Ipsos MORI don’t have a political monitor this month (they are reviewing their sampling points), but they have released voting intention figures from their telephone Omnibus. The topline voting intention figures, with changes from MORI’s last poll (conducted at the start of the month for the Sun) are CON 41% (+1), LAB 32% (-3), LDEM 17% (+4).

The poll was conducted between the 23rd and 27th (Friday to Tuesday), so as with YouGov’s poll most of the data would have been collected before Labour’s problems with funding.

The trend is the same as we’ve seen elsewhere – the Conservatives steady at around 40%, Labour heading downwards, and the Lib Dems recovering from their October lows. This isn’t the biggest Conservative lead MORI have reported in recent times – they had a 10 point lead back in May – but it does look like here too Labour are back in the sort of position they were in during the end days of Tony Blair’s premiership.

Hopefully we’ll have some Sunday polls that were conducted towards the end of this week, so we can gauge the ongoing effect of Labour’s troubles…although more important will be what the polls look like in a couple of weeks time when the immediate bad headlines have gone and we can see what lasting damage Labour’s recent problems have had.

YouGov’s monthly poll for the Telegraph has topline voting intention figures (with changes from the last YouGov poll a week ago) of CON 43% (+2), LAB 32% (nc), LDEM 14% (nc). The last poll was a snap one done straight after the furore over the missing benefit data discs was announced, so that in itself showed a three point drop in Labour’s support. This poll suggests the earlier fall in Labour support has been sustained and now the Conservatives are starting to benefit from Labour’s woes.

The poll was conducted between Monday and Wednesday, but it’s important to note that in YouGov’s online polls at least half the responses tend to come in on the first day. While the story of David Abrahams’ donations to the Labour party was broken by the Mail on Sunday, the story has progressed through the week and most of the respondents to this poll would have filled it in before this had become the major crisis for the Labour party that it undoubtedly had become by mid-week. That means this probably isn’t reflecting the full damage that the funding row will end up doing…things are likely to get even worse for Labour.

Tony King’s analysis in the Telegraph reads to me to be somwhat over the top – “among the most devasting for any Government in the history of opinion polling”. I constantly caution people not to compare figures these days with figures from a decade or two ago prior to the major changes in polling methodology that came after the 1992 debacle, and you shouldn’t. But even if you ignore pre-reform polls, ICM recorded deficits of 25 points for the last Tory government. We really aren’t in that sort of league yet.

The 11 point Conservative lead is the largest that YouGov have ever recorded for the Conservatives. The underlying figures also show a shift against Labour, but not an unprecedented one. On the “forced choice” question, asking people to chose between a Brown-led Labour government and a Cameron-led Conservative one the Tories now have a seven point lead, but Cameron managed a nine-point lead in the same question against Tony Blair back in June 2006. The Conservatives have a one point lead on the economy, an improvement from the last couple of months when Labour had regained their lead…but on the same question the Tories had a 3 point lead in March 2007. The figures show that 60% of people think Labour are sleazy and disreputable, compared to only 31% who think the same about the Tories…but at the time of Lord Levy’s arrest in 2006 69% of people thought Labour were sleazy and disreputable. Gordon Brown’s net approval ratings are down to minus 36, about the same level as YouGov used to record for Tony Blair.

In putting the figures in context I am only trying to counteract some of the hyperbole about it being polling doomsday. Governments have seen worse, some of the underlying figures really aren’t that astounding, I’m not trying to say these figures aren’t awful for Labour, because they are. Essentially they are back where they were in the dying days of Tony Blair’s leadership. Labour were in a very weak position during Tony Blair’s long goodbye, but then at least they had the hope that Gordon Brown’s accession as Prime Minister would renew the government, be the change from Blair that people wanted. They can no longer look forward to the dour, Scottish hope charging over the horizon to save the day, now they have to fight with what they’ve got.

The rest of the figures are worse. 53% think Alistair Darling is doing a bad job as Chancellor with only 11% beliving he is doing a good job a net rating of minus 42. We obviously don’t have YouGov figures for the last Tory government to compare to, but to put it in some context the worst figures ever recorded by MORI were for Ken Clarke in 1994, when 17% thought he was doing a good job and 70% a bad job – a net rating of -53.

On competence 52% of people think the government is neither competent nor efficient, only 36% take the contrary view that they’ve just had bad luck and are basically competent. On specific subjects 89% think they have handled the missing data badly, 56% think they’ve handled the NHS badly, 64% the armed services, 68% criminal justice (with only 8% thinking they handled it well or excellently!), 54% Northern Rock, 78% asylum.

These are still figures from a poll conducted during a truly appalling period for the government. On another day when the newspapers aren’t full of negative stories about the government, when (as will happen in the fullness of time) the media are kicking the Conservatives or Lib Dems or whoever, Labour will do better. That said, given that the fieldwork for this poll was mostly conducted at the beginning of a week that got worse for Labour as it went on, things are quite likely to get worse first.

UPDATE: The sleaze question in this poll were actually done separately between Tuesday and Thursday and the voting intention figures are the combination of the two polls. There was no difference between the two, they both showed 43% to 32%. This means some of the fieldwork would have been carried out while Labour’s funding crisis was indeed in full flow. The likelihood is still that most of it was still done early in the week, so later polls may yet show things getting worse.


A new ComRes poll for Tuesday’s Independent has headline voting intention figures, with changes from last month, of CON 40% (-1), LAB 27% (-6), LDEM 18%(+2) and Others 14%.

The 13 point Conservative lead is the largest recorded for almost twenty years; in the unlikely event that such a whopping swing occured in a uniform fashion at a general election it would produce a Tory majority of 58. It is worth remembering however that ComRes do tend to have the most favourable weighting for the Conservatives (and for ‘others’) so we should expect them to report larger leads than companies like YouGov and ICM.

The changes in the topline figures match the general trends we’ve seen elsewhere. Labour are down sharply, the Liberal Democrats are up, benefiting either from the publicity of their leadership election or through Labour’s misfortune, the Conservative vote is down very slightly – the same as we saw with BPIX, rather than the sharp drop we saw with ICM. My instinct is that the ICM poll may be a rogue, that the actual picture is that the Conservatives are steady-ish, Labour are down significantly but the Lib Dems (and others) are the beneficaries of their troubles – that is just my own personal judgement through. We’ve still got YouGov to come this week, Populus early next week and an Ipsos MORI poll at some unspecified point, so we shouldn’t have a lack of polls to make judgements on.

Sunday polls

There are apparently new polls tomorrow in the News of the World and the Mail on Sunday. The News of the World poll is by MSL, a sister company of ICM – both are owned by Creston plc. I’ve never them do political media polls before, if I had to make a wild stab in the dark I’d guess that the News of World phoned up ICM for a poll and found that ICM were already contracted to do a poll on the same subject for the Guardian this weekend, and were hence given MSL as someone else who might be able to do it for them. No news of any voting intention questions in the MSL poll, but it found that 54% thought ministers had handled Northern Rock badly and 49% of respondents wanted Alistair Darling to resign.

Overall 46% now thought that the government was bad at handling a crisis, compared to 42% who though they were good at it. Labour’s lead on the economy has dissappeared – asked which party they thought better at managing the economy Labour and the Tories are equal on 38%. The News of the World apparently draws comparisons with a poll a couple of months back when Labour had a twelve point lead – different pollsters and the wide variety of ways this question is asked produce different answers. I can’t recall ICM showing the Conservatives catching Labour on the economy in recent years, but YouGov have often shown the parties neck and neck – we don’t really know what these figures are comparable to.

I’ll update once we find out details of the BPIX poll in the Mail on Sunday (or any other polls that surface).

UPDATE 1: Nothing about this Sunday’s polls yet, but this post on the Sky News blog reveals they have the first poll of Lib Dem members of their leadership campaign which will be released on the 2nd December (so a week tomorrow). Presumably this is the YouGov one that various people have reported being polled for.

UPDATE 2: The BPIX poll for the Mail on Sunday has the Conservatives on 40%, down 1, and Labour on 35%, down 2. The Lib Dem figure isn’t available yet. While the Conservative’s are down, a one point shift isn’t significant in itself, its more consistent with broad picture we’ve been seeing in most polls lately of the Conservative vote having stabilised at around 40%. Labour at 35% is also consistent with the sort of support they’ve been recording in recent weeks…that is, doing better than in the two recent snap polls by YouGov and ICM. There is no drastic collapse in Labour support here.

Other questions in the poll are embarrassing for Labour, but probably don’t tell us much. Voting intention with Blair still in charge is CON 37%, LAB 37%… but this is probably just as unrealistic as the hypothetical polls from before Brown was leader, if Blair was still PM he’d probably have been tarnished by Northern Rock and the loss on benefit data which would have damaged him. The poll also suggested people think Brown is less competent than John Major and Alistair Darling a worse Chancellor than Norman Lamont.

Finally, BPIX found 46% of people were now opposed to ID cards, with 43% in favour.

UPDATE: 3An ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraoh doesn’t have voting intention figures either. The overall picture there is Labour suffering a drop, but not a disastrous one. Net approval ratings for Alistair Darling are down at minus 18, while Gordon Brown retained positive ratings as Chancellor until almost the end of his time there (to put the BPIX question about comparing Darling with Norman Lamont into context, there was an ICM poll in November 1992 where Lamont got a net rating of -57.)

ICM also asked the same question as Populus about whether people would trust Brown & Darling or Cameron & Osborne to deal with economic problems. While the trend is the same, it is less drastic – Brown/Darling remain ahead on 39% compared to Cameron/Osborne’s 32%. In the polls during the week I said it was the answer to this question that would be most damaging to Labour if it held true…it hasn’t.

Gordon Brown’s approval rating is almost unchanged from last month at minus 2 (compared to minus 1 last month), suggesting no drastic damage to his ratings either.

Apart from the Populus poll in the week, the overall picture in these latest polls seems to me that Labour are damaged by the disc affair, but really not fatally so. Judging by the polls the damage seems to be a lot less than you’d think from reading some of the commentary. Of course, it’s not other yet, the disc story was still running when these polls were taken, and was being accompanied by criticism of Labour’s defence policy and now the strange story in the Mail on Sunday about one of their major donors. So far though, I think the picture is looking less bad for them than everyone assumed and expected.

UPDATE 4: It’s worth noting that the ICM poll in the Sunday Telegraph appears to have been carried out in the same set of fieldwork as the one for the Guardian in the week. This changes the picture slightly – we don’t have horrible YouGov and Populus polls for Labour, contradicted by two ICM polls showing less bad news for Labour and some poor results for the Tories. Instead we have horrible YouGov and Populus polls for Labour, and a single ICM poll showing a different picture. It could be that the ICM poll just happened, through the normal vagueries of random sample error, to get a sample that was more sympathetic to Brown and Darling – we shall see in the next lot of polls.

A new ICM poll for the Guardian has topline figures of CON 37%, LAB 31%, LDEM 21%. Changes since the last poll are Conservatives minus 6, Labour minus 4, Liberal Democrats plus 6 (and by implication, the ‘others’ up four). From the last ICM Guardian poll, the changes are Conservatives minus 3, Labour minus 4, Lib Dems up 3.

This is a strange result and certainly doesn’t tally with YouGov’s finding yesterday, or what we’d really expect to find. It should come as no surprise that Labour are down, neither should we be shocked that the Liberal Democrats are up – the recent coverage of alleged negative campaigning by Chris Huhne might on first sight be a potential negative, but I suspect the Liberal Democrats main problem over recent months has been a lack of coverage full stop, so even this was probably good for them. Vince Cable’s response to the missing benefit data affair also seems to have been well received, so I can quite imagine a big boost for them. The mystery is the significant drop in Conservative support, which has no obvious explanation.

There is a rule in market research called Twyman’s law: “anything surprising or interesting is probably wrong”. While not going that far, I would always advise that if you find a poll result that seems somewhat counter-intuitive, that seems to have no obvious explanation, treat it with caution until other polls support the findings. Statistically there is no more reason for this poll to be wrong than the last poll or the poll before that, and we may indeed find that this is a genuine trend and everyone starts showing the Tories down, but it is a bit odd.

It was only a couple of days ago that I was saying how the polls finally seemed to be presenting a consistent picture and now this comes along to upset it! Still, we have at least two timetabled polls due in the next week or two, plus whatever extra polls newspapers have commissioned on the back of the benefit data loss, so hopefully together they will give us a clearer picture.

UPDATE: It may be an even bigger recovery. Later reports in the Guardian have the Lib Dems on 23%…but report that as being three points up (which would put them on 21%, not 23%). No idea if they are actually on 21% or 23%.

UPDATE 2: Confirmed via Mike Smithson: it was indeed 21%.