A poll in the Sunday Express asked about the comments of Sir Richard Dannatt. 74% of people said they agreed with his comments, and 71% of people said he should not be sacked. 57% of people said they agreed that Muslim extremists were exploiting a “moral and spiritual vacuum” in Britain. The Express report isn’t online and I can’t find the exact working of these questions, so it might be wise to wait for it to go up on ICM’s website before drawing any firm conclusions, but there certainly seems to be backing for Dannatt.

Another ICM poll, this time for More 4’s new talk show with David Starkey asked about Gordon Brown’s nationality. 59% of people in England told ICM they would be influenced by whether there is a Scottish leader of the Labour party at the next election. Of that 59%, 93% said they would be influenced negatively, and 7% said they would be influenced positively. Previous polls have also shown that significant proportions of people would be in some way concerned if the Prime Minister came from a Scottish seat. I am somewhat wary of these questions, simply because Gordon Brown is the presumptive Prime Minister and is a Scottish MP with a Scottish accent in a Scottish seat. How many people are going to answer a question like this without viewing it through the prism of Gordon Brown?

MORI have released a new poll for the Young Foundation asking about attitudes towards political parties and found a minority of people very disillusioned with political parties. Generally speaking 45% of people thought that political parties are good in a democratic system, only 6% disagreed – but further on, 24% agreed strongly or somewhat with the statement that “political parties in Britain are a hindrance to democracy”, and 25% thought that “Britain would be better off if political parties did not exist, and all politicians were independent”. Given the low option of politicians in this country I personally was surprised that the figure wasn’t higher. Asked what changes would make political parties more attractive to them, the most popular option was “Involving people more in local decision making”, cited by 54%, suggesting that the Conservative party’s current experiments with open primaries has the potential to help improve their party image.

Finally YouGov have released figures from a poll conducted for Paul Sykes’ new Euro-sceptic speak-out campaign. Overall 77% of people say they would support a campaign for a referendum on the re-patriation of some powers currently exercised by the EU, with 12% opposed.

An ICM poll yesterday suggested that 53% of people agreed with Jack Straw’s comments on Muslim women wearing the veil, with 36% disagreeing (compare this result with the voodoo polls
paraded around by the Express and Radio Five Live last week).

The latest figures from YouGov’s BrandIndex political trackers suggest it has given Jack Straw a real boost. His net popularity (the proportion of people with a positive impression of Straw minus the proportion of people with a negative impression) has short up fifteen points since his comments, from minus 15 to a net score of zero in the most recent figures. This makes him the only Labour politician tracked who doesn’t have a negative score.

The latest figures also show the results of the party conference season on perceptions of party image and on the leaders’ job approval ratings. A rough summary would be that the Lib Dems enjoyed a brief boost in people’s perception of the party and in how well Sir Menzies Campbell is doing as leader, but that it rapidly subsided once the conference was over.

In contrast Labour also saw a rise in people’s perception of their competence and the proportion of people who though they’d made it clear what they stood for, but the increase in their figures has been sustained (at least so far). Equally Tony Blair saw a big boost in his ratings that has not yet subsided.

The Conservatives meanwhile saw very little rise in their figures at all – David Cameron saw only a meagre rise in his popularity and there was no boost at all to the party’s image (in fact the proportion of people thinking the Conservatives had made it clear what they stood for fell by 4 points). The only consolation was that Cameron’s emphasis on the NHS in his speech did seem to register, with the Conservatives now equalling Labour as the party with the best policies on the NHS

For the full graphs pdf download the full report HERE.


The legal challenge against the boundary changes in West Yorkshire, brought by Ed Balls and other local MPs, was rejected by the High Court on Friday. In a statement Balls and the other MPs said they would be raising hte issue in Parliament, but realistically the High Court rejection removes the last obstacle in the way of the new boundaries being introduced, and they should be in place before their deadline of the 12th April 2007. The effects of the boundary changes are summarised in UK Polling Report’s election guide here.

Populus’s weekly poll for the Daily Politics is on the NHS today – full figures here.

40% of respondents thought that the NHS had improved in the last 10 years, with 54% disagreeing. A slight majority (52%) of people thought that the money Labour had invested in the NHS had been wasted, although this certainly doesn’t mean that people are relaxed about any decrease in NHS spending, 64% of people disagree with the statement that “Taxes in Britain are too high, and tax rates should be cut even if that means the government having to cut back spending on public services like the NHS”.

Asked about private provision within the NHS, there seemed to be little opposition in principle to private healthcare provision – 85% agreed with the statement that “I don’t care whether health services like hip operations are provided by the public or private sector, so long as the service is free, fast and effective”.

Today’s Times also published the last couple of questions from Populus’s monthly poll. Populus repeated some of the questions about attitudes to Muslims from their poll for the anniversary of the London tube bombings. Like polls about the death penalty, which only ever seem to get asked straight after particularly horrific crimes or notorious trials, polls about attitudes towards British Muslims often only seem to get asked straight after terrorist atrocities, arrests or anniversaries. It is good , therefore, to have some of the same questions at a more neutral time. The percentages of people who thought Muslims needed to do more to integrate (71%) and thought Muslim leaders should do more to root out and condemn terrorist sympathisers (79%) were not much changed from July. The proportion of people who thought that “Muslims make a valuable contribution to British society” had risen noticably – up to 69% from 59% last time.

In reference to the fuss last week about the Muslim police officer who was excused from patrolling outside the Israeli embassy (although Populus did not refer to it directly in the question), 76% of people agreed that “British Muslims serving in the police force or Armed services should not be treated differently, or allowed exemptions from certain duties, just because of their religion.” Sadly the poll didn’t include any question on Jack Straw’s comments about wearing the veil, which I thought someone might have polled about so far – newspapers have instead been resorting to silly voodoo polls. Populus’s fieldwork was conducted after Straw’s comments, but presumably the questions had already been finalised before the story really got going (or, of course, the Times might just not thought it worth asking about!)

UPDATE: The Times have confirmed that it was indeed just sod’s law, they finalised the questions with Populus just before the Jack Straw story broke.

Populus’s monthly poll for the Times is out. The topline figures with changes from Populus’s last poll, which was conducted in early September prior to the conference season, are CON 36% (nc), LAB 35% (+3), LDEM 18% (-2).

Populus’s poll is arguably our first real chance to see what effect the conference season has had on the popularity of the parties – ICM’s poll at the weekend was conducted immediately after David Cameron’s conference address, while his speech was still being played on the TV news, so would probably have given the Conservatives an artifical boost.

Looking at Populus’s poll alone it certainly appears as if Labour are the party who have benefited from the party conferences, and at the expense of the Liberal Democrats. Of course, this is just one poll and it was conducted only a few days after the end of the conferences. We’ll have to see the same sort of increase in Labour’s support in a few more polls before concluding that they really have managed to improve their image.

Populus’s poll does imply that any Labour boost is largely due to the presence of Tony Blair, because hypothetical voting intentions with Gordon Brown as leader do not show a similar narrowing of the gap. Asked how they would vote if the party leaders were Brown, Cameron and Campbell the figures, (with changes from Populus’s last poll) were CON 42% (nc), LAB 34% (+1), LDEM 15% (-1).

More positive news for Gordon Brown is that his rivals for the Labour leadership would do the same or even worse. With Alan Johnson as leader there would again be an 8 point Conservative lead (CON 41%, LAB 33%, LDEM 16%) and with John Reid as leader the Conservative lead would grow to 10 points (CON 40%, LAB 30%, LDEM 19%). I should add, as ever, that all these questions are purely hypothetical, we don’t know how people would react to Brown, Reid or Johnson if they really were Prime Minister, though they do suggest that none of them would be Labour’s magic bullet.

Asked about perceptions of the party leaders and the Labour leadership rivals we see the normal pattern with Cameron and Brown. Brown is seen as strong by more people, fewer people see Brown as “all spin and no substance” and more people see him as someone who will stick to their beliefs. In no case is there a huge lead though.

In contrast Cameron has large leads in being seen as likeable and charismatic, and smaller leads in having what it takes to be Prime Minister, honesty and caring about the problems of ordinary people. Notably (and somewhat surprisingly) he also leads Brown on the issue of the NHS. 50% of respondents agreed that Cameron “believes in the principle of the NHS and wants to improve it for everybody”, compared to 45% for Brown.

Looking at Brown’s potential rivals, as one might expect John Reid scored highest on being seen as “strong”, but at 40% fewer people saw him as strong than did Brown (or Cameron!) and while marginally more people saw him as likeable than did Brown, fewer people thought he had what it took to be PM, was unusually honest, would stick to his beliefs or cared about people. Johnson’s figures were low throughout, presumably because people knew very little about him.