MORI/League Against Cruel Sports – found 58% of people in favour of retaining the hunting ban, 17% in favour of repealing it.
NOP/BBC – 59% of people think council tax is unfair, 60% would favour a local income tax.
ICM/Unlock Democracy – 63% approved of the House of Commons vote in favour of a fully elected Lords.
Populus/BBC – 31% of people think dangerous obese children should be taken into care.

An ICM poll in the Sunday Mirror shows their largest Conservative lead since their honeymoon after the 1992 election. The headline figures with changes from ICM’s poll in the middle of February are CON 40%(nc), LAB 29%(-2), LDEM 21%(+2). The Sunday Mirror doesn’t give fieldwork dates, but it would likely have been carried out around the end of last week. On a straight uniform swing this would give the Conservatives a small overall majority in the House of Commons.

For those who like to look for reasons for moves between individual polls, the Liberal Democrat spring conference and Menzies Campbell’s well-publicised conference speech occured between these two sets of figures, but realisitically changes of 2 points between polls are largely meaningless unless there are trends over a number of polls. On that front however, it does look as through support may be beginning to shift again. Since the election there have been two major shifts in public support: the election of David Cameron as Conservative leader boosted the Tories and brought the two main parties to roughly the same level in support; then, the combination of the foreign prisoner release scandal, John Prescott’s affair and Labour’s local election losses in 2006 gave them a knock. Since then the polls have been relatively static – with the exception of a temporary boost to Labour’s ratings after Tony Blair’s final conference speech, the overall position has been one of no change.


The last few polls from ICM and Populus however have shown a consistent increase in the Conservative lead, mostly due to a further fall in the level of Labour support (Communicate have also shown a similar sort of Tory lead, but their figures are more erratic,). In contrast YouGov are still showing the sort of figures they were reporting last year. While by 11 point leads like today’s make good headlines, the real news is when several polls start reporting a similar trend, it’s now starting to look as if Labour’s support is still falling. Whether that necessarily means anything while we are still in that sort of interregnum between Tony Blair announcing his immenent departure and (presumably) Gordon Brown taking over is a different matter. I am firm in the belief that, despite the hypothetical polling questions, there will be some sort of Labour boost in the polls, if only a short term one, only when that has settled will we see how the ground really does lie.


Populus March Poll

Voting intentions in Populus’s monthly poll for the Times, published on Tuesday, are CON 38%(+2), LAB 30%(-3), LDEM 18%(-1). This equals the largest Conservative lead recorded by Populus since the election. The poll was conducted between the 2nd and 4th March.

Populus’s hypothetical question on how people would vote with Gordon Brown as leader has fallen back in the normal pattern of showing an increased Conservative lead, with the Tory lead growing to 13 points. However, there is worse news for those hoping to encourage David Miliband to challenge Brown for the Labour succession, since Populus found a huge 20 point Conservative lead in a match up between Cameron, Campbell and Miliband.

Of course, with Miliband barely known amongst the public this is a largely meaningless question – and I suspect a fair amount of the supposed swing to the Conservatives is actually a large amount of Labour supporters saying “don’t know”. Despite this, the poll will certainly not do anything to create an image of David Miliband as an electorally popular alternative to Gordon Brown.

As most readers of this blog will know, the Labour leadership is decided by an electoral college made up of MPs, party members and levy-paying members of trade unionists affiliated to the Labour party. A YouGov poll in Monday’s Telegraph polls two of those three groups – party members and trade unionists and suggests that Gordon Brown would beat David Miliband even if he did run, and that Hilary Benn leads in the race for the deputy leadership.

Trade Unionists are the more hostile towards Blair – 40% think he should resign immediately compared to 26% of party members (a large majoirty of both groups think he should be gone by just after the May elections. Around 10% of both groups think he should change his mind and not resign after all).

A large majority of both party members (69%) and trade unionists (75%) would prefer there to be a contested leadership election, rather than a coronation. However, they are less certain that David Miliband, the media’s current candidate to be the anti-Gordon, is the man to do it. Party members are pretty much evenly divided on whether they would like Miliband to stand – 38% say yes, 42% no. A slight plurality of trade unionists (40% to 31%) would like Miliband to stand.

If Miliband did stand then, at present, it looks as though Gordon Brown would still easily win. Amongst party members 69% would vote for Brown to 20% for Miliband, 8% for John McDonnell and 3% for Michael Meacher. In a straight fight between Brown and Miliband Brown would win 70% to 30%. Amongst trade unionists the two left-wing candidates have more support, but Brown remains the runaway leader – Brown 63%, Miliband 15%, Meacher 13%, McDonnell 10% – in a straight fight it would be 64% to 36%.

Of course, we are a long way from an actual leadership election and David Miliband is still largely an unknown figure – YouGov polls of Conservative party members in September 2005 showed David Cameron trailing David Davis and Ken Clarke. These polls can’t predict how a relatively obscure figure like David Miliband might fare in an actual leadership election once he’s had the chance to bask in the media spotlight – they can only tell the baseline and, as it is, it’s not that bad – certainly if Miliband did challenge Brown it looks as though he would escape the sort of humiliation that Tony Benn suffered against Kinnock in 1988 and Bryan Gould suffered in 1992 against John Smith.

Meanwhile, there certainly will be an election for the deputy leadership and the YouGov poll suggests that Hilary Benn is the strong frontrunner amongst both party members and trade unionists. Amongst party members Benn leads with 36% followed by Alan Johnson on 22%, Harriet Harman on 13%, Peter Hain on 12%, Jon Cruddas on 9% and Hazel Blears on 7%. The picture amongst trade unionists isn’t that different – the main contrast is stronger support for Harriet Harman – Benn 34%, Johnson 20%, Harman 18%, Hain 12%, Cruddas 9%, Blears 7%.

Despite the low levels of support for Jon Cruddas, there was strong support for the idea of a deputy leader who was a “voice of the party”, rather than a leading cabinet minister – 60% of party members and 59% of trade unionists liked this idea, so if Cruddas can get over the problem of his low recognition and profile, he could yet build on his support. That aside, Hilary Benn does seem to have a good early lead – but once again, it is very early in the race.

Polls all round. ICM’s monthly Scottish poll ahead of the May elections has constituency voting intentions of
CON 16%(+3), LAB 29%(-2), LDEM 16%(-1), SNP 34%(+1) and regional voting intentions of CON 15%(+1), LAB 28%(+1), LDEM 17%(nc), SNP 32%(-1). Using Weber Shandwick’s swingometer this would leave the SNP and the largest party and the current Labour/Lib Dem ruling coalition unable to form a majority alone.

For all you you keep begging for one in my comments section, the BBC carries an ICM poll in Wales – the first Welsh voting intention poll for some years. Unfortunately, while they appear to have asked voting intention questions, since they report that the Labour vote would rise by 7% were Tony Blair to resign, they are nowhere to be found in the article itself. We’ll have to wait for ICM to provide the tables on their website. The poll found that half of respondents were unaware that there even were elections in May, and only 40% said they intended to vote. Only 43% of respondents were able to name Rhodhi Morgan, with the other party leaders in Wales having name recognitions in single figures.

Finally, MORI have conducted a opinion poll in Northern Ireland. Current voting intention stands at DUP 25%, Sinn Fein 22%, SDLP 20%, UUP 16%, Alliance 9% and Greens 3%, PUP 1%, Conservatives 1%, UK Unionists 1%. This represents a huge drop in the Ulster Unionist vote, and a large advance for the Alliance (though historically polls in Northern Ireland have tended to over-represent the level of support for moderate parties and underestimate that for the extremes). Interestingly, if there has been a shift from the Ulster Unionists to the Alliance then the balance between parties designated as nationalist and those designated as unionist will be very close indeed.