Is this the 96/97 measure to test Brown against?

Is this the 96/97 measure to test Brown against?

ICM Guardian polls

Can Labour stay above 30% for the next year?

Yesterday I had lunch in the “Westminster village” and it still comes as a surprise to hear apparently sophisticated political pundits not being fully aware that polling has changed dramatically since Tony Blair coming to power in 1997. Comparisons from that era with today are simply not valid – unless the pollster is ICM which is the only one still operating from then that has a consistent methodology.

So I thought it might help us for me to reproduce the firm’s findings for the Guardian in the twelve months leading upto the May 1997 general election.

My focus from that period is on the Tory share and notice that after a poor poll at the start of May 1996 John Major’s party stuck in the 30s right until polling day. Apart from one survey, which in retrospect looks like an outlier, the Tory share was in a fairly narrow range which was not too far off the 31.4% achieved on the day itself.

To my mind the key figure over the next year is the Labour one for if Brown’s party fails to get back into the 30s then the outlook is bleak indeed.

The figure for “others” in 96/97 was much smaller than we see nowadays but Labour was mostly in the mid-40s throughout the period. The Lib Dem share again did not move about all that much and the shares recorded in the year beforehand were not that much different than was seen on the day.

So although the Tories have not been hitting the highs that Labour did in the 96/97 Gordon Brown’s party has to do better than it is at the moment to be on par with John Major’s 1996/97 performance.

Mike Smithson

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