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Labour’s poll woes as economy grows

14 January 2014

Is the improving economy harming Labour’s standing? According to a new Guardian/ICM survey out today, Labour is still ahead of the Conservatives by three points — but the gap is slowly shrinking. Since the last ICM poll in December, Labour’s lead has dropped to just three points, down from an eight point lead in November:

Today’s poll also looks at how assured people are feeling about their own financial position and their ‘ability to keep up with the cost of living’. 52 per cent now feel confident about the state of their personal finances — the highest level since October 2010. Confidence in financial situations plummeted in 2010 and a majority stated they did not feel confident about their situation until this September:

The solidity of Labour’s polling lead over the Tories is often questioned, particularly as it continues to fluctuate. According to these trackers, Labour had a 12 point lead over the Tories in February last year — their highest since the general election — yet six months later, the parties were neck and neck:

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Except a bump during the party conference season, Labour’s lead has remained in single digits since the February high. Perhaps this is as a result of Labour’s inconsistent messaging on the economy. As today’s olive branch to the middle classes shows, Miliband appears happy to flit from one idea to another in an attempt to see what sticks.

For example in February, Miliband said in a speech ‘we were promised that we could have growth and a lower deficit. In fact, we’ve had almost no growth and the deficit is rising again.’ Then in his response to the budget, the Labour leader switched to arguing that the growth we now have is the wrong type.

On unemployment, Labour bemoaned in 2012 that the government was showing ‘terrible complacency’, before admitting last month the record levels of employment were ‘welcome’. The Shadow Chancellor switched tack by focusing on the high levels of youth unemployment and the ‘cost of living crisis’.

If nothing else, this polling illustrates that Labour needs to make the very most of the series of speeches planned by its top brass on the economy and cost of living to form a coherent message on the economy so that this trend doesn’t continue.

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Show comments
  • Daniel Maris

    We shall see…I think one might say there is something gone wrong with democracy if people vote in droves for a party that has reduced their real incomes by at least 15% – maybe as much as 25%. That’s not healthy at all.

    It makes one start to think in terms of mind control.

    • Fergus Pickering

      Oh come on. If they don’t vote for Milibum it’s because their minds are controlled? Give me one good reason to vote for the jerk.

  • alabenn

    The voting margins are coming down because people realise that the unremitting diet of starving kids , food banks, austerity and the country at large getting poorer by the minute is just hot air, very few people if any have been pushed into poverty by this government, if there is any children starving it is because of their useless parents spending money on non essentials, the disabled are adequately provided for, if you are fit and young and are broke, get off you butt and get a job, millions have travelled thousands of miles to do what you consider beneath you.

    No one in is in poverty most who are poor are poor through laziness, they have a predilection for self pity that is encouraged by the left so as to give the left a reason to exist, the left is encouraged by spoilt sad pretend socialists from the middle classes who, cannot cut the mustard in the real world so they inhabit television and media,spouting the drivel they learn by rote at the so called institutes of learning masquerading under the title of universities.

  • DavidL

    The point remains -never mind what one poll says – that Labour continues to deny that it did anything wrong in office: correction, after three years, Balls grudgingly accepted that they might have made a better job of regulating the banks.

    For the Conservatives – indeex for anyone else -this refusal to fess up to past mistakez is the gift that goes on giving. And Miliband will have to conduct a General Election campaign swearibg blind that the entire deficit/debt crisis was nothing to do with running a current account deficit in a boom…. and quite possibly with senior figures from his own side (even his own family) sniping from the sidelines.

    • Denis_Cooper

      But a large chunk of the population still do not blame Labour for wrecking the economy and the government finances, instead they think that Labour did well in the face of a world crisis and they blame the coalition for delaying the recovery. It’s outrageous brass neck on their part but that’s why Labour has been able to continue to deny that it did anything wrong in office and be sure of a broadly sympathetic reception.

      • DavidL

        Up to a point, Lord Copper/Cooper. The polls show that significantly more voters trust the Conservatives than Labour on the economy. And while the majority of voters don’t like the “cuts”, the majority agree they are necessary.

        In an election, as the blessed Margaret knew, people will swallow their dislike, and vote for the party that will govern best. Labour, in Opposition, have made no case for the voters to trust them.

  • tribalterror

    Looks like the BBC have their work cut out running up to the next election

  • Shorne

    Err…well this lead will give Labour a majority of 58 apparently…?

    • Denis_Cooper

      24 according to Electoral Calculus:

      • Shorne

        Well presumably you pays your money and takes your choice
        European election currently a bit closer

        24 is still enough of course.

        • Denis_Cooper

          But I think that 58 is for their average of recent poll results:

          Labour 37%
          Tories 32%
          LibDems 10%

          rather than this latest ICM/Guardian poll:

          Labour 35%
          Tories 32%
          LibDems 14%.

          • Daniel Maris

            And of course one always expects a governing party to claw back a deficit in the closing months before an election as people focus on the realities of the next government.

        • Denis_Cooper

          I’ve belatedly thought to use the average poll results from UK Polling Report to make a prediction on Electoral Calculus, and I find that it leads to a Labour majority of 64, not far off 58.

          • Shorne

            Useful to know, major bookmakers (always more reliable than polls) currently offering 11/8 on Labour majority. I might wait and see if they improve.

  • CharlietheChump

    Pointless post regurgitating stuff available elsewhere, and who cares (apart from the Special Needs Comrade below) what Labour “must do”?

  • Denis_Cooper

    It seems that the Spectator is trying to construct a narrative in which the ineffective Labour party is looking at its shrinking poll lead and getting increasingly concerned about its prospects for the next election, with Miliband even considering his options in the event of another hung Parliament according to a recent article.

    Nowhere in this article or the last is it recalled that the LibDems stopped the Tories getting the boundary changes that they wanted, and therefore the Tories still have to get themselves something like 6% ahead of Labour to have a chance of winning an overall majority.

    Just using the numbers from this latest ICM/Guardian poll Labour would still end up with a majority of 28, while putting in its numbers for July 12th – 14th 2013 when the Labour lead had supposedly shrunk to zero the predicted result would still have been Labour as the party with the largest number of MPs and only 5 short of an overall majority.

    Moreover all the discussion in this article is based on changes in the time series for just that one opinion poll, and while there is no obvious reason to condemn it as being a particularly unreliable poll the average of polls gives a different picture:

    According to those charts of the averages of poll results, there was no time during 2013 when the Tories were level with Labour; in July when the ICM/Guardian poll said that they were level a whole clutch of other polls said that they weren’t, with Labour having leads ranging from 5% to 11%, average about 6%.

    Finally, if anybody insists on drawing a conclusion from this latest poll it should be that the Labour lead has gone down solely because support for the LibDems has gone up, although it is still a long way short of the 24% they got at the time of the last general election.

    Really it would be in the interests of the Tories to provide Clegg with more grist for his mill and create opportunities for the LibDems to pull support away from Labour, because the Tories’ best chance at the next election lies in the LibDems once again splitting the Labour vote not in the Tories themselves winning over Labour supporters.

    • wycombewanderer

      No party has ever formed a government with such a weak lead at this stage(kinnock was polling 22 points ahead of major mid term and lost)

      No party leader has ever become PM with such weak personal ratings.

      It is all still to play for and the conservatives will have momentum for the next year plus a budget.

      Labour still have to publish a single concrete proposal most likely because they’re scared stiff of what McLuskey will insist upon.

      • Denis_Cooper

        There’s always a first time for everything, but we’ll have to wait to see what happens.

  • Tony_E

    The problem that Conservatives face is that they can get a majority of votes, but still get nowhere near the post.

    There is a quite interesting situation potentially coming, where a small Lib Dem recovery (largely due to tactical anti Con voting and the belief that Clegg will be overthrown post 2015 whatever the outcome), will leave a Conservative majority percentage vote, Labour easily the biggest parliamentary party, and the Lib Dems with a difficult choice.

    I cannot see a situation currently where Miliband is not PM, with either a majority or a Farron led Lib Dem party in tow.

    • Alexsandr

      Labour should be wary of a coalition with the treacherous limp-dems. They are government tarts in my view, hop into bed with anyone.
      prostitutes actually. They get paid for it!
      Look forward to pix of Clegg in fishnets and short skirt :)

  • kyalami

    While I personally would like to see the Tories win, I am afraid that this article is whistling in the dark. The statistics it quotes are extremes – possible but unlikely to reflect reality. Most polls, while fluctuating, show a significantly stronger Labour lead.

    In addition, due to LibDem perfidy, Labour need far fewer votes for an outright majority. So the percentage of votes matters less than where they are cast: tiny Labour leads can give them strong majorities in terms of numbers of seats while Tories need a strong poll lead to achieve a tiny majority in Parliament.

    This is fundamentally undemocratic but reflects the reality of UK politics today.

    • FF42

      It is important to remember that opinion polls are trying to predict vote share not seats. Elections are decided on seats. Whether it’s undemocratic depends on what your complaint is.

      I think there are three factors leading to a difference between vote share and seat share:

      1. Uneven constituency sizes. Labour and the Conservatives both hold oversized and undersized consituencies, so I doubt it would make a huge difference in their relative number of seats. But it could make the difference in a very tight race and it is definitely undemocratic.

      2. Runner-up syndrome. If your vote is so well distributed that you are always a runner-up you will not get any seats. UKIP and, historically, the Liberals are victims of this. The problem is fixed by proportional representation. If you reject PR for other reasons, this is the consequence of that decision.

      3. Variable voter turn out. Conservative held seats tend to have higher turnouts than Labour held ones.. Older and wealthier people are more likely to vote than younger and poorer people. Older and wealthier people tend to vote Conservative while younger and poorer people tend to vote Labour. I don’t think turnout variation is fundamentally undemocratic in a seat-based electoral system: the seat share reflect the vote shares in each seat. The effect will minimise if you have bigger seats – eg with a Single Transferable Vote system like the one in Ireland or in Scotland for local authorities.

  • Iain Hill

    Improving economy, all spin. Check the Scottish food banks. Are cabinet ministers making any donations?

  • Chris

    Vote UKIP- get rid of Labour.

    • ablanche

      No no no – vote UKIP get Labour. Idiot.

      • Alexsandr

        vote for the party that reflects your views

    • Denis_Cooper

      Yes, Chris, you’re an idiot and so you should do as you’re told and vote Tory, even if the Tory party is diametrically opposed to what you actually want.

  • Roy

    To do any catching-up the Tories need solid principled policy. Saying their green, sounds as if they have been up to their old tricks again, playing with the paint set, rather than concentrate on the three r’s.

  • 2trueblue

    At this point Liebore should be much further ahead in the polls. We are all so fed up with the whole political elite, but the reality is that anyone is better that Red Ed, Balls, and the merry band that took us to the brink over their 13yrs. Getting out of the hole they left is always more difficult than getting in to it, especially when most sectors were ravaged by the lack any real strategy over that time. Just lovely soundbites repeated by the BBC.

  • HookesLaw

    Despite inflation falling to 2% Labour still complain about ‘living standards’. Today on the news a spokeswoman was saying that this is because of wage rises being too low.
    Is Labours policy to have wage inflation? Is it Labour’s policy for workers to price themselves out of a job? Does Labour want to decry the way job numbers have stood up in the recession?

    • Daniel Maris

      Do you really believe the 2% figure? Maybe in the outer hebrides. But in London- look at all the above inflation increases…house prices going up 11%, rail fares up 5%, energy prices now up around 5-7%. Then look at all the charges going up from local authorities. What exactly has gone up only 2%?

      I think the 2% figure is bogus.

      • 2trueblue

        Same measure that has always been used to get the figures.

        • Daniel Maris

          Well, fristly you have your choice between CPI and RPI and governments tend to run with whichever gives them the best outcome.

        • Daniel Maris

          also, you are being incredibly naive if you don’t think there’s a lot of political influence over how surveys are undertaken to establish expenditure patterns. An average spend is not the same as an average spend of an average family.

        • Daniel Maris

          …plus I bet there are all sorts of tricks being pulled e.g. “all right – this year we’ll sample Lidl and Aldi unlike last year…” so suddenly you are including in the basket unbranded cheap versions of foodstuffs that don’t really compare to the normal branded stuff. If they suddenly include Poundland shops for AA battery purchases that will take it down – even if the batteries only last two minutes.

          I very much doubt the process behind these figures.

          • starfish

            That is not how the sampling works. Check out the ONS website. Plus this is simply an annual index- prices are still rising, just less fast and the prevoius rises are the new baseline. Things are not hetting cheaper

          • HJ777

            If more people are shopping at Lidl and Aldi and if they are reducing prices or restraining price increases, then why wouldn’t their effect be included in the figures?

      • monty61

        Tis indeed hard to see where they get the 2% from. You can’t eat iPads.

        • Daniel Maris

          I can believe that the cost of upmarket Bentleys has gone down because of the influx of Russian and Chinese oligarchs coming here and buying them.

          • GnosticBrian

            If demand increases, wouldn’t the laws of economics indicate that prices would also increase?

      • starfish

        But in london apparently you are benefiting from surging house prices and immigration. Cant have it both ways

      • HJ777

        I do believe the figures.

        CPI is a measure of consumer prices – it doesn’t claim to be anything else. House prices are irrelevant since CPI doesn’t claim to include them.

        By all means, argue that the wrong index is used for ‘inflation’ or that there are different types of inflation or that inflation is different for various people, but that doesn’t mean that the CPI figures are wrong.

  • Rowdie111

    Millibands problem is he has no real argument against what the coalition are doing. As it says above Miliband just “flits from one position to another wherever he thinks there is a current ‘opportunity’…..the public are savy and are latching on to his strategy…which basically is not in keeping with some one who you would ever want to run a country.

  • toco10

    Throughout its periods in office Labour has always left the UK in a far worse financial state than the one it inherited.Red Ed and his trades union brothers and sisers show that nothing has changed and the hard working majority know it.

  • Colonel Mustard

    “Is the improving economy harming Labour’s standing?”

    Hope so. I’d like to see Labour’s ‘standing’ brought low into the dust where it belongs and then collectively stamped on or walloped with shoes. If ever a party deserved a long over due comeuppance it is the Labour party.

    • telemachus

      Labour will get its comeuppance in 16 short months
      Then woebetide the Range Rover Home Counties Brigade
      (“Remoras……. are commonly found attached to sharks”

      • Colonel Mustard

        We’ll see. Are the “Range Rover Home Counties Brigade” (another stereotyped and labelled group) going to be sent to the gulag?

        You attach your remoras to the first comment in every thread. I wish you would try attaching them to sharks instead.

        • Chris lancashire

          It is interesting how Labour and its supporters see politics only through the prism of class warfare. It is impossible, in their view, that any working class (or even more so any non-working class) person could ever vote Conservative. Equally, anyone who does vote Conservative drives a Range Rover and is rich.
          That is why they are due a long rest from government.

          • Nicholas chuzzlewit

            A thousand years or so should do the trick.

            • telemachus

              Only 16 more months

              • Fergus Pickering

                nd then a Tory Government. And then a vote on leaving the EU. And then actually leaving the buggers. Bring it on.

      • Alexsandr

        stop extrapolating national figures to seats. its more complicated than that. Different parties will do well/badly in different seats.
        The big unknown is what the people who didn’t vote in 2010 will do. If they were fed up with liblabcon THEN, maybe they will vote UKIP.
        Remember these polls are biased, they give the result the paymasters want. And many don’t give UKI as a first choice thereby depressing the UKIP percentage.
        There again labours comeuppance may come in May when they will do badly in the Euro elections.

        • telemachus

          Wishful thinking
          I was interested in this on Ukip’s own site
          As shown in the graph above, a major problem for the Tory Party is that, as it’s support is more thinly spread across the country, it has many more marginal seats to defend. We can see by comparing the above graph with the one modelling seat distribution that, on UKIP votes up to 15%, the Tories have more marginals to defend than Labour, even though Labour has appreciably more seats. That is a very serious matter now that Tory membership is substantially below the Labour party’s, significantly affecting the ability of the party to mount an effective ground campaign in swing constituencies.

          • Alexsandr

            your analysis is flawed because it assumes all UKIP support is ex tory voters.
            OK some may be but i think it will be shown that many are previous non-voters and others are traditional white labour voters who feel betrayed by labour.
            so dont start blowing your baloons up just yet.

      • CharlietheChump


      • Hexhamgeezer


      • Nicholas chuzzlewit

        Vile Stalinist threats as always from our resident Stalinist Troll. Labour the party of lies, lying and unmitigated liars.

    • Colonel Mustard

      Anyone in any doubt about Labour’s indoctrination of our young need only look at the home page of their website:-

      There is no policy worth mentioning. It is all about attacking the Tories.

    • Iain Hill

      Take Tramadol

      • telemachus

        Like most of the home counties brigade he is already addicted to prescription drugs
        And Speccie

        • Colonel Mustard

          Stop libelling and labelling. You have been told the facts before:-

          1. I do not live in the Home Counties

          2. I have not been in a brigade for two decades

          3. I do not take any prescription drugs, let alone am addicted to them.

          Labour the party of liars, lies and lying. As your comments demonstrate.

          • HJ777

            If he stopped libelling and labelling he would be left with nothing to do.

            Mind you, he could take up watching daytime television which would, at least, be a more productive use of his time and would fulfil his intellect.

            • Nicholas chuzzlewit

              You overestimate the breadth of his ‘intellect’. Day time TV would seem like the Principia Mathematica to Telemachus.

              • HJ777

                Yes, but he would enjoy wondering at the superior intellect on display on daytime television in the same way as we admire the intellect on display in Principia Mathematica.

                You wouldn’t deny him that sort of fulfilment would you? Don’t be so uncharitable.

      • Colonel Mustard

        Why? That won’t relieve the pain of Labour.

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