Ed Miliband is, as I am sure all readers will know, the new leader of the Labour party. The final result was Ed Miliband 51%, David Miliband 49% – the same splits as in YouGov’s final poll of the electoral college. Unlike the poll though, David Miliband was ahead amongst both MPs and party members, with Ed only triumphing on the votes of the trade union section, something that Labour’s opponents are likely to make great play of.

Ed Miliband comes to the leadership already painted as “Red Ed”, someone who will move the Labour party to the left – in YouGov’s poll for the Sunday Times today 24% of people expected Ed to move the party leftwards, compared to 5% who expected him to move to the right and 27% who expected no change. It may be that the ideological differences between him and his brother were exaggerated, and that he was just playing to the left-wing audiences that made up Labour’s electoral college, but nevertheless he starts off with a media image as the left-wing candidate (he may want to dump that quickly if he is not going to take the party to the left – early impressions are hard to shift!).

There is, of course, plenty of polling around the Labour for the start of conference, though there will undoubtedly be a lot more in the week. On Friday the Fabian Society and Policy Network published the YouGov polling for their updated version of Southern Discomfort. As part of that we asked where people saw the Labour party as close to various different groups in society – people saw Labour as being closest to immigrants (59% close), trade unions (69% close) and benefit claimants (66% close), hardly election winning associations. Labour particularly struggled with being seen as close to the middle class (only 35%), homeowners (31%) and people in the South (only 32% – including only 23% of people actually living in the South).

Note that this is not a case of “it was ever thus” – when YouGov asked a similar question back in 2007 Labour were seen as closer to “professional and business people” than to trade unionists or the working class. With an electorate that is increasingly Southern and middle class, Labour need to appeal to the middle class south as well as their working class core.

(For comparison, 68% think the Conservatives are close to the middle class, 57% to homeowners and 72% to people in the South. They have their own problems though – only 13% think they are close to people in the North and Scotland, and 83% see them as close to “rich people”)

Labour will also need to come to terms with the reasons for their defeat in 2010. To coincide with Ed Miliband’s election as leader Michael Ashcroft has published Populus polling of Labour party members and voters Labour lost in 2010. Swing voters said the main reasons for Labour’s defeat were Gordon Brown as Prime Minister, Labour not having the right answers on things like the economy and immigration, and the party having run out of steam. Labour members though the reasons were that voters did not appreciate Labour’s acheivements, the right wing media, and not successfully communicating policies that were broadly right.

The biggest dilemma here will probably be spending. Labour will be tempted to oppose wholesale the coalition’s cuts, and will almost certainly gain a lot of support in the polls regardless as unpopular cuts bite. We have already seen opinion polls showing support for cuts wavering, and that’s likely to get worse when specific cuts are announced.

If the coalitions policies drive the country into depression or annihilate public services Labour have probably won the next election anyway, whatever they do. Things are trickier if the government’s policies don’t lead to disaster – then the next election will be fought on the background of the coalition saying they made the tough decisions that turned out to be right – then Labour will need to face up to saving they got it wrong. In YouGov’s poll for the Fabians/Policy Network 77% of people said most or a lot of Labour’s extra spending in office was wasted, compared to only 47% who thought they actually improved services.

In Populus’s poll of the voters Labour actually lost in 2010 the findings are even starker – 69% of lost Labour voters think the cuts are unavoidable, 74% think Labour must accept a large part of the blame for the economic problems that Britain faced, 84% think “Labour won’t be taken seriously on the economy until it comes up with its own plan to deal with the deficit – it can’t just oppose every spending cut”. That said, the same poll suggests there is fertile ground for an alternate solution – 77% of lost Labour voters think people on higher incomes should have to pay more tax to reduce spending cuts.

Meanwhile, today’s daily poll for YouGov has voting intentions of CON 39%, LAB 38%, LDEM 15%. That suggests a small boost for the Lib Dems from their conference, fifteen is their highest support from YouGov for a month. As I’ve said before, with only 1 point between the two main parties I’d expect us to see a poll with Labour in the lead sometime this week.

UPDATE: Here’s an article I wrote for Progress last month going over similar ground, but based on some slighter older polling figures http://www.progressonline.org.uk/articles/article.asp?a=6720

Is due at about 4.40pm. The last YouGov poll of Labour members and trade unionists had the Miliband brothers neck and neck. Ed Miliband was marginally ahead – but they were within the margin of error of each other and it could easily go either way (especially since MPs second preferences are still largely unknown, though Left Foot Forward have since managed to get some info from MPs backing Abbott, Balls and Burnham).

The Westminster village seems to have decided that Ed Miliband will indeed win, and the betting markets have him as heavy odds on favourite. However, there isn’t any sign of firm information (Laura Kuenssberg tweeted earlier that even Labour’s general secretary wont be told the result by ERS until 3.30pm, and ERS themselves are unlikely to leak), so it should really still be regarded as too close to call.

Feel free to use this thread to discuss the result (but please, try to stick to the comments policy and lay off the posts greeting the new leader as either the coming of the messiah or the final nail in Labour’s coffin!)

UPDATE: The result is, as everyone will now know, Ed by a whisker. That was stressful!


Tonight’s daily YouGov poll has topline figures of CON 43%, LAB 36%, LDEM 14% – quite a change from having the two main parties equal on 39% yesterday. Technically of course it doesn’t have to mean anything – both are within the margin of error of the average of YouGov’s recent polls which is around about CON 41% or 42%, LAB around 38% and the Lib Dems around 12%.

My guess is that part of today’s poll is probably a Lib Dem gain from conference coverage – 14% is at the top of their current range in YouGov’s polls – but that the high Tory lead is probably just a outlier. Of course, it could be the other way around, with yesterday’s 39% a piece being an outlier and this being a true reflection, but yesterday’s was at least in line with the general trend of a shrinking Tory lead. We’ll see tomorrow.

YouGov’s daily poll tonight has topline figures of CON 39%, LAB 39%, LDEM 13%. Other than a couple of polls straight after the general election, this is the first YouGov poll since the election to show the Conservatives below 40 since the coalition was formed and it makes YouGov the third pollster to show the parties neck and neck.

This is a continuation of the trend of a falling Conservative lead that we’ve seen throughout the summer. My guess is that we’ll almost certainly see a Labour lead in the polls during their conference next week (with the polls this close we may see one before that), though it may well disappear straight afterwards if the Conservatives get their own boost. To some extent it’s irrelevant anyway, whatever the standing in the polls at the beginning of October, we are rapidly heading towards the spending review and the point where the surprisingly popular abstract cuts that George Osborne announced in the budget are replaced with specific cuts that are less likely to go down positively. Once we get past that I’d expect some solid Labour leads in the polls.

On the subject of the economy and the spending cuts, YouGov’s trackers on the cuts this month have also shown some significant changes. For the first time, a plurality of respondents thought the cuts will be bad for the economy (by 43% to 40% who think they will be good – compare this to straight after the budget when 53% thought they would be good and only 28% bad). Also for the first time a majority (51%) also think the cuts are being done unfairly, compared to only 30% who think they are fair. That said, people are still more likely to blame the last Labour government for the cuts than the current government – 44% blame Labour the most, compared to only 21% blaming the coalition the most (22% blame them both).

Time for another round up of interesting polls I missed over the last week. YouGov this morning has the first post-papal-visit reaction, 15% of people say the visit made them view the Pope more positively, 9% more negatively, the rest no difference.

Slightly older, YouGov also asked about the idea of introducing first and second degree murder. Rather to my surprise given that the practical effect of such a change would be to give mandatory life sentences to only some murders, when the public tend to be very reactionary on law and order, it was overwhelmingly popular with 74% supporting the idea. In the same poll YouGov asked about the re-introduction of the death penalty for murder, which was supported by 51% of respondents.

Moving on, ComRes carried out a survey asking people what they thought members of some professions should be paid here. In short, people tended to think that professions earning more than around £29k should be paid less, and professions earning less than around £29k should be paid more. Bizarrely, premiership footballers came out as the profession people thought deserved the highest pay, with the average wage suggested by respondents was £364,000. This seems to be due to some people giving exceptionally high figures for them and skewing the mean though – the median wage people thought premiership footballers should earn was between £30,000 and £40,000.

Finally there is also a new Populus poll up on their site here, asking a rather wierd and wonderful selection of opinions. They all seem to be forced choice questions, with no option of saying don’t know. (actually, it looks like they are just rebased to exclude don’t knows)

60% Would bring back capital punishment
54% would leave the EU
47% support switching to AV
13% support British entry into the Euro

They also asked whether various things are true or false.

19% think God created the earth in days
39% think some people have psychic powers (!)
31% think aliens have visited earth
32% think Dr David Kelly was murdered
18% think time travel is possible
67% think humans evolved from apes
37% think there is life after death
61% think climate change is happening and caused by humans