Two voting intention polls in the Sunday papers. Deltapoll in the Mail on Sunday had CON 42%, LAB 38%, LDEM 6% (report here). Opinium in the Observer has CON 39%, LAB 42%, LDEM 5% (report here).

I expect rather more attention will be given to the poll from Opinium as the Labour lead is the first we’ve seen since July 2019. We’ve had a couple of polls showing the main parties neck-and-neck in recent weeks (there was another one yesterday from Redfield & Wilton, showing them both at 40%). Looking across the various polls it is clear that the two main parties were heading towards roughly equal levels of support and, therefore, normal margin of error was going to spit out a Labour lead soon enough.

The question is what impact this starts to have upon the political environment – assuming the pattern continues – voting intention polls this far out have little predictive value (4 years to go!), but do have an influence on how the parties are perceived to be doing by their own supporters, their own MPs and the media. It helps Keir Starmer to be seen as a winner, who has put the Labour party back into the lead. It risks doing the opposite for Boris Johnson, especially given one of his selling points to the Tory party was his popularity with the public.


YouGov’s latest poll for the Times has topline voting intention figures of CON 40%, LAB 40%, LDEM 6%, GRN 5% – the first time that the Conservatives have lost their lead in a YouGov poll since Boris Johnson became leader. Opinium also put out a poll showing the parties neck-and-neck at the end of August, though there most recent poll has the Conservatives ahead again. Other recent polls have also showed a narrowing – Redfield & Wilton had 2 point Tory lead this week, Survation 2 points and NCPolitics 4 points earlier in September.

To some degree this isn’t really a surprise. The Conservatives no longer have the advantage of a more popular leader, with Keir Starmer consistently getting higher approval ratings than Boris Johnson. The “rally round the flag” factor – the tendency for people to support the government at times of national crisis – has now vanished, and public opinion is increasingly critical of the government’s handling of the corona outbreak. In YouGov’s tracker the proportion of people thinking the government are handling corona well is down to 30% (lower than any of the other countries tracked). The question may perhaps be why the Conservatives aren’t doing worse?

Part of that may be the underlying factor of Brexit. Boris Johnson was elected primarily on a platform of delivering Brexit – it is still seen as one of the most important issues facing the country, and the Conservatives still have a solid lead on delivering it. There is also still a lack of confidence in the Labour party – while Starmer is seen as a potential Prime Minister, people still appear to have very little idea what he stands for (the YouGov poll today contained questions asking what issues people cared about the most, and what issues people think the Labour party and Keir Starmer himself cared about. The latter returned an overwhelming Don’t know). Only 28% of people think that the Labour party looks ready for government, and they have negative trust ratings on issues like the economy, Brexit or defence & security. While Starmer’s leadership has had a good start, the Labour party has a way to go.

Either way, at this stage in a Parliament the importance of less is less predictive (after all, there are probably years to go), and more the impact on party morale, and how the parties are percieved. Remember, one of Boris Johnson’s main selling points to the Conservative party was that he was popular with the public. He was the Tory who could reach parties that other Tories could not. What becomes of him if Labour pull ahead and the Tory party realise that he isn’t popular anymore?


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