With nearly all the newspaper commissed opinion polls covering the Conservative leadership election, it’s easy to forget that the Labour party conference was also dominated by questions about their party leadership – when exactly should Tony Blair step down, and should Gordon Brown replace him?

Since the Labour conference there have been two polls about the Labour party leadership. The first, by MORI, found that 36% of respondents wanted Tony Blair to step down immediately, with a further 12% wanting him to go by the end of 2005 or 2006, suggesting that just under half of people want Blair to go sooner rather than later. 6% of people said they wanted Blair to stay right up until the next election, with a further 6% wanting him to stand down after the next election. A mysterious 19% of people said “Other”.

Populus’s poll published yesterday had similar findings on the proportion of people who wanted Blair to go soon – 45% of people wanted Tony Blair to stand down before the end of next year. 23% wanted him to stand down near the end of the Parliament, while 24% wanted him to reconsider his decision and stay on beyond the next election (my guess, therefore, is that the mystery 19% of people in MORI’s poll were people who didn’t want Blair to step down after the next election, but to carry on even longer).

More important for the Government is what Labour voters think. MORI didn’t break down the figures according to party, but Populus found that 30% of Labour voters wanted Tony Blair to go now, while 41% wanted him to reconsider his decision to stand down and remain past the the next election. Only 27% supported Blair’s stated intention of standing down towards the end of the Parliament.

Did the conference make any difference to the position? It’s hard to say, but the trend does seems to be moving away from Blair – back in July Populus found 48% of Labour voters wanted Blair to stay on past the next election and only 24% wanted him to go before 2006.

Finally, what do people think about Tony Blair’s likely successor? MORI asked people if they thought Gordon Brown or Tony Blair would make a better Prime Minister. People were actually quite evenly split – 39% said Blair, 42% said Brown. There was, however, a sharp contrast between supporters of different parties. Unsurprisingly Tony Blair appealled more to Tory voters than Gordon Brown by 45% to 37%. Amongst Lib Dem voters Brown is easily preferred to Blair, 53% to 27%. And amongst Labour’s own voters? Well, despite Brown’s popularity most Labour voters still seem to think that Blair would be better at the top job, by a margin of 56% to 37%.


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