ComRes have a poll in the Independent/Sunday Mirror tonight. The finding that has got the most attention is a question asking who people think would do “a better job at managing the NHS this winter”. 31% of people picked Jeremy Corbyn and Labour, 43% of people picked Theresa May and the Conservatives.

This is a very unusual result. The NHS is, essentially, Labour’s issue of last resort. Whatever happens, however bad things look, the public will almost always say they trust Labour more on the NHS. Over on Ipsos MORI’s website they have data on the question going back to 1978… and you have to go back to 1978 to find the Tories ahead. If you go back to the time of the Brown government when the Conservatives were on a high there were a couple of polls from other companies when the Tories scraped a lead on the NHS, but it is extremely rare. A twelve point Tory lead on the NHS would be unheard of.

The reason for this strange result is probably the wording. YouGov ask “best party on issues” regularly, and still consistently find Labour ahead. Just this month they found 28% trusted Labour most on the NHS compared to 20% for the Tories. The difference with the ComRes question is that they did not ask just which party people trusted on the NHS, the choice was between “Theresa May & the Conservatives” or “Jeremy Corbyn & Labour” to manage the NHS. The introduction of the two leaders into the question probably explains why May & the Conservatives were ahead.

While this probably explains the difference, it should be scant comfort for Labour. If the mention of Jeremy Corbyn in a question is enough to make respondents doubt whether they’d trust Labour with the NHS – normally a banker for them – then imagine what he would do to people pondering whether they would trust Labour on the economy, security or whatever.

The other questions on the NHS were far more typical. While 71% agreed that the NHS provides a high standard of care, by 47% to 36% people did think the Red Cross were right to say the NHS was in crisis. That May/Conservative lead on the NHS should not be taken as an endorsement of their management either: only 12% of people agreed that Jeremy Hunt was doing well as Health secretary and 56% of people agreed with a statement that NHS care is worse than ten years ago.

Another question asked about high pay and is more encouraging for Jeremy Corbyn. A YouGov poll in the week asked about a pretty tough policy on high pay (a maximum earnings limit of £1m a year) and got a negative response: only 31% thought it a good idea, 44% a bad idea. ComRes asked about a much subtler policy (giving tax benefits or government contracts to companies with a maximum ratio of 20 to 1 between top and average salaries) and this got a much better reception, 57% thought they should, 30% thought the government should not interfere.

Opinium also have a new poll out tonight for the Observer – details here. They have topline voting intention figures of CON 38%(nc), LAB 30%(-1), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 14%(+1). The eight point lead is lower than most other polls show, but this seems to be a consistent pattern from Opinium – presumably for methodological reasons – rather than a drop since their previous poll.

301 Responses to “Labour are probably still ahead of the Tories on the NHS. Jeremy Corbyn, on the other hand…”

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  1. @ Mark W

    ‘Its a tiresome meme, that JC or Labour don’t want to be elected.’

    Well said :) I certainly am working very hard to get Labour elected and I’ve never heard any members that I know suggest otherwise.

  2. Colin,

    I would hope that rich countries continue to support all humanitarian efforts to help victims whatever the aetiology of the conflicts that created them.

  3. Three polls over the last couple of days showing Tory leads of 8 – 9 – and 11 points. On average that gives a lead of circa 10% which would imply a Tory majority of 40 approx.

  4. JIM JAM

    Yes it seems all too true that in continental Europe , particularly Belgium, it has been all too easy for terrorist cells to enter & plot.

    What we have learned about the lack of co-operation on security & policing across Belgium’s multiple layers of regional & national government, and indeed between member states of the EU has been shocking.

    I believe the evidence is clear & unequivocal that the tide of humanity which responded to Merkel’s open invitation to enter Germany if you can get here; drowning their children & walking the survivors across Europe-absolutely increased the risk to European citizens. A risk which crystalised in Paris & Brussels for far too many entirely innocent people.

  5. CMJ

    Absolutely agree. The tiny shift in support towards Labour shown in the YG poll is well within the MOE. Mike Smithy has a habit of ranting on that twitter feed of his over nothing.
    “Mike Smithson should know better”

    You would had thought so after his EU referendum prediction car-crash. ;-)

  6. MARKW

    @”If they loose both I expect the PLP will go into meltdown and look for more off piste ways to depose JC.”

    I agree-but what about the Membership?-that is the key to JC’s future.

    imo-the Unite leadership election may be more significant than the PLP.

  7. ‘The tiny shift in support towards Labour shown in the YG poll is well within the MOE.’

    But according to Yougov Labour has jumped from 24% to 28% in less than a month.

  8. Colin, the people of Syria were fleeing because they were being killed and their cities destroyed.

    I live next door to one of the ‘ red door ‘ houses that gives refugees medium term accommodation so perhaps my personal experiences of them makes me more inclined to be understanding of their plight.


    MOE in these cases is +/- 3%

    So an increase from 24% to 28% could actually be a decrease from 27% to 25% as I understand it.

  10. COLIN

    “So-if Labour lose either-or both of the two upcoming by elections, what do you think the reaction in the Membership & the PLP will be?”

    I personally think A&E will be bracing themselves!! ;-)

    Seriously though….I expect Labour to hold onto both seats but see an increase in the UKIP vote. TM inadvertently might have saved Labour’s blushes with her hard Brexit stance and that might be enough for voters in both by-elections not to drift off in huge numbers to UKIP in protest over a soft Brexit deal.

    UKIP are a useful barometer on gauging how well the government are doing over Brexit

    The biggest test will be the Lib/Dem vote. Will their anti Breixt message have any traction in the up coming by-elections or will they end up a busted flush?

  11. Colin, I think the bulk of membership would support the leader as he was elected, twice, in spite of some pretty awful actions by the plp.

  12. @Markw – “Alec, it wasn’t JC or the Labour party who said that, it was Danny’s observation that you have gone all postal with.”

    Maybe you hadn’t noticed, but there have been a few posts of late from Labour sympathizers raising the question of whether it is better to lose with JC or try and win with a different leader.

    And I did say ‘if and when that judgement is made’, if you want to talk about nuances.

  13. MARKW

    I think I understand their desire for a better life. And of course the devastation of ones homeland is something which, for most Europeans is now-thank God-a 70 year old memory.It will have been seared on their consciousness .

    But I have questions about the wisdom of leaving the secure ( if uncomfortable) environment of a UN Refugee Camp, to take young children in a small rubber dinghy across the Aegean prior to a trek across Europe.

    And I do think that Merkel’s misjudged offer to them was clearly the catalyst for their extraordinary decision.

  14. GRAHAM

    “But according to Yougov Labour has jumped from 24% to 28% in less than a month”

    According to YG remain had it in the bag. According to YG the Tories and Labour were neck and neck going into the 2015 GE.

    Are we now suddenly to believe what YG are showing to be gospel? Okay lets take out the MOE….Labour have shifted 1%over the past month. Crikey they are on a roll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  15. No Alec, I dont clearly recall that, I do recall people saying that a return to New Labour’s doctrines would be unacceptable to the majority of members and would not be likely to increase VI.

  16. Colin

    Indeed that is true – but for several weeks Yougov appeared to be indicating a bigger Tory lead than other pollsters. It now appears to be more in line.

  17. ALLAN


    The analysis of these two results will be of Herculean proportions-it will be fascinating.


    That is my perception of the membership’s stance-the newer ones anyway. I think Alec has a point there-they just want purity of belief .
    . They may have to ask themselves at some point in the future whether it follows that they must therefore have permanent protest in opposition.

  18. The 24% was at low end of MOE when you look at averages and other polls so 24-28 is meaningless on it’s own. It does seem that Labour is close to it’s core, though, with no falls in recent weeks. A By-Election defeat or 2 could alter this of course.

  19. Colin, It is another meme to describe JCs supporters as purists or ideologues or sadly trots.

    On the whole I think people support JC as he represents a break with the past. Many lab supporters have been fed up for years with the triangulation and focus group gov of the blair years and were looking for labour to once again distinguish itself from the opposition.

  20. Sorry colin, I didnt mean to say that you said trots.

  21. “MOE in these cases is +/- 3%

    So an increase from 24% to 28% could actually be a decrease from 27% to 25% as I understand it.”

    I think this a slightly skewed way of looking at it. If you do a proper test comparing the two samples the difference would surely come out as highly significant.

    However focusing on just two polls is of limited use

  22. @Allan Christie
    It seems that the definition of a decent performance for LibDems is very different between these two by-elections.

    Copeland is a horrible seat for them, regularly one of their worst ten seats in the country; it was also strongly Leave. Even 10% of the vote would be a good result for them here.

    Conversely, in 2010 they got between 20 and 25% of the vote in Stoke Central and came second; they SHOULD be looking to demonstrate that they are making a decent recovery against 2015, so 20% should be the minimum target for them.

    However it is a strongly Leave area, which might come in to play; if they get squeezed by UKIP below – say – 15% here, this will indicate some bounds to their current recovery and vulnerability to competition from UKIP for the protest vote.

  23. On the basis of the three polls released over the last 48 hours Labour should hold both impending by elections. Governments tend to underperform at by elections in relation to national polls.

  24. MarkW
    My original reply to you went into moderation, so here is a bowdlerized version:

    “It was just a jocular comment indicating that I thought it was unlikely that Labour’s VI would drop much further barring something very unlikely happening. I might just as well have said ‘unless the Tories declare war on Scotland’ or something.”

  25. Polls have no meaning any more! Up is down! Down is up! Gravity has been inverted and we are about to fly off into space!

  26. @Graham

    Given one of the features of Richmond, Sleaford, and the Sunderland by-election was a very poor Labour turnout, do you not think that a by-election on it’s own is likely to make Labour’s job of holding onto Copeland and Stoke Central harder?

    Stoke don’t have local elections this year, but Copeland does, and if I were in Labour’s shoes I would want to use these elections to boost turnout. Dragging activists out twice a year might be hard work.

    If Labour go early, trying to get demotivated Labour Activists to get out their demotivated voters could be tough, especially if it’s still a dark, damp and miserable day before spring gets here.

  27. To not be so flippant… My opinion is that ‘correction’ to the weighting by polling firms has been an aggressive response to an alignment shift election, and likely to overshot or undershot their target. (I suspect overshot, simply because you’re more likely to oversteer after an error than understeer.)

    But to start ignoring the underlying *trends* is denying the entire principle of scientifically gauging of public opinion. The alignment shift and correction, either under or over-correction, can’t have an effect on how the data moves over time. There are different error measures between a single poll and a trend. It’s statistically unlikely for sample error to align in such a way over multiple polls to mask noise in a way that the trend falsely appears statistically significant, possible but hugely unlikely.

  28. Regarding winning and losing general elections, this has become a bit more serious since 1979 when quite long runs of winning for Conservative and Labour (for whatever reason) have become common.

    Since the Fixed-term Parliaments Act (2011) the likelihood of a snap election, or a shorter term than five years has also become much less.

    A large party that loses a GE cannot know when, or even if, it will win an election again, and the party could even disintegrate after a certain number of losses.

    So my conclusion is that both parties, even a party that may see itself as a mass movement rather than a parliamentary party, should do its very best to win general elections.

  29. Regarding Colin and Jimjam’s comments on MOE. Yes, it could theoretically be a drop from 27 25, but as these are on the edge of the MOE it’s exceptionally unlikely. Quick mental math puts it at 1/1600, or a 0.0625% that the first poll was 27 or higher and the second 25 or lower. Regarding the statistical significance of a shift, I believe the two data sets would show no significant difference in Labour VI as the individual confidence intervals overlap.

  30. I see we are still being treated to some base caricatures to rail against.

    There is a difference between ‘wanting to lose’ and being prepared to risk losing.

    Although there is an argument that’s been advanced, that losing the next election might result in Nulab MPs putting themselves.

    There’s scant evidence that an approach closer to Nulab would be that electable anyway given what happened to Miliband. The electoral response to Corbyn when not being undermined by his own MPs has yet to be tested.

  31. @Alec

    “or try and win with a different leader.”


    It’s entirely possible the membership would support a different leader, biut of course this is being hampered by the nominations thing.

  32. (might result in Nulab MPs PURGING themselves.)

  33. Re: purity of belief.

    Really? In what respect? Corbyn’s economic policies are not exactly Soviet.

  34. Interesting interview with Trump:

    He says some unexpected things:


    He described the decision to invade Iraq as “possibly the worst ­decision ever made in the history of our country”, ­saying it was like “throwing rocks into a ­beehive”.

    On Russia, Mr Trump indicated that he hoped that a deal could be done to reduce ­nuclear capability in return for dropping some sanctions on Moscow. “They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia. For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it.”

    end quote

    He also sounds absolutely desperate for Britain to be his respectable friend and desperate to meet the Queen:


    But it was Mr Trump’s offer of a rapid trade deal with Britain that was one of the most eye-catching aspects of the hour-long interview at Trump Tower in New York, in which he said: “I love the UK.”

    “We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides,” Mr Trump said. “I will be ­meeting with [Mrs May]. She’s requesting a meeting and we’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it’ll be, I think we’re gonna get something done very quickly.”

    …The president-elect, who will be inaugurated on Friday, said he was also looking ­forward to visiting Britain, saying his Scottish mother was “so proud of the Queen”.

    “Any time the Queen was on television, an event, my mother would be watching,” he said. He also quipped that his Scottish ­ancestry meant he liked to “watch my ­pennies”, adding: “I mean I deal in big ­pennies, that’s the problem.”

    end quote

    Looks like he’s decided to overlook the whole MI6 thing for a chance to meet Elizabeth II.

  35. COLIN
    “-they just want purity of belief ”

    Can you provide any evidence of that?
    Whether you think the polls are reliable or not, they do indicate that between a quarter and a third of the country want a more equitable distribution of income and sourcing of tax, adequate funding of the NHS, membership of the Single Market, increased public sector funding and management of social care, and investment in services and job creation in areas of high immigration, support for the integration of migrants and prevention of their exploitation, and that a Labour Government would deliver them. None of these measures is ideological, and the people supporting them within the party or in the population are not ideologues. They are ordinary people, and they rather like Jeremy Corbyn because so is he.

  36. Anyone else find it rather interesting that the very much centrist politician, Emmanuel Marcon is polling very well in France. With the results the Lib Dems have been getting could they be on the cusp of a similar surge in support?

    The last poll I saw had him at 24, the Repiblicans at 28 and Le Penn at 24. Granted, the socialists haven’t picked their candidate yet.

  37. PEMBY
    Not sure what you mean by “a proper test”
    MoE 28% =/- 3% means that there is a 95% chance that the result lies between 25 and 31 %, but does not mean that 31% is as likely as 28%, though 31% is as likely (or as rare) as 25%. (Unless there is some reason to believe that even lower scores are unlikely – “Labour has reached its core vote” – but then the usual mathematical ways of treating random errors no longer apply.)
    However, don’t forget that a 95% probability that the result is in that range means that there is a 1 in 20 chance (5%) that the result is outside that range, and owners of roulette wheels do quite well out of a 1 in 37 chance. (1 in 20 outside doesn’t tell you whether high or low, of course, but even 1 in 40 is near 1 in 37)

    Assuming two independent measurements of 28 and 24, each with the same sample size, both with MoE 3%, then the MoE of difference between the two is 4 +/- square root of [3squared + 3squared] or
    4+/- sq rt 18 = 4+/- 4.24 or difference roughly between 0 and 8
    That’s a bit better than looking at the extremes (28+3 – [24-3]) = 10, but not much.
    Is that what you meant by ” difference would surely come out as highly significant.”

    Conclusion: opinion polls are inaccurate things when MoE is taken into account.
    Taking the difference between two values differing by about the margin of error in each tells you not much at all.

  38. A nice peice of irony`;

    the german finance minister on the trump threats said that if governments believe in growth they should go for tariff free trade.

    I hope he has rung the EC brexit negotiators and told them that this this is the view of Germany !

  39. Sam S – “With the results the Lib Dems have been getting could they be on the cusp of a similar surge in support?”

    The puzzling thing about the latest YouGov poll is that it has certainty to vote as follows: Con 70%, Lab 69%, LibDem 71%, UKIP 74%.

    I would have thought the LibDem certainty to vote was much higher than that given that their voters are actually turning up in the middle of January to vote for council by-elections that other voters arn’t bothering with.

    I guess we’ll have to wait till the May council elections to see if that enthusiasm results in a breakthrough.

  40. @Catmanjeff

    I don’t think there would be a problem getting activists motivated for two elections in the same year. A greater concern might be whether voters would be inclined to turn out twice.
    I really don’t believe that the three examples you cite tell us anything at all in that Labour was never remotely competitive in Richmond and Sleaford. The Sunderland result was a local by election caused by the the disqualification of the sitting Labour councillor for non-attendance – an issue which the LibDems doubtless made a great deal of in their campaign material.Moreover , those elections took place in December and early January and probably offer little guide as to what will happen in a keenly fought marginal seat which will not take place before the beginning of March..

  41. If anyone “wants to lose” then surely it’s the Nulab supporters. They were declining under Blair, lost under Gordon and lost even more under Miliband but this does not appear to be enough losing for them. They want even more of the same and if they can’t lose under Nulab they’ll do their best to make Corbyn lose…

  42. Graham,
    From what I can see (there is plenty about it on VoteUk forum) the Lib Dem campaign in Sunderland was based on the uselessness and complacency of the Labour hegemony there combined with a very negative reaction to Jeremy Corbyn amongst voters.. the Labour councillor was known to be ill, so not so much was made of her disqualification. I agree that it is very dangerous to extrapolate from that vote to Parliamentary by-elections elsewhere however.

    I agree with CMJ though that Labour may be advised to wait for local election day, especially in Copeland. Both the Lib Dems and Tories will be fighting many seats in Cumbria that day ( mostly against each other) , while most of the Labour seats are in Copeland and Barrow. Labour are said to have much stronger local resources and minimising Tory, UKIP and Lib Dem help from outside during the campaign should help them..
    In Stoke there are no local elections, and there is more of an argument for going quickly to suppress any UKIP bandwagon developing..

  43. Bigfatron,
    My feeling is that the Lib Dems will struggle to do well in Stoke. In 2010 they had a local government base there to build on, now there is nothing… They actually did better in the coalition years in the Allerdale parts of Copeland than in Stoke.

    Getting up to 10% would be a very good result in either seat..

  44. Re-Stoke. I am not sure that we have any information as to when Tristram Hunt intends to resign his seat. Is it fairly imminent or later in the year?

  45. I’m intrigued that there has been no comment here so far on the calling of an election in N Ireland. At the very least, the lack of interest shows the very disparate nature of our ‘united’ kingdom.

    I don’t know enough about NI politics to comment meaningfully. But I wonder if we might see a seismic shift in the hitherto hidebound tribally-based set-up.

    Might the DUP suffer as more voters come to accept that it’s an antediluvian fossil, with its 19th century social attitudes and apparent corruption and cronyism? Might we see a surge in SDLP and Alliance support? Who knows: I certainly don’t. But I have a nagging feeling that, against the Brexit background, this election may turn out to be more than just another trot around the sectarian ring.

  46. @Somerjohn

    I don’t know enough about NI politics to comment meaningfully…

    I think this sums up 99% of folk who inhabit here, so why it has passed without comment.

  47. MARKW @2.51 pm

    No problem.

    @”Really? In what respect? Corbyn’s economic policies are not exactly Soviet.”

    I don’t recall saying that they are.

    I meant “purity” in the respect that no compromise is present a la NulAb’s Triangulated Third Way appeal across demographics of numerous kinds-noteably the accomodation with Private Sector elements of the Economy.

    So a simpler, clearer , purer ideology .

  48. @ Summerjohn

    “I wonder if we might see a seismic shift in the hitherto hidebound tribally-based set-up..Might the DUP suffer as more voters come to accept that it’s an antediluvian fossil, with its 19th century social attitudes and apparent corruption and cronyism? Might we see a surge in SDLP and Alliance support?..”

    As someone who has spent some time in Northern Ireland, albeit a long time ago, I think I can answer that one:



    I’m not convinced that each of those policy stances commands support which is exactly the same as Labour’s VI.

    And I agree that many Labour voters are “just ordinary people”

    We will see what these ordinary people think of the policies you mention after the two By Elections-though as ever-there will be debate on the degree to which they responded to the Leader , rather than his policies.

    Thats the trouble with Polls-they never quite finish the job.

  50. @Colin

    Ah, well the removal of many constraints on capital is the purer approach that the more liberal are still clinging to, despite the expected consequences… Banking crash, wealth concentrations, stagnating wages, rising bills, property increasingly out of reach etc.

    In contrast, many of Corbyn’s supporters seem simply to be going for summat a bit more Post-war… Bigger infrastructure spend, create more secure jobs, limit the inequality, make property and essentials more affordable etc… Stuff they know their parents and grandparents had. Only with more storage…

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