If you are looking at voting intention or best Prime Minister figures to judge how well an opposition leader is doing, the first thing to note is that they are relative. It’s not just about how well the opposition are doing, it’s about how well the government are doing. Indeed, it’s probably mostly how well the government are doing – I am a great believer in the old truism that oppositions do not win elections, governments lose them. A really good opposition leader can pick holes in a government and force them into political errors, but primarily it’s a job of waiting for them to make a mistake, and making sure that when they do, you look like a plausible enough alternative for the public to place their trust in you.

Many of Starmer’s internal Labour party critics start with the absolute assumption that the Government are incredibly unpopular and that Labour should therefore be ahead of them. The reality is the Government’s figures really aren’t that bad and, on corona vaccination – the issue that currently dominates the agenda – are strikingly good. Looking at the Ipsos MORI polling this week, 38% think the government are handling corona well, 46% badly (negative, but not overwhelmingly so). 86% think they are doing well at securing vaccine supplies, 78% that they are doing well in rolling it out. For better or for worse, Boris Johnson has also delivered on his main election promise – getting Brexit done – and his own approval ratings appear to have bottomed out at the end of last year and have improved slightly since then.

As such, we’ve seen the Conservative party creep back ahead in the polls over recent months. At the tail end of last year the polls were broadly neck-and-neck. The Tories now clearly have a small lead again. Opinium and YouGov’s polls this week show a 5 point Tory lead, Survation a 6 point lead, Ipsos MORI earlier this month a 4 point lead. This is likely more a reflection of the Conservative Government’s recovering fortunes than anything Labour have or haven’t done. If we want to get a decent measure of public attitudes towards Keir Starmer, we need to look at figures asking directly about Starmer himself, rather than his relative position to the Government.

If we do that, then on the whole, Starmer’s ratings are at least acceptable. During the early part of his leadership there were very solid indeed, but over the last few months they have declined. His approval ratings are fairly neutral (Opinium’s last poll had 32% approving, 30% disapproving; Ipsos MORI has 40% satisfied, 35% dissatisfied; YouGov 39% good job, 37% bad job). These are significantly better than Boris Johnson’s current ratings, and better than his predecessors Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn.

Looking at polling on perceptions of Starmer, YouGov gives him positive ratings on being strong, likeable, decisive and – especially – competence (42% see him as competent, 21% incompetent). Ipsos MORI finds strongly positive ratings for him on being decisive, and moderately positive figures on leading opinion and demonstrating a clear vision.

MORI also ask a regular question on if the opposition leader looks ready to be Prime Minister. 33% of people think Starmer does, 37% think he does not. Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Miliband got figures ranging between 17%-31% thinking they looked ready to be Prime Minister, but consistently got in excess of 60% saying they did not. The positive figures may not be that different here, but Starmer’s negatives are far, far less than his predecessors. YouGov have a similar question, and found 33% think Starmer looks like a Prime Minister in waiting.

It is clear from the polling that Keir Starmer is seen by the general public as much more of a competent, plausible Prime Ministerial figure than his two predecessors. Whether that is enough is a different matter. I’ve frequently compared Starmer’s figures in this article to Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn. By that yardstick they’re not bad at all. But compare them to Tony Blair, or even to David Cameron, the last two leaders of the opposition to actually go on and become Prime Minister, and they look less positive.

It’s also worth underlining that the direction of movement for Starmer is currently negative. Lots of leaders have positive ratings to begin with (think of how positively rated Theresa May was to begin with, for example). At the moment it looks as if the way that Keir Starmer presents himself has chimed enough with the public for them to give him a serious hearing and to remain open-minded on whether he’d make a good Prime Minister. It looks as if Starmer has managed to win the opportunity to be heard, but having that opportunity doesn’t mean he won’t fluff it.

Obviously Keir Starmer is not yet in a position to win a general election. We won’t know until after the boundary review exactly what sort of lead the Labour party would need to win an election, but to get an overall majority on a uniform swing then without some degree of political realignment they’d need a very substantial lead indeed and at this point, Starmer has no lead at all. I suppose for those within the Labour party, it depends exactly how much one can reasonably expect from leader who inherits a party that has just suffered one of its worst ever general elections, its fourth in row, and has spent the last five years busy in internecine warfare.


2,990 Responses to “How well or badly is Keir Starmer doing?”

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  1. ALEC

    Dear oh dear, I’ve prompted you to write a 2000 word essay which still somehow dodges the subject.

  2. ProfHoward

    “The owner of this website wants us to discuss polls here and would prefer it not to be a website where people express political opinions.”

    You are quite right, I got drawn into Brexit again. I will try my hardest to stick to polling again. I just get irritated by so much rubbish. Must try harder.

    :-)

  3. TOH,

    “ , I was talking about the attitude of many in the EU and some EU governments, and it is blindingly obvious, see comments from Garj and PeteB.”

    And just which to EU countries do Gary & PeteB lead?
    If you are looking for evidence of bad behaviour from Europe I think you’ll need more than posters on here declaring it to convince people.

    We agreed border checks in the Irish Sea and now what we signed up to isn’t working the way the Government claimed it would your blaming the EU.

    It’s all their fault for not dropping us a rope to the bottom of the hole we dug.

    Peter.

  4. @Colin – “Its a Big World out there. And our instinct has always been to open to it. We are entrepreneurial & resourceful. Nimble and resourceful.”

    I had to smile at that Colin.

    Apart from the awkward fact that historically, the UK rel!ed on a variety of protectionist measures and an empire/commonwealth which we directed to supply goods to the UK at favourable terms, this idea that the UK is nimble, resourceful, entrepreneurial etc just makes me smile.

    If we were that nimble and resourceful, how come Germany managed to secure so much advantage in exports inside the EU, while the UK didn’t?

    It’s another myth of Brextiarians I’m afraid. A great, nimble, resourceful nation would have found a way to make EU membership work for us.

    There are lots of other nimble, resourceful, entrepreneurial countries out there. British exceptionalism at it’s finest.

  5. Peter Cairns SNP

    See my post to ProfHoward but to give you another’s views try reading Lord Frost in the Sunday Telegraph today. You clearly are another who cannot see the blindingly obvious.

  6. @Garj – “Dear oh dear, I’ve prompted you to write a 2000 word essay which still somehow dodges the subject.”

    Once again, factually challenged.

    It’s three words under 1200.

    :)

    Interested that you avoid any engagement with the substance though.

  7. CARFREW

    Re the cricket. I broadly agree with your post yesterday. Looking at our Asian tour, we played six, won three, lost three. We won a series we lost a series. Indian are the World No 1 and were playing on their own wickets. We actually beat them well playing on the best wicket of the series.

    Yes I hope the youngsters, Pope, Crawley, Sibley, Laurence will have gained from it. I think the Bess situation unfortunate. I think he has the making of a good off- break bowler but he needs to improve control of line and length. I hope he is mentally strong enough to put the setback behind him. Not handled the best IMO.

  8. Cambridge Economics Alumni Webinar Series: The Economics of a Post-Brexit UK – Catherine Barnard
    1,560 views•11 Feb 2021

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S_o0gdc9N9g

  9. Another great example of the total nonsense believed by Brexiters – https://twitter.com/hendopolis/status/1368338939417944067

    If the UK really does want a ‘global deal on services’ that will ‘boost the economy by billions’, it needs to agree a mobility chapter with the EU, one of the biggest services markets in the world.

    The incoherence of the government on this is palpable.

    So far, the Brexit impacts have been largely restricted to certain UK goods exporters, but trade experts have been warning for some time now that come the covid recovery, the pressures the TCA places on the service sector are really going to be exposed.

    Key to services is mobility of labour, and we’ve just erected huge barriers to that.

  10. @ ALEC – You should see if Starmer or Davey will hire you as a SPAD.

    I’m not sure if it is Reeves or Rayner that are ‘Shadow Frosty’ for LAB and no idea for LDEM (not enough MPs for them to cover all the jobs) but they are clearly useless as they have no policy on Brexit when in your view it is all so obvious and simple what needs to be done.

    I’m sure Starmer and/or Davey would love to hear your views and might well hire you to help them craft a policy other than the current ‘no policy’.

    Bon chance ;)

    For CON VI then ‘In Frosty we trust’ and not actually being in the room or a 4yr old then we understand that ‘cake’ doesn’t exist. If voters think CON HMG have done bad job by GE’24 (or maybe ’23) then they will kicked out – simples ;)

  11. TOH: I’m not talking about what we negotiated (apart from the WA), I was talking about the attitude of many in the EU and some EU governments, and it is blindingly obvious, see comments from Garj and PeteB. It does not surprise me that you do not see what to others is blindingly obvious.

    I think this is our first exchange since you mentioned your changing health issues, so first of all let me add my best wishes for your speedy recovery and return to full enjoyment of the outdoor world as spring and summer unfold.

    To return to matters at hand, you have explained that you and others think it “blindingly obvious” that some in the EU have got it in for us.

    Well, of course we will have upset a lot of people with the way we’ve gone about brexit. They would all have to be saints if the formerly abundant stocks of goodwill hadn’t been eroded to some extent.

    But as Alec points out, you don’t need that explanation for the way the EU is proceeding. That’s simply the way in which large, powerful organisations are able to look after their members’ interests. The USA does it; China does it; when we get the chance, we do it (ask the Chagos Islanders!).

    My point was that we have deliberately placed ourselves in a weaker position. We should not complain that the consequences of that are somehow unfair or unreasonable. It’s just the way the world works, as Colin has acknowledged above.

    I think that’s one of our key points of difference over brexit. You, I think, believe it will make the UK stronger – we’ll take back control, we’ll control our borders, we’ll walk tall in the world and look after our own interests as we think fit. I, and others here, fear that it will do the opposite: make us weak, vulnerable and needy. That is not because we lack faith in the country, but because we approach this with beady-eyed realism rather than blind “it’ll be all right on the night” optimism.

    First night’s arrived, and it’s not going well.

  12. TOH,

    “ reading Lord Frost in the Sunday Telegraph!”

    Classic; read how the guy who negotiated this mess says this mess isn’t his fault!

    Peter.

  13. Con.Home have a few new surveys (they are usually representative of grassroots and VI views)

    “A majority of respondents back Sunak’s Budget. Under one in ten say it was bad.”

    https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2021/03/our-survey-a-majority-of-respondents-back-sunaks-budget-under-one-in-ten-say-it-was-bad.html

    2c: That might encourage Rishi to be even bolder going forward?

    “Johnson’s rating for handling Covid reaches its highest since last spring”

    https://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2021/03/conhomes-survey-johnsons-rating-for-handling-covid-reaches-its-highest-since-last-spring.html

    2c. Biased of course but we see that in broader polling (notably CON VI x-break). Relevance is campaigning into LEs. If the ‘foot soldiers’ feel good about their team they help campaigning and if the electorate feel good about CON they GOTV

    I hope+expect the Tory campaign machine has quite a bit of ‘good news’ ready to drip out closer to May elections – over above coming out of lockdown, etc.

    What have LAB or LDEM got to offer beyond picking up on any ABCON issues (eg the ‘own goal’ of the NHS 1% pay rise that CON HMG do need to fix quickly)

  14. ALEC

    @”this idea that the UK is nimble, resourceful, entrepreneurial etc just makes me smile.”

    Oh I know it does Alec. Thats why you are such a sceptic about UK’s prospects. Perhaps we should have been more “humble” as Davwel wishes us to be?

    @” A great, nimble, resourceful nation would have found a way to make EU membership work for us.”

    Again-your criteria for success in entirely measured by EU membership. Last time I looked Germany’s exports within EU are around 70% of their total. Rather them than us Alec-there is a world evolving fast outside your Fortresses walls .

  15. JIB

    I think the only one using the deeply misleading title ” federal superstate” in respect of the European union is your good self.

    It does rather diminish any subsequent comments you might choose to make.

    If you ever meet a sensible person ask them what it’s like.

  16. SOMERJOHN

    Thanks for your kind wishes, appreciated.

    We do not agree at all, as I said to Peter, try reading Lord Frost in the Sunday Telegraph.

    I share ProfHowards view that we should stick to polling so that is what i am trying to do now, I regret being drawn back into Brexit. Sorry if you think that is a cop out but there it is. I don’t need to feel angry at the moment and once we start talking EU I get angry.

    Peter Cairns SNP

    I actually told my wife how you would respond, classic, ignore viewsTwhen they don’t fit with your own.

  17. Are there any demographic breakdowns available yet on the 2 Indy polls OldNat mentioned?

  18. @Steve

    The EU was a Federal Superstate project, ever closer Union and Fiscal, Social and eventually Military and Security Union.

    Only individuals living in cloud cuckoo land would deny that was the project.

    Deluded as usual, and lacking in perceptive abilities.

  19. @ ALEC – “Key to services is mobility of labour”

    Still making stuff up I see.

    Perhaps read this from your beloved EU. See Fig6 for the % from Mode4

    https://trade.ec.europa.eu/doclib/docs/2016/december/tradoc_155119.pdf

    However, for sure add signing back up to ‘freedom of movement’ to your proposal for LAB’s policies on future relationship with EU – that will sell really well in CON-LAB marginal seats I’m sure ;)

    PS Remember SPAFFERJON and yourself recently ‘proved’ that in some services there was ‘anti-gravity’ (ie the further away from UK you were, the more trade in services you did with UK. That display of ignorant, ignored the fact that US (big spenders on visits to UK) just happening to be further away in distance from UK than France but you two chumps did hence ‘prove’ gravity model was b*llsh!t for services – or did you forget?)

  20. JiB: ever closer Union and Fiscal, Social and eventually Military and Security Union.

    I’ve asked you a couple of times what you mean by “Social Union” and I don’t think you’ve ever offered an explanation.

    Third time lucky?

  21. Germany’s largest export markets are the US and China (about 20%)

    France follows then the Netherlands – Rotterdam plays a role there.

    Foreign trade statistics are generally considered unreliable especially in services (that hospital in Poland that only treats German patients doesn’t appear in Poland’s export statistics. Or an even better example: HK).

    In any case regionalisation of foreign trade is a general tendency (value per weight ratio) when other business considerations cannot overrule it.

  22. @Somerjohn

    Freedom of movement, open competition for jobs, unified mechanisms for supporting cultural and social projects in the EU model.

    To be fair, the stealth Federalists had already delivered much of that project.

    It’s lucky we got out when we did in that regard.

  23. Deluded as usual, and lacking in perceptive abilities.

    Was that your school report?

    “Objectives of European Union in promoting peace. Since its establishment, the EU remains a political community that promotes integration and common government of European countries and their people. As captured in Article 3 of the European Union Treaty, its primary aim is to foster peace, and the well being of its people at all times.”

    https://europarlamentti.info/en/values-and-objectives/objectives/

    The U.K. as a member had negotiated an exemption from ever closer union , it’s an odd superstate that says to its constituent parts you don’t have to comply with superstate rules.

    Almost as if the title has been made up by small minded little nationalists who can’t be bothered to do any research because it might undermine their views.

    When you find that sensible person ask them to explain it to you.

  24. Martin Wolf is quite scathing about the budget in the weekend FT effectively describing the new conservativism as lack of ideas as the main attribute.

  25. JIB

    Stealth federalists as well as superstaters.

    You’ve really consumed the cool aid haven’t you.
    Find that sensible person quickly you are in need of help.

  26. TW: PS Remember SPAFFERJON and yourself recently ‘proved’ that in some services there was ‘anti-gravity’ (ie the further away from UK you were, the more trade in services you did with UK. That display of ignorant, ignored the fact that US (big spenders on visits to UK) just happening to be further away in distance from UK than France but you two chumps did hence ‘prove’ gravity model was b*llsh!t for services – or did you forget?)

    1. Isn’t it time you grew out of relying on babyish insults?

    2. I’ve never suggested the point you attribute to me, and in any case you’ve misunderstood that point.

    (If I recall from the discussion at the time, you fastened on the one services category – travel – out of 13 or so where the research data showed a positive correlation between distance and trade value, to attempt to discredit the whole idea of increasing distance broadly reducing value of trade in services, ie that the gravity model has applicability to services as well as goods.)

  27. @Steve

    I can absolutely guarantee that you fail on the sensible front.

    It’s a shame there isn’t a sub-forum for children on this site where you could post. About your level.

  28. The (brain) dead hand of Henig once again from ALEC – I did wonder where he got his latest fabricated nonsense from and quelle surprise:

    “Missing from the article: Any idea as to how the UK is going to create a global deal in services.

    Also missing[1]: Any suggestion of a link between services and movement of people.

    Also missing[2]: Any thought as to why our negotiations to date have ignored services.”

    https://twitter.com/DavidHenigUK/status/1368509579160653824

    Perhaps Starmer should hire Henig as a SpAD, cut out the middle man (ALEC) ?

    [1] A tiny % as even Europa’s own info shows (hence why the 90day visa thingy with Swiss is not an issue, massively outweighed by both UK and Swiss being outside of full Brussels control)

    [2] Did the ‘expert’ missed the addition of digital services to UK-Japan deal? Is he that ignorant of rWorld trade deals?
    EU don’t like to liberalise service sector (internally or with rWorld) and hence their trade deals are focussed on ‘German exports’ and protecting ‘French food’ (in simples terms) – UK has already got a better deal with Japan so the ‘myth’ of UK not getting better deals has been busted – although clearly some still yet to face FACTS in the Real World.

  29. JiB

    Freedom of movement, open competition for jobs, unified mechanisms for supporting cultural and social projects in the EU model.

    Well, many in Liverpool are against the identical policies by the UK government. People from the Wirral, from.St Helens, even from Wales are allowed to freely come to our city, and then many takes jobs, while Liverpudlians are not given preference in job applications (they made it illegal, just imagine it!). And yes, those cultural and social projects – they didn’t allow us to ban the S&n, so we had to organise people. And I could continue…

  30. @ SPAFFERJON – “I’ve never suggested the point you attribute to me, and in any case you’ve misunderstood that point”

    Yet you recall the discussion. Top staffing from you ;)

    Fig2b and Fig3b to ‘jog’ your memory – the coefficient ‘suggesting’ the further away from UK a country is the higher volume/value (pick either) of trade in travel (which by it’s very nature requires a physical person that can only be in one place at one time)

    https://www.pwc.co.uk/eu-referendum/how-does-distance-affect-the-uk-s-trade-in-services.pdf

    Perhaps you’re new to ‘hypothesis’ reasoning. If you ‘prove’ the gravity model for services is b*llsh!t with an example then the whole ‘hypothesis’ is b*llsh!t. The questions to ask about PWC analysis are (with answer):

    What are the correlation coefficients from those ‘lines of best’ fit ? (very low = low explanation value, just a random ‘scatter’ graph)

    Did they adjust for ‘inertia’, historic relationships? (no)

    Did they adjust for NTBs, historically lower with EU than rWorld? (no)

    Did they look at historical relationship and see UK’s exports in services to rWorld growing much faster than EU – even with their cr4ppy deals (for UK) focussed on German-French interests? (no)

    PS I do accept there is ‘gravity’ in goods, especially perishable goods. Using the flawed model and setting d=0 (home grown/made) then you can create infinite trade (I state that to mock the stupidity of those who so slavishly believe a model that is extremely flawed, even for goods)

  31. @ LASZLO – Looking forward to reading the reply you promised to the questions I asked on ‘Global’ l4ffer curve. I answered your questions and mine were basic, fundamental question about how to get more tax paid in UK by likes of Amazon and keep UK competitive elsewhere.

    Also any sources for your comment y’day? I might have misunderstood but you seemed to infer EC have been copying UK’s standards (and maybe should continue to do so, maybe by aligning to UK)?

  32. New thread, btw.

  33. @Trevs – “EU don’t like to liberalise service sector (internally or with rWorld) and hence their trade deals are focussed on ‘German exports’ and protecting ‘French food’ (in simples terms)…2

    Even from you, that’s total [email protected]

    Unlike you to mis-characterize EU trade deals so badly.

    :):):)

  34. @Colin – ” Last time I looked Germany’s exports within EU are around 70% of their total. ”

    Yup.

    And the US exports more that three times as much to Mexico and Canada (2020 figures) than it does to China.

    What’s your point here?

    Are you agreeing that gravity matters?

  35. TW: If you ‘prove’ the gravity model for services is b*llsh!t with an example then the whole ‘hypothesis’ is b*llsh!t.

    How very revealing.

    You are posting on a website about polling. Polling is based on sampling, probability and statistics. It’s an aspect of social science, not a natural science.

    Economics is also a social science. It’s based on probability, not on cast-iron, all or nothing cause and effect. One exception does not prove “the whole ‘hypothesis’ is b*llsh!t.”

    As you yourself have accepted, the gravity model seeks to establish correlations between variables to suggest relationships. Basically, it says that trade tends to decrease with geographical distance. It doesn’t say it always does, or that there are no exceptions, or that it applies equally in all trade areas.

    So do you really believe that in a trade model, finding an opposite-direction correlation in one trade area out of 13 proves that “the whole ‘hypothesis’ is b*llsh!t”? Because if you do, you fundamentally misunderstand the whole nature of economics.

    Ironically, you’re very keen on suggesting that others might be embarrassed by their fundamental lack of understanding.

  36. Peterw,
    “You presume he was making a reasoned judgment on infectivity?”

    He said he did. are you suggesting it was not the case? He was not the only government advisor who made reasoned judgements on what would be safe behaviour and then got caught breaking official rules and fired. (or in Cumming’s case, got a stay of execution because irreplaceable)

    All in all the number involved suggest many of the experts did not believe in the official advice.

    There was another, a woman, who went on the record last summer saying she had earlier agreed to appear on TV supporting the official line even though she thought it was wrong. It all underlines that you cannot trust the public statements of government advisors as being what they actually believe to be true.

  37. A bit more analysis on obesity here:

    https://www.bmj.com/content/372/bmj.n623

  38. STEVE
    “The U.K. as a member The U.K. as a member had negotiated an exemption from ever closer union had negotiated an exemption from ever closer union”

    Not really an opt out. That would have required a Treaty change. What the Feb 2016 summit offered was a Council declaration about the effect of the provision.

    The U.K. obsession with this aspect of the Treaty was probably always wrong headed. But the “solution” on offer was something utterly devoid of any legal effect.

    It was likened at the time, quite appositely I thought, to Belgian surrealist René Magritte’s painting of a pipe, bearing the title “Ceci n’est pas une pipe”.

  39. Boris Johnson urges against different households meeting indoors over Easter weekend
    Boris Johnson, the UK prime minister, has urged against people meeting others from different households indoors over the Easter weekend, warning vaccines do not guarantee “100% protection” from Covid-19.

    And remember looking before you cross the road doesn’t provide 100% protection from being run over by a steam roller.

    Covid hysteria at its finest.

  40. With regards to HGV shortage. Maybe another issue in the UK not seen mentioned is the increase in number of online delivery jobs. For example Supermarket customer delivery drivers and Amazon/ other online delivery drivers. There has been a big increase in these type jobs since the start of the pandemic.
    They earn not much less than HGV drivers without the need for long distance travel and poor working conditions.

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