I didn’t expect anymore polls this year, but the Sunday Times has a final YouGov poll that shows a recovery for Labour. The topline voting intention figures with changes from YouGov’s previous poll are CON 40% (-3), LAB 35% (+4), LDEM 15% (-1).

It suggests the beginning of a turnaround for Labour, as did the last ICM poll. It is also the first poll conducted entirely after Nick Clegg became Lib Dem leader and, despite the publicity around his appointment, shows a complete absence of any sort of leadership boost. The huge caveat that needs pointing out though is the timing of the poll: the dates are the 20th to the 27th of December. The way that YouGov polls are conducted means that most of the respondents answer in the first couple of days, so actually people would have answered this poll over the weekend before Christmas, very few if any at all would have been filling in their voting intention between opening presents on Christmas morning.

Still, even the weekend before Christmas has the potential to be skewed by the holiday effect, with people travelling to relatives, being out shopping or just generally having better things to do. The fact that only 1566 people took part in the poll, despite it being open for seven days rather than three, does rather underline the effect of the time of year (it could, of course, have been a smaller sample size to begin with, but I suspect it was more likely a low response rate). There’s no obvious reason for this to skew polls in one direction or another, it can just do funny things. With this and ICM there does seem to be a pattern of Labour recovering as the immediate air of crisis which hung about the government in November lifts, but I’d be wary of drawing any firm conclusions until we’ve seen some January polls that aren’t at risk of being skewed by the holiday period.

63 Responses to “Labour recovering in YouGov Xmas poll”

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  1. john t t: As someone who was 14 in 1997 and thus not on the housing ladder then, I for one do not find the total lack of affordability for housing nowadays to be a ‘good thing’.

    As for less strike action now, it is true that relative to the past days lost to industrial action have plummeted but that happened under the last Conservative government and the industrial relations changes that occurred primarily under Thatcher. There has quite simply been no change since 1990’s.

    Figures are available from the ONS here: http://www.statistics.gov.uk/statbase/xsdataset.asp?More=Y – though that only goes upto 1998, the figures for each year since then are available separately. Major reductions in industrial disputes began following the failure of the Miner’s Strike and from 1991 onwards the number of days lost due to industrial action are below 1 million every single year. The figure for 2006 is 754k.

    Prior to then only 1940 and 1934 had seen below 1 million (I’m amazed that in the midst of the World Wars there was industrial action but so it says), while through the 1970’s 10million+ was common upto nearly 30 million days lost in 1979.

  2. Thanks Anthony , very impressive! I’ll be trying wasting too many working hours poring over the elmr pages from now on!

    As ever I’m a bit right and a a bigger bit wrong – my memory of the 1990’s is conflated with my memory of the late 1980’s.

    The long-term downward trend is evidence (to me) that we’ve left the far-left behind, with one or two obvious exceptions, and that a certain maturity has crept into modern industrial relations.

  3. Philip – if you got onto the property ladder only twelve months ago, you’d still have positive equity.

    Even those who mortgaged themselves to the hilt yesterday can feel better off than those who paid rather higher interest on their negative equity mortgages throughout the early nineties. Plus, we have an independent panel setting rates,driven by an inflation target, rather than a politician driven by political pressure.

  4. Happy New Year to one and all

    Presumably the next poll will be from Populus? If -as it might on past performance-produce a relatively modest Tory lead in line (for once) with ICM and YouGov then Labour supporters cannot be blamed for proclaiming a revival in fortunes. Other perhaps wiser heads will reflect that since nothing has happened to change the public perception of the government ‘s performance or Gordon Brown’s standing or the economic outlook then it is unlikely that any revival has even begun to take shape.
    What is of interest right now is the impact of Nick Clegg’s election on his party’s fortunes or rather the lack of it. So far he is the most obvious casualty of the festive season. His victory got next to no publicity. Surely Ming Campbell has made a tactical error by the timing of his resignation? Much better to have waited until now in order to maximise the impact.

  5. Like a fair number of ideological debates on this site I think people are missing the point about strikes, or rather using strikes to make an ideological point.

    What has happened since the seventies is that our society has changed substantially.

    We have less heavy industry, fewer large employers, less unionisation, more people work in small businesses, far more home owners, more job mobility both in terms of geography and time spent with one employer.

    Thus just as people readily admit on here that you can’t compare current poll leads with the nineties because methodology has changed and society with it, so too I think it is simplistic to compare strikes today with decades ago to make points about either industrial maturity or government policy.

    It’s like comparing our growth since the nineties with Germany and omitting to mention that they had absorbed East Germany. I think it’s just to easy to compare a single statistic in what is a very complicated situation.

    One of the problems I have with the partisan comments posted here is that apart from being usually less than accurate they seem to view the population as being far more ideological than they probably are.

    As a Councillor I’d say that by and large of the people I meet probably less that a third have a coherent ideological political position at all.

    One of the reasons that political parties are accused of moving away from their core values or traditional roots, is that these so called roots no longer exist or at least aren’t big enough to sustain them or get them elected.

    Like the number of strikes our political parties by and large reflect the nature of current UK society and people beliefs and opinions. In a way what has happened is that over the last decade or so all the UK parties including my own have moved from.

    “This is what we believe, now lets convince people to vote for it”


    “This is what people will vote for, now lets convince people we believe it”.

    In that respect I tend to think that the more partisan posters here are probably advocating either ideological positions their respective parties have long left behind, or are just supporting their party as if it was a football team,talking it up and backing whatever it does even if it contradicts things they used to believe in and advocate.


  6. The long-term downward trend (strikes) to which I refer is neither partisan nor wishful thinking, and the antithesis of an ideological approach.

    Our record as a country stands pretty good comparison with our neighbours/competitiors whichever side of the fence you’re looking from.

    We really are better off than we were when strikes blighted our activity, that’s a fact. my non-partisan point stated, (industrial relations – stability and good practice):

    “Not so much by the Government (eg police pay) as by employees.”

    If your penultimate point (the re-focussing of parties’ policy driver from ideology to public opinion) was an effort to agree with me, then fine, “the people” in my (industrial relations)argument do show far better sense than the politicians.

    I don’t see where football comes into it!

    To relate this to the polls of 2008 + , it might well help each party to find out how “the people” are getting on with it, how the successful among us are achieving , and then formulating policies based on assisting us.

    “Let’s convince people we believe it” is much too cynical, if published without the “because we really do believe it” that comes after.

  7. There is some virtue in “supporting your team”, in good times as well as bad (whether football or party). The great ideological divide is in the past, and no party will ever represent all the opinions of any individual; but most of us feel more “at home” with one of the large groupings. Politics has always been “the art of the possible” – a mixture of conviction, leadership, and doing what “the people” want (as far as that can ever be judged). Single or limited issue politics has an important part to play at times but is not a stable substitute for a general movement in the right direction – whichever way one sees as the “right” direction.

    Much media comment is far too cynical, too personal, and far too much driven by reaction to passing events – e.g. the sudden switch from praising Brown to damning him on the basis of a few fairly minor “fiascos” – and the similar sudden switches over the last year in attitudes to Cameron, from positive to negative and back again. This is not serious political comment, but instant reaction to what are often trivialities.

  8. John tt

    “Even those who mortgaged themselves to the hilt yesterday can feel better off than those who paid rather higher interest on their negative equity mortgages throughout the early nineties”

    Well I sincerely hope you are right.
    But even a cursory look at some basic numbers and trends should give cause for concern.

    Between 1990 & 1995 house prices fell 10% in UK-In the late 1980s House price/average earnings was around X5-it’s now approaching X6 .House price falls for 2008 are increasingly forecast.

    Total UK personal debt passed the £1000 million mark in 2007-a level approaching 140% of earnings or double the average for Western Europe-this ratio was 90% in 1990

    In 2007 Repossesions, CCJs & Personal Insolvencies were all up around 30% on 2006.

    Savings ratios in UK have collapsed to their lowest since records began fifty years ago-3% of earnings-they were 12% in 1991

    There is a credit crunch in operation in UK -it will get tighter as more and more banks quantify and write down their holdings of unitised “Sub-Prime” mortgages.

    …So if I had taken advantage of one of the 125% mortgages on offer from UK lenders in 2007 I think I would be concerned about 2008-and certainly hoping that my job was secure.

  9. Negative equity isn’t a massive deal, so long as you can service the mortgage and you don’t intend to move

    Far more concerning is the current, unsustainable multiples of salary that people are being forced/allowed to borrow. If we assume, for simplicity’s sake, that people are borrowing six times their salary today, where they were borrowing double their salary 15 years ago, then 1 quarter point rise in interest rates has the same effect on their finances as a three-quarter point rise then. If inflation starts to rise again, there will be an awful lot of nervous home-owners

  10. Paul D
    I think that’s probably why we now see quarter point rises and cuts rather than the half points of the 90’s.

  11. I think all this fretting about mortgage rates is pathetic.
    When I bought my second house in 1978, interest rates were 10%, and I budgetted that I could afford 12%. This was on a variable rate mortgage. From memory, within about a year, rates reached 17.5%, and my mortgage was taking over half my take-home pay. My wife didn’t work, and we had a child.
    I don’t want to come the “old soldier”, but let’s get things in perspective.

  12. Negative-equity is a problem. Not so much in it’s own manifestation, but in how it effects leveraged debt.

    If your house is worth less than your mortgage you are unlikely to seek loans based upon equity-value. If you do seek leverage the bank will probably factor the negative-value into you loan-interest rates. If you are desperate for funds you borrow on credit-cards.

    If humans were rational (like economists) they would take a long-term approach. Humans however tend to live day-to-day, expecting to fall under a bus tomorrow.

  13. Depends which humans. If you seek substantial equity release loans to carry on spending more than you earn, you only have yourself to blame if things go wrong. A mortgage is “long money”. Credit cards, and overdrafts are “short” (Pity NR forgot the difference!). So, borrowing for long-term projects (DIY) is sensible, borrowing to pay off credit cards is not. Most of my mates, and family, are sensible (a fairly even mix of Tory, LibDem and Labour, probably). the people I worry about are the ones who’ve been mis-sold mortgages that they had no hope of affording.

    Unemployment was a key element in the 90’s. The worst predictions for 2008 I’ve seen sugggest 100k more unemplo9yed.
    The number of people in employment for the three months to October 2007 was 29.29 million, up 114,000 over the quarter and up 226,000 over the year.

    So, P Banks, I agree that the proper perspective for now is that we may be in trouble, but not irretrievably so.

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