A look back at the polls: July

by Stephen Tall on August 1, 2008

We tend not to be too poll-obsessed here at LDV – of course we look at them, as do all other politico-geeks, but viewed in isolation no one poll will tell you very much beyond what you want to read into it. Looked at over a reasonable time-span and, if there are enough polls, you can see some trends.

Here, in chronological order, are the results of the eight polls published in July:

Tories 41%, Labour 28%, Lib Dems 19% – Populus/Times (8th July)
Tories 47%, Labour 25%, Lib Dems 16% – YouGov/Sunday Times (13th July)
Tories 45%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 16% – ComRes/Independent (20th July)
Tories 43%, Labour 28%, Lib Dems 19% – ICM/Guardian (22nd July)
Tories 47%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 15% – MORI, unpublished (23rd July)
Tories 46%, Labour 24%, Lib Dems 18% – ComRes/Independent (26th July)
Tories 45%, Labour 26%, Lib Dems 17% – YouGov/Telegraph (28th July)
Tories 43%, Labour 27%, Lib Dems 18% – Populus/Times (29th July)

Which gives us an average rating for the parties in July as follows, compared with June’s averages:

Tories 45% (n/c), Labour 26% (n/c), Lib Dems 17% (-1%)

The pattern is a well-established one: the Tories in the mid-40s%, Labour in the mid-20s%, and the Lib Dems in the high-teens%. That the Tories have opened up a pretty consistent c.20% lead in the polls for the past three months is, of course, the reason for Gordon Brown’s current problems. The question is: will a new Labour leader make any difference to the party’s polling woes?

There will doubtless be many hypothetical polls in the next few days asking if Labour will do better or worse if Miliband/Johnson/Harman et al were to be leader. I have an instinctive mistrust of the value of such polls. It is how whoever succeeds Mr Brown does the job which will determine Labour’s popularity – and I don’t think any one of us quite knows that yet.

If and when Mr Brown is forced to resign (and the parallels between what’s happening to Mr Brown with what happened to Ming Campbell suggest to me it’s when) British politics will once again be turned on its head. There will have been no modern parallel of a governing party having three leaders within the course of a single Parliament.

Will the voters punish Labour for seeming to be navel-gazing at a time when the nation is experiencing economic distress? Or will they reward a party which demonstrates a certain ruthless efficiency in ridding itself of an unpopular Premier?