Post-conference bounce

October 1, 2006

A few polls have now measured the post-conference “bounce” for Labour and individual politicians.

First up are the latest BrandIndex approval ratings from YouGov pollster Anthony Wells:


This is a five-day rolling average, taken last Thursday, so does not capture the full effect. The results speak for themselves, with Blair and to lesser extents Reid and Brown getting a boost. It should be noted that the higher ratings for Reid, Johnson, et al is probably due to lower recognition.

Today’s Sunday Mirror ICM poll shows Reid up 8 points as best choice for next Labour leader, but he is still only on 18% while Brown remains stable at 46% – Reid has won over those who already wanted someone other than Brown rather than chipping away at Brown’s support directly.

In a rather strange leadership question, they also ascertain that given the choice of Blair, Brown or Cameron as PM the public splits three ways with 32% each to Blair and Brown and 35% to Cameron. Take from that what you will.

Despite the speech, there remains a strong desire for Blair to go soon, with 42% wanting him to step down now and another 12% before next May, though a Blairite hard core 18% of the public would like him to fight another election.

Headline voting intention figures show a bounce for Labour of 2 points, up to 35%, while the Tories drop a point to 36% and the Lib Dems 2 points to 19%. But the biggest gain was Others – up 3 points to 11%.

This was broadly matched by yesterday’s YouGov Telegraph poll, with topline figures of CON 36%(-1)  LAB 36%(+3)  LD 16%(-2). The Telegraph also found Cameron suffering from questions on definition and substance.

Update: The Telegraph have now reported some more findings of their YouGov poll, with the full internals now available here.


Blair’s speech: public perceptions

October 1, 2006

During the week we missed a couple of stories on how the public perceived Blair’s speech.

Firstly, the BBC’s perception panel, which we have reported on before, during Lib Dem conference, showed several interesting trends, the most significant one of which was probably on the NHS.

The passage of Blair’s speech where he talked about investment in the health service, which he concluded was being “rebuilt, not privatised” got this reaction from Labour, Tory and non-aligned (floating) voters respectively:

Tony Blair

The red spikes are positive reactions, while anything below the line is negative. In short, Labour voters seem proud of the government’s record on the NHS but swing voters are actually more hostile to Blair’s stance on the NHS than even Tories are. This could be because they disagreed with what Blair was saying, or (more likely) that they just didn’t believe him. Either way, given how central the NHS is to any Labour platform, this is something that should ring alarm bells.

This should come with a slight health warning – the BBC’s claim that 50% of voters are unaligned seems like a very high estimate, even given the increasing partisan dealignment of the past decade. But the findings are striking nonetheless.

Other findings showed men reacting far more favourably to Blair’s comments on the Lebanon and terrorism than women, and, in a result that surprised the BBC’s commentators, younger people reacting favourably to the passage on immigration and law and order while the middle-aged gave it the thumbs down.

Also interesting was the Populus message meter – the results are available here and you can do the poll yourself here.  

As an open access poll it is not at all representative, but it has broken down the results by party voting intention. 

There were big upward spikes at Blair’s gag about Cherie not running off with the bloke next door, though the only thing that impressed “Other” voters was when he said it was time for him to leave.

Labour conference diary – roundup

September 30, 2006

So, another year, another conference is done and dusted, and with a weekend of nursing the square root of a hangover ahead of us, here is The Daily’s favourite bits of Manchester…

Best karaoke: Sighted staying up until the early hours of the morning in the bar of the Midland Hotel on the last night were Brownite MPs Ed Balls and Ann Keen leading a gaggle of Brownite aides and recently elected NEC member Ellie Reeves in a possibly slightly tipsy sing-song. Balls distinguished himself with a fine air guitar performance, but the possible future Chancellor sadly refused requests such as Big Spender, Taxman or Money Money Money. No one dared ask for Golden Brown.

A close-run second prize for those cheeky attendees at the Labour Students party who reworked an old classic to new words. We believe it went “We are family – Ian Gibson is my MP”.

Most lonesome tonight: Not joining them was Tom Watson, most high-profile signatory of the infamous letter. He lurked in the back of the bar but remained popular with many delegates stopping to shake his hand, though others made less complimentary gestures. He stopped for a drink with fellow Millennium Group MP Kevin Brennan, who for a Government Whip seemed to be getting on with the unlikely rebel pretty well.

Stupid headline of the week comes (surprise, surprise) from the Indy:

“Cruddas launches deputy campaign with Trident attack”

We know it’s going to be a tough campaign, but we’re not aware that Jon Cruddas has his finger on the nuclear button. Perhaps we should be doubly grateful that Geoff Hoon is not standing.

CandidateWatch: Many potential candidates have been doing the rounds of as many conference events as possible, marshalled by Special Advisers whose job it is to devise a grid that will get their employer round the maximum number of delegates and influential organisations in the time available, with military precision.

Peter Hain was such a ubiquitous presence that many started to speculate that there must be more than one of him. He even stopped off at the Compass stand for a photo opp with his arms around the volunteers – presumably a “hug a lefty” strategem, though he smoothly avoided any discussion of actual politics before oiling his way to the next flesh-pressing engagement.

RetreadWatch: Conference is also a hunting ground for those former MPs who lost at the last election and are now desperately searching for somewhere safer to fight next time. Barbara Roche, formerly of Hornsey and Wood Green, spent much of conference on the coat-tails of Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, who would certainly be happy to help another Brownite (back) in to Parliament, possibly with an eye on Stockton North. Meanwhile ex-Croydon MP Geraint Davies cut a rather sad figure trying (unsuccessfully) to convince Welsh delegates that he was a “local” candidate for Swansea.  Chris Leslie is rumoured to be in the mix for John Prescott’s Hull East base, but might face a surprise obstacle in the shape of Prescott’s son.  In the papers, the Sun reported that Portillo-slayer Stephen Twigg, himself slain in turn in 2005, is leading a campaign to oust Kate Hoey from her Vauxhall seat. The story is hilariously implausible, but Twigg may well have an eye out elsewhere in Lambeth.

Nice guy of the week: Former Labour Students National Secretary and Young European Movement President Henri Murison, who refused to give up a vacant stall from his table at the Labour Students party to allow a disabled delegate to sit down.

Speech of the week: Blair’s speech was a masterclass ruined only by the muppets waving hand made “Thank you Tony” placards.  Oh, and the fact that it was vacuous bollocks.

Deputy leadership odds after conference

September 29, 2006

How have the runners and riders emerged out of conference week?

Ladbrokes have joined William Hill in opening a market on the race, with the following odds:

Johnson 2/1
Hain 7/2
Straw 5/1
Harman 8/1
Cruddas 8/1
Benn 10/1

William Hill re-opened their online coupon today, only for it to have closed again by this evening, but you can still bet by phone.

Hilary Benn is a surprise favourite at 5/2, even though he is not (yet, anyway) standing, and Miliband is on ridiculously low odds at 10/1 for a man who has actually ruled himself out. Meanwhile, Hain has slipped to 3/1 along with Johnson, and Harman has plummeted to 14/1 with Cruddas now breathing down her neck at 16/1.

With the bookies all over the place there should be chances to hedge. Just be sure to donate a share of profits to good causes.

There is a range of press coverage, for those wishing to pick up on what various journos managed to glean during the week, in the Telegraph, Guardian, Times and Independent.

Labour conference: A healthy debate

September 28, 2006

The vote on health logistics privatisation has already been reported this morning – along with housing and corporate manslaughter, a crushing defeat for the platform.

During the debate, UNISON General Secretary David Prentis paused for repeated applause and went over the 10-minute limit, at which point the microphone was cut off without morning by the chair, leader of the European Parliamentary Labour Party Gary Titley MEP.

Unreported was the exchange provoked when one delegate produced an example of anti-UNISON flyers being distributed on conference floor, allegedly by party staff, and demanded to know who was responsible.

Another delegate replied, saying that in fact she had distributed the leaflets and not party staff. It is widely suspected that she had been put up to it by the leadership, but they evidently hadn’t briefed her very well.

She went on to accuse the “UNISON stand” of “taking a million pounds of public money”. Presumably she had been meant to say that opposing privatisation would incur such a cost, rather than accusing those on the UNISON stall in the exhibition hall of pinching the money.

She then waved a letter from David Prentis attacking the government’s position and said “I demand to know who is responsible for this piece of paper!”

We suspect that it may have been, erm, David Prentis.

We can only say to the party fixers who organise these antics – if you’re going to do it, at least try to get it right.

Breaking news: Cruddas launches campaign

September 27, 2006

Jon Cruddas is in the course of giving an interesting interview with Simon Mayo on Radio 5 and has confirmed that he does intend to contest the deputy leadership when there is a vacancy.

He plans a campaign that will “change the Labour Party” as well as for the deputy leadership itself, which he believes should be a full-time job in its own right.

Update: Speaking to Simon Mayo, Jon said: “I am standing to be deputy leader because change is desperately needed … it’s time to rebuild our party from the bottom up.”

Speaking about the need to restate Labour’s values, he added: “We need to reaffirm our belief in collective action – through local communities, through public services, through strong and effective trade unions.”

On the deputy leadership, he concluded: “In the election, there will be a choice: change or more of the same.”

Further update: The story is now on the BBC, ePolitix, Guardian, Reuters, East Anglian Daily Times and

Labour conference: Diplomat of the week

September 26, 2006

The Daily’s award for conference diplomacy goes to whoever was responsible for booking the hotel suite for the Irish Embassy reception.

This has been placed in the Colony Room.