There is also a snap Haltemprice and Howden constituency poll conducted by ICM for the Mail on Sunday on Friday. It shows 57% of Mr Davis’s constituens support his decision to force a by-election and 69% think it was a principled decision. At this stage, David Davis would annihilate any opposition in a by-election – in a straight fight Kelvin Mackenzie has the support of only 14% to Davis’s 67%, in a straight fight with Labour they would have only 11%.

Of course, it’s a hugely unusual by-election and whatever opposition to Davis does emerge – assuming that some does – has not even begun to oppose him, so things could change, but the starting point is that Davis is utterly dominant.


There are two new polls in the Sunday newspapers, our first chance to see what the public’s response is to David Davis’s shock resignation. A new ComRes poll in the Independent on Sunday began its fieldwork prior to Davis’ resignation so contains no specific questions on the subject. The topline voting intentions, with changes from their last poll, are CON 44%(nc), LAB 26%(-4), LDEM 17%(+1). Fieldwork was conducted between the 11th and 12th June.

This suggests a further fall in Labour’s support, but is actually almost identical to the last ComRes poll for the Indy on Sunday, so the difference may be just variations due to sample error or a difference produced by doing the fieldwork mid week rather than over the weekend.

Other questions in the survey asked respondents whether two potential alternate Labour leaders would make better Prime Ministers than Gordon Brown, and provide, if not a wholehearted endorsement of Brown, at least a rebuttal of the idea that absolutely anyone would be better than Brown. Asked if Alan Johnson would be a better Prime Minister than Gordon Brown, 37% agreed, but 41% disagreed – including 66% of remaining Labour voters. Asked about David Miliband, 37% thought he would be better than Brown, but 43% disagreed.

Looking at the timing of the interviews, those conducted after David Davis’ resignation would appear to show a lower Conservative lead, but I would be wary of reading anything at all into this – firstly the numbers of people in each subsample are very small, so any contrast could easily be sample error, secondly you do tend to get different political skews at different times of the day when conducting a poll simply because different socio-economic groups are at home answering the telephone.

A second poll, this time by YouGov for the Sunday Times, was conducted between the 12th and 13th of June and was done post-Davis’s resignation. The topline voting intention figures, with changes from YouGov’s last poll, are CON 47%(nc), LAB 25%(+2), LDEM 18%(nc). Here, therefore, Davis’s resignation doesn’t seem to have made any obvious difference to Tory support, though Labour are up slightly.

The one single question on Davis (suggesting it was very much shoved in at the last minute as the news broke) asks if people think it was a genuine act of principle or a cynical ploy to help the Conservative party or his own career – 29% thought it was an act of principle, 41% thought it was a cynical ploy. Of course, this would have been asked people people had had time to digest the news or read the print media’s reaction, so opinions may since have changed massively – given the last responses from David Cameron and media speculation of internal ructions and Conservative bewilderment, I suspect considerable fewer people would now think it a cunning party ruse! I’ll be more confident judging the public’s response to David Davis – both directly and in terms of voting intention – when we see polls conducted once the news had time to sink in.

As usual with the Sunday Times, there are also both trackers and questions on a wide variety of other subjects. On the performance of the party leaders, Gordon Brown recived another dire score, with a net rating of minus 62, one down from his record low last month. David Cameron’s net rating was at +37 from +33 last month, so no damage to his leadershuip yet from the Davis affair (though again – it’s still early).

Respondents’ economic outlook is pessimistic, but not quite at panic stations. 5% think the present state of the economy is quite good, compared to 49% who think it is quite bad and 24% who think it is very bad. Around 90% of respondents think economic growth will get worse over the next 12 months, but only 31% think there will be an actual recession. 68% think house prices will drop. A majority (67%) of people blame Gordon Brown to some extent for the present economic problems.

On the 42 days law, 53% thought Gordon Brown was right to press for the new law, 37% disagreed (this is a lower level of support for 42 days than some other polls have shown, but I suspect the reason is that the question involved saying Gordon Brown was right!). Asked how the balance should be struck between civil liberties and defeating the threat from terrorism, 38% thought defeating terrorism should take precedence, 14% thought civil liberties should – 41% thought both should be equally important.

On the question of the EU referendum (the overwhelming majority (if not all) of the responses to the survey would have been collected before it was clear that Ireland had voted No) 63% of respondents saud that Britain should have had a referendum. 44% said they would vote against the treaty in a referendum, 19% would vote yes.

Finally, the poll asked about attitudes towards the Conservatives. 40% now think that the Conservatives are ready for government (you may well ask why this is less than the percentage who would vote for them – it probably isn’t, remember voting intention excludes don’t knows and wont votes, while this question doesn’t), with 33% disagreeing. However, only 32% say they know enough about what David Cameron would do if he was in power, 37% of people say they don’t.


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42 Day Detention

A YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph this morning found 69% of people supported an increase in the length of time people can be held without charge from 28 to 42 days “in exceptional circumstances”, 24% opposed it.

This is in line with previous polling, which has always tended to show a substantial majority support policies to extend the length of time terrorist suspects can be held. The picture is a bit muddier when alternates like allowing the questioning of suspects to continue after they are charged are brought into the equation, but in general the government’s policy has public support.

Tonight of course, it is the opinion of MPs that matters, not the public – the best place for analysing that is, as ever, Phil Cowley’s site www.revolts.co.uk


John Craig over on the Sky News blog picks out that today’s Populus poll shows 61% of people think the Conservatives are tainted by financial sleaze, up from 51% in February (and even that was in a poll taken shortly after the Conway affair, so this is worse than then). It does appear that the stories are gradually associating the Tories once again with financial sleaze in the eyes of the public. Unfortunately John Craig concludes that this is “evidence, if it were needed, that sleaze is a monster vote loser for David Cameron and the Tories”.

This is rubbish – my guess is that an association with financial sleaze should be damaging for a party, but this poll certainly isn’t evidence to support the hypothesis: the poll shows the Tories up five points on 45% and with a record lead over Labour. The question this poll provokes should be why hasn’t financial sleaze been a monster vote loser for David Cameron and the Tories? One answer we can give now is that Labour are seen as worse – 68% thought they were tainted by financial sleaze (from 69% in February), and polls are pretty consistent now in showing that of those who don’t think they are all as bad as each other, people tend to think Labour are sleazier than the Tories.

Another possible factor is how well people think the parties and leaders react to financial sleaze – if both the main parties are seen as full of MPs on the take, the dividing line suddenly becomes what the party leaders are prepared to do to about it and who the public think is more likely to stand against it. From the top of my head, I can’t think of any polling evidence on that yet.

Finally, of course, there is the possibility that people don’t actually care that much when it is compared to other issues. Obviously no-one thinks it desirable to have corrupt MPs and if asked if it is important that politicians are not sleazy and corrupt they will agree… but put it alongside things like tax, the economy, immigration, crime and so on. MORI’s monthly question on what the most important issues facing the country classifies people who say things about sleaze under “morality/personal behaviour” – as you can see, it was at 7% in the last poll, and it was only one factor with the grab-bag of concerns MORI would have heard about the standards of behaviour in Britain today. That means at the very least it’s seen as less important than crime, defence, immigration, the economy, tax, drugs, education, housing, inflation and the NHS.

I think that probably underestimates its importance, because as well as the direct effect it also impacts on the image of a party, and whether that party is seen as in touch or out for itself, but the fact remains that its easy to overestimate how important sleaze actually is as an issue, especially when it is an issue where people do not see much, if any, of a dividing line between the parties.


Populus’s monthly poll for the Times has topline voting intentions, with changes from last week, of CON 45%(+5), LAB 25%(-4), LDEM 20%(+1). The poll was conducted between the 3rd and 5th of June, so would have got the brunt of the Caroline Spelman coverage, which clearly doesn’t appear to have dampened support for the Conservatives.

Until now only YouGov had shown a Conservative lead of twenty points or more; Populus is the first non-internet company to show a lead of this size. Until now it was possible that the huge Conservative leads shown by YouGov were some sort of artifact of internet polling – in fact I was half way through drafting up ideas for a article looking at possible reasons why YouGov was showing larger leads than the phone polling companies. It may no longer be necessary!