A YouGov poll that showed -18% approval for the Government has sent many Labourites into rapture. Sure, it’s good that people are seemingly taking issue with the Government’s indiscriminate, ideology-inspired cuts. But we need to take this with a pinch of salt the size of which would ensure the whole of the M25 doesn’t freeze over ever again.
Read between the lines. In the same poll, YouGov showed that 40% still said they would vote Conservative, with 43% saying they’d vote Labour and 8%, apparently those living under rocks, still vouching for the LibDems. Does it really make sense that, despite a -18% Government approval rating, 40% would still vote for the main party in that Government?
Read a bit further. In an IPSOS poll this week, David Cameron received +4% approval to Nick Clegg’s -12%. Ed Miliband, Labour Party leader, received an approval of +4%; but a whopping 30% gave “Don’t Know” as an answer when asked if they were satisfied or dissatisfied with the way Ed was doing his job as leader of the party. To show how big that figure is, Cameron and Clegg received 8% and 11% "Don't Knows" respectively. ComRes showed a worse picture with Ed’s approval at a lowly -16%, very similar to aforementioned Government approval rating that Labourites have been gushing over. Even in that poll, a massive 50% said they “Don’t Know” if Ed is turning out to be a good leader of the Labour Party. Nick Clegg had a dire -23% approval rating in the ComRes poll, with the Prime Minister on just -2%.
We know that LibDem polling has plummeted. ComRes had them at 23% in the middle of June. Their drop to 8% in the latest YouGov poll shows, Keir thinks, that the Government approval rating of -18% is largely due to anti-LibDem sentiment; not anti-Tory sentiment.
Labour isn’t winning. The Tories are. Government approval may be sinking, but their polling is stable. And we also now have the reason why we do need to act fast, contrary to what many Labourites would argue. Though Keir doubts he would or could, if Uncle Vince pressed his big red nuclear button, we would not win a snap election. In all likelihood, the Tories would win a majority as Labour are yet to propose an alternative, and the leader’s ratings are not good enough to carry the party in that situation. Now Keir doesn't suddenly think Cable has developed some fortitude and would actually be able to do that, but the point here is that this Coalition is fragile and we need to be ready if they capitulate.
It's not all gloom though. The amount of “Don’t Knows” in the questions about Ed’s leadership shows there is a vacuum to exploit that would not only make that Government approval sink further, but would make Labour’s polling percentage grow at the expense of the Tories; the real enemy. Labour MPs have been doing a sterling job on certain issues. Stella Creasy's campaign against legal loan sharks is the Labour Party as it should be. Jim Murphy's excellent use of the internet and his sterling work with genuine new ideas on Defence is offering credible plans. Bob Ainsworth's call for a new way of looking at drugs policy is laudable if only for his suggestion that we have an intelligent debate. And Ed Balls and Andy Burnham continue to offer stern opposition to their two Cabinet rivals across the dispatch box. Both are expertly exposing two of the most ideologically-driven Tories in the business.
But, on the whole, people don't vote based on their impression of Shadow Cabinet members. They look to the Leader. So now, yes now, nearly 3 months after taking up the post of Leader, Ed Miliband must start converting the “Don’t Knows”.