The General Election, party leaders and Tony Blair political betting markets could be affected by a new YouGov poll in the Mail on Sunday this morning. This suggests that Labour would do substantially better at the General Election if Tony Blair stood down to make way for Gordon Brown and puts the Prime Minister under more pressure.
With Tony Blair still there the YouGov figures show a CON-LAB split of 40-36, which is an increase of one point for both Labour and the Tories since the last poll ten days ago. With Gordon Brown at the helm the figure is 39-39.
Frustratingly the full poll details, including the Lib Dem share, have not yet been revealed. It would appear that the Lib Dems are the big sufferers with a switch of their supporters to Labour in the event of a Brown leadership. The Tory vote remains almost intact. As well as putting pressure on Blair the poll might impact on Charles Kennedy. In Commons seat terms, using Martin Baxter’s calculator that is adjusted for the Scottish boundary changes, this would be the impact.
LAB 313 seats with Tony Blair 355 without
CON 269 seats facing Tony Blair 229 without
LIB 35 seats facing Tony Blair 34 without
Thus with Tony Blair Labour would be 11 seats short of an overall majority. With Gordon Brown Labour would have an overall majority of 64.
These sort of surveys always seem to be the prelude to party leadership issues. A similar poll was carried out by YouGov last October when IDS’s leadership was under threat. This had a LAB:CON:LIB split of 33-33-28. One of the questions was – “Would you be more or less likely to vote Conservative if Michael Howard was leader?” This produced the following-
13% More likely to vote Conservative
11% Less likely
66% Make no difference
Clearly Michael Howard has exceeded those expectations. But that poll also had a 24-15% positive response when the same question was asked in relation to Ken Clarke.
All Martin Baxter’s General Election calculator projections are based on a universal national swing and do not take into account differential voting patterns in marginal seats or heavy targeting such as that employed so successfully by the Liberal Democrats. We should get a clearer idea of how the Lib Dems are doing in relation to the rejuvenated Tory party under Michael Howard in the local and Euro elections on June 10.
This latest poll, putting the Tories on 40% for only the second time since the UK dropped out of the ERM in 1992, again highlights the difference between YouGov and ICM – which currently is showing a Labour lead of 4%.
YouGov carry out their polls on the internet amongst a group of people who have pre-registered their details with them. The conventional pollsters argue that this restricts YouGov’s interview pool to those with net access that could make it less representative. Also, because people volunteer to be on YouGov’s panel, the subjects of a poll could be said to be self-selecting. YouGov rightly point out that they produced the most accurate forecast of the 2001 General Election and the 2003 Scottish Parliamentary election.