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. @SOMERJOHN

    “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.”

    ————

    It’s not necessarily lack of interest, but afeared it’ll expose a lack of knowledge to be seized upon as evidence of being all Imperialist and stuff and how we don’t understand they’re different etc.

  2. I remember John Humphries on radio 4 asking Edward Milliband if he was to ugly to be prime minister.The level of debate on most Labour leaders in opposition is to say they do not look like a leader.In essence all prime minister’s voted in by members of the public first time and not by members of their
    Party have to have gone to Oxford University.This says all you need to know about this country.

  3. Re the NI election, it seems the consensus is that it’ll be business as usual, that they’re a weird bunch who none of us understand, and who cares anyway? (OK, I was extrapolating a bit).

    It would be nice to think that things might change. But apparently they won’t. So what are they doing in the UK?

    It would be nice to see some polling of attitudes in rUK towards N ireland. Do we want them to be part of us as much as some of them want to be? And have people in rUK ‘forgiven’ the IRA? How many people think Ireland should be one country? And how many don’t give a damn?

  4. It’s worth remembering that the DUP was the largest party last year with just 30% of the vote. It doesn’t really matter what the other 70% think of Arlene Foster or the RHI scandal, so long as they can hold the votes they have.

    However, there is some chance that the DUP will lose some support to the UUP, and this in turn might make Sinn Fein the largest party – even on the 27% of the vote they got last time. I would expect that the DUP’s strategy would be to remind voters that they wouldn’t want that to happen, even though in reality it would not have any practical consequence.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland_Assembly_election,_2016

  5. “More people favour either staying in the EU or close ties with the bloc as opposed to the hard Brexit apparently being pursued by Theresa May, a poll has revealed.

    The YouGov survey found just 39 per cent of people backed a hard Brexit, even if it meant having no free trade agreement with the EU, while 47 per cent backed a softer approach.

    It comes as the Prime Minister is due to give a major speech on her strategy for withdrawal negotiations, with reports suggesting she will say she is prepared to leave the single market and customs union.

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-latest-poll-yougov-soft-hard-remaining-eu-member-theresa-may-speech-a7530576.html

    The survey showed 15 per cent of the public preferred maintaining “the best possible trade links” with EU, even if it meant adhering to some rules and giving up some control over immigration, while 10 per cent backed a form of associate membership and 23 per cent backed remaining a full member.

    The total, 47 per cent, who preferred one of the more emollient options, outnumbered the 39 per cent who said they wanted full control of borders regardless of whether that meant no free trade deal with the European Union.”

  6. I’ve just added Yougov’s latest poll to my graphs:

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzTTW1ecy-NDU2U1VnljSWdDOXc

    It looks like the Conservatives might be starting fall back a touch. Given the rise of the NHS in the healines, it is of little surprise.

    Labour have the first positive uptick for a long time. They are still polling below their best 2016 figures. The uptick is one data point, so it might nothing to, just random variation.

    UKIP are steadily picking up a little too. Three data points on the up in a row.

    The Lib Dems are still climbing, significantly so for the least three data points. They are polling much higher than at the start of 2016, 50% or more. They were averaging about 7% in early 2016, and they are now on around 11%.

    Just a word on control charts. They are quite good at dealing with MOE issues. Broadly, consider the rolling of a six-sided dice. Over a good number of rolls you will average 3.5, or thereabouts. Each time it is rolled the chance of the result being above or below 3.5 is 50% for each outcome.

    If a control chart shows lots (say seven) of consecutive dice rolls above or below the mean, there two possibilities.

    Firstly, the average has changed and the seven points one way are coincidence. The chance of seven rolls randomly being above 3.5? 0.5 to the power of 7, or 0.0078, or 0.78%. That’s very unlikely to be coincidence. Try tossing a coin and getting seven heads in row some time.

    The other possibility is the die is not a normal die, with a mean of 3.5 long term, but a die with a bias for 4, 5 and 6.

    So, applying this to VI, if a parties position is essentially the same, with just random variation from the sample, you will get a randomly waving line, a few points up, a few points down etc. What you are seeing is noise from the data.

    Applying this the charts I’ve linked to, the Lib Dems have been improving for seven data points, or a rare coincidence has happened.

    Labour fell for ten data points (or an even rarer coincidence occurred), and have improved for one data point. One data point at this stage may be the start of an improvement, or be an MOE blip. Only time will tell.

    The Conservatives and UKIP are on a run of three, so it may be the start of trend, or just random noise.

    I just thought I’d write something on control charts, as they can be a neat solution to data with MOE variation.

  7. Good stuff John Pilgrim

    ‘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.’

  8. And good stuff CMJ :)

  9. So Mike Smithson was probably right when he wrote today that Labour had closed the gap a touch.

  10. The Bank of England’s decision to cut interest rates by 0.25 per cent last August in the wake of the Brexit vote may have saved 250,000 British jobs, Mark Carney has suggested.

    In a speech to the London School of Economics, the governor said that if the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee had not acted in this “timely, coherent and comprehensive way” an “output gap” of 1.5 per cent of GDP would have opened up in the UK economy, “implying around a quarter of a million lost jobs”.

    “That would have meant even more lost output and a total disregard for higher unemployment. Given our remit that would have been undesirable,” Mr Carney said.”

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/bank-saved-250000-jobs-by-cutting-rates-after-brexit-vote-says-carney-a7530496.html

    “The governor’s remarks are likely to irritate leading Brexiteers, who are still angry at what they see as Mr Carney’s encroachment into political territory during the referendum campaign, when he warned a Leave vote could lead to a “technical recession”.

    Some Brexiteers also complain that the Bank panicked when it cut rates by 0.25 per cent last August and restarted its money-printing programme, and that the economy never required such a stimulus.

    The economy grew by 0.6 per cent in the immediate three months following the 23 June Brexit vote, according to the Office for National Statistics – considerably stronger than the Bank of England forecast in August.

    The latest industrial surveys also suggest that momentum was largely maintained in the final quarter of 2016.

    But in his LSE speech Mr Carney sounded a warning about the sustainability of the economy’s post-Brexit growth, which he described as “increasingly consumption-led”.”

    “…the aggregate household savings ratio has fallen close to historic lows and unsecured household borrowing is rising at an annual rate of close to 10 per cent, its fastest since 2005.

    “Ultimately, the tension between consumer strength on the one hand and the more pessimistic expectations of markets on the other will be resolved,” Mr Carney said.”

  11. I’d say there is a 50% chance he is right.

  12. Catmanjeff

    Your charts are very interesting , but I am not inclined to rely on the findings of a single pollster. For that reason, I prefer to look at an average of various pollsters at a given time – which at present suggests a Tory lead of circa 10%.

  13. CMJ
    Thanks for the charts and the analysis. I can see Graham’s point about looking at more than one pollster, but you’d need a set of graphs for each one, so as to compare like with like. I’m sure he isn’t asking you to do all that extra work!

    John Pilgrim
    “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…..”

    50% want to bring back hanging, but very few politicians take any notice.

  14. Pete B
    No – I am not doing that at all!. I imagine Yougov has been used because its polls have been rather more regular than the others. The danger arises that the most frequent pollster sometimes becomes a bit skewed – for whatever reason. In 2016 Yougov went from being the most positive pollster from Labour’s perspective in March/April to becoming the most negative in November/December. Its greater frequency might tend to give a distorted impression of what is really happening.

  15. @Robert Newark

    10 years ago I lived in Marseille for 18 months and can totally back up your assertions about how superior the French health services were in many areas.

  16. Graham
    Agreed, but unless they change their methodology every time, the trends should still be meaningful. AW occasionally posts to say that the methodology has changed. Can anyone remember the last time? It’s arguable that trends would only be meaningful after that date.

  17. @Graham “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.”

    I don’t think the uniform seat projector is of much use in the current climate. Regional variations have become starker, which Brexit has clearly compounded.

  18. @Carfrew – I’ve posted several times about people claiming ‘everyone got it wrong’ always forgetting to mention the emergency cut in interest rates and continued QE.

    In many ways, I think it would have been good to see the BoE just sit on it’s hands and let the economy tank. Long term, that might have enabled us to get a better* deal from Brexit.

    *By ‘better’ I mean something a bit more sensible, from our point of view – not ‘better’ in the sense of the EU giving us better terms.

  19. @Graham

    Here’s ICM for you for the same period:

    https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzTTW1ecy-NDWFpaZHRSalZ6Ulk

    That’s free, the next one you get billed for!

    ;-)

  20. Very good, informative article from the BBC on the prospects of a UK/US trade deal post-2019. The most contentious issues are likely to be US food and agriculture standards, and access to the NHS for US companies – rather than tariffs which are already low:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-38639638?intlink_from_url=http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/topics/267ada11-b730-4344-b404-63067c032c65/reality-check&link_location=live-reporting-story

  21. CMJ
    Nice one. G’night all.

  22. James E: “Very good, informative article from the BBC on the prospects of a UK/US trade deal”

    Yes, I saw that.

    One point it didn’t mention was that there is a whopping trade imbalance between the UK and USA of £35bn (2015). Unusually, it’s a surplus in our favour.

    I wonder what will happen when someone puts a piece of paper bearing that information in front of Trump. He doesn’t usually like countries taking the USA to the cleaners on the strength of a weak currency. I think it’s highly unlikely we’d get a deal with the USA that strengthens our trading position; quite the reverse, I suspect.

  23. @James E – Indeed. I can see there being quite a fuss when people start to realise what a free trade deal with the US will actually look like.

  24. James E

    Thanks for that link.

    Of particular concern to the non-English NHS systems would be that whatever access is given to a TTIP type access to NHS England shouldn’t apply to other distinct systems.

    However, May’s Government has thus far shown little regard for the interests of such jurisdictions, so it is a legitimate area of concern.

    At the most basic level of international negotiations, those with little strategic advantage , but a desperate need to secure some form of deal for domestic political reasons, is highly unlikely to secure a good deal.

  25. Diary dates for those interested in NI polling (not many on here it seems!)

    Lucid Talk will be publishing results on 30 Jan, 13 Feb and 27 Feb.

    I did like the NI comment I saw earlier on the election which remarked that since it was initiated by the “ash for cash” scandal, it was appropriate that the election would take place on the day following Ash Wednesday. :-)

  26. @SOMERJOHN

    “I wonder what will happen when someone puts a piece of paper bearing that information in front of Trump. He doesn’t usually like countries taking the USA to the cleaners on the strength of a weak currency. I think it’s highly unlikely we’d get a deal with the USA that strengthens our trading position; quite the reverse, I suspect.”

    I agree entirely. And as Trump has a habit of talking out of his back side, there will undoubtedly be sensible people who will advise him that pissing off the EU in order to help the UK is unlikely to profitable. I don’t take anything Trump says seriously – much of it is for show.

  27. @CARFREW

    “The total, 47 per cent, who preferred one of the more emollient options, outnumbered the 39 per cent who said they wanted full control of borders regardless of whether that meant no free trade deal with the European Union”

    Hmmm, seems to be a case of ‘buyer’s remorse’. Do people really understand what they did by voting for Brexit? It doesn’t seem like it. When you make your bed you have to lie in it.

  28. Tancred

    “When you make your bed you have to lie in it.”

    But when your “significant other” didn’t just make the bed (in a way you didn’t want) but did rather shocking things in it, it might be time to seek a new bed elsewhere! :-)

  29. “That’s free, the next one you get billed for!”

    ————

    I was only joking about charging peeps for posts and stuff!! Still, if it helps pay for a synth…

  30. @OLDNAT

    “But when your “significant other” didn’t just make the bed (in a way you didn’t want) but did rather shocking things in it, it might be time to seek a new bed elsewhere! :-)”

    Well, England and Scotland have shared a bed for over 300 years, so it must be in pretty bad shape by now!

  31. @Alec

    Yes I thought of you when I posted the Carney thing. Nice of him to save the jobs but dunno if Carney can help with environmental and food standards etc. in a US trade deal…

  32. TANCRED. trouble is the rest of us have to lie in that bed too.

  33. @Tancred

    “Hmmm, seems to be a case of ‘buyer’s remorse’. Do people really understand what they did by voting for Brexit? It doesn’t seem like it. When you make your bed you have to lie in it.”

    ————–

    Unfortunately we don’t tend to get polling questions like “WTF??!! Do you realise what you’ve just done??

    A) yes, absolutely
    B) no, not a clue
    C) sorry, what was the question?
    D) Corbyn’s a disaster
    E) Aston Villa…”

    Surely Anthony must long at times to be able to do a question like that. Dunno If I’d be able to help myself…

  34. Catmanjeff

    Interesting to see the ICM chart which shows Labour pretty stable in recent months whereas Yougov had shown an ongoing slippage. To me ICM ‘feels’ right – though historically it has tended to understate Labour a bit – even in 1997.

  35. Tancred

    That bed was initially the Empire – and it has shrunk a fair bit – as the kids moved out and the lodgers objected to being screwed.

    Being in a new, big bed with the EU was rather good too – even if the significant other kept on hogging the duvet.

    Now, the “other” has decided to be less significant to anyone by going off in a sulk, and demanding that we also have to be crammed into that cot in the attic and are expected to enjoy the odour of their flatulence. :-)

    Metaphors can, so easily, be extended in ways that you didn’t envisage!

  36. Thanks for your efforts CMJ!

    maybe you will wear Graham down eventually!

  37. Graham,

    Well, Labour has fallen by about 4% since the referendum in the ICM data, but a bit less in Yougov. Looks like Yougov may have had Labour a % or so high in October and November and now agrees a bit better with ICM on the scale of the fall.

    It is possible as well that Labour suffered a short term 1% downward blip after Richmond Park, which is picked up much better by the YouGov more frequent polls. If the next 4 YouGov polls all give Labour 28%, then that view would be vindicated… On the other hand if the next polls are down to 26% again, it will not…

  38. Perhaps May will make a rational assessment of the interests of Scotland and NI later today, explain why her choices are actually in their interests – or she might just not mention the “provinces” at all.

    Indeed the Herald report indicates the latter possibility is most likely – since they make no mention of such.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/15027326.Theresa_May_makes_clear_Britain__39_s_departure_from_EU_will_not_be__quot_half_in__half_out_quot__but_total/

    In polling terms, it will be fascinating to see how the VI in Scotland responds.

    While “Ruth Davidson’s Party” has been gaining from SLab as the main UK Unionist party, it has also seemingly done a volte-face on the Single Market.

    How will that go down in the parts of Scotland that were considered “naturally Tory” a few decades ago? The Remain votes in these areas were high –

    Edinburgh 74.4%
    East Renfrewshire 74.3%
    East Dunbartonshire 71.4%
    Stirling 67.7%

    Are the Tories in these areas tribal, authoritarian followers, who will always follow the SCon lead? That seems unlikely, if one looks at election results.

    Will SLD gain from SCon in the Unionist camp?

    Will some cross the main Scottish fault line and decide to follow their EU preference instead?

  39. Andrew111
    ‘, Labour has fallen by about 4% since the referendum in the ICM data, but a bit less in Yougov’

    How can you possibly make that judgement given that there were no Yougov voting intention polls at all from mid April until mid July last year?

  40. @robert Newark and Sea Change
    As I have no knowledge of the French healthcare system beyond an emergency visit to a GP with my daughter some years ago (both wife and daughter thought the doc was dishy) I base my views on those of experts. Very scurrilous of me, I know.

  41. I was interested to see that in the latest YouGov the right to leave the EU margin was again 4%, so no change then. Looking forward to May’s speech, if it’s anything like the newspaper reports the Leavers will be very happy.

  42. Guymonde
    Well are you going to provide links to said, “experts”, so that we might all share their wisdom? As I said in my post, I did a detailed answer outlining how the French system works but it was auto modded.

  43. TOH

    A long awaited speech today .

    Hopefully it will contrast nicely with the latest squeeks from Labour-that UK is “too small” to have an independent economic future.

    Interesting piece in the Times today on the need to work up into an alternative plan , Hammond’s negotiating counter to possible EU intransigence. No good threatening to walk away if you aren’t prepared & ready to actually do it.

  44. @TOH

    Yes, indeed. Very few people appear to have changed their minds on Brexit since the referendum. This is not particularly surprising as we have yet to begin the formal process of withdrawal.

    As for the PM’s speech, whatever the detail it will remain unclear for some time whether a clearer, more hard-line government stance on the issue would represent the Government’s actual view or merely a negotiating position.

  45. COLIN

    “No good threatening to walk away if you aren’t prepared & ready to actually do it.”

    Yes it is a long awaited speech, although to my mind she has been quite clear all along.

    As to Hammond’s comments which many applauded, I am sure the Government have been working on just such a plan. I would be amazed if they haven’t.

  46. ROBERT NEWARK

    There are two main reasons for getting auto-modded.

    1. Too many hyperlinks – 2 are always OK
    2. Words that AW doesn’t feel are appropriate here.

    You personally can see your auto-modded post and check for extra links and any taboo words. If you don’t find any then look for short words like “l!ar” inside longer words and try rephrasing them.

    As a long-term expat, I’d be very interested in reading it!

  47. Graham,
    Yes, i agree of course. The gap in the YouGov data means it cannot be used to study whether the referendum was the precise trigger of Labour’s decline since the Spring of 2016, and CMJ’s YouGov charts may underestimate how well Labour were doing before the referendum and hence the scale of that decline.

  48. UK inflation up to 1.6%, somewhat higher than expected. It will be interesting to see the effect on the £ which has been recovering this morning against both the $ and the Euro

  49. One interesting thing is that YouGov added highest education level to their panel weighting in February 2016. If you believe the change in Labour’s position on Europe from Remain to “unknown” (in the eyes of voters) is important, then getting that weighting right is probably important!
    If anyone has that information to hand I would be interested to know which pollsters weight samples by education in addition to social class

  50. OLDNAT
    Perhaps May will make a rational assessment of the interests of Scotland and NI later today

    I suspect that any words re the UK’s celtic fringes are almost certainly too much to hope for, but I hope I’m wrong! And thanks for the Herald link – well worth a read.

    There’s another good first opinion piece in the Belfast Telegraph today with: All we’re doing is kicking the tin down the road… and being herded into our sectarian pens, including:

    Barring People Before Profit or the Greens sweeping to power, the result is already known – regardless of how the seats actually shake out. Deadlock will be returned. Barring a miracle, the problems which existed before the collapse of the Executive will still be there. A poll topping Sinn Fein outing would take that party as much by surprise as anyone. Given the tortuous performance of recent months over RHI and the mish-mash basket of reasons why the Assembly was brought down, it is doubtful if the party has any strategy to cope with victory. A genuine four-way struggle – due to disillusionment with the two largest parties – would lead to goodness knows what madness, though a reversal of the historical drift that has seen the SDLP and the UUP marginalised would be even more astounding than the Irish flag run up the pole at Stormont – for real, this time.

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