Posts Tagged ‘polls’

As Labour’s poll ratings dive, finally, the scales begin to fall from the Milibelievers’ eyes

13/05/2014, 07:00:30 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The biggest surprise is the surprise. Shock and consternation were in plentiful evidence across Labour’s twitter base yesterday at the news that the party was lagging the Tories in two polls.

But this was not some bolt from the blue.

Over the past months Labour’s lead has been slipping steadily. Yesterday was the first polling evidence of the logical denouement of a long established trend. Labour will almost certainly bob back into the lead in future polls, but with every passing month, the party’s electoral waterline will dip ever lower.

Some will point to the shambolic European election campaign as a cause of the drop in ratings. But, poor as the campaign has been, its impact has surely just been to accelerate the inevitable.

The problems underlying Labour’s predicament remain the same as they were this time last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.

Labour has still not satisfactorily answered the two questions asked by the electorate at the 2010 election: Can we trust you with the economy? And is your leader a prime minister?

At the last election, in both cases, the answer was a narrow but clear no. According to ICM’s polling just before election day, David Cameron and George Osborne held a 1% lead on the economy over Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling. And on preference for prime minister, YouGov registered a 6% lead for David Cameron over Gordon Brown.

The chart below shows Labour’s performance on these two indicators since the start of 2013.

David Cameron and George Osborne now lead Ed Miliband and Ed Balls by 18% on the economy while David Cameron bests Ed Miliband on preference for PM by 14%.

At no point in the past four years has Labour narrowed the gap on either the economy or leadership to the level it achieved on the eve of the election in May 2010. An election where Labour polled a miserable 29%.

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Why the surprise? Labour’s poll slippage was predicted and is on trend

02/04/2014, 07:00:18 AM

by Rob Marchant 

Ah, the panic. You can see it setting in as there is a blip downwards in the polls. Two consecutive polls show Labour and the Tories neck and neck, and we have a letter to the Guardian. As Uncut’s Atul Hatwal noted last week, there are now rumblings on the Labour right.

But while it is a perfectly respectable aim to ask Miliband to change course on a raft of policy areas, one cannot help but think it is a conversation we should have been having two or three years ago.

The good news is that this jitteriness is based on very little change in the actual prognosis.

To explain: political journalists are not, in the main, statisticians. Neither are politicians. And so both groups often subscribe to a mathematical fallacy, and it’s this: the polling of today is our best indicator of a general election result in X years time. It’s not. It’s a very rough guide which fails to account for the cycle of the parliamentary term, and in particular an opposition’s mid-term bounce. For the hard of maths, you can skip the next nerdy paragraph and trust us on this.

Our best guess – the expected value – of a general election vote-share lead is not equal to the value of our polling lead now. It’s equal to the value of our polling lead plus our expectation of how much that lead is going to change in between now and then. Trouble is, that second bit is crucial and historically, it’s not zero. In short, it is reasonable to argue that we shouldn’t just extrapolate today’s poll out to 2015 in a straight horizontal line. For an opposition party, it should be a line that inclines downwards.

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Labour’s right is rumbling. Not before time.

27/03/2014, 10:23:02 PM

by Atul Hatwal

Since 2010, one of the most successful operations mounted by Ed Miliband’s team has been to convince journalists that the party is at peace. That Labour has avoided the type of bitter in-fighting that characterised past ejections from government and is united around the leader.

This point is so core to the Miliband narrative that he repeats it in his stump speech to Labour audiences.

However, while it is true the 1980s haven’t been re-run, the absence of conflict is not the same as the presence of unity.

The reason Labour’s divisions have not been visible has been  a temporarily effective but ultimately unsustainable party management strategy; one that has combined Ed Miliband avoiding taking definite positions on the most contentious political questions with a concerted marginalisation of Labour’s right-wing.

When Gordon Brown was defeated in 2010, his electoral demise bequeathed two questions to Labour.

In a world of limited spending, what would Labour prioritise and what would it cut?

And how could more, be achieved from less, in the areas where money was to be spent?

From day one, Ed Miliband has run from these questions, in part for good reason.

Hamstrung by a lack of support in the parliamentary party and reliant on the unions’ succour to bolster his position, he has had to tack left to retain his union support while not straying so far from the more centrist concerns of the electorate that Labour’s poll rating collapses.

For Ed Miliband, to answer has been to lose – either the electorate or his political life support system on the left.

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3 early warning signs that Labour’s poll-lead drama is about to become a full blown crisis

24/03/2014, 10:36:14 AM

by Atul Hatwal

It’s been a bracing week for Labour. A widely panned budget response from Ed Miliband, followed by weekend polls placing the poll lead at just one point, have brought Labour’s private jitters out into the open.

First, last week an MP briefed Uncut on the disconsolate mood in the PLP following Ed Miliband’s budget response, then, yesterday John Mann broke cover, publicly airing some of the concerns discussed daily in the PLP.

And now, even the world of Labour think tanks has got involved, with a coalition ranging from the Unite backed Class to the Blairite Policy Network calling on Ed Miliband to be “bold,” and “radical,” (though the bold and radical vision that could unify such an ideologically disparate group of signatories is singularly unclear.)

Polls go up and down, but the overall direction of travel is unmistakeable. As the Tories draw level, or even nose in front, in the coming months, Labour’s cracks are going to become ever more evident.

Here are 3 early warning signs to watch for from the PLP and Labour leadership that the party’s poll lead drama is turning into a full scale crisis.

1. Off-topic interventions from the shadow cabinet

When a party is riding high in the polls, the leader’s authority is absolute and members of the shadow cabinet stick obediently to their briefs. When the situation is less favourable, the temptation to answer interviewers’ questions on how the position can be improved, becomes much stronger.

In summer 2013, as the last crisis of confidence in Ed Miliband gathered momentum, Andy Burnham gave an extraordinary Guardian interview. In it, he talked of how Labour had “lost the art of thinking bigger,” and ranged widely, tackling political strategy, economic policy, as well as the importance of the two Eds’ green lighting his plans for integrating health and social care (which they pointedly haven’t.)

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The Milibelievers are destroying Labour’s chances for victory in 2015

06/01/2014, 10:47:37 AM

by Atul Hatwal

The polls are fine. Labour’s rating is holding firm in the high thirties, it will stay there because Lib Dem defectors will boost Labour’s core vote from 2010 and UKIP will squeeze the Tories’ vote.

This is the litany of the Milibelievers.  A group that is distinctly under-represented in the PLP but more vocal in the media community and believes Ed Miliband’s gameplan is working.

It was neatly summarised by George Eaton before Christmas and represents one the greatest threats to Labour success in 2015. Because unless Labour radically changes course and accepts the current gameplan is failing, defeat is increasingly likely.

There are two flaws to the Milibeliever prospectus.

First, Labour’s base is not the 29% achieved 2010.

Given how appalling Labour’s performance was in 2010, it’s tempting to believe that it represents rock bottom. 29% was derisory, but Labour can fall further. In polling for Uncut by YouGov in early September, just over 1 in 4 (26%) of Labour’s 2010 voters said they did not intend to vote for the party at the next election.

There may have been some minor movement in the attrition rate since Autumn, but given the broad similarity in the polls between then and now, it is unlikely to have changed significantly.

This means Labour’s current base is actually nearer 22% rather than 29% and unless something major changes, Labour will not even be the largest party, let alone a majority government, no matter how solid the block of Lib Dem defectors.

Second, Labour is losing the argument in terms of leadership and economic competence. This is the underlying reason why the party’s base vote has eroded since 2010, why it is overly optimistic to believe Labour can rely on legions of 2010 Lib Dem voters backing the party into the high thirties and why many UKIP converts are likely to lapse back into the Tory fold.

The chart below sets out the scale of Labour’s problem. No opposition has ever won while being behind on both leadership and the economy, and Labour now trails by double digits on both.

Con lead over Lab on PM and econ (more…)

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Labour is winning the economic argument? Pull the other one.

18/12/2013, 09:20:15 PM

by David Talbot

When the shadow chancellor declared on Sky’s Dermot Murnaghan programme that Labour was winning the economic argument, one can be forgiven for thinking that not even he believed the words he had just uttered.

He certainly hadn’t convinced the Commons the Thursday before, standing up to a wall of noise the previously iron-clad shadow chancellor delivered a puce-faced riposte that fell flat in the chamber and barely reverberated outside. Osborne, grinning and preening himself like his newly purchased cat, luxuriated in his adversary’s obvious discomfort – recognising not only the personal but the political challenges the shadow chancellor has to slay.

And, earlier today, at the year’s final PMQs, the sight of rows of silent, doleful Labour MPs, arms folded, as the prime minister ran through his stand-up repartee at Ed Balls’ expense, told its own story.

After three years of stagnation, the economy is showing tentative signs of recovery. Growth may be unbalanced and anaemic, but the threat of returning recession has been averted. A change of mood is altering the terms of political argument in British politics, and with it Labour’s much-heralded ‘cost of living’ campaign appears increasingly redundant.

To say the least, it remains highly questionable as to whether the living standards argument will enable Labour to make incursions into the electorate where the party’s appeal has so far been rather limited. The voters Labour have to win over to achieve outright victory in 2015 appear far less persuaded about its core arguments on the ‘cost of living crisis’, and are increasingly optimistic about the general state of the economy.

Labour has done nowhere near enough to address the basic charge of economic mismanagement; from the ludicrously long leadership hustings, which allowed the coalition government an unrivalled opportunity to set the political narrative for four whole months, to Balls’ stupid delight in his ‘flat-lining’ gesture, the damage has been done and is yet to be repaired. Voters may have been prepared to rethink some now entrenched assumptions about Labour’s responsibility for the economic crisis, but only if the party showed that it too was rethinking and reflecting, including being humble about its own failings.

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For Labour, the “cost of living” debate is dead

17/12/2013, 09:53:44 AM

by Alex Chalmers

A month ago, the next election was going to be decided by “the cost of living crisis”; the electorate would see through the economic growth figures, feel the pinch, and elevate Ed Miliband, scourge of the energy fat-cats, to Downing Street. The government’s response to the energy price freeze was inconsistent and unintelligible, the public seemed to love the policy, and for a moment, the opposition looked like it had a leader. Yet within a few weeks, Labour’s poll resurgence had turned into full-on retreat. Today, YouGov has Labour’s lead down to 2 points.

So what went wrong? On a very simplistic level, elections are not won or lost on one policy. An idea, even a popular one, cannot hold media or public attention for more than a fairly short period of time. Unless it is part of a broader theme or narrative, and is followed by a series of other well-timed announcements, it will quickly become buried under a tide of other news stories. Labour cannot agree on one policy and prepare to collect the keys to Number 10. The public liked the sound of it, some other things happened, and then they moved on. If Miliband truly wishes to define the next election in terms of the cost of living, then he has to say a lot more about it.

Unfortunately, this is something of a recurring theme. At the height of the NHS reorganisation fiasco, the next election was going to be about that, but once the reforms started to be implemented, the party suddenly quietened down. A limp half-hearted campaign based on the Twitter hashtag #dropthebill unsurprisingly made little impact. Retweeting to the converted does not an election win. Nothing was made of the collapsing patient satisfaction ratings, whilst the attempts to focus on staffing levels were wrought with statistical errors and easily batted away by the government. The NHS is now in the headlines again, but Labour appears to be making no effort to communicate its message. In the days of New Labour, the media operation would have been ruthlessly hammering five key pledges home, trying to make sure the issue caught the public imagination. Ed Miliband’s “Zen-like calm” interspersed with cries of, “same old Tories” is simply no substitute.

The party’s strategy of choosing a key issue and promptly forgetting it is going to cost it dear come the next election. For the vast majority of its term in office, the coalition has managed to frame the main debates. It has managed to paint Labour as the public spending bingers and the friends of the scroungers.

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Labour’s poll lead is slipping again. Here’s why

10/12/2013, 12:28:22 PM

by Atul Hatwal

In a momentous week for news, one development has understandably slipped by without major comment: the shift in the polls since the Autumn Statement.

The Sunday Times YouGov poll had Labour’s lead at 5 points, today’s Sun YouGov poll similarly has the lead at 5 points and today’s ICM poll in the Guardian also registers a lead of 5. In comparison, the average YouGov lead in the week before the Autumn Statement was 8 while the November’s ICM poll also had Labour 8 points up.

A drop of 3 points in Labour’s lead, across 3 different polls suggests something has changed since the Autumn Statement.

Although caution is advisable given it is just a week’s polling, this shift has been expected by many and if confirmed in the coming weeks, will presage significant problems for the party.

In the two months since Ed Miliband’s conference speech, politics has been defined by Labour’s energy price freeze commitment.

Regardless of the economics, it has been politically successful in driving debate within the Westminster bubble. Countless column inches and interview minutes have been expended on the fall-out from the announcement. So much so that politics became polarised around support or opposition to the price freeze.

And this is part of the problem.

Labour’s year long slide in the polls appeared to have been arrested in October and November, but the profile of the price freeze has been such that the polls in these months virtually became referendums on whether action should be taken to reduce energy prices rather than predictions of voting at the next election.

The shift in the polls over the past week suggests the impact of the energy price freeze is now diminishing.

There is a precedent for this type of development.

In September 2000, for one month, politics was turned upside down. William Hague’s Conservative opposition reversed months of double digit ICM poll deficits to leap into a 4 point lead. The cause was the fuel crisis.

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Is the cost of living distracting Labour?

08/11/2013, 03:46:31 PM

by Renie Anjeh

Ed Miliband has finally set the political scene alight and he should be praised for it. It has been several weeks since Miliband announced the energy price freeze policy in his conference’s speech, putting an end to the party’s reticence about future policies.

In spite of attacks from the Tory press (and a recalcitrant New Labour grandee), the policy didn’t look particularly socialist but it became popular.  I am not sure whether an energy price freeze will actually work but the public love it!

80% of the public back the policy leaving the Tories on the backfoot.  Honourable one nation Conservatives, such as Sir John Major and Robert Halfon, have sought to address their party’s problem by calling for a windfall tax on the privatised utilities to fund measures to reduce utility bills (as suggested by Labour’s Manifesto Uncut).  Fortunately for the Labour party, their wise advice has fallen on deaf ears and a coalition split has emerged over green taxes.

However, despite of Ed Miliband’s laudable attempt to shift the debate onto cost of living, the party is still not where it needs to be if it wants to be certain of a majority in 2015.

Labour’s lead is beginning to shrink with just eighteen months to go until the general election.  One poll saw our poll lead over the Tories cut from 11% to 6%, even though the party has announced its new popular policy.

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How long before the Tories overtake Labour in the polls?

28/10/2013, 07:00:51 AM

by Jonathan Todd

Conservative Home recently highlighted an analysis by YouGov that shows a shortening of Labour’s lead over the Conservatives.

In parallel, the economy has continued its improvement. It grew by 0.8% in the third quarter of this year, building upon 0.7% in the second quarter and 0.4% in the first quarter.

Are the two connected? Logic would suggest so.

The trend identified by YouGov reminded me of one that I have spotted myself in one of the trackers that they run.

Roughly once a week YouGov ask voters whether they think the British economy is doing good, bad or neither. Until 25 July, never more than 10% of the electorate answered good in 2013. Since then, never less than 10% have done.

I resolved to bring some econometrics to Uncut to look more deeply into this.

I put together two time series over 2013: one on the Conservatives lead over Labour, which was my dependent variable, and another on the proportion of the electorate who think the economy is doing well, which was my independent variable. When the dependent was regressed on the independent, the co-efficient on the independent variable was just under 0.6. The p-test indicated that the regression was accurate with more than 99% certainty.

This is telling us that for every 1% increase in the proportion of the electorate that think the economy is doing well, there should be a 0.6% increase in the Conservatives lead over Labour.

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