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.