A new YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph has topline voting intention figures of CON 47%, LAB 25%, LDEM 16%. YouGov also asked a series of questions about how people would vote with different people as Labour leader. Of the potential alternatives to Brown, only Jack Straw did better than Brown, and then not by a significant amount – CON 45% to LAB 24%. Under David Milliband support would be CON 47%, LAB 24% – worse than with Gordon Brown, albeit, not by a significant amount. With Ed Balls as Labour leader, the party would be pushed into third place behind the Liberal Democrats: CON 50%, LAB 17%, LDEM 18%.

Hypothetical questions like this are very popular when there are questions of leadership. In their favour I have to say that they are better than questions asking whether people are more or less likely to vote Labour if X was in charge, which people who would vote Labour anyway, or wouldn’t vote Labour under any circumstance, still say more or less. They do, however, have various downsides.

The first is that normal voting intention questions do not include prompting by the party leaders names, so realistically you should only compare the results of a question asking “how would you vote with Milliband in charge” with one saying “how would you vote with Brown in charge”. In the case of this poll therefore, what we don’t know is how people would have answered a question saying how would you vote at a general election if Gordon Brown were still leader – given his current popularity, mentioning his name in the question may have produced worse results.

The second question is how good people are at predicting how they will respond to future events. Back before Gordon Brown became leader we used to see polls showing he would be immensely unpopular. In the event when he became leader Labour received a huge boost in the polls. In the long term people were right, Brown did became unpopular, but personally I think that’s particular to the case of Gordon Brown: people’s reasons for disliking him were his personality (at the time they still thought him strong, decisive and competent), which it was very unlikely he’d be able to change. People also knew him very well after 10 years as Chancellor. For less well known politicans like David Milliband very few people will know him well enough to have the first idea what he would do as PM, or how they’d react. Their opinion of how they would vote with Miliband in charge is based on seeing him on the telly a couple of times, what he looks and sounds like. Such things are important, but they certainly aren’t everything.

Despite all this, these questions are important. Flawed they may be, but these are the closest we ever come to actual evidence that an alternative leader would do better than Gordon Brown, and at the moment it’s lacking. Sometimes it is the dog that doesn’t bark that’s important – imagine the impact this poll would have had if it had shown David Milliband would cut the Tory lead to 10 points or less. The poll shows Labour 22 points behind the Conservatives, but I suspect GOrdon Brown will be pleased with it!

With the focus on Gordon Brown’s teetering leadership, it was always inevitable that would start seeing hypothetical polls on how people would vote with David Milliband, Alan Johnson, Jack Straw, Uncle Tom Cobley and all as Labour leader. I expected it to turn up on Saturday, but according to the Telegraph blog the first such set of match-ups from YouGov will be in the Telegraph tomorrow morning.

There are all sorts of caveats about how much weight we should add to these sort of polls, which I go into later. The reason they are important is their political impact – if polls show other leaders would do better than Brown at the polls it will be extra pressure on him. I’m sure one of the reasons no alternative leader really managed to build up a media bandwagon before Blair resigned was that when the media commissioned polls like this they conspicuously failed to show Milliband or Johnson doing better than Brown. I wouldn’t bet on that still being the case.


From the ashes…

Something for fans of the constituency guide part of the site, some people will remember Robert Waller – the co-author of the Almanac of British Politics – did a series of programmes on 18 Doughty Street covering the various regional battlegrounds at the next election. 18DS is no more, but Iain Dale has saved the programmes and but them up here for your viewing pleasure.

Populus have carried out an extra snap poll following the Glasgow East by-election, it was conducted between the 25th and 27th, so is the first with fieldwork conducted entirely after the by-election result.

The topline voting intention figures are CON 43%(+2), LAB 27%(-1), LDEM 18%(+1), so a slight shift to the Conservatives, but that’s taken from a poll that had a much lower Conservative lead than that shown by other pollsters. From this it doesn’t look that Glasgow East has been able to further damage Labour’s popularity, though the speculation since then can’t be doing them any favours – not that we’ll really be able to tell now, since we are heading into the August bank holidays when we tend to be a bit suspicious of polls given the effect summer holidays may have on sampling.

CrosbyTextor have sent be the tables for the marginal poll in the Sunday Telegraph. The actual voting intention figures, with don’t knows and won’t votes excluded, is CON 49%, LAB 20%, LDEM 21%, Others 10% – representing a swing of 10.9% from the last general election.

It was carried out between the 16th and 29th June, when the national polls were showing Tory leads between 18 and 23 points, equating to swings between 10.5% and 12.5%. Without knowing things like what weighting was used we don’t know exactly how comparable the figures are, but it certainly doesn’t look as though the Conservative swing is any larger in the easiest marginals than in the county as a whole (and – in the present political circumstances – it doesn’t need to be).