15 February 2009

New opinion poll makes grim but also interesting reading

A new opinion poll from the 'Sindy' confirms the post-Xmas collapse in Labour's popularity as the gloss comes off the October bailout. Recent news of an £11bn loss by the HBOS (part of the 40% state owned Lloyds Banking Group) hasn't helped none... taxpayers will certainly be wondering just what they've been put on the hook for.

The poll shows Labour down to 25% - pretty much where it was last summer - with the Tories on 41% and interestingly, the Lib Dems up to 22%. The Lib Dems had been running at about 12% before Christmas and it looks like that 10% improvement is entirely due to Vince Cable, who continues to operate as the best economic brain in Parliament - light years ahead of Brown, Darling or Osborne. If this is how well the Lib Dems are doing with the semi-useless Nick Clegg running the show, it's interesting to speculate how well they'd be doing if Cable was the leader.

The poll rates the Tories very poorly in terms of confidence in their ability to deal with the economic crisis, and it seems pretty clear that that 41% rating is very soft. Things could yet improve further for the Lib Dems, although they would need to be into 35 - 40% poll ratings to make serious electoral inroads given the first-past-the-post electoral system. Probably unlikely, but as the economic crisis gets more severe, if Cable continues to impress, anything is possible.

Other news today (in the same article as the poll) is that Labour welfare adviser David Freud - an ex-banker (that description really inspires confidence, doesn't it?) who advocates privatisation of the welfare system (a measure which the government is struggling to implement) has defected to the Tories. Expect this to be just the start of a trend, although I would imagine most defections will occur after the next election rather than before. The most obvious candidates to go to what Tony Benn calls 'Blue Labour' will be ultra-Blairite MPs who have little grounding in the culture of the Labour party - John Hutton being the most obvious example, and maybe James Purnell (although he may stick around after the election for a shot at the Labour leadership - god help us). But probably not Hazel Blears (why on earth would the Tories want her? They will presumably be trying to get re-elected.) And probably not Peter Mandelson, although with Mandy anything - short of a move to UKIP - is possible.

Of course if the recession becomes a depression it could well engulf the Tories' attempts to get re-elected if they do win in 2010 (still by no means certain, whatever the polls say). Assuming that some kind of functioning opposition survives and we don't just get a re-run of the early 1980s. I haven't really thought much about at might await Labour in opposition (apart from the party going bankrupt and having to be restarted, which is pretty much certain) but the more the polls head in their current direction, the more it looks like I'm gonna have to address that issue. One for the next couple of weeks.

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