As well as the YouGov poll in the Telegraph this morning, there is also one in the People tomorrow. The topline figures are CON 40%, LAB 31%, LDEM 18%.

I’ve not put any changes in the vote, since this poll would have been carried out at roughly the same times as the Telegraph poll (I forgot to note down the actual dates, and the People haven’t published them yet – Nigel Nelson just twittered the topline figures). The difference between this and the other poll, which had figures of CON 38%, LAB 31%, LDEM 18% will be just normal sample variation, and compared to YouGov’s previous poll in mid-January this one shows no difference whatsover.

It’s a reminder that a lot of movement in polls is just down to sample error, and doesn’t signify anything whatsover. If a poll shows just a point or two’s difference, then unless it is part of a broader trend reflected in several polls it doesn’t mean much.

130 Responses to “But a second YouGov poll shows no change”

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  1. @Colin – thanks for pointing out that you are not Collin. Easily missed.

  2. @COLIN – the report was under Saturday’s Tory Diary section by Tim Montgomerie, headlined ‘Tories dip in polls as Cameron sounds an uncertain trumpet’. This is a direct quote from the piece;

    “But on the deficit Cameron has sown confusion in the last 24 hours. Almost every newspaper (including the FT) has seized on hints he made at Davos that Conservative spending cuts might not be very extensive at first. This is how Peter Oborne reports Mr Cameron’s gaffe:”

    It also quotes Peter Oborne; “The truth is that Cameron is significantly more nervous than Osborne about spending cuts. Indeed, his comment didn’t go down at all well in his No 2’s office because Cameron appeared to be endorsing Labour criticism of the Tory economic policy. And yesterday, making a speech to British businessmen, he widened the fissure with Osborne by insisting the cuts did not have to be ‘particularly extensive’.”

    Clearly they are backtracking today, but it was shoddy presentation at best. In power, at a sensitive market time, this type of loose comment could have led to three days of panicked markets. It adds to my less than rosy view of Cameron’s suitability for the post of PM.

  3. @ALEC
    When Cameron is reduced in power just a wee bit we will start to worry. You cannot expect all politicians to enjoy the unqualified support, love and confidence of Gordon Brown.


    “When Cameron is reduced in power just a wee bit we will start to worry. You cannot expect all politicians to enjoy the unqualified support, love and confidence of Gordon Brown.”

    Just a wee bit has happened. Read Anthony’s most recent article ;-)

  5. @ALEC

    ” seized on hints he made at Davos that Conservative spending cuts might not be very extensive at first.”

    Could you point me to any indication by either Cameron or Osborne which has ever indicated cuts in 2010 would be “extensive” or which has used that word . ?

    Could you point me to any quantitive statement from Osborne or Cameron ,of cuts proposed for 2010 implementation , other than Child Trust Fund & Tax Credits for incomes over £50k.


  6. OLD NAT

    “If YouGov and other pollsters don’t use such data, they probably aren’t worth the fees they charge their clients.”

    Presumably the data you refer to was available in 2005.

    Is there any reason why it’s absence in Polling data now,should render Polls any less accurate than they were then?

  7. @Colin – “Could you point me to any quantitive statement from Osborne or Cameron ,of cuts proposed for 2010 implementation , other than Child Trust Fund & Tax Credits for incomes over £50k.” No I can’t – and that’s the point. They have given nods and winks, and an impression only. They have used (or allowed to be used on their behalf, a critical part of modern news management) expressions like ‘faster, deeper cuts, age of austerity etc. They have done this deliberately and as a clear part of their campaign strategy. Cameron then appeared to counter this on Thursday – that’s what the press picked up on. It’s not just me – if Tim Montgomerie thinks it’s a gaffe then we are not in partisan territory – something has gone wrong.

    Another confusion has also arisen today with statements that the Tories will increase the central grant to local government next year to enable a council tax freeze. Are they protecting schools and overseas aid budgets only, or are they are protecting local authority budgets. As more and more of their policies emerge we are not getting the clarity that 13 years in opposition should allow. As I have said many times, and in particular since October, the Tories have made several errors, and it does appear that there are the beginnings of a poll response to these.

  8. @ ALEC

    ” No I can’t ”

    Thanks-I thought I had missed something

    “They have given nods and winks, and an impression only. They have used (or allowed to be used on their behalf, a critical part of modern news management) expressions like ‘faster, deeper cuts,”

    They have said they would :-
    a) “start the heavy lifting” in 2010
    b) They would want to improve on ” halve the deficit in four years”

    They still have a policy to do a)-just as Brown has a policy not to.
    b) is meaningless -just as “halve the deficit in four years” is meaningless-unless you say “what deficit”-how much & by when. Neither of them has said that-so it is pointless asking “how”

  9. @colin – I would agree. The key factor though is that they wanted to give people the impression they would be much tougher on the deficit, even if they were not specific. They were successful in this, and have made no attempt to correct that impression in the past. That’s why this is an issue for them. Politics is mostly about what people think you said – as a PR man cameron knows this full well, so the argument about whether they said what and when misses the point. He wanted to convey an impression and now he has confused things.

  10. @ ALEC

    I just don’t follow.

    Yes-“they wanted to give people the impression they would be much tougher on the deficit,”-because they meant it.

    They still do.

    Until we get numbers-from both sides-these gradations of intent are not quantifyable.

    All we know at present is that Cons will start to tackle the deficit in 2010-Labour wont , and plan to achieve a lower annual deficit, sooner than Labour.

    That’s it.

    And you can find as many commentators on each side of this approach as on the other .

    Incidentally , if VAT reduction & Car Scrappage were such great fiscal stimuli-why is the Government removing them this year…….whilst accusing the Tories of……”removing public sector support for the economy” ?

  11. It must be quite dispiriting for those who have been banging the drum in favour of big early cuts only to have their leader pull the rug by announcing that he’s limiting the cuts to a token gesture in order to show good intentions.

    And what a bizarre choice of victims to be the target of that gesture : to-morrow’s children.

    I can see more back-tracking leading to Cameron’s character being more and more of an issue for the electorate.

  12. Colin – he specifically said to-day that he would not start in 2010, as the year would already be underway, but that he would make a start without undertaking “swingeing cuts”. Presumably just the cuts in Child Trusts and Child Tax Credits.

  13. @Colin – I’m not arguing the technicalities with you – you are basically perfectly correct. All I am saying is that since Thursday the Tories have to clarify and reassure – clearly they realise they have introduced a confusion into the debate, as Tim Montgomerie also pointed out. Forget the economics – Cameron has made another presentational error by appearing to slam on the brakes on the ‘cuts’ policy. They know they have tripped up, which is why they had strenuous efforts today to get across a single unified message. If the Tory high command know they are in damage limitation mode then I feel you can safely acknowledge some form of error has occured.

    I have no evidence for this, but I am beginning to suspect a pattern is emerging, caused by the way in which the Tories are operating. I posted earlier about the lack of cabinet style government, in both labour and now the Tories. It seems to me that political and increasingly hard policy announcements are being generated by Cameron’s inner circle with shadow ministers largely excluded. Excluding your entire management team is why Labour made so many policy howlers – they just didn’t have the breadth of experience brought to bear on issues in order to pick up the problems. I suspect Cameron is doing this now, and he hasn’t even got into power yet. It worries me.

  14. David Cameron has been telling us for quite some time now that the government should start cutting asap to tackle the deficit. I remember he and Osborne making a great deal of ‘’austerity honesty’’, during their party conference last year.

    Only a few weeks ago Osborne was asked on BBC TV how he proposed to cut £26 billion each year (starting this coming fiscal year), over and above Labours planned cuts (though Labour is starting from 2011/2012). The BBC had calculated the figure on the Conservative plan to cut sooner and deeper than Labour. Osborne did not specify where the cuts would fall, but did not deny the figure.

    Only this week Philip Hammond was asked the same question on BBC TV, but the figure had been revised upward to £30 billion.

    Before anyone asks me I cannot give a link. I have searched the BBC i Player but to no avail. Still I am hoping some will take my word for it.

    The general perception has been that David Cameron wanted to cut deeper and faster to assure the markets that the deficit would be cut. I remember discussing it with several posters including Alec & KH on this site and about my concern of how equitably the cuts would be made.

    Cameron has clearly realised that his approach is not a vote winner. He has been losing support and hence decided to back-track. Other policies have unravelled too such as the marriage tax allowance. Eric Pickles couldn’t spell out the policy to Andrew Neil on the Daily Politics Show last Wednesday.

    Btw it’s the first time since I’ve been visiting Anthony’s sit that a hung parliament has been projected.

  15. @Al J – I said right at the outset that I thought Cameron’s focus on the cuts message was an error, and I still feel that to be correct. They managed to unnecessarily paint themselves into a corner. As Colin (I think) suggested, the weak GDP figures have helped bring the cuts message into clearer focus and have paradoxically enabled Labour to heighten fears over Tory policies and Cameron is now rowing back (rhetorically at least) with the ensuing confusion.

    In my mind it’s indicative of a poor political operation, based more on short term marketing messages. There’s a carelessness about Tory behaviour – almost an arrogance. Reading about Hague’s repeated trips to the Carribean region with Ashcroft is another example – even if Ashcroft’s presence is entirely justified and above board, they must surely realise that some people might view such behaviour negatively? The Tories have never been my favourite party, but I have been increasingly surprised at how a vaunted political operation, hungry for success, just seems to getting itself mired in second rate messages and poor management.

  16. From the Guardian today :-

    “Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show, Osborne dampened expectations, saying: “There is a limit to what you can do in a year, and that’s what David and I have been talking about, but you’ve got to make a start.”

    In a separate interview Cameron said he would not be proposing swingeing cuts. But neither man shifted from the basic stance that cuts had to start this summer, in part to keep interest rates lower for longer.”

    This is pointing out the bleeding obvious-not saying-you remember when I said we would make swinging cuts to the bone in 2010-well I’m sorry we cant”

    And Alec-perhaps I could remind you that Cameron’s
    ” focus on the cuts message ” was in the teeth of Gordon Brown’s “no cuts-we will invest” message.

    And who won that little spat?-Messrs. Osborne & Darling I think.

  17. BBC News :-
    “David Cameron says a Tory government will start to cut within its first year but declines to quantify the cuts”

  18. must be very difficult to stick to the line that when they said “steep cuts now” they meant “just a little bit steeper than Labour, and just a little bit earlier”

    Will Cameron admit that he “messed up” again?

    The confusion is more damaging to the standing than the actual policies (which are probably no different from Labour’s)

    Colin – what happened to the promise of an emergency budget within 50 days?

  19. @Colin – It’s about presentation. If large numbers of media outlets, let alone your political opponents across the spectrum, all start saying your policy is confusing, then something has clearly gone wrong with your communications. I appreciate all that you have said, but I’m afraid searching for quotes misses the point. By poor news management they have encouraged an impression to gain hold just at a time when one or two other key policies have appeared slightly shaky. It’s right in line with the ‘say whatever people want to hear/airbrushed posters’ line of attack and is an absolute godsend for Labour. It’s the last thing a prospective government in waiting needs just at the point when they are trying to convince the electorate. As with the Ashcroft story. This morning the Tories have been accused by the Information Commissioner of being ‘evasive and obfuscatory’. It’s not at all good, regardless of whether there is anything to hide. The Tories are simply not managing their communications and policy announcements at all well at present.

  20. @John TT – “Colin – what happened to the promise of an emergency budget within 50 days?”

    A very good point. As I say, it’s all about the impression being given. Colin – whatever quotes you dig up, let’s not try to pretend that the ’emergency budget within 50 days’ pronouncement was anything other than a news management device to enhance the message that they would be much tougher, much quicker than Labour. Then try to tell me that this is the same message they are trying to get across today. I’m afraid it won’t wash, and Mandelson will have a field day with it later this morning.

  21. The Ashcroft situation is bizarre. There’s no doubt in my mind that he pays UK tax as he told William Hague he did, and that hew’s complied with the demand to comply with the conditions that allowed him his peerage.

    What is strange is the “it’s private” and “a matter for the cabinet office” line used by cameron. If the cabinet office appeals (likely) against the decision, the line simply will be used by Labour against Cameron.

    So all that damage caused by a principle that most people would call a semantic piece of rot. And a waste of public money, when all he has to do is state that he pays UK income tax on his earning like the rest of us do.

  22. ALEC

    You’re ahead of me on Tory announcements.
    I had not realised that Cameron has announced there will not now be a quick budget. I can’t find the reference just now-if he did say it that was stupid.

    Re the media -depends who you read I guess .

    This is Robert Peston :
    “This may be read as a “softening” of the Tory rhetoric around cuts. In some ways it is. But I don’t think the substance of the Conservatives’ post-election Budget plans has changed much in the last six months. ”

    That seems fair & balanced to me.

    I agree with you that Labour have made Cons look like amateurs when it comes to “presentation” over this issue.

    I am reminded of the C4 interview/debate between Clark & Mandelson recently.

    KC said he did not agree with PM on some economic point or other…whereupon PM said “but Ken you do”…leaning over & touching his arm-well patting it almost.

    And KC’s response?:-

    ” Peter-behave yourself”


    If Cons persist in playing Cricket whilst PM plays Grand Theft Auto, this will happen again & again.

  23. “The Tories are simply not managing their communications and policy announcements at all well at present.”

    Absolutely agreed Alec-& they are paying the price for it.

  24. “…realised that Cameron has announced there will not now be a quick budget”

    He hasn’t, but what I meant was what is the point of having one if all he is going to do is implement a couple of changes to the tax system to cut child trusts, child credits, and raise the IHT threshold?

    When the emergency budget was announced it was to alert us that big early cuts were in the offing.

    Feel free to adress this through Alec, if it helps you Colin.

  25. I actually think the new Tory line has been prompted in part by Labour’s conversion to a more realistic line on spending since Darling forced the issue against Brown/Balls. I recall at the time that Colin and I both mused that this could cause some problems for the Tories, and perhaps we were right? It was easier to defend the cuts agenda when their opponents were clearly away with the fairies pretending big spending could go on forever. What I do find fascinating would be if Darling goes on to outflank Osborne in the budget by giving detail to some serious spending cuts, then going on to seize the mantle of fiscal responsibility from Cameron. They’ve got them wobbling once – they wouldn’t be able to re-wobble again without serious credibility damage. It would be an audacious move, but if the government borrowing figures are better than forecast as a number of people are predicting it could yet be another difficulty for Cameron to negotiate.

    Interesting blog from Robert Peston. He floats the notional idea of a Tory conspiracy to create additional market nervousness ahead of the BoE’s forthcoming decision on continuing quantitative easing, with the thinking that a less clear line on spending from the likely next government could spook the markets and create a bond crisis before the GE. I think it’s a bit of fun more than anything else. Let’s hope so, as I can’t seriously believe any party would imagine such an event being in anyone’s best interests!

  26. ALEC

    This is becoming repetetive I know-but I have to say that “the new Tory line ” is pretty much like the “old tory line” .But if it makes you happy to keep saying it isn’t I suppose it’s not the end of the world.

    I think your musings on Darling & the budget are very close to the “Plan”.
    I have no doubt whatsoever that “audacity” will not be wanting with PM pulling the strings.
    I wish I was as certain about Cons’ ability to counter it.

  27. Thanks Colin.

  28. ALEC-re Peston’s blog-did you note this? :-

    “McKinsey’s epic study ( Davos)of the respective debts of major economies, “Debt and Deleveraging”….It shows that – of the world’s biggest and richest countries – the UK and Japan are far-and-away the world’s most indebted countries.

    This is on the measure that adds together the debts of households, companies, government and financial institutions, and then compares that sum with GDP, or what the country produces.

    On that basis, in 2008, the UK’s debt to GDP ratio was 469%, the highest in the the world, compared with 459% for Japan. The ratio of heavily indebted America was “just” 300% in US.

    Now McKinsey points out that our debt-to-GDP ratio fell a smidgeon in the first half of 2009. But not enough to be statistically or economically significant: on the unadjusted numbers, UK-debt-to-GDP was 466%, compared with 471% for Japan.

    McKinsey’s main thesis however is that slow economic growth is an almost inevitable consequence of high relative indebtedness. ”

    If Osborne doesn’t mention this in his counter to PM-I will know they are losing it.

  29. Colin I suspect Osborne will want to steer clear of Japan, who went the route of deflation and got stuck for a long time.

    they’d be better off on solid ground : “Look who got us into this state”, and pretty much leave it at that. otherwise there’ll be fine mess after fine mess until polling day.

  30. A real economic recovery is built on growth not debt. I think people must be slightly mad to believe that debt building is a good thing. The government keep saying we need to spend for economic recovery but the more you depend on BORROWED money the harder it will be to survive without it.

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