This morning’s YouGov poll figures for the Sun are CON 35%, LAB 39%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 10% – it looks as if we are back to the sort of voting intention figures YouGov were showing before the conference. Full tabs are here. Meanwhile yesterday’s twice-weekly Populus poll had topline figures of CON 33%, LAB 40%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 10%. Full tabs are here.


539 Responses to “Latest YouGov and Populus polls”

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  1. @ John Pilgrim – Thanks

    @Alec/LeftyLampton Years ago I had to do with something called a waste heat boiler. This used the heat intermittently produced by the steel making process to turn turbines. There were also supplementary gas boilers which were turned up or down according to the amount of heat produced from the furnace. Nothing was stored but the flow of electricity was smooth and a lot less gas was used than would have been the case if the furnace had not been involved.

    I assume that the most efficient national system would also involve some method of smoothing the energy from wind, waves etc but would combine it with a method of storing energy during slack times. There might also be some trade-off between the two. (For example, if all our day time demands could be met by renewables, we might be better off not using our supplementary sources at night on the additional task of creating energy for storage). However, like Carfrew, I am certainly not an engineer and have no idea if there is such a trade-off or how one would go about assessing it..

  2. @Richard – technical point – Smart meters don’t switch things on and off – they only allow accurate half hourly meter readings, which helps with real time consumption modelling. You’re thinking of smart grid, where we are looking at things like fridges automatically sensing when the grid is at capacity and switching off for a few minutes to help balance loads.

    This is an interesting aspect. I read an article on these recent where the authors were saying it was ‘big brother technology’ and questioning the human rights of power companies controlling your appliances. It was in the Daily Mail.

    @Spearmint – I’m pretty sure it would be much less efficient. To convert a tonne of water at ambient temperature to steam at 100C takes about 750kWh energy if I’ve got my sums right, and that only gives you a single cubic meter of water.

    Even if we stuck at 100C for the water vapour transfer (in reality you would need superheated steam to combat early condensation) you would need to shift an awesome amount of water vapour to run even a modest hydro system.

    For example, if you used your 1m3 of recondensed water to run a hydro turbine with a vertical head of 200m and running at 100l/s, you would get back a maximum output of 140kW, but you would only have enough water to run the turbine for 10 seconds – a painfully small output for all the heat energy consumed to evaporate the water.

  3. @CD

    “‘Market activities’ need to be policed in the same way as your Friday night pub, I would suggest. Ideally, you can express yourself in it, but you can’t overturn the next guy’s table – and a lot of market activities turn over a lot of tables.”

    I disagree. These ‘markets’ only operate with demand. Remove the demand, and the market fails. If they push the price of a loaf up to £10, people will bake their own, and the bread making companies face the choice of reducing their prices or going out of business.

    With energy, the system is such that the average punter hasn’t considered how to avoid using the market to their advantage. With a radiator in every room, and the consumer used to hot water on demand, they are easy meat for the energy companies.

    All it will take is enough advancement in alternative fuels, and the willingness of people to adapt their living situation to them, and the market will change to the consumers’ advantage.

    I’m not saying it’s just a matter of time, but the answer to the energy problem is simple. Meanwhile, the energy companies are making the money they want to make. The man who made fire was the most important person in the tribe. Nothing has changed.

  4. The energy companies always make the point that their prices are very cheap compared with Europe

    see

    h ttp://www.energy.eu/

    but this is after tax

    I wonder if anyone knows a site that gives the costs of gas and electricity before taxes across the EU.

  5. The average Labour lead for Yougov for October now stands exactly at 5%. So we are pretty much back to where we were before the conferences….the Tories were probably up very slightly with Yougov (and briefly!) after the Lib conference, but this soon faded.

    No real sign of the UKIP vote crumbling yet…if I were a Tory that’s what would worry me most.

  6. To extend the analogy a bit, the market in crack cocaine is a free one, untramelled by tax or monoploy rules.

    Apart from the risk of arrest it’s a capitalist dream.

  7. Hi Statgeek,

    I guess we’re getting off topic, but sure, the argument you use is the eternal one, that the market supervises itself. But it doesn’t.

    On the scenario you paint, yes, eventually the consumer leans how to dodge the blows, but the supplier, the industry, the investor with the power of possessions, is always ahead of the game. On my analogy, he’s got the muscle. By the time the consumer learns to dodge the blows, the investor has found another way to get what he wants. In a fight in the pub, the bully can be thrown out, but he remains a threat until he’s locked up.

    You mention the guy who invented fire. He deserves his reward and shouldn’t be shackled. But if he uses his control of fire to commandeer all the other resources by which his fellows live, society must limit his activities.

  8. The key point for national energy management is much the same as for transport networks – the real cost is in maintaining an infrastructure that can meet peak demand, with large volumes of capacity under utilised for the majority of the time. Pump storage already fulfills this role, but at best still only produces around 2% of peak demand, and this for very short periods only.

    @turk raises some interesting questions on the regulatory approach to energy. Dropping green levies is popular with Tories, who are, as we know, keen to be the ‘greenest government ever’. However, Turk’s idea is different, in that he wants these to be moved to direct taxation.

    There is a lot of merit in this, but it does go against decades of received orthodoxy, started by Thatcher primarily but continued under Blair, where reducing income tax was seen as critical, with the consequent loading of tax onto all manner of other hidden charges.

    The root cause of the current problems however really lies with the fact that a key utility was privatised with insufficient regulatory oversight, successive governments of left and right bowed to industry demands for even less regulation, and those same governments also relied on private enterprise to meet long term strategic planning needs, without either enforcing this or alternatively providing a guaranteed long term market framework within which such long term decisions could be rationalised and planned. Some of us warned of these risks at the time of privatisation – I personally put a 25 year horizon on this, so I was a bit premature, but I am finding it quite funny now that everyone is realising the private sector can’t deliver long term stability.

    To get back to @Turk’s point, I probably agree with him. If we want decarbonised energy, direct investment incentives, funded through general taxation is probably better than hidden cost on energy that distort the market. We could still have differential pricing for fossil fuel and renewable energy to act as a demand incentive, but we can’t rely on power companies to commit to the required investment.

    One other possibility is to reconfigure the energy market to be more like the railways. Here, companies have a duty to provide a specific service, and are licensed to do so. Placing an obligation to supply on power companies could help to protect supplies within a free market framework, but would require a regulator who knows what it’s doing. Ed M is absolutely right to identify the need for big market reforms, but he’s got to find the correct way to do this.

  9. SPEARMINT and RICHARD
    “As you can see, I’m not an engineer.”
    Maybe but you could be great inventor. All you have to do is scale your model down, say into a copper container with a funnel and evaporation chamber and a spout, find a spare tributary of the Spey, get some barley…snd, hey presto, a single malt!!!

    More seriously, as they say here;
    Thanks for this further link, Richard, which I will read in greater detail.
    The 1950 and 1980 votes may confirm the association that Goerres describes:
    older voters belong to a political generation whose party preferences are shaped by the party fortunes experienced in early elections……A cohort is influenced by electoral events and fortunes at the time when its members come
    of age politically’

    So that the 1950’s over 65s dating back to the years of the Great Depression, and the 1980’s cohort, dating back to the Attlee years, in their early voting experience, would on these grounds be expected to vote Labour rather than Conservative.
    You may be better able to see whether this is so than I.
    j.

  10. A completely free market (product (including resources), labour, money) would be swept away by a popular uprising or would lead to a war that exterminates the human race.

  11. @Alec, thanks for the clarification.

    I guess with any change it is all about education. If people realise that the cost of providing power stations for those peak times adds 20% to their bills I think they will be quite happy to have the electricity companies automatically turn off their fridges and heating for 10 mins to allow the Easterners audience to have their tea.

    Managing demand seems to be a lot cheaper than building energy storage solutions, and with blackouts apparently on the way due to lack of investment in generating plant, that would seem to be the low hanging fruit and needs to be rolled out quickly.

  12. @Statgeek – I’m afraid you are completely wrong on the operation of the energy markets.

    Whenever you study the theory of free markets, the first and most basic principle is nothing to do with demand – it’s to do with information. The theory of supply and demand is entirely contingent on the concept of a ‘perfect market’ – where every buyer knows instantly ever sellers price, and vice versa.

    Constructing a completely obscure pricing structure is one way that energy companies actively work to distort perfect markets, so actually identifying the value of differential contract options is almost impossible, even for professional market watchers.

    In addition, energy companies themselves are victims of a lack of market information, as they can’t decide whether to invest in 30 year long power plant projects, as they don’t know what the risks are. Only governments can take on this kind of investment risk.

    Three examples of complete market failure in the energy market;
    1) The higher the level of consumption, the lower the unit cost. So those making the biggest environmental impacts pay proportionately the least.
    2) The most expensive unit costs are those paid by poor people on pre payment meters. Despite the fact that there is no risk to the suppliers, no chance of default, no need for meter readings, and the supplier gets the money upfront and so gains on cashflow, energy companies insist on maintaining these prices at the highest unit cost, for the people who can afford the least. Customers can switch, but are actively discouraged by power companies threatening to take their meter away and other tricks.
    3) Decommissioning costs for the Sellafield nuclear power plant are estimated at £65B. The taxpayer has an open ended commitment to cover this, on behalf of the privatised nuclear industry – because the free market can’t handle this.

    [Incidentally, it’s worth bearing this in mind next time someone complains about green energy subsidies.]

  13. @richard – I’ve often pondered why we can’t just get organised and introduce staggered time zones.

    If we could agree to perhaps put Scotland onto a separate time zone and dispense with the BST/GMT split in England, and then within England encourage a system where schools, offices and factories in different counties (or even within counties, if possible) start and close at staggered time intervals over the space of a couple of hours, we could reduce peak demand by a considerable amount.

    I also considered regionally staggered TV schedules, as some of the biggest peaks are in response to high profile media events. In my mind, this was working very well until I thought about sporting events. Not quite sure whether we could persuade FIFA to have three separate kick off times for a world cup final, but then as England are never going to get to the final, perhaps this won’t matter?

  14. Amber Star
    Good idea about the tea flasks.

    I am wondering whether the extra cost of energy supply (because the grand old duke of york method does cost extra) to people who watch soaps should not be incurred by them. By having a special tariff for 1930 to 2030 (I have no idea when the soaps come on – it’s during then isn’t it?) then those of us who do not touch the kettle or filter coffee maker after 1900 would benefit equitably.

  15. @richard – one other thought about smart meters. As they allow measurement of short interval consumption, they will be very good for flexible price billing.

    As I work from a home office, I can be very flexible in my consumption patterns, and I would be very interested in a power tariff that offers me a punitive rate for peak time units in exchange for a discounted rate at all other times.

    We already have commercial tariffs where users agree to a quarterly maximum spot demand, and if they exceed this they are faced with large penalties, thus helping suppliers reduce the peak demand levels, but these kinds of arrangements would be much more available to the domestic sector with smart meters.

  16. Advice please – this energy market discussion board is really great, but someone was telling me about a website you can go to and discuss opinion polls – any ideas?

  17. The other problem with free market theory is that it assumes that both demand and supply are totally elastic, but in the real world demand for energy can never fall below a certain minimum(there is a limit to how many woolly jumpers you can wear or how much raw food you can eat) supply is also subject to real world constraints, the same applies to water and food, again there is a lower limit for consumption of calories and H2O beyond which people die, therefore no matter what the price they must either pay or die

  18. Alec

    In a way we are discussing polls, because it seems that the effectiveness of free markets and what constitutes a free market is the major issue of our times

  19. Colin Davies

    Of course you have to regulate markets and markets are regulated at present My question was is the way forward to have more regulation in an attempt to by the UK government to control energy prices when infact regulation in the form of green taxes on energy companies have increased the cost to the consumer by about 10%.

    If you increase regulation to have more energy companies competing in order to lower prices but insist that those companies spend more money on building new plant and increase the amount they spend on carbon reduction this seems to pay no heed to the cost energy companies have to pay on the world markets for that energy.

    Again I return to my point that if you want a fairer energy bills for the less well off then you fund carbon reduction from general taxation which will be a saving of about £120 pounds a year for the average family in real terms a much better way of reducing energy prices than say freezing prices for 17 months.

  20. @CD

    “In a fight in the pub, the bully can be thrown out, but he remains a threat until he’s locked up.”

    “But if he uses his control of fire to commandeer all the other resources by which his fellows live, society must limit his activities.”

    Again, I must disagree. If the people in the pub can defend themselves, the bully cannot bully.

    If the man with the fire commandeers (all? – surely that’s going a bit far) the resources of the tribe, the tribe is forced to learn how to live without him.

    Your solutions seem to be based on shackling one that is more powerful to your level, rather than pulling yourself up to his level and competing or combating him. A race to the bottom, if you will.

    I prefer a race to the top.

  21. When YG ask the question – “Which of these would make the best Prime Minister ?” I think it would be interesting to include Mr Farage in the list.

  22. Hi again Statgeek,

    I have to be careful now I’ve started using analogies, obviously, but, yes, of course, if the people in the pub can defend themselves the bully can’t bully. Defending themselves may not be possible other than by uniting to shackle the bully, however.

    A tribe can learn to live without the man who invented fire if and only if the man who invented fire hasn’t used his invention to appropriate to himself the lion’s share (I’ll happily avoid all) of the resources by which they live. So long as resources are infinite, the market philosophy is ok – give or take a

  23. Sorry I’ve pressed a button wrongly I’ll continue…

  24. Soorry about that.

    So long as resources are infinite, the market philosophy is ok – give or take allowances we all (generally) want to make for those who are old, sick or incapacitated. When resources are finite, indeed very limited, then the man who appropriates the lion’s share is preventing others from surviving.

    The race to the top has to be curbed, therefore. Doing that is in no way the same as racing to the bottom.

  25. The whole problem with the energy market as it stands at the moment is the energy companies have only two considerations, the customers and the shareholders, they have absolutely no obligation to UK PLC other than what the UK Law forces, and like any commercial companies the shareholders come first.

    I can remember the selloff, and the rhetoric used, it will be better for the UK, it will be cheaper, and less or no subsidies, this has never actually happened in any of the utility companies or the rail industry, the people end up paying the infrastructure bill or suffer when things go wrong, and no offense but it is not right or fair in what is a closed market.
    All we do is subsidise shareholders…

  26. Alec
    Snap (on energy tariffs).

    Alright then,on polls, if today’s poll is broadly repeated until the ST one, then I think we definitely can conclude we are back to square one (pre conference).

    It seems to me that, unless the Lab vote can be forced under 35% that what the rest do is not really any more significant than resulting in a possible Lab / Lib coalition, at the worst for Labour.

    I understand the feelings expressed by Norbold, but party managers will be more pragmatic if push comes to shove. It’s the Agreement in such a case that matters. With the lesson of student fees, I doubt if any party involved in negotiations would lay themselves so open to that which the LDs did. In fairness, one could say that the Cons made mistakes too that they may be regretting. I suspect that the hold that the LDs have over the Coalition on the EU issue is probably appreciated by the PM, rather than otherwise.

  27. Statgeek

    Ahh but in the pub just like at school the bully has his mates or rather those that think that by siding with the bully they will escape bullying themselves. And we know how bullies operate, they pick on the weakest and most isolated and everyone lets them do it because they are glad it isn’t them. I think this analogy is bit too distressing for me, I’ll leave it there

  28. “I disagree. These ‘markets’ only operate with demand. Remove the demand, and the market fails. If they push the price of a loaf up to £10, people will bake their own, and the bread making companies face the choice of reducing their prices or going out of business.”

    ——–

    Ah yes, the libertarian wet dream. Keep the markets in check by… Learning to do it all yourself!! Energy companies taking the mick? Build your own power plant. Drive yourself to hospital in your own ambulance and perform your own surgery when you get there!! Design your own car engine, collect your own refuse, carry water on your head, use cans and string for a telephone, and make those companies behave!!

    And then eventually you too could be living in your own purpose-built bunker, hunting to survive, opting out and selling beads or something make ends meet…

  29. @Turk – I don’t necessarily disagree with you, but I think you are making a mistake of focusing solely on one part of the energy cost base. Green commitments are a relatively small part of energy bills, with only a part of them going towards low carbon energy production. A lot of money is also spent on things like the ECO scheme, the Priority Services Register, and a host of other requirements that suppliers have to meet involving energy efficiency and demand reduction measures. Power companies lump all these into the ‘green taxes’ sum to try and convince people like you that they should be allowed to operate at very high profits, with no requirements to meet any social or environmental objectives.

    I would agree entirely that there is a difficult area of balancing regulation and market activity, especially in critical utilities. We do know however, from many examples now within the infrastructure sector, that private enterprise really struggles to maintain the required service provision over the long term.

    One key reform that Ed M might be looking at is to split power generation and wholesale power supply. The same big six generate energy as well as sell it on the markets, with complex internal company structures to maximise their profits and reduce their tax bills.

    This leads to a market situation where there are incentives not to create more supply, as this erodes their hold on the wholesale part of the market. Essentially we’ve allowed a market to develop that now has an internal logic at odds with what a proper free market would have and what we all need.

  30. “One key reform that Ed M might be looking at is to split power generation and wholesale power supply. The same big six generate energy as well as sell it on the markets, with complex internal company structures to maximise their profits and reduce their tax bills.”

    ——–

    Isn’t that the point? That Ed wants to do this, and the freeze is just a temporary measure to stop companies taking the mick in the meantime. Understandably, the Tory party want to focus on and hype the freeze, but it’s the unbundling that’s the real meat of it…

  31. @Carfrew – that’s exactly the point, agreed. I think Labour have struggled to get this part of the message across, although they have tried. Their opponents want to concentrate on attempting to buck global energy markets and the direct costs of green energy.

    There – I nearly got back to talking about polling!

  32. Further problems with the energy market:

    the high cost to new players of entering the market.

    absence of an effective market in “Feed-in-tariffs” for those who generate e.g. solar power. In Germany, a stupendous proportion of south-facing roofs are covered in solar panels – why not here?

    vertical ‘integration’ of energy producers and suppliers, so that the supposed wholesale market doesn’t really provide for competition.

  33. Floating Voter

    See http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/ p71

    Without taxes the UK has the Second Highest Energy Costs in the EU!

  34. @Alec

    “Whenever you study the theory of free markets, the first and most basic principle is nothing to do with demand – it’s to do with information. The theory of supply and demand is entirely contingent on the concept of a ‘perfect market’ – where every buyer knows instantly ever sellers price, and vice versa.”

    Information is driven by demand. The Internet is a perfect example of that. The demand for cheaper, easier access to consumer goods has pushed a good whack of shopping online. Retailers reduce overheads via sales department costs, and channel it into web design instead. In the past, the companies had to send out endless armies of reps.

    The information is demand-driven. If it were not the case, there would be no need for the information.

    Take http://www.statgeek.co.uk (shameless plug) versus Amazon. The former provides a wealth of information, and at no cost. The latter provides products at cost. If the markets are information / cost driven, statgeek will one day out-score Amazon in the web rankings. No one goes near Amazon to be informed. They go there to get a better price on consumer goods. There is little demand for the knowledge and thus the information that statgeek.co.uk provides.

    Yes, information can drive demand up, but it’s part of the ‘churn’ of marketing (i.e. there will always be folk who ignore marketing, and folk who jump at every offer, and folk in between that take the ones that appeal to them).

    If an ISP has a new product line (we’ll call it “Unlimited Max Speed Everything for less than a Quid”), they need to get the message out that it’s there. In that sense it is information driven. However, if the market is saturated with other unlimited offers for less than a quid, the product’s value to the consumer is far less. There’s the hassle of changing suppliers, bank details, and all the tat. So while the product is good, and the amount of information out there might be massive, there’s little demand. It’s up to the supplier to create a more attractive offer.

    The nature of demand is slightly different with energy companies, in that it’s a market with a small number of big suppliers, so there seems to be little choice to the consumer.

    All the information in the world can’t change the fact that the consumer is cream crackered, and they can’t readily reduce their demand, without going to alternative fuels. Germany is probably going to be in Russia’s pocket for the next 50 years or more with their gas supplies. The country that has decent proportion of wind/water/wave power and nuclear power facilities will be less dependent. Even more so, if vehicles go electric. The emissions or carbon footprint aspect will not drive consumers to electric vehicles. The price and running costs will.

    And again, we’re back to demand. There’s no demand without the prices being competitive, and no amount of information available on the matter will convince people to change.

    Hopefully, 3G/4G solar cells will give people the opportunity to shift away from fossil fuels a little.

  35. “Information is driven by demand. The Internet is a perfect example of that. The demand for cheaper, easier access to consumer goods has pushed a good whack of shopping online. Retailers reduce overheads via sales department costs, and channel it into web design instead. In the past, the companies had to send out endless armies of reps.
    The information is demand-driven. If it were not the case, there would be no need for the information.”

    ———

    The Libertarian dream part 2: research yourself to death!!

    You think it’s bad now trying to work out a train journey? Boy have the neolibs got plans for you!! Look forward to a life where you have to research it all: which refuse collector, which ambulance, which everything, and keep checking to make sure prices haven’t gone up since the last time. That’s if they haven’t obscured the pricing anyway…

    And it won’t make much difference because the big fish eat the little fish and put up prices anyway. So you can spend your time researching energy prices as much as you like, but you’re still gonna pay through the nose.

  36. carfrew

    that’s the point, isn’t it?

    Just why SHOULD we all spend hours every week looking for cheapest gas/phone/electricity supplier?

    It’s all the same gas, phone, pipeline etc. The Market is a massive, rigged cartel and even if a cheap competitor appears they are either put out of business or bought out.

    There was nothing wrong with state owned gas, electricity, transport, phones.

    And analogue TV was a hell of alot more reliable than digital. What happened to “choice” when the analogue channels were turned off and everybody needed new ariels and rain interrupts Coronation Street?

  37. @Statgeek – I’m with @Carfrew on this – even with the internet, we still have numerous cases of miss selling and false market behaviour, which is only corrected when regulators move in and impose sanctions on suppliers.

    The other major part of my post that you ignored is the absence of key information regarding decade long risk and return cycles. You can have all the internet information you like, but energy companies still won’t know what energy prices will do in 30 years time, so they won’t commit to the investment. Only governments can take that kind of risk.

    I think there is a simple rule to apply when we talk about the balance between free markets and state regulation, and that is to look at the historical experience.

    We’ve tried free markets before. Free markets pre dated nation states and governments, and we’ve got a pretty good idea of how they worked. Indeed, it’s arguable that the modern nation state arose out of the need to construct an organisation capable of taking the necessary strategic decisions and to protect citizens from the markets. Things like Factories Acts, legislation on adulterated foodstuffs, and all manner of other legislation designed to protect citizens is testimony that at some level at least, free markets don’t work.

    The only debate is really how defective markets are and where the balance between free markets and regulation should lay. Trying to pretend markets can solve all problems because they just can is nonsensical – we have many centuries of data that disprove this.

  38. @ Carfrew

    I understood your point, but a little correction: in many countries it’s illegal to collect rainwater as it contradicts the contract with the water companies. I think rainwater collection and getting warm by sunshine are just two serious breaches of the perfect market hypothesis.

  39. New thread – Alec’s plea for a change of topic has been heard! ;-)

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