Cameron’s Euro Poll Bump – Why there’s no need for Labour to panic

27th January, 2013 9:27 am

Predictably there’s much talk this morning about David Cameron’s poll bump following his EU speech on Wednesday. There are four polls this weekend (Opinium, YouGov, ComRes and Survation). As you’d expect, in most of the polling there has been some movement from UKIP back towards the Tories.

So far so unremarkable.

Yet any significant rise in Tory vote share (and shortening of Labour’s lead) usually leads to some mild panic in the Labour Party – especially the doomsayers who are secretly hoping bracing themselves for some sort of 1992 style polling collapse.

Although I was disappointed that Ed Miliband didn’t seize the initiative on Wednesday – looking at the polling it’s fairly clearly that Labour shouldn’t be unduly concerned. Here’s why:

Labour vote share – First things first. The most important number for Labour is (of course) the percentage of people who say they will vote Labour. Labour’s vote share hasn’t dropped significantly with any of the pollsters this weekend (the biggest drop is a fall of two points with YouGov from Friday – which is easily within the margin of error). If – as expected – boundary changes are finally killed off on Tuesday, and Labour goes on t0o get above or around 40% in the 2015 General Election, then it would take a very brave person to suggest Ed Miliband won’t be Prime Minister – regardless of a UKIP to Tory shift.

Smaller than the “veto” bump– That said, we should be clear that something is happening here. David Cameron is getting a poll bump from the three pollsters (YouGov/Survation/Comres) who polled entirely after the Europe speech (the Opinium poll was conducted both before and after the speech). Yet Cameron’s poll boost (Up 2 points with YouGov and Survation, and 5 points with ComRes) is (so far) much smaller than the bump he got from the EU “veto” in December 2011. And perhaps most importantly, even after this mini-bump – the Tories are still lower in the polls now than they were before his 2011 veto.

About that ComRes poll – The ComRes poll shows a 5 point surge for the Tories, which has caused the most debate (meanwhile showing Labour’s vote share as static). But that’s a five point bump based on the last ComRes poll for the Independent on Sunday/Sunday Mirror which had the Tories on an unusually low 28%. Compared to the most recent Comres poll on December 18th, the Tories are up just two points (with Labour down two points) – well within the margin of error, and suggesting little change. Additionally (and confusingly) much of the change from UKIP to Tory may well be because f a change in methodology too. Suddenly that big ComRes bump looks less interesting than it did.

About that Survation poll – The only pollster (as far as I’m aware) to mention UKIP in the voter intention question is Survation, which tends to produce a higher (or in the view of the pollster, more accurate) percentage for the anti-EU party. So if there’s a big UKIP to Tory swing, it would be shown up in their polling. Yet it isn’t. There’s just a 2 point drop for UKIP, and a similarly small 2 point rise for the Tories – that’s well within the margin of error.

About that YouGov poll – a 6 point lead for Labour s low for YouGov in recent weeks (and the most concerning bit of post-Cameron speech polling), but isn’t unheard of. In mid-December the pollster showed a Labour lead of just 4 points, the next day the Labour lead was 10 points. One poll is means little in the context of a daily tracker.

GDP figures – Crucially, the polling this weekend takes into account the Cameron Europe poll, but doesn’t fully take into account the awful GDP announcement on Friday. Therefore until we see polls that show the public reaction to the Tories shrinking the economy (again) and the risk of a triple-dip recession, we’re only seeing half of the data.

Update: Seemingly there’s also an Angus Reid poll in the Express showing Lab 39 (-3) Con 30 (+3) but I haven’t seen the tables for this one yet so can’t comment further on what this means.

  • JoeDM

    This has more to do with Ed Miliband’s turning away from the idea of a referendum. That statement at PMQs that Labour were now against a referendum was a rather foolish mistake.

    • Mike Homfray

      A foolish mistake would be to promise what we have no intention of delivering – Labour is not going to take the UK out of the EU. We are not that daft. Our future is as part of the EU.

      • Monkey_Bach

        True that. Eeek.

      • aracataca

        Quite right Mike. With 10 years of austerity, and a withdrawal from the EU in between, the UK could quite easily become Slovakia with rockets by 2023 (No offence whatsoever intended towards that beautiful and charming country).

      • Matthew Blott

        “Labour is not going to take the UK out of the EU.”

        I thought the point of a referendum was so the people could decide.

        • robertcp

          The people also decide in a parliamentary democracy by voting in elections, for example, Labour lost elections in the 1980s when it was anti-European, the Tories lost three elections from 1997 when they were anti-European and the result in 2010 meant that they are in coalition with the pro-European Lib Dems. If Labour follow Mike’s advice, then the people will be able to vote accordingly.

  • Mike Homfray

    I think Ed is doing the right thing. Let the Tories obsess with this one. Labour should not place itself in the irresponsible position of offering a referendum which it has no intention of implementing the outcome. Lets make things clear. Labour is a pro-Europe party, and we are not taking us out of the EU. Our job should be to look seriously at areas needing reform which we can work on with allies in the EU, which we can then discuss without a threat of leaving when next in government.

    • Daniel Speight

      Labour is a pro-Europe party…

      But Mike, are you willing to let the Tories use the next election as a fake vote on the EU?

      • robertcp

        Daniel, Labour can wait until 2015 to make a decision on this issue. It will be clearer by then what is happening in the EU. A referendum might be necessary on a new EU Treaty in any case over the next few years.

      • dave stone

        Well said, Daniel. There’s no reason to take Cameron’s referendum promise any more seriously than his promise of no more top down re-organisations of the NHS or delivering the greenest government ever.

        Once he’s won the general election, should political expediency require it, Cameron can be replaced by a non-referendum leader, who would disown the promise.
        Let’s not forget, the referendum announcement was all about taking the wind from UKIP’s sail and improving electoral prospects in 2015 – nothing more, nothing less.

    • aracataca

      It is not just that Mike but we would also be tacitly approving Cameron’s renegotiation strategy, which of course will produce absolutely no meaningful concessions whatsoever.

      • brianbarder

        Absolutely: indeed Labour surely needs to oppose some of Cameron’s demands, such as repatriation of the working time directive (which he wants back in order to repeal it) and other social chapter safeguards for working people which the more unscrupulous UK employers want to scrap. It looks as if all or nearly all the items whose repatriation Cameron plans to demand ought in principle to remain at EU level — environment, crime, etc. Labour will have to make it clear that if it wins the 2015 election, it will play a constructive part in the negotiations on the new relationship between Eurozone members and non-members, while protecting the UK’s interests, and take part in negotiations to make the EU more competitive, but will not be looking for special treatment for the UK or seeking to opt out of rules and regulations that are designed to ensure a level playing field in the single market or which concern matters that are best handled at EU rather than individual national level.

        If such negotiations succeed, the whole EU will benefit and there’ll be no obvious issue on which to hold a referendum. The Europhobes will continue to kick and scream and demand an in-out referendum but there seems no obvious reason for a Labour government to humour them.

        In other words, Labour will be offering a completely different scenario to the one set out by Cameron, one that will be positive and constructive instead of hostile and destructive. Cameron’s referendum, if he were to win the 2015 election and go on to behave in Brussels like a bull in a chinashop as he threatens to do, will prevent the British people from voting to reject the changes secured by Cameron (if any) but in favour of Britain staying in the EU — which is a sound reason for rejecting it.

  • Monkey_Bach

    Whenever anything big and populist is announced political polls tend to bounce about a bit signalling approval or disapproval for any such expression of intent, in an instantaneous fashion; the public knows that the next general election is some years away and when canvassed use such an opportunity to give a thumb’s up or thumb’s down to a policy by expressing support for the party is associated with that policy. These polls do not accurately reflect the real voting intention of the electorate as far as the bread and butter issues go, e.g., education, health, welfare, social justice, and management of the economy, which actually determine which party ends up forming a government. Only the daftest politicos could possibly be exited by such temporary shifts which never seem to persist over the long term. Eeek.

  • Craig Nelson

    One thing that should be thought about is that if a referendum is held and the decision is to withdraw from the EU there is no consensus on what comes next – Associate EU membership, EEA, EFTA or nothing (but a big enlargement of our trade ministry to handle the number of bilateral negociations and take cases to the WTO).

    Losing a referendum in itself would be a devastating blow to any government but its time thereafter would be consumed in the to-ing and fro-ing as to which option to take, negotiating it, submitting it to a referendum, possibly losing it and so on – it would not be the end of euroscepticism but would consume all energies of the government at the time.

    For that reason Labour should not hold a referendum unless to confirm a new Treaty in line with current legislation as it would destroy a Lab (or Tory as Cameron may find out) government and produce utter chaos. We should say we are not proposig to hold a referendum on coming out of the EU because we do not want to leave the EU.


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