The monthly Populus poll for the Times has topline figures of CON 39%(+2), LAB 40%(+1), LDEM 9%(-2). This is the lowest level of Lib Dem support that Populus have shown so far, and the first time they’ve shown them dropping into single figures (YouGov have regularly shown single figure Lib Dem scores, but Populus have tended to show them a couple of points higher).

Populus also asked whether people trusted Miliband & Balls or Cameron, Osborne & Clegg to run the economy better. Cameron, Osborne and Clegg led Miliband & Balls by 41% to 23%, a significant shift from when Populus last asked the question in March when the lead was 44% to 33%.

The tables for the weekly YouGov/Sunday Times poll are now up here, covering attitudes to Ed Miliband, the government’s recent U-turns, Rowan Williams and the Royal Family.

In the last few days the media narrative seems to have shifted significantly against Ed Miliband, with lots of stories in the media about him being in trouble, having a year to sort himself out, etc. Looking trough them there aren’t really many named figures there: it’s mostly “friends of” or unnamed former ministers. In any stories about internal party rumblings then unless there are names it’s impossible to judge whether it is just the usual suspects (any party has certain malcontents who can always be guaranteed to sound off about the leader), or if there actually are serious rumblings within the Parliamentary party.

What we can be more confident about is that public perceptions of Ed Miliband are not encouraging (and, of course, that will to some extent be due to the media portrayal of him, but that’s part of the game). Miliband’s approval rating today is down to minus 23, his lowest since becoming leader. Only 19% of people think Labour made the right decision in choosing him as leader, with 51% thinking he was the wrong choice.

Responses to questions like this are largely partisan, Conservative and Lib Dem supporters naturally don’t tend to be impressed by the performance of Labour leaders. However, Ed Miliband’s ratings are mediocre even amongst his own party supporters. 41% of Labour voters think he was the wrong choice. 45% of Labour voters think that David Miliband would be a better leader than his brother. Labour voters are evenly split (48% to 47%) on whether Ed is providing an effective opposition, only 43% say they are clear what he stands for (54% not clear), and only 39% of Labour voters think he has a credible policy on the economy (26% do not and 35% are uncertain).

Of course, in Miliband’s favour, under his leadership Labour are ahead in the polls. However, what we can’t tell is whether they’d be further ahead under a different leader, or what would happen in an election campaign when voting intention becomes (to some extent) more a choice between alternative governments.

If we look at the last two leaders of the opposition who went on to become Prime Minister, Tony Blair and David Cameron, Ed Miliband is quite evidently not in the same league. His approval ratings are now solidly negative, while Blair’s figures were consistently positive, and Cameron’s figures positive apart from the temporary effect of the “Brown honeymoon”. Ed’s polling figures risk becoming more reminscent of a Hague or an IDS, despite Labour actually doing relatively well in voting intention polls and (non-Scottish) elections. It takes time for party leaders to establish themselves, but Ed Miliband has had quite a lot of time now and seems to be getting the thumbs down. Once negative perceptions have established themselves in the public mind it takes something to shift them.

Before one writes him off though, the question I ponder is whether we just happen to have been spoiled by Blair and Cameron? Only two leaders of the opposition have become Prime Minister in the last 30 years, and they were cut from quite similar cloth, both charismatic figures who very clearly changed the whole political terrain when they became leader. It is clear Ed Miliband does not fit that mould and whatever you think of him, he has clearly not set the political world alight. However just because only one type of opposition leader has succeeded in the last 30 years, it doesn’t mean only that type of leadership can succeed (hell, if John Smith has not died, Labour would almost certainly still have won in 1997 and we’d have a very different model of what a successful opposition leader looks like). Mrs Thatcher did not set the world alight as Leader of the Opposition, yet won and went onto win three terms. That said, politics has changed since the 1970s and I remember many Conservatives whistling that same empty tune past the graveyards of Hague and IDS’s leaderships…

On other issues, given the unpopularity of the NHS reforms and increasing sentence reductions for pleading guilty, it’s unsurprisingly that people overwhelmingly though the government was right to change and drop the plans. How people viewed the changes were largely along party lines – Conservatives and Liberal Democrats tended to think it showed that the government were listening and willing to change, Labour respondents tended to think that it showed the government were weak or incompentent or hadn’t thought their policies through.

YouGov also asked how much people trusted David Cameron to fulfil the five pledges he gave on the NHS this week – 40% trusted him a little or a lot, 54% did not trust him a lot or at all. As one might expect, the there was a strong party skew – 86% of Conservative voters trusted him a lot or a little (and only 1% not at all), 86% of Labour voters didn’t trust him much or at all, Lib Dem voters were pretty evenly split.


Tonight’s YouGov poll for the Sunday Times has topline figures of CON 37%, LAB 42%, LDEM 9%. I’ll update properly tomorrow on other findings from the poll.

In the last few days there has been quite a bit of attention given to a projection of what the possible impact of the constituency changes might be from Lewis Baston. Most attention has focused upon the projection showing the Lib Dems suffering particularly badly, while Labour don’t do that much worse than the Conservatives. Overall Baston has the Conservatives losing 15 seats, Labour 18 seats and the Lib Dems 14 seats (note that this is slightly different from the figures in the Guardian yesterday, as the projection for Warrington has changed – orginally they had a change from a North/South split to an East/West split, now they have a far simpler solution which moves just one ward).

The way the projection has been done seems perfectly valid to me – Baston just seems to have taken the known facts (things like the Isle of Wight having two seats, and the regional distribution of seats in English which the boundary commission have said they’ll stick to unless there are really compelling reasons to cross regional boundaries), then used educated guesswork and knowledge of the sort of things boundary commissions have done in the past to come up with a plausible distribution of seats that fits within the rules.

However, the important caveat is that it is only one of many different possible distributions of seats that might emerge, and some will be better or worse for other parties. The political parties will have done their own projections of possible outcomes, and over on the Vote UK discussion boards there are several people putting forward suggestsion just for fun. I’ve played about with possible seats distributions myself, and come up with different projections (I did ponder doing something along the lines of what Lewis has done, but never got round to doing it for the whole country). My own expectations based on playing about with possible distributions are that the Conservatives are likely to do considerably better than Labour, but that the Lib Dems are indeed likely to do surprisingly badly. Of course, until mid-September when the first provisional recommendations are published it can only really be speculation.

A second caveat worth noting is one Mark Pack makes here. Notional voting figures for new boundaries only show how the votes would have been totted up if people’s votes at the last election had been counted in the new boundaries, not how people would have voted at the last election on new boundaries (and certainly not how they’d vote now). The notional figures will look bad for the Lib Dems because the Lib Dems often have seats that are little islands of concentrated support, which will have territory from non-Lib Dem seats brought into them – while the people in those seats may not have voted Lib Dem last time in a seat that wasn’t a viable Lib Dem target, they may have done in if they had actually had been in a Lib Dem target. (of course, on present levels of support boundary changes may be the least of the Lib Dems problems!)

Meanwhile tonight’s YouGov/Sun voting intention poll has topline figures of CON 36%, LAB 44%, LDEM 8%. That’s the highest Labour lead YouGov have shown since April. I expect it’ll turn out to be something of an outlier, but it further underlines the impression that the average lead in YouGov’s polls is heading back up to 6 points or so after having fallen down to 2-3 points after the local elections.

Tonight’s YouGov/Sun voting intentions are CON 37%, LAB 43%, LDEM 9%. Looking at the last week’s polling, it does appear that the narrowing of the Labour lead down to 2-3% points in the YouGov daily polling after the local/Scottish/Welsh elections was indeed mostly a temporary halo effect and we are now heading back towards the 5-6 point leads we had earlier in the year.

(Though of course, having said that there is just bound to be a poll showing a 1 point lead or something tomorrow that makes me look daft despite the fact that the average lead is clearly heading back upwards!)