A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The devil is in the detail

Today's Guardian ICM poll (headline figures Con 40%, Lab 31%, LD 22%) is bad news for any Labour supporter, particularly as ICM are usually the most accurate pollster.

But unless you read the detail (available here at http://www.icmresearch.co.uk/ - follow the link to pdf of "main data set") you could jump to the wrong political conclusions about what Labour needs to do to recover its lead.

In the small print you get to see that Labour support is holding up relatively well amongst core groups of supporters:

18-24 year old (13% lead over the Tories)
social classes DE (6% lead over the Tories)
northerners (9% lead over the Tories)

but has collapsed catastrophically amongst the "New Labour" elements of the coalition that won the last 3 General Elections and are very heavily represented both in battleground seats and amongst groups of voters most likely to turn out:

social class C1 (think Daily Mail/Express readers) - 19% behind
OAPs - 35% behind
southerners - 25% behind

I'm pleased we are keeping our core vote happy - I represent a ward full of them - with ASBOs, high public spending, the start of (but not enough) action against poverty etc. but we need to start thinking in a hurry about ways to get the lower middle classes, pensioners, and aspirational south of England voters back on side, otherwise we're going to be out on our ear and unable to do anything at all for our core vote. Public service reform/choice, which was supposed to be the big idea for the 3rd term, clearly isn't ringing anyone's bells.

Before everyone starts shouting about foreign policy, I concede we haven't got a popular one (despite it being the right one), but I doubt it is decisive in determining the voting behaviour of these groups having spent a lot of time talking to a constituency full of them in Castle Point (it did determine the voting behaviour of the student/Muslim/Guardianista group that went AWOL in 2005 but we've already proved we can win a General Election without them).

Maybe all the people that have jumped to attack Stephen Byers might like to think about which demographic groups his idea would have been popular with and swung back from voting Tory. That would be: social class C1, OAPs and southerners.

The onus is on the people who slagged off Byers to say how they will win the hearts and minds not of people who are natural Labour supporters (we all know how to do that) but of those that decide General Election outcomes - who voted Thatcher in the 80s, then Blair, and on the basis of this poll look like they could put Cameron in.


Anonymous Andrea said...

"Maybe all the people that have jumped to attack Stephen Byers might like to think about which demographic groups his idea would have been popular with and swung back from voting Tory. That would be: social class C1, OAPs and southerners."

yes, but you would risk to lose the others.
The key of NewLab success in the late 90's-early 00's was the keep a whole "coalition" united (from the Guardianista to former Conservative voters passing through the working class traditional Lab support). Now it seems increasingly difficult to do so.

There's lot of talk of the South as a key battle ground. in a way it's true, because losing too many seats (not that Labour has many seats there outside London) will probably cost the overall majority. But I think the Midlands will probably be another key battleground: it's where the tories need to win if they want to win a majority.

I think another set of important figures in the ICM poll is the 51% that don't believe the government is telling the truth about the terror threat. Some commentators expected a LAb recover after the terror plot, those figures can explain why it didn't happen.

10:50 am, August 22, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

But "not telling the truth" could mean in some cases that people feel the threat is a lot worse and govt is trying not to scare people. That's my hunch - that there is loads of stuff involving security services going on that we will never know about for years, we have been very close to some big disasters, and if we knew how close most of us would not be able to sleep at night.

You are right about the Midlands - the C1 demographic is also strong in some of the West Midlands marginals. The cultural issues are similar to bits of outer London/Essex/North Kent.

11:00 am, August 22, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

I'm not sure the vote among the DE is holding up so well. The last ICM poll before the GE (1-3 May 2005) had Labour leading by 20% in that group. Now it's down to just 6%.
It's true that among the CI class the result is worse though.
Among AB voters Labour is 18% behind now and it was 12% behind in May 2005. So their vote seems to hold better among AB voters than among DE.

11:05 am, August 22, 2006

Anonymous Andrea said...

I hadn't thought that they can think the opposite. It's probably a mix of both things.
But how will people who are thinking the government is playing down the threat not to scare people react? I suppose some are thinking it's good not to create panic, but I suppose there can also be the "I want to know everything" brigade.

11:18 am, August 22, 2006

Blogger Geraint said...

If we chanage our policies to just attract the South, OAPs and the C1s, then don't we risk alienating our core voters?

Furthermore I do not think doing unpragmatic things like abolishing inherentance tax, which loonies like Byers would win us voters, it would loose us voters since most people would relaise that it is a stupid idea.

The polls are also pointless at predicting a general election result because firstly Labour will have a new leader by 2009/2010, moreoever it is still a long way to go and Cameron may well slip up by then.

3:28 pm, August 22, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

There is a difference between changing policies and developing new ones because you have already implemented the old ones. My feeling is we as a government risk running out of steam because we lack the couple of big new ideas you need to deliver in a 4 year term that people will remember at the ballot box. We need probably 2 big policies between now and the GE - 1 for our core vote, 1 for aimed more at swing voters, same way we had NHS in 1945 and Minimum Wage in 1997. Then we need to plan 2 more for the 4th manifesto. Otherwise we will end up in John Major territory - governing for the sake of it and with our biggest idea being a cones hotline or similar.

Criticising Byers because his tax cut idea leaves a revenue gap or is not redistributionist makes sense, but saying it would lose Labour votes is nonsense. Who ever voted against a tax cut, even one they did not personally benefit from?

I also object to the idea that OAPs, C1s and people from the South shouldn't be built into our core vote. Why be so dismissive of a large slice of the population?

3:37 pm, August 22, 2006

Blogger A soft socialist said...

Who votes against a tax cut, erh those that pay very little tax, maybe?

10:38 pm, August 22, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The issue regarding OAPs is simple; increase the minimum pension to allow people to lead a dignified existence.

The issue regarding southerners (particularly the South East) is simple; reduce the burden of taxation via Council Tax (for the whole country - but this would target SE England where it's often higher).

The issue regarding social class C1? Just spend a few extra million on advertising and PR in the year leading up to the next General Election.

Oh! That'll be £10,000 for the consultation - invoice is in the post!

3:44 am, August 23, 2006

Anonymous politicalcorrespondent said...

Unfortunately Luke, ICM are not the most accurate pollster these days - they are quite generous to us and ICM voting intention polls probably under-estimate the Tory lead. More on this here:


We may return to debate some of your points in more detail but quickly on the terror threat thing - only 21% of people in the ICM poll thought the Govt was *exaggerating* the threat; the 51% thought the Govt "tells less than it knows".

7:33 pm, August 23, 2006


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