Pollwatch – State of the Parties: Lib Dems 18%, Labour 29%, Tories 40% (Jan. 2010)

by Stephen Tall on February 6, 2010

A total of 13 polls were published during January. Now, as our readers know, LDV doesn’t cover them with the same breathless excitements as other parts of the media. Most poll movements are within the margin of error, so it is only looked at over a period of time that you can detect whether there has really been any significant movements between the parties. With those caveats in place, let’s succomb to the inevitable and start poll-obsessing …

Here are January’s polls in chronological order:

  • Con 40.0, Lab 31.0, Lib Dem 17.0 (7th Jan, YouGov)
  • Con 42.0, Lab 30.0, Lib Dem 16.0 (8th, YouGov)
  • Con 40.0, Lab 30.0, Lib Dem 18.0 (10th, ICM)
  • Con 40.0, Lab 24.0, Lib Dem 20.0 (11th, Angus RS)
  • Con 41.0, Lab 28.0, Lib Dem 19.0 (12th, Populus)
  • Con 42.0, Lab 29.0, Lib Dem 19.0 (17th, ComRes)
  • Con 40.0, Lab 31.0, Lib Dem 18.0 (17th, YouGov)
  • Con 38.0, Lab 29.0, Lib Dem 19.0 (24th, ComRes)
  • Con 40.0, Lab 29.0, Lib Dem 21.0 (26th, ICM)
  • Con 40.0, Lab 24.0, Lib Dem 19.0 (29th, Angus RS)
  • Con 40.0, Lab 31.0, Lib Dem 18.0 (31st, YouGov)
  • Con 40.0, Lab 32.0, Lib Dem 16.0 (30th, MORI)
  • Con 38.0, Lab 31.0, Lib Dem 19.0 (30th, YouGov)

All of which produces an average rating for the parties in January as follows (compared with December’s averages):

    Tories 40% (n/c), Labour 29% (+1%), Lib Dems 18% (-1%)

Let’s take a look at the figures from each of the main parties’ perspectives …

The Tories … Well, the month could scarcely have started better for the Tories, with Labour almost imploding within the first week, as those most unlikely of regicides, Geoff Hoon and Patricia Hewitt, tried to stick the knife in Gordon Brown’s front. And missed. The swift collapse of the coup should have been a tonic for David Cameron: the deeply unpopular Mr Brown was left in post, but weakened. Yet somehow the Tories managed to turn the fire back on themselves. Mr Cameron’s marriage tax gaffe didn’t help. But, more important, was the unshakeable sense that the Tories’ seem to feel entitled to have power bestowed upon them without working for it. They’re probably right. But if they’re going to try and win with such anaemic caution – failing to give anyone a reason to vote positively for the party – the polls could tighten still further.

Labour … What could have been a month of hell has, in fact, triggered something of a fightback, albeit one which displays only the slightest of upward flickers in Labour’s ratings. That 29% is viewed as something of a success speaks volumes for the expectations of the party under Mr Brown’s leadership. Labour has now spent 17 of the last 21 months polling below 30%. Prior to that you have to go back to May 1987 to find even one single poll which placed Labour below 30%. Much may depend on the progress of the economy, perceived and actual. A further quarter’s positive growth might help rescue Labour. But if the economy slips back into negative growth, what might that do to Labour’s chances in May?

Lib Dems … It’s slightly disappointing to slip back even 1%. But as I never tire of reminding Pollwatch readers, the party’s ratings remain historically strong for this stage of a Parliament. Let’s look at the party’s January ratings prior to a general election down the years:

    Jan 1992: 15%
    Jan 1997: 12%
    Jan 2001: 14%
    Jan 2005: 22%

True, we’re down a notch compared with 2005: we no longer have the Iraq effect, at least not as strongly. Against that, though, we have a better opportunity in the forthcoming campaign to increase our vote from its current poll standing, not least thanks to the televised debates. In 2005, our poll ratings were relatively high, but we gained little traction during the campaign. Could May 2010 see the party match our 22% of five years ago? Who knows, but our current standing gives cause for optimism.

Coming tomorrow in Pollwatch – The State of the Leaders.