The first poll since the Telegraph began reporting the details of MPs expenses suggests the public are taking a plague on all your houses approach (or at least, a plague on both your houses, since the Liberal Democrats haven’t suffered).

The topline figures, with changes from Populus’s last poll, are CON 39%(-4), LAB 26%(-4), LDEM 22%(+4). Other parties are at 13%, up four points (though it’s worth noting that this isn’t some sort of unprecedented boost which that might imply, Populus have quite often had “others” up at 12% over the last year).

This is the first poll of 2009 to show the Conservatives below 40%, and leaving aside ICM, who always give them a higher level of support, it is the highest level of support the Liberal Democrats have recorded since 2006. It is the highest figure Populus have given them since 2005. It’s tempted to ascribe this solely to the expenses scandal, though it’s worth remembering that this is also one of the first polls since the government’s defeat over Gurkhas, an issue that the Liberal Democrats lead upon.

The poll was conducted between Friday and Sunday, so after the Telegraph had begun publishing Labour expenses, but prior to them turning the focus onto the Conservatives. Whether that means the Conservatives will suffer more damage in coming days is debatable, given that the public already seem to be putting just as much blame on them as the government. Asked specifically if “all the parties were as bad as each other”, 86% of people agreed. 79% of people also rejected the defence that MPs were acting within the rules, agreeing with the statement “if MPs had any integrity they would never have claimed for the cost of many things they did”.

Finally Populus asked their regular question of asking the public to rate the party leaders out of ten. Gordon Brown’s rating stands at 4.47, down from where it was at the end of last year when it got up to 5.04, but substantialluy above the depths it reached in the summer of 2008. David Cameron stands at 5.39 the highest of any Tory leader since Populus began the question 6 years ago. Nick Clegg is at 4.71, his highest figure so far and now above any score that Ming Campbell achieved, though Charles Kennedy was more positively regarded.

135 Responses to “Labour and Conservatives both suffer in first post-expenses poll”

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  1. Scotland is 8% and Wales about 5% and lets not forget Northern Ireland at 3%.

    So the non England percentage is 16%, of which Scotland and Wales make up about 70%.

    So 6 to 8% of the UK vote from 16% of the Countries is about 40-50% outwith England.

    Given that none of the UK parties stand in NI which makes up a third of that then the SNP and PC coming in with between 25-35% in their areas would be roughly consistant with a 6% share of the total UK vote.

    We should learn more when the populus tables go up in the next day or two, but based on the above Times/Populus figures i’d say that for Scotland we might see;

    Lab 26%, Con 23%, LibDem 14%, SNP 29%, Green 4% UKIP 2% BNP 1%, Christian Vote 1%. All +/-3% ( +/- 1% for parties under 5%)

    The sleaze and expenses effect might well boost the SNP and LibDemsas labour and the tories seem to be the ones caught in the searchlight. Although Cameron’s performance may well have helped the tories escape the worst.


  2. Alec

    It’s a fair point, and Andrew Lansley (I think it was) £24,000 for 12 days non-exec directors job didn’t quite equate to shelf-stacking. Still, it shows he is at least acutely aware of problems facing private companies.

    If I could put my cynical hat on, it would be far better if MPs spent more time in their second jobs as they then have less time to spend damaging the country.

    Cameron does need to remain strong if his backbenchers start criticising him. It has been an encouraging start from him (especially contrasted to the PM) and if he continues to stand up for taxpayers’ interests I don’t see it harming him in the long run.

  3. Stuart,

    While 21% for “others” may appear high, this is actually much lower than the 35% achieved in 2004 (which included 16.9% for UKIP).

    Don’t know if you have had a look at the Euro-elections part of this site, but if you do, you may notice that “others” includes a bit more than SNP / Plaid, UKIP, Greens and BNP.

    Excluding Ulster (different system), there are more than 10 choices on the ballot paper in eevry region – ranging from 11 in Wales to 19 in London.

    With so many others to choose from, a combined score of 10% excluding those “others” who already have MEPs is not unlikely.

  4. Mark – you may be right, but as I said previously, Cameron has a great deal more to lose than Brown. Once you put yourself forward as ‘the change’ anything that challenges this perception in the minds of voters will hurt you a lot more. If this widens into a general media investigation of second jobs and party funding it will hurt Cameron. For example, last year he recieved £1.7m from the ‘Industrial Council’. This is a shadow grouping that does nothing except channel money into the Tory party, without detailing where the money originates from. It has been deemed to be ‘within the rules’, but if Cameron wants to convince, that defence is simply not good enough. As he approaches power these questions will get louder and I expect he will face problems.

    Richard – I would anticipate Labour continuing to scrape the bottom, a drop of some sort for the Tories, but some good poll numbers for the LD’s and ‘others’.

  5. POLLS ??

    I heard on some thread somewhere that a number of polls are being carried ou over the next few days ?
    does anyone know who we are expecting?

  6. As a Labour supporter, I’m dismayed. Hate to admit it but Cameron has clearly shown why there can now be little doubt that he will be in no 10 in 13 months time (or less?)

    GB has been noticable by his absense, and the Labour party scramling to catch up yesterday (dispite being given a 3 day head start) was embarasing

    From a polling point of view, I think that there are no winners in all of this(from the main parties), but Labour are the biggest losers, then the Lib Dems (having lost their high horse), and then the Tories.

    I’ve been advocating leaving GB alone to finish off his term, but sad to say that there is no leadership at the moment, and in order to stop the rot, I think that the time has come to fold.

    Who’s for a GE?

  7. ADAM C

    “…. but sad to say that there is no leadership at the moment, ”

    “there are no winners in all of this(from the main parties), but Labour are the biggest losers,”

    In a nutshell-totally agree with you-this is now the Paralysed Parliament .

    I am for a GE before we all become comatose.

  8. Nick Clegg is right, any profits from second homes should go back to the treasury.
    The LibDems have come out of this mess very lightly.

  9. If Labour are still in this mess in a couple of months I think a change of leader becomes inevitable – it may not save them but in the absence of anything else they may as well give it a go

  10. Alec – Seems fair that if he starts to go back on either ‘change’ or ‘transparency’ then he certainly has a lot to lose. Perhaps we’ll start to hear about some of this ‘change’ that he intends to bring about in other areas soon.

    Interestingly, Iain Dale had as his quote of the day the other day
    “I was elected by you to give a lead and I am now doing just that.” – David Cameron in an address to the Conservative Parliamentary Party today. Stark contrast to the PM who was neither elected as leader of the Labour party nor is providing much leadership.

  11. Leadership is the skill of knowing what to say, when to say it, to who(m) and how. It’s virtually part of the curriculum at any decent public school. Brown quite often slips up on each of the four elements, and sometimes all of them simultaneously. Cameron has a sure-footedness on this issue, simply because of his education.

  12. Mark – I think Brown is effectively finished, as you imply. I has many qualities, but effective leadership is not one of them, and he instead relies on the worst of his qualities too often. Sadly, Cameron is a lightweight, but more worryingly, fundamentally dishonest. The Mirror asked him some serious questions yesterday about Lord Ashcroft, and whether it was right to take money from someone who refuses to confirm his UK based status or otherwise. Cameron refused to answer and tried to laugh it off. He will only act when the searchlights are upon him. His new intake of MPs will shift the parliamentary party decisively to the right.

    I have little doubt that he will win the next election (just a small doubt) but I actually think that long term these are dangerous times for the Conservatives.

  13. Alec,

    But wasn’t Brown’s platform back in 2007 that he was the change ? Does anyone believe that now ? Would that not come back to haunt him should “change” be an issue at the GE ?

    While there is some merit in your argument that Cameron was a part of the system, “change” is never going to hurt Cameron since he is manifestly different from Brown (even if there are some similarities with Blair !!). The more it is raised, the more evident it becomes what it is the country needs to change from.

    On the very different issues of external interests and party funding, any muck-raking may just about win back some sympathy for Labour, but don’t be too hopeful. It is also probably unwise to make any linkage between the two.

    Firstly – it is increasingly evident that career politicians have not served us well, so it is in the interests of our democracy that MPs have both outside experience before entering parliament and maintain outside interests once elected. There is also no evidence that such interests have been abused / misused in recent years.

    Secondly – both on the question of party funding and income from outside interests, the blatantly politically mishandling by Brown last month reveals another aspect of “bash the toffs”. This is puerile and is no more likely to succeed at a general election than it did in Crewe. In his usual cack-handed fashion, Brown has managed to muddy the waters, and so prevented an issue worthy of debate from being properly discussed.

  14. john-yes effective communication is a key element of leadership I agree.

    But a leader needs to have something to communicate, and many other qualities too, not all of which are only to be found in a public school education.

    Your assertion prompted me to do some research ( they usually do!)-a fascinating subject.

    Alec :-
    “His new intake of MPs will shift the parliamentary party decisively to the right. ”

    That sounds interesting-could you provide the link to the data please.

  15. “it is increasingly evident that career politicians have not served us well,”

    Paul-there has been some fascinating correspondence in the Times over the last few days on MP’s-as perceived by their constituents.

    One writer took up the notion-recently floated by an MP-that they should have salaries equivalent to that of GPs.The writer set out the training & education required to qualify as a GP, compared with the “qualifications” required to be an MP.!!

    Another correspondent compared the qualifications of his middle aged GP with those of the 22year old who Labour tried to parachute into Erith & Thamesmead and asked by what criteria the latter should enjoy the same salary as the former.

  16. “a leader needs to have something to communicate”
    If there’s nothing to communicate, a good leader will say nothing. I’ll shut up now if you will!

  17. Colin,

    “Alec :-
    “His new intake of MPs will shift the parliamentary party decisively to the right. ”

    That sounds interesting-could you provide the link to the data please.

    I should allow Alec to reply but just happened to be reading this piece at the time so;

    For John TT/Alec etc it’s probably scary stuff but It sounds like good news to a right winger like me!

  18. Paul H-J – agree with much of your last post. However – please don’t assume that I am wishing for a swing back to Labour. While they achieved some good things in office, in the main the last 12 years have been a missed opportunity, as will the next 5 I suspect.

    Colin – apologies but I can’t locate the article I read, but I think it was in the Times fairly recently. It quoted a social attitudes study among the 100 most likely Tory target seats and the issues on matters ranging from fox hunting to sexuality were far to the right of what Cameron is trying to project. This is more relevant as the right wing will be very much emboldened by the need for budget cuts. In 97, there was absolutely no prospect that Labour would revert to type in power – Blair had never believed the old left stuff anyway. I’m not sure this time however. While Cameron is a winner he will control his party. My concern is that I don’t think he will remain a winner for long after the GE, and that’s when the trouble will start.

  19. I’m not at all scared by the prospect Ivan – a little depressed at the change of direction, but if anything it would shorten the time Labour spent in oppostion if it came about.

  20. Thanks Ivan.

    I tracked back to the survey detail & found that of the 11 questions asked, I agreed with the majority response in 9 of them.

    According to The Times’ interpretation that makes me a rightwinger. That’s not my idea of “right wing”.

    At least two questions had majority support for a view which I would describe as the anithesis of “right wing”.

    Is a 94% view that “too many powers have been transferred to the EU ” “Right Wing”?!

    I think these labels are too freely used & mean very little unless applied to extreme political opinions-none of which featured in this survey.

    I think the strap line was silly.

    At least these new MPS-if that is what they become- will bring fresh thinking, post trough ethics, and replace the raddled bedblockers of all persuasions with the enthusiasm engendered by a charismatic leader with a vision for the country.

    I remember thinking all that in 1997-hope it’s not deja vu all over again!.

  21. Colin,

    Surely you are not going to let the facts get in the way of a good story – which is how I interpreted the Times article when it first appeared.

    I think we are seeing some interesting re-positioning in the media as both print & broadcast journalists adjust to the Cameron led Conservative government which will most probably arrive within the next 12 months.

    Alec is right that there is some investigation of Tory funding and personal finances going on – at The Times – no evidence of this happening elsewhere as yet (the DT campaign being purely on MPs expenses). I sometimes wonder if this is part of a deliberate strategy to appear even-handed when the Murdoch press finally dumps Labour as the election approaches.

  22. The views are ‘right wing’ only in that they are in opposition to the prevailing views of the current alledgedly ‘left wing’ Labour party!

    I suspect in the eyes of a majority of non-politisised voters they are just ‘right’ views.


    Exactly right!

    The same goes for “Far Right”… you could just as easily regard those who use that term as “Far Left”, in simple relativistic terms.

    My understanding is that the origin of these terms is that the “left” was supposed to be the “radical” wing; and the “right”, the “conservative” wing.

    Then we’ve got differences in economic “left v right” and socially “left v right”, with a triumvirate of parties that are all economically “right” and socially “left”; whilst singularly being as “conservative” in their politics as possible, by virtue of pursuing lowest common denominator marketing strategies.

    The obvious truth is that the establishment (both media, public services, and mainstream parties), insinuate that “left-wing” is a synonym for “morally good”; and “right-wing” is a synonym for “evil”.
    With that in mind, comments that frame resistance to the EU as “right wing”, are obviously insuating that resistance to the EU is a sign of “evil”; implying that those who oppose the EU are in some sense on a kind of slippery slope to sympathy with Nazism, because the EU is supposed to be the remedy for Nazism (…I’m sure that has particular resonance for people in the former Yugoslavia).

    Advocates of this “argumentum ad opprobrium” position, habitually use logically fallacious arguments to attack EU resistence.

    There is nothing “right wing” about suspicion, resistance, or outright opposition to the EU, particularly in the context of a century of seeing large artificial superstates (Austria-Hungary, British Empire, USSR, Yugoslavia…) disintegrate after decades of restrictions on freedom in order to sustain themselves.

    The obvious response is to say, there is no “right” and “left”; only “right” and “wrong”, in order to associate “left-wingness” with what is morally “wrong” – certainly in terms of it’s impositions on freedom of thought and expression in order to drive through sociologist-statist plans.

    Clearly, there is more radical thinking outside what is currently denoted the “left” these days. They don’t really deserve the appellation on either their radicalness or their redistributiveness; and certainly not their “progressiveness”! All we see is failed social engineering projects, of which, the EU is the great Leviathan.

  24. I remember how Tory supporters and others denigrated Tony Blair as a lightweight in the nineties. This so called lightwieght nicknamed ‘Bambi’ went onto win three elections
    Interesting to see people like Alec now say the same about David Cameron. Maybe he will win three elections too…

  25. Sorry to change the subject but does anyone know whether the police are investigating any of the dodgy expenses claims? Most of the offences so far don’t seem to break any laws, just playing the system, but Elliot Morley’s looks worthy of a criminal investigation. Is there any reason why this isn’t happening? Or is it happening but not yet in the media?

  26. @ Bill Furness

    ofcourse the Lib Dems came out of this lightly, they are a small enough party to not be too suseptable to the media, that along with the fact that only 12 lib dem MP’s claiomed for anything like what Conservatives and Labour did, and im sure if any Lib Dem claimed cash to clean out their MOAT they would be under just the same judgful glare, in comparrison, the Lib Dems are saints in this issue comparred to the other mainstream parties.

  27. Michael,

    The saintliness of the Lib Dems is purely relative. If you look at the number of LD MPs named as a share of their MPs, then multiply by 3-5 for proper comparison with Con or Lab, then the picture is not very different..

    Indeed, it is possible that the LDs may pay a higher electoral price since they have often taken a “holier-than-thou” line on this issue. If there is one thing the electorate don’t like, it is hypocrites.

    For all his fine words, Clegg has not yet taken any action over his MPs.

  28. Michael

    Give up this is not a beauty contest. All parties should hang their heads in shame. It is a sad time for those of us who care about politics.

  29. I agree with the above. It will be a plague on all their houses (or moats).

  30. So what will be the turnout? 30%?

  31. Laz,

    On average, maybe. But I see few regions exceeding this and we may well see turnout dip below 25% in some entire regions – eg London – where there are no local elections.

  32. Paul H-J
    Thanks – I guess as some areas have 20% plus postals not many will appear in the Booths!

  33. The populus tables are finally up and the scottish figures are;

    Lab 26%, Tory 18%, Libdem 13%, SNP 38%, Others 5%.

    As ever it’s an itsy bitsy sample but the trend looks good for the SNP and fits well with the Notional idea that the Westminster parties are all suffering an smaller and Regional ( in our case national) parties are benefitting.

    looking back over the last ten Populus times polls till june of last year the figures are predictably erratic given the samples but do confirm the UKtrend of labour recovering in the autumn only to fall back again since January.

    This creates a problem because as I would normally try to see a trend between the last five polls and the five before that in the summer, the peak in the middle that starddles both samples in the autumn cancels any changes out.

    Still right now I’d put us ahead and with the Speaker like the raven speaking no more we have a Glasgow By election to look foward to.

    Did I mention that Michael Martins seat covers Quarrywood Rd where i was born, and Robroyston Ave where I lived until I left Glasgow aged eleven.

    I am looking forward to going back.


  34. Peter,

    Enjoy the trip down memory lane – but you may find that there is a sharp contrast between memory and the current reality.

    Of course, Glasgow may not have changed as much as the places where I was born (Basra) or lived until age 12 (Beirut) .

    Incidentally – don’t assume that there will in fact be a by-election. The seta does not fall vacant until 21 June, so a by-election could well be defererd until late September, and if Parliament is dissolved beforehand there will not be a by-election (probably Labour’s best hope of retaining that particular seat).

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