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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Opinion Polls

Two interesting polls today. First of all the Times publishes its rather unscientific exit poll of 171 Liberal Democrat members after Monday's Cardiff Leadership hustings meeting. They find that 52 of those asked would give Chris Huhne their first preference, 42 would vote for Menzies Campbell and 32 for Simon Hughes. Somebody should explain to the journalists how to transfer second preference votes under an AV system however, though it is clear that Chris Huhne gains most on that measure as well.

What this poll suggests to me is that there is a lot of support amongst the membership for Ming, which may be enough to see him elected. That is because the general consensus amongst those I spoke to at the hustings was that he had under-performed against expectations on the night and was generally disappointing. Despite that he still polled strongly.

I am not surprised that so many members opted for Chris Huhne at the meeting. He certainly exceeded expectations and was marginally the best performer ahead of Simon Hughes. I have to say though that amongst the hundred or so armchair members I have spoken to across South Wales West over the last two weeks, Simon Hughes remains ahead of the other two.

The second poll is published by Populus. It shows that despite the problems being experienced by the Liberal Democrats, Cameron's Tories still cannot pull sufficiently far enough ahead of Labour to make any difference to a general election vote. In fact the Liberal Democrats are up 2% on 18%, the Tories are on 37% (up one point) and Labour are down three points on 36%. This is particularly good news for my party, who may well experience a further boost in support after a strong showing in the Dunfermline by-election on Thursday. We will also benefit from electing a new leader in March, when views about our lack of unity will change.

How the Times can conclude that the Liberal Democrats are being squeezed by the Tories defeats me. It seems that quite different phenomenon are at work in which overall both the Tories and the Liberal Democrats are taking votes off Labour but not each other. If anything the Tories are failing to live up to their own hype. Has the public seen through Cameron already?
We've also released details of an internal poll today:

Firstly I might expect the bubble to burst a little after yesterday's shambles at PMQ for Cameron - he looked decidedly poor. Now he's just a regular politician and I think some of the glamour and "boy can do no wrong" image might fade.

As for Hughes, Huhne and Campbell - the write-up in the Times was really interesting. Essentially those who see Huhne are impressed but that relies on having to see him. I wonder whether we might see another rise in his ratings after tonight's QT?

The Hughes poll is interesting but its usefulness can be overstated - because it's a poll of general election voters rather than members it's not predictive of the way the actual vote will go (as not all Lib Dem voters are members). However Hughes could, I suppose, point at it as proof that he is best placed to retain many of the seats won at the last election.
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