Shock poll shows public indifferent to Labour’s new cuts line

7:22 pm - January 23rd 2012

by Sunny Hundal    

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A Guardian ICM poll tonight shows a 5 point lead by the Conservatives after Labour decided to pick a fight with the unions, call to restrict pay for public sector workers and introduce its “hard realism” of cuts in 2015.

Here’s what the Guardian report found on the party’s new stance:

But there is scant evidence that the change of position on public expenditure has done Balls and Miliband any good with the wider electorate.

Asked how Labour’s new harder line on the cuts affected the likelihood to support the party, the overwhelming majority, 72%, said it made no difference one way or the other, as against just 10% who said it made them more likely they would vote for it.

That is fewer than the 13% saying they would now be less likely to vote Labour as a result of the change of economic emphasis, giving the shift a net rating of minus-three points

So the net result of the new position is a 3 point drop in support, and the broader public largely indifferent or usure what the new “harder line” is.

Well that came as a surprise to me, as I bet last week it would have no electoral upside whatsoever.

No doubt some people will say ‘ah yes but the 13% who are now throwing a strop will come back to us at the election anyway‘. That strategy worked out so well at the last election.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments

1. Steven Van der Werf

As a lifelong Labour supporter, this new line is exactly what will make me vote for Scottish Independence instead.

to Hell with the lot of them. They can sod off and take their bankers with them.

Polls taken several years before the election are rather pointless.

With a name like “Steven Van der Werf”, Scots won’t allow you to vote at all.


That’d be RBS & HBoS then – who’s Bankers are they?

So 13% of people have been expecting Labour to fight the next election on a platform of “these cuts were wrong, so we’ll reverse them”. Since that was never going to happen, are we any worse off for losing them now rather than later? Arguably we’re better off, since we have three years to win them back rather than the three months we’d have had if we’d saved this bombshell for the manifesto launch.

I wish Labour had handled this differently; if I was chief spin doctor I’d have ‘commissioned a report’ revealing the ‘shocking truth’ that if we don’t act now to promote jobs and growth, it could take a generation to rebuild our public services. That way Labour could have acknowledged the reality of the situation we’re likely to face in 2015, while also being clear that they oppose the cuts, that they’d *like* to reverse the cuts, and that the Tories are the bad guys for doing so much long-term damage to the economy. As it happens I’m not chief spin doctor, but the message is the same. Maybe people need some time for it to sink in.

And intheblacklabour blame the questions!

Polls taken several years before the election are rather pointless.

The point isn’t about general electability but about the new line on deficit cuts in 2015.

8. Leon Wolfeson

@5 – Or perhaps to just NOT write off millions of people. Typical Tory nonsense.

Let it sink right in – another major shift right.

@ Leon

I’ve replied to your last post on “Labour’s wonks” btw.

I don’t suppose if I got down on my knees and begged you, you’d explain *why* you think this is a “major shift right”?

I’ve been mistakenly reading you as equating “support the cuts” with “can’t pledge to reverse the cuts”, but you’ve now put me right. You *don’t* think Labour can/should pledge to reverse the cuts, although you think they should be pressing for an alternative approach now (especially on things like HB, where a different approach might actually cost *less* than what the Tories are doing). So what is it about this “new” position you’re objecting to?

10. Leon Wolfeson

@9 – How is a surrender NOT a major shift right?

Seriously, this isn’t even something which can sensible be debated. It’s losing Labour MAJOR ground, while some people try to claim “nuance”, it’s about as nuanced as a brick.

And that IS the same thing. Accepting that you can only tinker after 2015, IF you win, that hence no opposition is possible before that point…

I can push for alternatives on housing. The PLP, or at least the commons portion, has signed up to accepting the social cleansing as good and done, along with the de-funding of the councils where they’ll be driven. Essentially to South East England being the economic core, and everything else being a side-thought.

Ah fuck it, good chance I’ll be getting a job in Germany anyway. I don’t want to leave, but my industry here has faded VERY rapidly thanks to the Tories…

@ Leon,

I think our disagreement/misunderstanding centres on the ‘hence’ in this sentence:

“Accepting that you can only tinker after 2015, IF you win, that hence no opposition is possible before that point”

The second thing just doesn’t follow from the first. You may as well say:

“Accepting that you can only clean up the bodies after the bomb has exploded, and hence that it’s not possible to defuse it and/or evacuate the area before it goes off”

If a bomb appears likely to kill a bunch of people, not only does that *not* mean we can’t attempt to defuse it and/or evacuate the area, it makes it imperative that we do everything we possibly can. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowledge and prepare for the worst-case scenario.

If the Tories’ austerity program appears likely to do permanent damage to the economy, and hence reduce the next government’s ability to rebuild public services, that makes it imperative that we push for alternatives now. But it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t acknowedge and prepare for the worst-case scenario.

If Labour prematurely stop pushing for pro-growth measures, opposing the scale and speed of the cuts, and exposing the counterproductive consequences of austerity (e.g. driving up the bill for out-of-work benefits), and instead start talking *only* about the situation in 2015 as if it’s a done deal, I may come round to your way of thinking. But it’s only natural that the balance will tip that way over time, because every bit of damage that gets done is a bit of damage that can no longer be prevented.

You base this on one poll, a matter of days after the Balls interview, three years out from the election? If Balls and Mili keep to a fiscally responsible line, it will pay dividends for Labour in future polls, don’t you worry. Of course they won’t be able to, as the Pavlovian desire to jib at “Tory cuts” takes over.

Why would anyone vote for a Labour Party who talk like the Tories and are either as dumb as wood or just plain dishonest, when they could vote Tory and know they actually believe their vile self-serving nonsense?

Labour aint got shit for a generation, and if the scots vote for their independence then Labour arent ever coming back, straight up homz.

Seriously the last member of the Labour is going to have to turn the lights otherwise we aint going to make it into the next year what with the rise in bills and the collapse of the economy.

As a lifelong Labour supporter, Labour are doomed, we are just all wating for most of the unions to pull the plug.

“If Balls and Mili keep to a fiscally responsible line, it will pay dividends for Labour in future polls, don’t you worry.”

No, it won’t – because “fiscal responsibility” is not going to solve the economic problems, it will make them worse by taking money out of the pockets of those people most likely to spend it.

The fact is that Labour have simply swallowed Tory propaganda on so many levels – they now embrace the Tory line on the economic crisis (that Labour deficits started the crisis and cutting deficits will end it), Tory methods of cutting the deficit (using almost exclusively measures which impact on low income groups), and Tory methods of justifying attacking low income groups (that they’re mostly scroungers who caused the crisis with their greed for handouts and must be forced to work).

When Labour start once again to come up with their own ideas, and actually make arguments to the public, instead of ineffectually chasing opinion polls while the Tories set the agenda via an increasingly servile tabloid press, then they may start to recover.

RIGHT! What happens in 2015 general election, the economy is still in shit, and Tories are on the offensive, trying to get that majority so they don’t have to deal with the LibDems. Of course it will be a hard fight because over 3 million are unemployed and the economy hasn’t recovered as of yet, and Tories are just 1-2 points behind Labour in the polls a week before the election. Then in the last week the Tories run ‘Remember Who Got Us In The Mess’ political broadcasts and media campaign by the Tory Party, ‘remember who it was, it was the freaky one eyed mad jock who we all got you to hate, well guess who is running Labour now?…His mates.’ (I’m paraphrasing here…..probably). Tories get the majority, jettison the LibDems, and we have a proper Tory Government….Such Joy.

Whilst Ed should fight for an alternative economic plan as opposed to what they have settled for now, Labour should be prepared to lose 2015, infact it should be an inevitability. If Labour is prepared to win the 2020 election they should have stuck to an alternative policy to the Tory led government. By not doing this they will shed the voters who want an alternative, but will in no way gain any votes from the Tories. It should be about recovery if it means only 5 years of actual Tory rule then so be it, we could come back from that. If we allow the Tories to get further ahead now then we aint ever coming back. What should have been the objective is to prepare Labour for 2020.What the objective seems to be is getting the Brownites in power as quickly as possible even if it means selling off the last piece of family furniture for example the sell out of his Union support.

Still the floor is quite nice to sleep on during those hot summer nights, quite horrible any other time

I fought I might never say this, but I kind of miss Dave.

miliband that is. David Miliband.

19. Leon Wolfeson

@11 – That IS what Labour is arguing, yes.

Moreover, they’re taken off the to apply pressure on some of people who set the bomb, and who might be persuaded to defuse it if they got unhappy enough.

“If Labour prematurely stop pushing for pro-growth measures”

Again, that’s part and parcel of it. They have.

Listen to the other people here.

You talk of “damage” as the one way things happen. Why? Because the Tory framing of the economy is one you’ve swallowed – hook, line and sinker. It totally excludes *changing* the problem in the first place.

@ Leon

“That IS what Labour is arguing, yes.”

Sorry, but it just isn’t. This is Ed Balls talking the day after his big ‘surrender’:

“That [the suggestion that Labour now think there’s no alternative to the cuts] is 100 per cent, emphatically, wrong. I think George Osborne should change course now, his cuts are too far and too fast, he’s crushing growth. The reason our interest rates are so low is cos he’s getting it wrong. Unemployment is going up. He should have now as we’ve advocated, a temporary cut in VAT, increased public investment, repeat the bank bonus tax… I argued for action now to boost growth and jobs, and I argued for long term reform to make our economy stronger and fairer…

“George Osborne is doggedly sticking with a plan that is failing, he should have changed course six months ago, he still can today, he still can in the run-up to the budget and I will say to him, day-by-day, week-by-week, the approach he is taking, too far and too fast, is unfair and is not working. The longer he persists, the bigger the pain, the bigger the damage and the greater the damage in inheritance we will face because of his mistakes…

“The VAT rise last year to 20 per cent was an unfair tax rise which choked off the recovery and has flatlined the recovery, will probably lead to, has led to more borrowing in the economy. It was the wrong thing to do, they shouldn’t have done it, we’re calling for a temporary VAT cut now…

“I think what they’re doing on disability allowance is a big mistake and it’s unfair, the benefits cap will lead to more homelessness the way it’s been designed, I think the abolition of the Future Jobs Fund will make youth unemployment higher, the taking tax credits away from families on £25,000, hitting women harder, is unfair, wrong and damaging, but the question you’re asking me is can I, to your viewers, make promises now, about three years’ time.”

You keep accusing me off swallowing the Tory line on the economy, but frankly you’re the one who seems to have swallowed the Tory spin that Labour have now come round to their way of thinking. If you actually listen to Ed Balls, he’s still hammering the message he’s been hammering for the past year.

21. Leon Wolfeson

@20 – What you say after surrendering is quite irrelevant, nobody’s listening any more – you’ve lost all credibility.

He explicitly refuses to say he’ll do anything in three years. He’s still holding the line that the damage is done, that social cleansing is something he won’t change, that there can be no escaping the Tory-defined box.

The polls agree with me.

So the net result of the new position is a 3 point drop in support,

No, no, no. I think Labour’s policy is a terrible idea for all sorts of reasons, including electorally, but you cannot conclude that from the poll. “Would you be more or less likely to vote for X if Y” questions are pretty universally useless – take a look at the poll breakdown (freely available in compliance with BPC rules on the ICM website, of course) – Table 9:

Conservatives: 20% less likely to vote Labour as a result. Not that more than a few percent of them would have considered it anyway. 9% more likely to vote Labour as a result. Not that many of them will actually do so as a result. That’s – apparently – eleven points down among Conservatives as a result of expressing a desire not to reverse what the Conservatives are currently doing. Really?

Labour: 16% more likely to vote Labour as a result. Except they’re already voting Labour. So more likely than 100% likely, then? Hmm. 9% less likely to vote Labour as a result. But not sufficiently less likely that they’ve changed their voting intention.

Lib Dems: 8% more likely to vote Labour, 17% less likely to vote Labour. Okay, now we’re getting to people who might actually vote Labour but aren’t currently – but on the other hand we’re down to a sample size of 84 people (weighted to 86), so that’s 8%+/-10% and 17%+/-10% so you can’t draw that much in the way of clear conclusions from that.

People who don’t actually intend to vote: 8% more likely to vote Labour. 10% less likely to vote Labour. What, less likely than not voting at all? Apparently so. When they don’t show up at the polling station, they will be Not Voting for Labour, rather than just Not Voting for anyone.

It’s a terrible question to ask because the answer is virtually meaningless, and cannot have useful conclusions drawn from it (Anthony Wells regularly criticises this type of question in his polling analysis, by the way)

(…and, of course, even if the question was meaningful, that’s +10%(+/-3%) and -13%(+/-3%) so the real position could equally be a 3% net gain in support)

@ Leon

OK, I give up. If you’re going to just insist that people believe the opposite of what they say they believe, I don’t see where there is to go. It’s like arguing with one of those Christians who keeps trying to tell you you’re not really an atheist, you’re just someone who hates God.

Still, if the polls agree with you, you must be right. Just like the Tories are on the benefit cap.

24. Leon Wolfeson

@23 – You’re the one insisting that. Keep arguing with the polls, I’m sure you’ll take GREAT comfort in making sure the Tories win again.

@3 Andreas Moser

Well that’s bollocks.

If Mr Van der Werf is registered to vote in a Scottish Parliamentary Election then, regardless of origin, he gets to vote

It’s not hard and discussion of t has been fairly widespread in the press, so you have no excuse for your twaddle

Far be it from me to point you at Alex Salmond but in his Hugo Young lecture he was suggesting that an ALTERNATIVe TO Tory cuts might be a better thing to propose than Labour’s SUBSTITUTE (umm, the same but slower? Is that OK guys?)

Let Nigel deal with the EU our behalf.

Members MUST go Local.

People see us as a one issue party, they are sick of listening about the EU.

Your Local Indepedence Party working with local people.
I have been a member of Labour twice-UKIP once and helped the Lib Dems to keep the Tories out of Eastleigh.
The reason for leaving UKIP
I tried to change it to Local but failed-due to a few members voting against.
I have lived in Eastleigh all my life my only concern is working on behalf of the
local community. At general elections my vote is UKIP’s

Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Labour Voter

    Union bashing gets Miliband nowhere via @libcon

  2. Ian Woodland

    Shock poll shows public indifferent to Labour’s new cuts line | Liberal Conspiracy via @libcon

  3. Robert CP

    Shock poll shows public indifferent to Labour's new cuts line

  4. leftlinks

    Liberal Conspiracy – Shock poll shows public indifferent to Labour’s new cuts line

  5. Ravi Subramanian

    Guardian poll 2day: +10% more likely to vote Lab and -13% less likely cos of new economic line from Labour

  6. sunny hundal

    Poll shows public indifferent to Labour's new cuts line. Am shocked…

  7. Legal Aware

    Poll shows public indifferent to Labour's new cuts line. Am shocked…

  8. Jonathan Taylor

    RT @libcon: Shock poll shows public indifferent to Labour's new cuts line <–Worrying

  9. ann morgan

    New poll shows public indifferent to or unaware of Labour’s new cuts line

  10. John Rogers

    Why? They're all liars. RT @sunny_hundal Poll shows public indifferent to Labour's new cuts line. Am shocked…

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