The BBC’s producer guidelines prevent them from commissioning voting intention polls without special permission. There is some merit in that, it itself, but it actually leaves us very ill-served by other political polls the BBC commission. When phone pollsters conduct voting intention polls the samples are weighted by past vote to be politically representative. When polls don’t include a voting intention question, they invariably aren’t. In practice, this will normally mean the samples are skewed towards Labour, since past vote weighting nearly always reduces the number of Labour supporters in a sample.

One should therefore always be wary about reading too much into any questions that compare the parties in polls like this. Mike Smithson over at Political Betting normally refuses to give them the time of day for this reason. For once, however, today’s results are quite interesting.

ComRes asked “who do you trust most to steer Britain’s economy through the current downturn”. Brown & Darling lead on 42%, compared to Cameron & Osborne on 31% and Clegg & Cable on 7%. The actual Labour lead is pretty meaningless given the make up of the sample, but what we can do is compare it when ComRes asked exactly the same question in another BBC poll back at the beginning of October. Then they found figures of Brown & Darling 40%, Cameron & Osborne 34% and Clegg & Cable 5%.

The wording of the question makes a big difference in “best on the economy” questions, we get different answers asking about best on the economy, best on the current crisis and so on. But here we’ve got the same question asked before and after the government’s rescue plan and there has been a clear shift towards Brown & Darling.

There should be some voting intention polls over the weekend and I would expect a further narrowing of the Conservative lead.

48 Responses to “ComRes show economic boost for Brown & Darling”

  1. not unexspected this lead will die out in the next few months and labour will be back to squre one.

  2. Sorry Anthony but I disagree with you. All three shares – Labour, Conservative and Lib-Dem are well within a 3 point margin of error.

    Given that the figures are both unweighted and within the MoE I don’t think they tell us much at all.

    Nevermind that the current crisis, who for the economy long-term (when asked together) and voting intentions when asked together have all shown different figures.

  3. I too would have to disagree with you Anthony – about the predicted gaining in the POLLS for Labour. Any increase in popularity will be small and very short lived.

    Already media analysts and pundits are questioning who is responsible for the current crisis and the decisions being made at the moment and the source of the funds being thrown around.

    Once the general public link in the cause and the solution – Labour will fall back dramatically – to perhaps even lower levels than before !

  4. Philip. It is still likely that the gap has narrowed. That it is within the margin of error means that we can’t be 95% certain that it has looking at this poll in isolation. Given that we have other polls such as the Phi5000 figures and the YouGov poll last weekend which are also suggesting a trend towards Labour though, we have a pattern here.

    (And they aren’t unweighted. They are not politically weighted – it’s an important difference. I’ve seen MORI get very shirty before when people accuse their figures of being unweighted, and rightly so. These figures are still weighted by all the demographics).

  5. And Mike – not necessarily a disagreement. As you know, I’ve said on here that I don’t expect a Labour recovery on the back of the economic crisis to be a long term factor either… but for the moment the polls do seem to be continuing to show a movement towards Labour.

    If the media narrative does switch round over the weekend them perhaps it will start to reverse, or perhaps we’re talking weeks or months. I don’t know. Any poll out this weekend though will have had their fieldwork done in the week, and I would expect them to show the Conservative lead still falling.

  6. I am with Anthony on this, the big criticism of bBown from most has been he didn’t seem to know where he was going or to be in control.

    The events of the last few weeks have seen him both taking control and settting a course not only for the country but according to the Downing St press machine the whole world.

    If that didn’t have an effect on th epolls cmpared to the last month or so it would have to mean that the vast majority of the public have gone in to news hibernation.

    So in the short term I’d expect the Tory lead to drop to less than 10% but as Anthony has suggested it will rise again along with unemployment.


  7. The commentariat seems to be mightily impressed by Brown’s over the financial crisis, but talk to ordinary people and all they see are job losses and home repossessions. The fundamental point is that Brown got the country into this mess, since he created the regulatory framework which has been found wanting and he spent and borrowed like there was no tomorrow, when the Government should have been running a Budget surplus.
    I don’t think any poll lead for Brown on the economy can possibly be sustained.

  8. Anthony’s note about the deficiencies of the BBC Polling arrangements is interesting.

    Another issue I have is that this BBC poll conflates the performance of the Party Leaders and that of the (Shadow)Chancellors. My hunch, it can be no more, is that if the question had been asked just about the (Shadow)Chancellors the LibDem, i.e. Vince Cable, would do substantially better.

    Did the poll include Scotland, where to be fair there would have to be an option for the SNP Leader and finance spokesperson?

  9. I just want to record something highly unusual which is that I actually agree with every word said by the good Councillor Cairns in his last message. Now why are those two men in white coats knocking on my door….I may be gone for some while.


  10. Put it this way – I’m more concerned about the economy than the Tory lead. I don’t think this is going to be shallow – GDP could easily fall by 1.5% next year.

    I think that lead will probably come back up, even though I’d prefer a different Shadow Chancellor.

    Not certain of course.

    7% of people think Cable/Clegg could get us out of it – there you go with the studio marathon.

  11. The surprise to me is that given the scale of puff given to ‘Gordon Saves The World’ his polling figures aren’t rather better.

    JJB – heard Osborne on the radio this evening – really quite impressed with what he had to say and the way in which he handled some really rather silly questions based on this poll.

    If I were Brown I’d rather have higher unemployment that higher inflation – my biggest worry is that (after the short term benefit of oil prices becoming more sane) we’re going to get both.

  12. Brown has had a good press recently and lots of coverage and the agenda has clearly been on global financial problems rather than domestic problems. As the global financial issues gradually fade away and stock markets (hopefully)stabilise the spotlight will come back onto the problems in the UK namely recession, unemployment, government debt etc. I feel at that point that the Con lead will gradually move back to the 15-20 range that we saw until recently.

  13. By the way – for those that are interested – Nick Robinson on the BBC yesterday suggested that he understood that Darling would deliver the pre budget report in the next 3 weeks although no formal date has officially been announced as yet by the Treasury.

  14. So, continued volatility… one week they’re up, one week they’re down… one week predictions are for a Labour recovery, the next a tory recovery, in the former a LibDems squeeze then a LibDems fightback and ultimately standstill…

    This current phase will decide the result of next election, but it won’t decide the exact outcome.

    How long this phase lasts will be relevant, as the longer it takes to reach a decisive outcome will indicate a greater mood for a hung parliament.

    So eyes should be focussed towards whether the minor parties handling of the crisis is to their advantage and whether they attempt to link their political advantage to positive policies which present solutions or negative criticisms of the opposing parties – it looks like the LibDems, nationalists and greens are taking different views on this point, so it is unlikely that any one view will win out.

    The other influential externality is the US Presidential election and the approach adopted by the victor. Though this result is looking clearer, the policy approach of of Obama is less clear than McCain’s, so if the Dems win I think the volatile situation in our polls will be extended.

    Hopefully the news situation will inspire greater awareness and involvement leading to higher turnouts across elections at all levels, as the risk of disillusion is extremism – and the consequences of that are in nobody’s interest!

  15. I saw GB on TV this evening, responding to Cameron’s speech.

    He said he was getting on solving the problem etc-a problem which he described-not for the first time-as “coming out of America-a problem he then decribed-for the first time I have heard- as “beyond our control”.

    My mind went back to October 2007, and his statement that the Polling trends had not influenced his decision not to call an election.

    Now the October 07 assertion was seen as manifestly incredible, and a palbable untruth. It has subsequently been assigned a role amongst the handfull of events which destroyed the Brown Bounce.

    I wonder whether Brown’s determined refusal to acknowledge that his administration’s actions & policies have had any role whatsoever in the Financial Crisis, will be simiarly rejected.

    Perhaps the whole financial mess is too difficult to comprehend for most people-so it’s domestic roots are of less interest than who sorts it out.And anyway how many people will have read what Lord Turner has been saying or even understand their import?

    There is something of the “I did not have sex with that woman” about GB’s version of things sometimes-but Clinton got away with it…

    We shall see.

  16. Sky have mentioned a poll out tonight. Any news on that?

  17. “financial mess is too difficult to comprehend for most people-so it’s domestic roots ”

    Too difficult indeed. Nothing whatsoever could have been done “domestically” to prevent Stateside credit agencies rating ZZZ as AAA and millions of toxic loans being re-packaged as a pyramid sell.

    Of course we would have avoided the problem if we had had a Sharia system, and we might well have reduced our exposure by banning risk from our banking.

    Cameron’s problem is that no-one on his side was advocating anything that might have stopped it. His fortune, however is that most people don’t understand it and might just swallow his rubbish.

  18. Anthony you’re entirely right about MORI not weighting by past vote, but Comres normally do. Furthermore MORI normally weight by likelihood to vote . . . I’m willing to wager that given a voting intention question wasn’t even asked, Comres will not have done that here.

  19. Anthony:
    Surely Homer is nodding here. 42:31 vs 40:34 looks like it could be random noise, not “a clear shift”

  20. JUst heard a snipett of news on the radio reporting GB as saying “unbridled capitalism” was at fault.

    This from the man who said he wouldn’t use the bridle ,in order to encourage UK’s “innovative” Financial Services sector.

    This is going to get very interesting politically as NewLab Gordon morphs into Michael Foot.

  21. Philip: a politically unweighted poll is a politically unweighted poll – it matters not to me what the same company does the rest of the time :)

    MORI filter their voting intention figures by likelihood to vote, but not their other figures which cover all respondents (they are some times kind enough to provide the answers of just likely voters for other questions, but those aren’t their headline figures).

    Fluffy – any comment that calls another political partyh Baathists isn’t non-partisan, is it now?

  22. Sorry Ant’,

    But few comments are partisan, despite which site on which they are made. I will retract my comment anyhows…! :D

    [Mike Smithson beware! No racism is tolerated by the E.D.P.! ‘Ave-it!]

  23. brown removed the bank of englands debt monitoring powers.historically to monitor banks lending and bring them into line.this fuelled the brown boom and bust.
    he will not get away with this.

    carter and clinton legislated to force banks to lend to sub prime,creating this mess.
    they will not get away with this,either.

    the lot of them make you weep.

  24. Taking the long view, a return of a Brown government in May 2010 is not impossible. In times of uncertainty, people tend towards incumbents – as evinced by the Tory victory in Canada last Tuesday. There would be historical precedent in Britain for such a tendency – Baldwin’s Safety First election in 1935. Even Callaghan would have been returned if he had gone to the country in the autumn of 1978 – despite the economic of financial paroxysms of the mid-70s.

  25. It was the republicans congress and senate who got rid of the Glass-Steagall Act against. The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, whe bills were passed by a 54-44 vote along party lines with Republican support in the Senate. It was the republicans get over it. Mile support betting. Booo. :

  26. philip-you are spot on with your second para.

    The history of Fannie May & Freddie Mac is most instructive.The US Government has used these vehicles to further social & political endsover a number of years.The result is what always transpires when the State tries to run businesses-a disaster.

    Many people now lauding the virtues of State Intervention in every aspect of financial services, and the “failure of capitalism” fail to see the vast difference between two things:-

    The State as Lender of Last Resort & (Effective)Regulator.
    The State as Lender of First Resort & Operator in the Market.

  27. “Of course we would have avoided the problem if we had had a Sharia system,”

    Something a little less drastic according to the German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck who said Gordon Brown’s conversion to the cause of financial-market regulation comes two years too late, adding that had Brown acted sooner he might have helped avert the current crisis.

    “I’m happy about the progress made, especially by the British premier,” Steinbrueck said late Thursday in a speech in Berlin, citing Brown’s six-point paper presented to fellow European Union leaders. “I would have rejoiced if he had published that paper two years earlier.”

    Yet similar measures advocated last year by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government during Germany’s presidency of the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations were rejected by the U.S. and by Brown, who was then Chancellor of the Exchequer under Prime Minister Tony Blair.

    At that time, German calls for greater transparency and better regulation “went unheard in the Anglo-American sphere,” Steinbrueck said.

    “I can still remember the friendly pats on the back from my British colleague, now prime minister, and my U.S. and Canadian colleagues when I said during our G-7 presidency that we need more transparency,” said Steinbrueck.

    Ah but that was then Herr Steinbrueck-and this is now.

  28. I bet you wish Steinbreck had advised Redwood, Osborne and Cameron to say something. Instead all we heard was “regulatory burdensome redtape” garbage from them.

    The idea that mortgage brokers were compelled by law to sell to ninja home-owners is breathtaking twaddle.

    Spot on? Utter rot.

  29. And by the way, Sharia banking is not a “drastic” system, but a growth area in the City.

  30. I have complained to Mr Neil about these polls.

    If the BBC are going to commission polls when they are in the sensitive position of being the national broadcaster, they should not be commisioning ones which by their nature are skewed to one party. This is another instance when badly drafted rules exacerbate a problem. They are supposed to be fair to all parties. These polls are not. The BBC faces claims of bias. This will look to many like proof.

    On the trend, Anthony may be right, but this is not how the poll is presented on the show because the programme makers do not explain it. None of the caveats are set out.

    This poll could mean that Cameron and Osbornes lead on a fully ‘sorted’ poll has reduced or that from a lead they are neck and neck etc.
    BUT it does not mean what the BBC tell their audience it means. Frankly, that shoud be something we should not allow the BBC to get away with. They pay for this with our money.

    I hope Mr Neil, who is an outstanding journalist, will take note if its brought to his attention.

    On the poll itself, I agree it does appear to show a shift, although from what and to what, we can’t say.

    Anthony’s point about the question is also a valid one. Peter ? on Sky news showed his ignorance when he reported this as a lead on the ‘economy’.

    By including the word ‘current’ in the question it tends to skew it to the here and now rather than the medium or long term.

    I expect a tighening of the positions but if the Tories are still ahead and around the 40 mark, I reckon Cameron is on his way to No 10.

    Mike has covered the ‘missing Tory’ voters before. They are people who stopppd voting at all or voted for Blair in 1997.
    If they are still in the fold, they are in it for the duration.

    As the news agenda changes and the Tories and the LDs get back in the news, some Labour support will flake away. Cameron is all over the Yorkshire Post today.

    As the recession bites, that problem will increase.

    Will Brown try and drag out the crisis time feeing?
    Possibly, but if he does, it will look like he hasn’t been able get on top of it.

  31. There is no doubt that Brown has had a bounce from this, but there’s a risk if the story continues for very much longer. His role in the credit crunch will come under scrutiny, with people increasingly blaming him, at least in part, for the mess we are now in.

    Perhaps the immigration story is an attempt to move the news agenda on and consolidate the bounce.

  32. Any news of any polls for the Sundays?

  33. “The idea that mortgage brokers were compelled by law to sell to ninja home-owners is breathtaking twaddle.”

    john-you usually do your homework before descending to those sort of remarks.

    What I assumed philip was refering to was Fannie Mae-which is to “mortgage brokers” what Wal-Mart is to “local shops”.

    Take the trouble to read Fannie Mae’s history from it’s noble foundations through political manipulation by Clinton, The Democratic Congress & finally the Bush Administration-financial bungling, and criminality-it’s role in the sub-prime mortgage pass the parcel game, and it’s final ingnomineous end in the 2008 Financial Crisis.

    It is an instructive lesson on the very great difficulties for an organisation to be privately owned & “managed” for political objectives at the same time.

  34. Interesting reading Ros Altman ( the pensions regulator ) commenting that the bank bail-out is going to be very bad for pensions. Share prices in the big insurers fell hard yesterday.She said that the biggest losers will be the state pension schemes who will need up to 1.4% of GDP from the taxpayer. Apparently the lack of dividends from bank shares may have a role to play in this.

  35. I think that alot of people are missing an important point, in that it’s not so much about who technically is to blame that will affect people’s voting intention. If it was, Brown would be out, Cameron would lose, and Vince Cable would be the next PM. I’m not a LD fan, but he is the only serious politician who has played a line and stuck to it for the last five years, and it was broadly correct in many important ways.

    No, I think the financial crisis and ‘real economy’ recession is all about the changing landscape and who can manage it best. Even the Tories admit they have been utterly wrong footed by events, and frankly haven’t performed that well over the last 12 months. The state of the economy is critical, but oppositions tend to do better when there is light at the end of the tunnel – ‘let the sunshine win…’. Pessimistic times don’t always help oppositions.

    Brown has already seized the change agenda, striding the international stage instituting a new global financial system and promising a new dawn. ‘The irresponsible markets have destroyed themselves, we shall a new, better more responsible financial system that helps real people, not city fat cats. I am the man of change’. Or something like that. The fact the UK voters will see some awesome global fall out from this, from Iceland to Hungary, Germany to China – the deeper and more global this gets, the harder for the Tories.
    Frankly, I have no idea where this will take the polls, but I suspect Labour may get a better lift than some are prediting. However, not winning the next election might be the better long term option for them after all.

  36. It’s seems to be all down to how publicity the parties can get.

  37. …how “much” publicity the parties can get.

  38. “it’s not so much about who technically is to blame”

    Alec I tend to disagree.

    I’m not sure about the “technically” bit, because it is certainly a difficult subject for most people.

    But I think when a crisis occurs -particularly one which affects people personally-they inevitably try to understand who,or what caused it.

    What judgement people will come to this time-and how it feeds into the next question-who can best fix it?-I think is still an open question.

    I think all parties have potential political gains & losses as we move through the recession & nearer to the General Election.

  39. Colin – I appreciate what you mean, but I don’t believe most voters really analyse events like the anoracks do and then form a reasoned judgement. (If they did, I expect turnout would be about 3%). Even if they do, it will be fascinating to see how much blame attaches to Brown, and how much Labour can hide behind the ‘Its happening all over the world’ argument. Then there’s always the Tory questions about what they would have done differently, who started deregulation etc.

    I never believed the nonsense about 9/11 being a change in the world order and that life would never be the same again afterwards. However, I do believe the last 2 months represents an epic moment in modern history. It will change everything, and the party that rides the change best will collect the reward. To date Cameron has struggled, not least because he doesn’t yet have a fully developed philosophy of government, and where he does it sits uncomfortably with the current mood.

    I suspect the weight of events will press down too hard on Labour for them to survive, but they are showing much more political agility in the last few weeks and I think we’re in for an interesting ride.

  40. Alec -appreciate your thoughts.

    Yes this is a testing time for UK voters as much as for politicians.Fascinating to see how both parties deal with it.

    Interested in your comments on 9/11 . I’ve just been following some of the suggestions for the IMF, World Bank etc etc to “regulate” the World Financial System .Hopefully calmer councils will prevail & we will get a saner system without the financial equivalent of invading Iraq in order to get rid of Bin Laden.

  41. Colin, whwn I address you it is for me an ascent, not a descent, (though I don’t often assent, it’s not always dissent)!

    Who controls the story,and how will it be controlled? “The Left Caused It” versus “The Right Caused It” To us a futile pursuit, but to the media an easier story than the complicated truth.

    I can’t see Cameron on the winning side of a question put like that. Quoting past comments of Brown won’t work either, since he made similar comments himself.

    I think the bigger picture is going to include more international co-operation, and greater integration of financial policies. The Tories are going to have to come up with something better than “In Europe Though Not Run By Europe”

  42. John TT

    Don’t drag Europe into an economic problem !

    While Brown has received plaudits from Europe for his “solution” – which incidentally failed its first test in that liquidity has not been restored to the inter-bank market – the reality is that the Eurozone is going to face some pretty severe strains in the next few years.

    Britain has some unique economic features – which means that whereas our property market is more like America than Europe, our corporate / commercial market is closer to Europe than US. On the other hand, after 11 years of socialism by stealth, we have a fiscal position in a league of its own – just like in 1997, but at the (wrong) opposite end of the spectrum.

    While there are problems globally, it does not follow that we have a single global problem, and which requires the same global solution.

    Britain needs to find its own solution to deal with its own problems. That is something Cameron appears to accept, but Brown still denies.

    Once the global crisis passes, other countries can resume growth, but we will still be left with an unbalanced economy and a devastating fiscal black hole. Who was responsible for that ?

    Ultimately, Brown will not be able to escape his responsibility for the fiscal position. But, fixing the problem is more important than allocating blame.

    Then the question will be: Whom do you trust to restore the public finances – someone who offers some hard choices, or the party which denies a problem exists ?

    From a purely political perspective, Brown would be wiser to go for a snap election – but with no guarantee that he would even lead the largest party in the new parliament. The longer he waits, then the Tory lead will resume its upward course.

  43. We’re quite similar to Spain, and will suffer similarly more than more cautious countries like France and Germany.

    However, after a couple of years of flat growth, our relative volatility should mean that property here will rebound further than in France, Germany etc.

    “Don’t drag Europe into an economic problem” as a phrase shines a very strong light on the differences, the isolationists versus the federalists.

    “Europe” isn’t draggable, and the relationship between its constituents is part of the solution. (IMHO)

  44. “While there are problems globally, it does not follow that we have a single global problem, and which requires the same global solution.”

    Yes that is a view being aired in counterpoint to the Brown/EU proposal for IMF or some such to give global “early warnings” & oversight.

    I suppose one must get used to Brown’s disembling ability to ignore his past actions.IMF gave UK seven “early warnings” between Dec 2003 & April 2008-on it’s State & Private debt levels, & it’s property price bubble .

    Brown ignored them all.If he had paid more attention to IMF then than he is doing now, maybe we wouldn’t have been in so much of a mess.

    In USA when Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac become a key enabler of the mortgage crisis by fueling Wall Street’s efforts to securitize subprime loans.They became the primary customer of all AAA-rated subprime-mortgage pools. In addition, they held an enormous portfolio of mortgages themselves.

    They were the US mortgage market.

    Greenspan warned in 2005 that “If Fannie and Freddie “continue to grow, continue to have the low capital that they have, continue to engage in the dynamic hedging of their portfolios, which they need to do for interest rate risk aversion, they potentially create ever-growing potential systemic risk down the road,” he said. “We are placing the total financial system of the future at a substantial risk.”

    The resulting Bill would have given a regulator power to crack down, and would have required the companies to eliminate their investments in risky assets.

    It didn’t get passed & the rest as they say is history.

    Yes we need more transparency, accountability & less irresonsibility.

    Yes we need more cross border co-operation.

    But we also need a good deal less international grandstanding by the very politicians who, having ignored early warnings before the crash ,now say we need more of it.

    As for the EU-instead of jetting off to the USA & pontificating about a new world financial order, Sarkozy & Barroso should nip down to Madrid.

    Spanish banks have not been bailed out-their central bank has only had to deal with the liquidity problem- reason – Spain’s tough regulations on banks that forbid them to invest in the subprime market and forces them to put aside a provision for every loan they grant.

    Spanish regulators have imposed tight rules in Spain’s banking sector, for instance forbiding companies from having off-balance-sheet investment vehicles that other banks in the euro zone, Britain and the United States have used to hide their toxic assets.

  45. ps-just to emphasise my impartiality-reconstruction of the Spanish banking system came about 30 years ago after Franco’s dictatorship. The argument was that you cannot rebuild a country without an absolutely sound banking system.

    The government of the time thought it had to raise the standards of the banking sector to the highest level. And it is.

    It was a socialist government.

  46. The Bank of International Settlements is the central banks’ bank. It “coordinates regulations in the fields of financial services to promote international financial stability.” and ” aims to provide a well-designed financial safety net supported by strong prudential regulation and supervision,”

    It has the best record of any official organisation in anticipating the credit crisis, but its warnings went unheeded.

    Dr Bill White, the BIS’s outgoing chief economist, has warned for several years of a looming crisis. A year ago he said the world’s economies were facing their greatest challenges since the Great Depression. “The fundamental cause of today’s emerging problems was excessive and imprudent credit growth over a long period,” he said.

    So how about the politicians just shut up for a while & start listening .

  47. Peter S Goodman in the New York Times writes of Greemspan :

    “a revered figure – affectionately nicknamed “the Oracle”- proclaimed that risks could be handled by the markets themselves.”

    Own up, Mike R, we know who you are now, and what you did!

    It was people like Soros we should have listened to – never risked his arm in his life simply because he didn’t need to, as there were enough naive ideologists refusing to accept reality.

    A market making money out of trading risk entities, that works as long as there are enough mugs out there to buy the rubbish.

  48. Colin, Spain’s property market is in a worse state than ours. Whole towns are empty because ove over-speculation, and they face the same pain of re-adjustment that we do.

    It’s the lefty French who are best placed to sustain their albeit snail-paced growth (no offence) precisely because of their stranglehold on credit and LTV’s and earnings multiples.