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Friday, May 10, 2013

Can Labour win in 2015?

I don't tend to take much notice of opinion polls for fairly obvious reasons but when an interesting piece of research comes to light it is worth commenting on. This YouGov poll reported in today's Guardian is a good example, not least as it has been commissioned as a learning process rather than just for headlines.

According to the paper, this poll shows that Labour has a mountain to climb to win the next election outright, and is still failing to chalk up big enough leads on image or leadership to make it likely to secure an overall majority:

The YouGov polling, commissioned by Progress, suggests the party is still seen as "nice" but incapable of taking tough decisions. Miliband's personal ratings have hardly improved over the past year.

In an article for Progress, the New Labour pressure group, the YouGov president, Peter Kellner, describes the polling as "profoundly troubling" for Labour, saying that despite the unpopularity of the government, Labour has uncomfortably small leads and has been unable to generate wide public enthusiasm.

He writes: "The central fact is that no successful opposition in the past 50 years has gone on to regain power with such a weak image and without achieving much bigger voting-intention leads at some point in the parliament."

Labour, he advises, needs to think what it will do if it fails to win an overall majority.

Kellner points out there has not been a single time in more than 80 years when an opposition has returned to power at the first attempt with an overall majority. He also suggests no opposition has gone on to win power without at some point achieving a lead of at least 20%.

The biggest Labour lead recorded by any opinion poll during its current period of opposition was 16%, recorded by TNS last September. The latest YouGov poll gives Labour a lead of 11%.

Kellner suggests that Miliband may be holding back party support. When voter are asked if they would prefer a Labour government led by Ed Miliband or a Conservative government led by David Cameron, the two options are level pegging: Labour 41%, Conservative 40%.

The polling also shows that by a margin of 50-35 points, voters regard Labour as "nice" – but by a larger, 61-24, margin, also as "dim". Most people consider the Tories both "mean" and "dim"; but more people regard the Tories as "smart" than say the same about Labour.

Labour is ahead of the Tories on many of 12 key attributes, but Kellner says on many the lead is "uncomfortably small – the economy, learning from past mistakes and having people who are up to running the job".

He adds: "No opposition could be happy with the fact that, when the economy is flatlining, just one person in three thinks it [the Labour party] would take the right decisions to secure greater prosperity.

"On just two measures do the optimists about Labour's prospective performance outnumber the pessimists, and then by only a modest five points: being 'on the side of people like you' (43-38) and delivering good value services (41-36)."

He points out: "There is one issue on which the Conservatives hold a large lead, and it could be decisive in a tough election campaign. By two to one, voters think the Tories have the courage to take tough and unpopular decisions. By three to two, voters think Labour lacks that courage." Kellner adds: "For a party whose greatest campaigning challenge is to appear reassuring, this should be profoundly troubling."

He also highlights other YouGov polling showing that only 36% of those surveyed credited Miliband with any positive attributes. More than two years later, that figure has crept up to 41%.

In short, Ed Miliband is not perceived as Prime Ministerial material and Labour has not convinced voters that it understands the economic mess we are in and can take the necessary decisions to deal with it. They have a lot of work to do over the next two years to put that right.
Kellner's 80 years comment makes no sense. It is true for 1951, 1964 and 1974, but in the two most recent cases, in 1979 the Tories had a majority of 30 and in 1997 Labour had a majority of more than 100.
I suspect he meant after just one term out of office
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