my thought go back to my old grandfather when these stories emerge. On winning the vote to be elected leader if a small municipal council 40-odd years back, he came home to find that the town hall gardener had sent a bouquet of hand picked flowers as a congratulatory gift. He immediately walked back to the Town Hall and returned the flowers telling the gardener that he had to be, and be seen to be receiving no perks for being in his post.

    I’m still sufficiently idealistic to expect all elected representatives to follow the same rules. Especially ones who are already a damn sight wealthier than my grandfather ever was.

  39. Actually it struck me as a bit daft ( if I have understood the case & the allegations)

    Mercer failed to register & declare the putative lobby contract to advance Fiji’s return to the Commonwealth-then asks questions about Fiji in the House.

    Had he registered the interest , presumably everyone would have said -Fiji?-Newark?-what’s all this about?-look up his declaration & think-oh yep-that’s what it’s about.

    But with no register entry-they must have thought Fiji?-Newark?-he’s being paid to ask that.

  40. you guys still arnt getting my point. We need to get back to rationale debate based on fact, not on the lowest common denominator, which tends to be attempting to close down the debate with a slur. Discrimination based on anything is wrong, and that includes if somebody has a high income.

  41. Howard do I detect a touch of irony with your –

    ”Since Labour is on course for a comfortable if not landslide majority, then I suspect our musings on coalition are academic.”

    It is not my view which is that the Conservatives will probably out-poll Labour but not by much and the seat count will be close with at the moment Labour being imp favourites.

  42. @Jack R

    Let me think jimmy Saville – did he have friends in high places?

  43. Colin/Turk – do we not have have some kind of catch all abuse of office law to catch MPs etc. doing dodgy things

    The CPS may decide like they did with many MPs who committed moderate fraud that a prosecution is not in the public interest balancing time and cost with the severity of the offence.

    Of course it is all allegedly (got to keep the site safe after Bercow)

  44. JIM JAM

    Not sure-I rather thought that Turk & Lefty are correct-this is a breach of Parliamentary rules, for which he has imposed a Parliamentary sanction upon himself.

    I guess if the Standards Commissioner gives the thumbs down he will resign.
    Though he has said that he won’t stand again anyway-so it’s all a bit academic.

  45. Jack R

    Jail ( gaol is a bit old-fashioned don’t you think?) is the last step in the process. I am cynical to think that those in power are less likely to be charged with offences than those without power.

    Power can come in many forms, not necessarily all Tory, but class and money do talk

  46. JIM JAM

    I guess you weren’t implying that Mercer might have committed “fraud”.

    From what we know the offence is concealment of a financial interest from HoC.

  47. @Rich

    The impression I had that morally the MPs were the same but the rich and better connected ones got away with it and the not so were charged and jailed. I accept that there was a legal difference but my hypothesis is that the rich ones took early legal advice even pre-swindle and had used their connections. That is not a slur unless you actually think the word ‘posh’ is a slur in which case you are not being reasonable. (Eg Posh & Becks)

  48. While the Mercer case doesn’t yetappear to be on a par with the Hamilton and Aitken “cash for questions” scandals of the 90s, unless of course Panorama has further revelations up its sleeve on Monday, it does bring back the whiff of sleaze to the Tory Party at a time when the Government is mired in deep unpopularity, as Major’s hapless administration was when Hamilton and Aitken delivered their perverse coup de grace. The combination of perceived incompetence and corruption is politically toxic and I expect Panorama’s programme on Monday, probably to be watched by 3 million or more viewers, with excerpts aired to far bigger audiences on later peak time news bulletins, will attach very adhesive mud to Cameron’s party at a time when he least needs such damaging distractions.

    Of course the other political calamity for Cameron might come from Mercer having to resign his seat if the Panorama programmes suggests serious wrong-doing. A by-election in Newark will be political gold for Farage and has the capacity, if UKIP take it, to threaten Cameron’s leadership.

    As old Super Mac would have said; these bloody events, hey?!

  49. The SNP came out quite well from the expenses scandal but we only have 6 MP’s less than a 50th of what Labour had. So as I am not going to claim special integrity for my party, or for that matter concede any lack of morality.

    Another factor is personal wealth. I watched the clip this week on 10 O’Clock live of Boris being interviewed by Gavin Esler on his £250k contract for writing articles and he described it as “Chicken Feed”.

    Therefore would it really be unreasonable to suggest that;

    Party Miscreants = No of MP’s/Average Wealth.

    The largest party with the lowest wealth would have the highest percentage tempted.

    There were fewer Tories than Labour and they were wealthier so the benefit was less attractive.

    Someone on the bru would be tempted by cash in hand from a banker. That doesn’t make them a scrounges and the banker a paragon of virtue, given the chance to fix the Libor rate for the same proportional gain he would do the same.


  50. Colin – ”I guess you weren’t implying that Mercer might have committed “fraud”.

    Correct not Mercer – I was referring to expenses fiddlers some of which would have been fraudulent but no prosecution followed.

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