This week’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times is now up online here. Topline voting intention is CON 33%, LAB 39%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 12%

The leaders approval ratings are minus 20 for Cameron (from minus 17 last week), minus 34 for Miliband (from minus 31 last week) and minus 51 for Clegg (from minus 49). On the regular economic trackers optimism continues to creep upwards – the feel good factor (those thinking things will get better minus those who think things will get worse) is now minus 26, now the best (or least worst) figure since April 2010.

Much of the rest of the poll dealt with Ed Miliband and the Trade Unions. Most of Ed Miliband’s ratings remain poor, and if anything are getting worse rather than improving. Only 20% think he would be up to the job of Prime Minister (down from 25% in May). Only 18% think he has provided an effective opposition to the government. Only 10% think he is a strong leader, 47% a weak leader (even amongst Labour voters only 22% think he is strong, 26% weak).

I’ve written about Ed Miliband’s poor polling figures here several times before, so won’t repeat the same discussion at length. The short version is that yes, they are pretty bad… but Labour have a lead in the polls despite Miliband’s poor figures. The question, which cannot currently be answered, is whether they’ll matter more as we get closer to an election and people’s choice is (perhaps) as much about a choice between alternate governments as a verdict on the incumbent.

29% of people think that Ed Miliband has been too close to the Unions, 13% too distant and 22% about right. 36% say don’t know. Despite all the coverage of Falkirk, the Unite row and Tom Watson’s resignation (which happened just before fieldwork started), this is almost unchanged from when YouGov asked the same question last month, suggesting that in terms of if Labour are seen as close to the Unions the row has has not made any real difference yet. Of course, that’s not just what it’s about – the Conservatives are very clearly using it to try and make Miliband look weak. Depending on what does happen it is both a risk and opportunity for Miliband. Depending on the action he takes he could end up looking weaker… or stronger.

Looking more specifically at Labour’s links to the Trade Unions, 26% think they are good thing (including a narrow majority – 53% – of Labour voters), 35% think they are a bad thing (though this only includes 9% of Labour voters). 41% of people think the unions have a lot of influence in Labour, and this is mainly seen as a bad thing (35% bad, 6% good). 33% think they do not have much influence (21% think that’s a good thing, 12% a bad thing). By 46% to 27% people take a negative view of the amount of funding Labour receives from the Unions, and by 42% to 32% people think it is unacceptable for Labour MPs to be sponsored by Unions. Once again, Labour voters take a more supportive stance – 56% think there is nothing wrong with Labour’s funding from the Unions, 60% think it is acceptable for MPs to be sponsored by Trade Unions.

Is that any different to the way funding from businesses or rich individuals would be viewed? No, probably not. Polling last year found opinions of Labour’s relationship with donors was much the same as opinions about the Conservatives, and views about a cap on donations from unions was much the same as views about a cap on donations from business.


265 Responses to “YouGov/Sunday Times – CON 33, LAB 39, LD 11, UKIP 12”

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  1. No fan of Ed, but im surprised the Falkirk episode hasn’t helped him, although is still early, quite how the labour party’s debt problems will be helped by going up against the unions that fund it remains to be seen though

  2. Amazing how the “anti-Union” feeling in the UK remains so high.

    True, in the late 50’s, 60’s and 70’s they were dictatorial. But it has been the opposite ever since.

    For many years now, it has been the banks and the likes of the CBI who have dictated policy – as the unions once did.

    And yet still, through the largely Conservative media, the unions get a bad name.

  3. At least in theory, shareholders could stop a company donating to a political party though in practice it seems unlikely.

    Taxpayer funding seems to be the main alternative, if donations are capped from whatever source. In my opinion this would be a bad idea for several reasons. 1) Those with allegiance to one party would see some of their taxes going to fund another. 2) The governing parties would stitch it up somehow to prevent new parties getting any funding.

    PS. Anthony did you mean to say this?
    “by 42% to 32% people think it is unacceptable for Labour MPs to be sponsored by MPs”

  4. Good summary Anthony, I agree with all of it. The question none of us can answer, is will Ed’s, lets be frank, poor personal ratings come home to roost when we get to an election and the choice is starker?

    Economic optimism the highest for 3 years should help the Conservatives too.

  5. “Much of the rest of the poll dealt with Ed Miliband and the Trade Unions. Most of Ed Miliband’s ratings remain poor, and if anything are getting worse rather than improving. Only 20% think he would be up to the job of Prime Minister (down from 25% in May). Only 18% think he has provided an effective opposition to the government. Only 10% think he is a strong leader, 47% a weak leader (even amongst Labour voters only 22% think he is strong, 26% weak)”
    ___________

    Clearly not up to the job then? Some on here worship this guy as some sort of left wing crusader!!

  6. @”the feel good factor (those thinking things will get better minus those who think things will get worse) is now minus 26, now the best (or least worst) figure since April 2010.”

    Whilst EM’s poor ratings & headlines like Falkirk & Qatada are encouraging for Cons-in the run up to the GE it is this factor which will underpin a revival of Con fortunes , if there is to be one.

    The economic recovery has to be sustainable. It doesn’t have to be dramatic imo-but it does have to build solidly.

  7. Allan

    Maybe some on Here work out that Thatcher was Less Popular than Callaghan in 1979 and Blair and Major even at their least popular was regarded as a better PM than Cameron is now.

    You might think it’s a cult of personality but we don’t elect PM’s in this country and in General the results of GE’s are not determined by who is likely to be the Prime Minister afterwards.

  8. As Anthony says, the funding issue is a problem for both parties. It would be interesting to put the polling facts/ opinion together and see the result. ie.
    Do you think parties should be funded by ( in order of preference):
    The taxpayer
    Private Healthcare Providers
    Bankers
    Unions
    Their members?
    Of course, their members can include very wealthy individuals.

  9. COLIN

    “Whilst EM’s poor ratings & headlines like Falkirk & Qatada are encouraging for Cons-in the run up to the GE it is this factor which will underpin a revival of Con fortunes , if there is to be one”
    _______

    Absolutely agreed. The more exposure Labour and the Unions bad marriage receive then the more the public revolution towards them both will increase.

    DC probably thinks Christmas has come early.

  10. # revulsion

  11. STEVE

    I do believe charisma has a lot to do with the voters perception on who they elect but of course so does trust and although Cameron as you rightly put… “Blair and Major even at their least popular was regarded as a better PM than Cameron is now” he is still ahead of EM on the PM front.

    [Snip – AW]

  12. While things may look mildly better for the government, they have a long way to go. Looking at the YG figures, 63% think the economy is bad compared to 9% who think it is good. 58% think the coalition is managing the economy badly, 32% think it is doing well. 41% think their household’s financial situation will get worse in the next 12 months, 15% think it will improve. Some of those figures are heading in the right direction but there is a long way to go before any sort of “feelgood factor” takes hold.

    Meanwhile, my neighbouring authority has just closed 4 libraries and is saying that, by 2016, most Sure Start centres will have to close. Visiting a park with the kids yesterday, I notices a sign saying there are no longer any park wardens on site looking after the park. The danger for the government is that, even if there is a technical ‘recovery’, many people experience a slow diminution in their quality of life as cuts intensify.

    With regard to Labour’s difficulties over candidate selection, I think there is an element of displacement here. The union issue is getting a lot of attention because the party isn’t doing much else newsworthy (such as unveiling some voter-friendly policies). EM needs to give people something to talk about other than the Falkirk issue!

  13. The cartoon in todays Telegraph is brilliant!

  14. Allan

    Don’t be daft.

    Bob Crow is not a member of the Labour Party He is a Communist and His Union the NUR isn’t affiliated to Labour as it was disaffiliated by the Labour Party in 2004 and Neither are or are likely to be MP’s.

    [Snip – and more generally, can I remind people they are supposed to be posting in the *spirit* of non-partisanship. If your body of comments would not look out of place emerging from the press offices of the Conservative or Labour parties you are not following the rules of the site – AW]

  15. I think May has done well today. Should go down well with the vast majority of the country. I guess you might say it was a cross party approach given the years of legal loopholes to get through, but i take my hat off to her going to Jordan personally. Showed commitment.

  16. AW

    “Snip – and more generally, can I remind people they are supposed to be posting in the *spirit* of non-partisanship. If your body of comments would not look out of place emerging from the press offices of the Conservative or Labour parties you are not following the rules of the site – AW]”
    _______

    Okay I agree but I’m no Tory. I lambast all political parties but Labour provide the most ammo.

  17. @ Colin

    I agree with you on economic ratings being the key. Be interesting to guess what figure (does it need to be positive?) would be a turning point for the Tories. The polls say a large number of the electorate still blame Labour for the state of the economy today so there will be factors in the Tories favour that suggest the figure does not need to be positive.

    The thing with the 80’s was that things were very bad for a lot of people but never enough to affect the outcome of the election as many more people were doing well. This is not the case this time around. There are only a small percentage of super rich that have not noticed the difference to their personal wealth. The vast majority of middle classes have seen their standards of living fall and however much the headline figures improve it seems unlikely that rises in personal income will have started to grow above inflation etc by 2015.

    The other big question is how solid is the Lab vote. There has not been the traditional switch between Lab and Con or the other way round that normally happens with poll movements. This time it is Lib Dem to Lab almost exclusively reflecting the changes in the polls (plus of course the UKIP effect) which still means my judgment is that Lab have it in the bag as I don’t see those people moving back.

  18. Colin

    I agree with your last comments I think there is some reason to believe the Tory’s have turned a corner in there fortunes, the economy is in better shape and Labour have begun to look divided and EM is still unable to resinate with the public.
    More encouraging the polls are beginning to look closer than last year.

    We are coming up to a busy time on the farm so even retired pensioners have to muck in, I won’t be around for a while, unless I can figure out how this mobile phone my daughter brought me works, apparently you can use it on a tractor in the middle of a field to access the internet who’d have thought eh.

    Keep the flag flying for our small band, back soon. Happy summer to everybody.

  19. STEVE

    “Allan

    Don’t be daft.

    Bob Crow is not a member of the Labour Party He is a Communist and His Union the NUR isn’t affiliated to Labour as it was disaffiliated by the Labour Party in 2004 and Neither are or are likely to be MP’s”
    _______

    I never said he was!!

  20. Apologies for reacting Anthony. I did so before you wielded your moderation shears.

  21. AW

    Normally I agree with your judgment (it’s your site after all) but this morning I do think you have been harsh. The situation regarding the Labour Party and Unions, the Conservative Party portrayal of it and Labour’s response are the subject of comment in the polls and my first comment wasn’t partisan (well maybe a line of it was a bit) but attempted to demonstrate the historical reasons for the differences in funding and affiliations.

  22. Chordata

    “Apologies for reacting Anthony. I did so before you wielded your moderation shears”
    ________

    Yeah I seen that, you got the shears and I got a snip lol. ;)

  23. Anyone know roughly what percentages of donations the political parties use to fund various costs? I guess aside from pure campaigning there must be a percentage spent on basic Admin, research etc? Genuine research is important to come up with policies that are practical and work.

    I personally think it would be a disaster for politics if the Unions funding for labour were cut with nothing to replace it (and hopefully some Tories might agree as well!). It would leave Labour chasing big business for donations and a lurch to the right which, whatever your politics, is not healthy for political choice/representation. We also saw a few controversies with New Labour when they did accept those big donations (Formula 1 to name one example).

    To restore democracy I’d argue the best solution would be something along the lines of a low limit on maximum donations (say £50) from an individual which would completely solve the problems of influence from one source or another. However I am sure there are ways around this with Unions or big business/wealthy individuals spending their money on publicity that directly links to their chosen party’s manifesto or agenda.

  24. I know people in the RMT and Unite. Bob Crow is very popular with RMT members. Len is relatively popular with Unite members.

    The issue surely is that Unions are there to get the best deal.for their members and it would seem odd if the public objected to Union leaders trying to so just that. They engage in collective negotions with emoloyers where the individual emoloyee cannot negotiate directly on equal terms. Again, I find it difficult that people generally would obkect to that – particularly in these times ans where Union recognition is optional (in the private sector anyway).

    As far as Labour is concerned, the Unions have very little influence over policy, and in any event the policies advocated by the Unions (at least some of the main ones) are supported bt many people – especially Lavour people. How many Labour voters objected to the minimum wage and the Social Chapter? How many Labour voters object to a curb in the wages/powers of public sector bosses? So to say or believe that the Unions control Labour is an anachronism.

    The wider public are suspicious of the Unions as the polling shows, as they do not wish for a pressure/lobby group to be that closely linked to a political party. It gives the perception of favouritism. And that’s totally understandable. As a result, what Labour must do is explain the relationship and how (in their view) it benefits the nation, while also pointing out the far worse situation (in their view) of those who caused the recession (or slow growth) dictating Tory economic policy. Or how (in Labour’s view) private heathcare organisations are dictating NHS policy.

    How Labour deals with this issue may determine the next election.

  25. Labour were far more in hock to the Trade Unions in the 50s, 60s and 70s – at a time when the unions really did have great power within the national economy. Despite this much more obvious sign of influence voters were not deterred from electing Labour Governments in 1964, 1966 and 1974.. Why should the union link be likely to scare voters now when the evidence strongly suggests that they have become toothless tigers?

  26. As ever, now he’s back to form and rid of his anti-Brown obsession, Rawnsley writes well in the Observer today. He spies mortal danger for Miliband in the current Falkirk/Unite affair but also, like me, spots than an enormous opportunity for the Labour leader and his party. The Labour and Trade Union link is something of a political anachronism and, ironically, not really beneficial to either party. Of course, there are shared and mutual political interests at play and these needn’t be undermined by a much looser relationship; one that doesn’t involve financial backing and direct involvement in the election of the Labour leader or the sponsorship of MPs. If Labour is to be a truly independent Social Democratic party, able to swim free in the political seas, it has to be seen to be free of any hint of control by vested interests, however benevolent, well meaning and democratic those interests and organisations may be. The image of Union barons calling in favours is a potentially disastrous one for Labour.

    The loosening of this relationship, maybe leading to a formal severance, will be a long and tricky process, but if Miliband can make headway on this and show some real courageous leadership then, as the old saying goes, in one leap he could be free. It could eventually define his leadership and leave the Tory Party looking the tired old narrow based party some would claim it to be, dependent on large wealthy backers and holed up in Southern England fiefdoms. One Nation, indeed.

    Of course, state funding of political parties is a dog that has to be bark here if the main political parties can be weaned off their current cabal of financial sponsors. Miliband could take a lead on this too and expose Cameron again as the resister to change.

    As I say, dangerous and high stake times for the Labour leader, but all those of us who wish him well can only hope that cometh the hour cometh the man.

  27. @crossbath,

    I read the Rawnsley piece too. I agree, it’s both a risk and an opportunity for EM. But I think on balance the risk posed is greater, but only time will tell.

    Rich

  28. CROSBAT11
    ‘The image of Union barons calling in favours is a potentially disastrous one for Labour.’

    Why did it not prove disastrous for Attlee, Gaitskell, Wilson and Callaghan in times when the unions had real power? Surely those were the days when the union link should have weighed Labour down – not now when they are largely – alas- a spent force!

  29. SHEVII

    @”Be interesting to guess what figure (does it need to be positive?) would be a turning point for the Tories. ”

    An interesting question.
    My own feeling would be that a degree of improved optimism is already apparent in OPs, so it may not need a particular number, provided employment is moving in the right direction, and mortgage rates stay low.
    Of course the improved optimism may , in part derive from headlines, so bigger numbers might mean greater optimism.

    Who knows?

    On the matter of inter-party churn, I probably agree with you about the stickiness of LD to Lab defections. I don’t think Con to UKIP will be quite as adhesive though.

    TURK

    Glad you got some decent weather at last. Hope you have a decent farming year.
    Will do my best with my small flag !

  30. CB11

    @”The image of Union barons calling in favours is a potentially disastrous one for Labour.”

    I’m sure that is true.

    But this isn’t the issue-it is who is running the Labour Party and deciding it’s policy platform.

    John Reid excellent on this issue on Sunday Politics, where a telling point was made for me by one of the pundits :-

    If EM has poor Poll ratings NOW on “Leadership” qualities ( 10% “Strong”) and PM potential ( 20% -“up to the job” ), and he cannot demonstrate them in his clash with McCluskey-how does he project an ability to deal with Putin, Merkel and the rest.

    On a footnote-what an impressive communicator Reid is ( and was). And what a fearsome political opponent too.

    EM misses people like him.

  31. Crossbat

    “Of course, state funding of political parties is a dog that has to be bark here if the main political parties can be weaned off their current cabal of financial sponsors.”

    Something that has been given no media attention at all is a written Parliamentary statement by Clegg on Thursday:

    “I am disappointed that, as on previous occasions, there has been no agreement between the three parties on beginning party funding reform.

    Although it is now clear that reforms cannot go forward in this Parliament, I hope that the principles explored can inform further discussions on this topic and that the parties will then return to this issue after the next election. ”

    http://www.parliament.uk/documents/commons-vote-office/July_2013/04-07-13/7.DPM-Funding-of-Political-Parties.pdf

  32. Graham,

    Things didn’t go great under Wilson and Callaghan after being stared down by the trade unions in 1969: the Labour party VI underwent a secular decline from 48% to 28% in 1983, despite the Tories not covering themselves in glory in that period.

    Interestingly, in terms of actual influence on Labour leadership elections, the trade unions had less power in the period you’re talking about. It was only in the early 1980s that affiliates got a direct say in deciding Labour leaders, and Ed Miliband was the first Labour leader to be selected purely as a result of being the most popular among the trade unions.

    Trade unions may be a spent force in terms of no longer having power over incomes policies or taxation or the ability to grind the economy to a halt and bring down governments, but they aren’t a spent force in terms of influencing the Labour party, which is no small power.

  33. @ Chordata

    Something that has been given no media attention at all is a written Parliamentary statement by Clegg on Thursday…
    —————
    Thanks, that’s what I was referring to in my comment about Union funding for the Labour Party needing to clearly be fees for members, rather than viewed as donations, because Labour wants to join the LDs in pushing funding reform through.

  34. You could spend days, weeks and months travelling around retail parks and light industrial SMEs speaking to people on low/minimum wages without meeting a single union member. If you asked them if they had ever considered joining a union you would be met with a blank stare. To these people unionised labour is a priviledged class, and even if they would like to enjoy some of the benefits and security which membership can bring, they would never go against the culture of their workplace and agitate. More likely mention of the unions stirs a vague resentment.

  35. Good Afternoon All.

    The Electoral College for the election of the leader was foisted on Labour by the Bennite movement, but there was a move, of sorts, to OMOV under John Smith.

    At least the sun is shining. However, I think it is now too late for Tony Blair to return to save Labour from defeat. David Miliband is in the USA, apparently, and big hitters like Reid and Darling are on the back benches. No wonder the Cons and Lib Dems are happy.

  36. ChrisLane1945,

    If Labour were to ditch Miliband now and replace him with Tony Blair, I think they’d win by a landslide. “Happy days are here again!” could be the slogan.

  37. State funding of political parties is needed – and all other funds banned.

    No funding for any party getting less than 5%; all funding being based on how many votes a party got in the previous election. Not seats, just votes…

  38. @chrislane1945

    Peter Shore, in Leading the Left, devotes a fair amount of space to the introduction of the electoral college. Callaghan, Healey and Foot were all convinced of the need protect the interests of the PLP (Foot seemed to think MPs would end up with a 50% share), but failed to act.

  39. Tony Blair never broke off the relationship between the Party & the Unions; I’m amazed that some of Blair’s peers seem to be dreaming that Ed Miliband will do it.

  40. Chris lane

    You are talking nonsense, Blair is now despised of the used car salesman he proved to be, if you really want Labour to become the third party by all means bring back blair

  41. Jack

    That was a partisan comment which I wholeheartedly support

  42. If Andy Murray did win today, would the Tories benefit in terms if polling, due to increased public morale ?

    I don’t know whether sporting events of any type have an individual effect, but with the good weather and signs that the economy has turned a corner with possible growth increasing, the polling gap may narrow.

  43. Bill Patrick,

    I accept that unions have only had a direct share in the selection of Labour Leaders since the creation of the Electoral College in the early 80s. However, the union bloc vote as a % of votes at party conference has been much reduced from the 90% level it was for many years – I believe the figure is now more like 50%.

    As for the decline in Labour’s vote share to 28% in 1983, the 48% relates to the 1951 election. National shares for both Labour and Tories were artificially high throughout the 50s – and to a lesser extent the 60s -simply because there were few other party candidates in the field for voters to support. In 1951 the Liberals only contested 109 of 625 seats – in 1955 they contested 110 of 630 seats. In the remaining 500 seats Liberal voters could only abstain or vote for a second preference (which is what most did).

    The fact remains that in the 50s and 60s well over 40% of the electorate supported a Labour party much more influenced by the unions than is the case today – despite having the alternative of a Conservative party well to the left of the Labour party of today!

  44. Excellent questions Colin.

  45. Apparently Thatcher was the beneficiary of fraud in her selection for Finchley in the late-1950s.

  46. @Colin
    Your distorted interpretation of this morning’s poll seems a little desperate. By adding together ‘neither’ plus ‘weak’ plus don’t know you concoct a misleading figure of 78% being unfavourable towards EM.

    By the same twisted logic this morning’s poll shows that a mere 24% of Tory voters think that DC is doing ‘very well’ as PM. By your ‘logic’ 76% of Tory voters have a negative view of him.

  47. Politics have been changed by the inception of the 5 year term. Parties must play a long game, making short term projection problematical. Only May 2015 will show us how it works and which of the parties has got it right. Until then may we live in interesting times

  48. If Blair came back to lead the Labour Party, we’d see a big jump in LD VI and a big drop in Labour’s in my opinion. There are still many Labour supporters who can never forgive Blair over Iraq and wouldn’t want him back at any price.

  49. That is the main question I would put to EM’s detractors, on the left and the right. Who else could lead the party? Of the candidates still in politics, he was easily the most popular.

    I don’t know that he’s great by any stretch but given that Labour ought to be out of power for a generation if the press is to be believed, the fact that they’ve recovered as quickly as they have indicates they could be doing much worse.

    In a related question, do we have any data on DC’s popularity ca. 2007/8?

  50. @MRNAMELESS

    Alan Johnson.

    Would loved to have seen him lead the Labour party, would guarantee my vote for Lab.

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