The average Tory lead in June’s Voting intention polls so far is around 5 points, with the Tories in the low forties, Labour up in the high thirties. The level of party support appears to have settled down since the fading of the “rally round the flag” effect in May.

Looking away from the coronavirus polling it is now almost two months since Keir Starmer became Labour leader, so we have an initial chance to see how he’s registered with the general public.

When I write about results for “who would make the best Prime Minister?” question on social media I often get comments along the lines of “its easier to look like a good Prime Minister when you are Prime Minister”. This is correct, but it doesn’t devalue the question. It is indeed easier to look Prime Ministerial when you are Prime Minister, and this is an advantage that the PM will enjoy in real life, and will enjoy come any election. It is not the case that Prime Ministers always lead on this question. When he was leader of the opposition Tony Blair was consistently ahead of John Major on this question, David Cameron often polled ahead of Gordon Brown. Therefore Starmer’s ratings in his first few months look promising – YouGov had him neck-and-neck with Boris Johnson earlier this month, the latest Opinium poll for the Observer has him two points ahead of Johnson as preferred PM.

Questions asking about Starmer in his own right also seem positive. He has solidly positive approval ratings from YouGov, Ipsos MORI, Survation and Opinium. YouGov’s questions on leader attributes give him strongly positive ratings on being decisive, strong, competent and likeable. By 40% to 32% people say he does look like a Prime Minister in waiting.

It is a cliche to say that first impressions count, but that doesn’t mean it is untrue. History is littered with opposition leaders who really didn’t come across as being capable or substantial figures in their early months in the role and never recovered. Starmer became leader at an unusual time – the coronavirus outbreak very much dictated what he spoke about and concentrated upon. It gave him an immediate challenge of getting his response right to a major crisis. In one sense this is an opportunity – it is a large, serious issue where the leader of the opposition can show they are a serious politician with serious things to say. However, it also brings the risk of being ignored as an irrelevance, or being seen as opportunistic if you pitch it wrong (compare and contrast with the failed Tory leaders during their period in opposition – Iain Duncan Smith became Tory leader immediately after 911… and was ignored; William Hague shortly before the death of Princess Diana, and struggled to speak for the people in a way that came naturally to Tony Blair). Judging by his initial poll ratings, Starmer appears to have passed this initial test.

It’s worth noting that all the polling I’ve referred to here comes from before the sacking of Rebecca Long-Bailey. While that is certainly important for what it tells us about Starmer’s willingness to stamp his authority upon his party, I don’t expect it to make much difference to this figures (realistically the sacking of a shadow cabinet minister is not often something that produces any reverberations beyond the most seasoned Westminster watchers). But as ever, we shall see.

Right now Starmer’s popularity isn’t translating into a polling lead for the Labour party, but having a leader with a popular image who is seen as a plausible Prime Minister gives them the right foundation should the Government’s support falter. The Conservative Government has two huge challenges ahead of them (Brexit and Corona). Either would be daunting alone, let alone both together. For the past few years they have faced the luxury of being up against a not particularly effective opposition, riven by internal divides and with a leader whose support was deep rather than wide. It’ll be interesting to see how they cope with their challenges when they are up against a more substantial opposition.


7,491 Responses to “The public’s first impressions of Keir Starmer”

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  1. @ Statgeek

    It’s amazing how you have completely misrepresented my previous posts by writing that I said the SNP are anti-English. No! I asked a relevant question about a poll where 54% of the SNP supporters polled wanted to quarantine English people visiting Scotland whereas a small minority of other party supporters wanted this when polled. I then said I had no opinion personally but that it would be useful to directly focus on the views of SNP supporters about the English in a new poll and based on this data I certainly think it would.

  2. @ BFR – Well reported cases are going up (FACT), the questions are a/ whether actual infections are going up and then b/ what is being done (needs to be done) if and most importantly WHERE they are (ie which moles need a bigger whack, do we need to consider additional regional or national measures)

    Firstly some more official data, published today. R is close to but probably just below 1 across all regions with NW of most concern.

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-r-number-in-the-uk

    Then some local news from the area with the biggest problem:

    https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/whats-on/music-nightlife-news/manchester-city-centre-bar-shut-18762037

    (and a restaurant has been whacked today as well)

    With the targeted, local approach then if teams are going door-door in areas of intervention and/or concern then YES we are getting “better” at finding more cases (higher number of tests and higher positivity data can be seen in PHE reports for areas with the biggest issues)

    However, if actual infections are roughly stable at 3,800 per day (most recent ONS) then 1,200 / 3,800 is 32% (or in other words the previous rough ratio of x4 is now more like x3) not 50%. We’re still “missing” 2/3rds of new infections (which due to incubation period lags cases, in either direction) – that is a massive reduction and hence a lot better than Mar-May but still room for improvement.

    No one doubts we are in worrying times and a bit of “fear” can be useful if it makes folks more aware of the need to continue with washing hands and sticking to the rules.

    I’d personally like to see the mallet (for mole whacking) used a bit harder WHERE it needs to be and more “guidelines” turned into laws (and then enforced). Making masks, maybe gloves?, compulsory for workers in customer facing settings, etc seems like a “no brainer” as well (technically an NPI measure but not requiring businesses to reclose). “Better” protocols and approach in Care Homes, hospitals (and between the two) etc as well… lot’s of room for “improvement”.

    Sadly the idea to train up folks paid to sit at home to be ready to support NHS staff (eg aircrew) if/when needed has been ignored (as has additional temp police). Mandatory ID cards, enforced quarantines, etc.. again lot’s more we could and IMO should be doing

    What is also FACT is the socio-economic damage of lockdown (last one and any future ones – local, regional or national). We can’t “undo” the damage already done (or bring back the dead) but let’s not create more long-term socio-economic scarring by over reacting with national panic when it is quite clear that most of the country is keeping C19 contained.

  3. Compare and contrast:

    “Do I detect from this there’s a fair degree of anti English hostility within a sizeable percentage of the Scottish population?”

    “It’s amazing how you have completely misrepresented my previous posts by writing that I said the SNP are anti-English. ”

    ” I then said I had no opinion personally but that it would be useful to directly focus on the views of SNP supporters about the English in a new poll and based on this data I certainly think it would.’

  4. A good source with maps for all things “testing”

    https://ourworldindata.org/coronavirus-testing

    Pick your poison but the map with “Tests per confirmed case” adjusts for testing more if you need to.

    On that measure Italy is doing more testing than Spain (although they are doing less testing overall and obviously “who/where” you are testing (ie targeting accuracy) is also relevant). So “testing” doesn’t explain why Italy is doing much better now than Spain? Curious…

    I’ll apologise in advance for posting something that makes UK look good versus most of rWorld (ie that we are low on positivity and high on the scale of every testing stat) – I know most UKPR folks don’t like to see anything +ve for UK as is p!sses on their parade. Tough!

  5. @Bantams

    “Do I detect from this there’s a fair degree of anti English hostility within a sizeable percentage of the Scottish population?”

    And I answered it with the data from the poll.

  6. @Bantams

    Hireton’s post pretty much sums it all up.

  7. @ Hireton

    Not being sarcastic but did you happen to notice the question mark at the end of “Do I detect from this there’s a fair degree of anti English hostility within a sizeable percentage of the Scottish population?” or did you choose to ignore it. I was putting the question out there because the obvious discrepancy in the data makes me think it’s definitely a discussion point.

  8. TW

    I remember Ed Conway showing a graph of cases when this “rising cases” thing started. And he then produced cases % of tests-which wasn’t rising.

    Do you have that data or is it readily available anywhere?

  9. @ Statgeek

    You chose to try and deflect my question by pointing out comparisons with other countries. Would you accept polling SNP supporters directly on their view of the English would clear this up?

  10. They received a yellow card and so guess what matey, you didn’t sort it so you got a red card (ie got whacked). Don’t give the “don’t understand” nonsense..

    “The restaurant had been warned to get its house in order after visits earlier this week, but failed to do so..”

    https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/whats-on/food-drink-news/manchester-city-centre-restaurant-ordered-18770756

    Hopefully other pubs/restaurants will take note and sort themselves out before they need a targeted whack. If not, then more “mallet” required as and where needed (and make it a bigger mallet if/where required as well).

  11. @Bantams

    I deflected nothing. I clarified things. You’re just not accepting it. You asked a question. I said no, and gave you polling data as evidence. You’re still conflating people travelling from England as ‘English’. You’re listening to the YG cherry-picked headline, and not the polling data.

    Any chance we can discuss the possible question that sizeable percentage of the SNP have a fair degree of anti- :

    American
    Chinese
    Spanish
    Italian
    Swedish
    French
    German
    Danish

    …hostility. Or would that be a little silly?

    https://i.ibb.co/fDX8NZw/covid-snp.png

    Incidentally, the use of the word hostility kinda seals the loading of the question. Unless we can construct a sentence where [Group A] has a pro-[Group B] hostility. A positive negative, if you will.

    Would I accept etc?

    If you will accept that such polls, regardless of their outcome will not be constructive.

  12. @bantsms

    No, I saw the question mark and also noted how you had used it. As I also noted:

    “…the views of SNP supporters about the English in a new poll and based on this data I certainly think it would.”

    So no you are not posing questions in an open minded way. Your words show otherwise.

  13. Down-Grading is the New Levelling-Up.

    @ Hireton
    “Re the A levels controversy, if it follows the Scottish pattern, the next 2 or 3 days will be decisive in seeing pressure build or not on the government (s).”

    There doesn’t seem to be any pressure. I don’t believe in consiracy theories. But with this (crooked) government I am beginning to doubt myself. How convenient is the French quarantine story: issued at just the right moment to knock the A-Level fiasco out of the news.
    There is nothing more the media likes than rolling news about the interruption of the sacred British right to a foreign holiday, about the plucky BEF fighting its way back to the channel poerts. Soon there will be stories of British heoroes pushing their possesions across France in old prams with wonky wheels, forced to dive into muddy ditches by speeding French cars etc.
    The Guardian is as bad as the rest.

    Polling suggests that there is actually v limited sympathy with holiday makers, I guess on the grounds. “Well you knew the risks ..”
    Meanwhile the A-Level kids get short shrift.

    @ Pete B
    “I had a dream once where I met a Scot who wasn’t grouchy.”

    I had a dream once I met a Brexiteer who wasn’t stupid.
    The expression I have used before to describe the Scottish I have met on my 50+ holidays there since the ’70s is that they are “drily humourous” & with that slightly mocking attitude that locals ALWAYS have to the hordes of tourists descending on them.

  14. @ COLIN – all the data on the gov.uk site is downloadable so you can run the %s

    https://coronavirus.data.gov.uk/

    Positivity (reported cases / tests) has been bumpy but is up a bit recently and about 0.9%. They should add that graph IMO and go back to Mar when it was 40%+ (due to very targeted (and limited) numbers of tests) – put some context on a 0.2% rise!

    NB huge list of caveats, some folks get tested more than once (as we’re testing new types of test) and some tests are not for C19 virus etc (you can strip some of that out or assume its roughly “constant” in the ratio).

  15. The Guardian does have an interesting stroy about Huy Duong & his prediction re A levels. Mr Duong is a clever & persistent man.

    “Using what scant information Ofqual had made public on its methodology, and an understanding of statistics gained from his PhD in physics, he analysed the 2017-2019 A-level data for Matthew Arnold school. With a little help from his sister, a statistician at the Medical Research Council, he came to the conclusion that that there was “virtually no chance of providing grades to the students in a way that satisfies the double criteria of being fair to the individuals and controlling grade inflation nationally”.
    He warned the education select committee that 39% of grades between A* and D would be lower than the teacher assessments, and last week he shared his findings with the Guardian. He repeatedly sent emails to Ofqual only to receive a stock reply.
    Publicly, Ofqual insisted that Duong was wrong. In what may now appear to be a carefully worded statement, a spokesperson said: “We expect the majority of grades students receive will be the same as their centre assessment grades.”
    But on Thursday morning Ofqual admitted that nearly two in five (39.1%) pupils in the country saw their A-level grades downgraded from their teachers’ estimates. Duong had been bang on.”

  16. @ Hireton

    That is exactly why a properly constructed poll is needed, that question in Yougov’s poll has opened up a can of worms that needs exploring. It could be, as you say, simply an opinion on how to deal with English tourists coming to Scotland but it could show something else has been bubbling under.

  17. Good Law Project gathering evidence to mount a judicial review against Ofqal’s A level methodology and results.

  18. @ Statgeek

    As a stats guy you should want to know the answer to this question.

    “If you will accept that such polls, regardless of their outcome will not be constructive.”

    This suggests you’re scared that a particular answer will come out of this poll that will cause huge upset across the UK. It’s about knowing the score, one way or t’other.

    I don’t have an opinion as to whether there’s a core of hostility in the SNP but I’m concerned enough to want to know how people feel.

  19. @ COLIN – You can get positivity graphs for the LAs on the watchlist from link below. Since we’ve adopted the “targeted, local” approach (copying most of rWorld) then that is worth a look. Latest one under

    “Contain framework lower tier local authority watchlist – maps by LSOA: 14 August 2020 (Week 33)”

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-covid-19-surveillance-reports

    If you have 5%ish positivity and a lot of testing then… WHACK

    It is possible that some areas are slipping under the radar so to speak. If you have a “small fire” that burns out then not a biggy and if/when the fire did burn a bit brighter then it would be noticed eventually – some increased surveillance testing might pick that up sooner but bang for buck and priority?? We do need to rely on most people still asking for a test if/when they have symptoms – we can’t test everyone, everyday.

    PS They also show graphs of cases by age (for each LA on the list) but 18-64 is one big bucket, it would nice to see that split out a bit.

  20. @Bantams

    “This suggests you’re scared that a particular answer will come out of this poll that will cause huge upset across the UK. It’s about knowing the score, one way or t’other.”

    No it doesn’t. How did you come to that conclusion?

  21. @ Bantams
    “This suggests you’re scared that a particular answer will come out of this poll that will cause huge upset across the UK.”
    “That is exactly why a properly constructed poll is needed”
    Etc

    Frankly my Dear I’m pretty sure 99% of the UK population don’t giv a damn (& God knows why you do). In reading this sentence you must emphasise/stress the “giv”, as in the film, otherwise there will be “huge upset”, a “tsunami of discontent”, a “series of seismic shocks” across the UK.

  22. @ Statgeek

    If the 54% of SNP supporters polled who want English tourists to quarantine if visiting Scotland is any way reflected in another poll with a more direct series of questions about their opinions on the English it may or may not cause huge upset and will create great discussion on the benefits or not of maintaining the union. It seems to me to be the right time now to ask these questions.

  23. @TW
    Thanks for your considered reply.

    I agree, you have shown that there is evidence we have got better at finding infected cases (from roughly 1 in 4 to roughly 1 in 3) – that is a massive step forward. It does seem to have coincided with adopting a localised approach to Track and Trace.

    Also Alec has a good point – the low point of ONS estimates was ~2,400 infections per day, so if they are estimating 3,800 per day now we are up around 55% on that low point. So infection rates are up also.

    That said, we appear to be doing substantially better than some of our neighbours (Spain, France, Netherlands), but similarly to others (Italy, Germany) – as you said earlier (and I vigorously agree) we should be looking at what Spain and France are doing ‘wrong’ and what we, Germany and Italy are doing ‘right’…

  24. Forecast that 2m GCSE results will be downgraded this coming week with pupils from disadvantaged areas even more disproportionately affected thsn with A level results:

    https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/aug/14/gcses-2-million-grades-set-to-be-downgraded-researchers-warn

  25. HIRETON

    “”I’m English actually but please carry on with your stereotyping prejudices as they are very entertaining, especially from one of the evidently one of the most insecure posters on this site.”

    LOL, Keep the insults coming you just exposing your own inadequacy.

  26. And you think any of that will be constructive?

    I don’t. All I can imagine is people flinging Internet and political mud at each other, while some politicians accuse one lot being worse than the other lot.

    It’ll polarise people, rather than lead them to make informed decisions.

    Unless you fancy that sort of thing? Boris does. It got him elected.

  27. TW.

    Thanks.

  28. I am English and like, I imagine, the majority of Scots, I have a dislike for the largely English government we have at the moment.

    Clearly that will be true of most English people, given that only a minority voted for it.

    If we are going to conflate feelings about the government of a country with feelings about the actual population then we’ll end up assuming that English people have a problem with English people.

    Which, even for this site, is a bit silly.

  29. Exactly, RosieandDavie

    I am married to an Englishwoman and love her to bits, my kids are half English, my stepfather’s English as are my father and mother in law. I would say about 65% of our friends are English

    My wife, English and living in Scotland is going to vote for Scottish independence (she has changed her mind to that stance in the last two years over a series of issues).

    Re the poll on the border issue that in my opinion no way reflects attitudes to the English, just a view about the best way to avoid spread of the virus and the handling of the situation by the respective governments

  30. Oh dear, the skirmish that Bantams started is still rumbling on. And having slightly more time than usual with a deadline for an article just met, I`ll put in my two-pennyworth.

    Bantams made a reasonable point on the differences between Scottish party supporters on attitudes to visiting tourists coming in from England.

    Statgeek and Hireton have then been making reasonable points that the majority of Scots are content with English holidaymakers arriving and they were hostile (more so, but I haven`t looked at the actual %s) to visitors arriving from foreign countries that had CV19 widespread.

    IMHO, it is a welcome thing that SNP voters are so accepting of English folk coming here meantime, given the daily chronic provocation from (probably) a small but influential minority in Southern England. These people seem unable to recognise that they live in the UK, and restrict themselves to the world of their small geographic area.

    It`s not just the BBC and London news outlets. In my own fields i can give two typical examples from this week.

    My own organisation has put out some valuable findings on GB land-use changes from 1990 to 2015. Almost 2 million acres of grassland have been lost, the “area of Suffolk and Surrey combined”. And every other yardstick for getting across the 25-year GB changes is from Southern England – Cornwall, Dorset, Bedfordshire, Norfolk. It looks like the writer thinks nobody outwith the bottom quarter of GB is reading, or knows the size of counties in rEngland, Wales and Scotland.

    Then in the Organists` Review, there is a sad editorial about the “devastating news stories” on church music. This talks only of a London firm of organ-builders that has ceased trading and Church of England cathedrals, very important music-makers but less than 5% of those suffering in churches and chapels across the UK. The “permanent” closure of Aberdeen Episcopal Cathedral is not mentioned.

    Some others have chimed in on grumpy Scots, a tiny number in my experience. And where English people have told of their bad experiences on coming to/back to Scotland, like Ian McGeechan in the book Being English in Scotland , the cause boils down to things other than nationality – in McGeechan`s case it was hostility from diehard RU Scots who couldn`t forgive him for having coached and played Rugby League when teaching in Leeds.

  31. @toh

    “LOL, Keep the insults coming you just exposing your own inadequacy.”

    Just an observation that you are the poster who most often refuses to engage when challenged and goes off to your allotment (in reality or metaphorically) insecure in your ability to back up your assertions. As you just did when you discovered I wasn’t Scottish so didn’t conform with your prejudice. And the poster who casually insults people. As you also just did so proving the point.

  32. The Trevs,

    We have had R=1 for weeks now. During that time measures have steadily reduced, but R is still 1. Instead of looking at this as a delicate balance, perhaps we should be asking why case numbers are rock solid and unmoving. There is no evidence at all of an epidemic about to burst out.

    King’s phone app once again today reporting a fall in cases. It is by now showing a very clear fall. That’s symptomatic cases of course, and we do not know whether government testing is finding symptomatic or asymptomatic cases.

    Maybe the measures released made no difference. They were always a cost we paid for no gain whatever. There’s a thought.

    Alternatively …. well same thing really but something else is the rate limiting factor. Doesn’t matter about these measures because spread is still being limited by something else. Increased herd immunity perhaps. Perhaps changed behaviour.

    Of course it is possible numbers could be up and king’s still showing down. If there are now more asymptomatic cases than previously. Which would be indicative of growing low level immunity.

  33. JimJam from the morning

    Sorry, I wanted to take a backseat after last night, but you had an important question – I cannot disclose certain contacts and I have to wrap the sources into some misleading stories in order to be able to disclose elements that are relevant or people should know. So, the contact plainly refused to give any details about the sofware, but directed me to an article “that are maybe useful to my questions”. The article is in a journal where the code has to be declared by the authors and on request the journal provides it.

    So, the algorithm is aimed at creating a condensation of the distribution at national, school and subject levels (there doesn’t seem to be any regional or other factors). It is a kind of Student distribution (Gosset) but with varying (predetermined) tails on the left hand side. The steepness of the curve in the right hand side vary (a derivative of a correlation matrix – well, a version of it).

    So, the allocation of the mark concentrates on creating high density at school level, and then allocating it to subject levels as a target while achieving high density at subject level too. Now, it comes to allocation to students. As the target is given, the allocation uses the information submitted by schools in individual students and classes, and first allocated the marks by subject, but if it doesn’t meet the target at school level, it uses a matrix transformation (I don’t know how many iterations), and allocates now students to the adjustment. So, if in one subject a student was downgraded and there is a need of reducing the average in another subject, and there is a correlation between ranking of the student in the two subjects, then there is a higher probability that the student would be picked to meet the subject level target by downgrading him or her.

    Statistically it is legitimate as a method, but it is illegitimate because of the assumptions and because of the three aggregations and because the cross-group comparison in the model is flawed.

    It is wrong to use the model for the purpose. It is wrong that people who actively participated in it now fail to recognise their error, it is wrong that it is not challenged by a particular trade union.

    I recognise the disadvantages of grade inflation – but it is neither here nor there, could be adjusted over time on a more objective basis (while I don’t consider exams to be particularly objective).

  34. On a more prosaic school issue, my grandkids were back in primary school this week, and we were back on duty looking after them after school today. They are very happy to be back with their pals.

    Fortunately, Glasgow has allowed the school’s after school care association to start up again, so they have a safe and fun environment till Mum can collect them after work, 3 days a week.

    The other 2 days we usually pick them up after school but, knowing what Primary school gates are like at the end of the day, we said that environment wasn’t for us! Dad is working from home, so he now pops down to the school to collect them and bring them home to us and he goes back to his study to work.

    Today was the first time he had seen the scrum at the school gate, with idiot parents crowding on to the school steps and teachers having to shout at them to get back. His verdict?

    We made the right call about not going to the school. The school is brilliantly organised and neither teachers nor kids likely to be transmitting the virus. However the f******** parents are so stupid that they could cause problems!

  35. oldnat,
    “Today was the first time he had seen the scrum at the school gate,”
    Sounds to me the Scots don’t think there is anything to worry about any more than the people here on the south coast.

  36. Laszlo @ 8.55 pm

    What you describe as being used for moderation in England is clearly different in several major steps to the moderation SQA used.
    https://www.sqa.org.uk/sqa/files_ccc/SQAAwardingMethodology2020Report.pdf

    So those disadvantaged are in different groups and school types in England. The main similarity is bringing in past results on which the algorithm can do its work.

    I suspect that the Tory government has ordered OFQUAL not to disclose the details of the methodology in the hope that the storm will die down.

    It won`t.

  37. Davwel

    I’d always understood that “the size of Wales” was the most common British unit of measurement for large areas. Suffolk and Surrey combined would be around half of a Wales.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unusual_units_of_measurement#Wales

  38. Danny

    Having driven down the prevalence of the virus in the community has allowed schools to reopen, even on our south coast where we’re headed soon for our first hotel break in ages!

    But the situation (as the Aberdeen outbreak shows) remains fragile, so vigilance remains essential, and most want that to be the case.

    Generalising about “the Scots” from a position of ignorance isn’t unique to those on England’s south coast any more than generalising about the views of everyone on that Farage strewn beach would be.

  39. Lady V
    You’ve completely misrepresented what I said, which was that I did think that many CEOs are overpaid, and I usually vote against Directors remunerations packages at shareholders’ meetings. Hardly doffing my cap.

    However there are other groups who are even more overpaid for what they do. An example I gave was top footballers.

  40. Inevitable.

    Current Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has sent an angry email to members about briefings, leaks and internal divisions.

    It’s been leaked: (Daily Record)

    https://twitter.com/paulhutcheon/status/1294347714050891780

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