Labour holding firm in spite of Prescott

Labour holding firm in spite of Prescott

    Populus shows Tory lead down to two points

The seemingly never-ending saga of John Prescott seems to be having almost no impact on the party standings in the latest Populus poll in the Times this morning. These show with comparisons from last month CON 36% (-1): LAB 34 (nc): LD 19% (+1). So the only change being the Tories down a point and the Lib Dems up one.

This is in sharp contrast to Sunday’s BPIX poll in the MoS which gave the Tories a ten point lead and had the Lib Dems down at just 15%. I attach much more importance to Populus which is totally transparent about the way it operates than BPIX which is not.

Labour must be most pleased with today’s figures because it could have been assumed that the continued coverage of the Prescott affair(s) would have had a bigger impact. Instead their share remains firm.

The Tories must be disappointed and would have been hoping for better figures. Even allowing for the way Populus weightings operate the margin should have been bigger. My back of an envelope calculation is that the Tory lead would have been 4% if the Pollster used the same past vote weighting formula as ICM.

The Lib Dems will be relieved that unlike the last ICM and BPIX surveys their share has shown a slight increase. Ming and his colleagues might have been hoping for something better given the generally better media coverage the party has been getting and the party’s performance at the Bromley by-election.

For John Prescott the message from the poll is very clear. The survey has 70% saying he should resign or be sacked. Amongst Labour supporters alone the figure was 59%.

For Tony Blair the proportion wanting him to go has shown a further increase. In January 50% said he should go this year. That increased to 56% in last month’s Populus poll and today’s survey has the proportion at 62%.

On a technical polling matter the “people ratings” are based on the whole sample – unlike the voting intention data which is adjusted to take into account how likely it is that respondents will vote. So the numbers we see include a significant proportion of non-voters.

    In many ways Blair should be helped by this survey. The Tory margin is manageable which should ease party jitters and reduce some of the pressure for an early departure.

In the betting there is little today to get excited about. The Tories remain marginal favourites to get most seats at the General Election while the Blair departure timing betting will probably stay the same with 2007 seen as the likely year.

Mike Smithson

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