Labour leadership: past member polls bode well for Keir Starmer

Posted in Labour, Labour leadership on January 13th, 2020 by Leo – Be the first to comment

Polling evidence of leadership elections over the last decade suggests party members don’t change their minds much during leadership elections. The candidate who led in the first poll has always won the election:

  • In the 2019 Tory contest, three YouGov polls asked members who they would choose between Johnson and Hunt. They gave Johnson 67%, 74% and 74%. The first poll was done just over two months before the ballot closed.
  • In the 2016 Labour contest, there were two polls that asked about Corbyn and Smith. They gave Corbyn 56% among members in the first poll, and 57% in the second poll. The first poll was done just over two months before the ballot closed.
  • In the 2015 Labour contest, the first poll gave Corbyn 40% among members (a 13pt lead) and 57% among affiliates. The second poll gave him 49% (a 17pt lead) and 55% among the two groups. The first poll done was nearly two months before the ballot closed.
  • In the 2010 Labour contest, the two members polls gave Ed Miliband 38% and 38%, ahead of David on 32% and 31%. The first poll was done nearly two months before the ballot closed.

All of which is to say, Keir Starmer is in a strong position to become the next Labour leader. He’s 13pts up, on 36%, in the first poll.

One reason you could say the historical comparison doesn’t work is that this poll was done just over three months before the ballot closes, so there’s more time for a swing. But in all the contests above, the leader in the first poll extended their lead over the campaign – suggesting the swing seems to favour the front-runner.

Of course: maybe there are more unknown candidates this time so there’s more chance the electorate will like someone they didn’t already know; maybe the trauma of the election loss will unsettle members and shake things up; maybe many new members will join and the polls will have been asking the wrong people ; maybe Momentum and Unite will bring an awesome ground game that turns it around for Long-Bailey.

But Starmer’s rivals are certainly fighting uphill.

Climate change in the election and where the Lib Dems have gone wrong

Posted in Climate Majority, Climate Sock, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Politics on December 4th, 2019 by Leo – 1 Comment

About 10 years ago I was part of one of the most forgettable election campaigns of all time. A group of us targeted a bunch of swing constituencies aiming to get climate change on the local agenda. It wasn’t exactly a triumph.

Our efforts can definitively now be buried for good. Climate change has never been so high up the list of voters’ priorities: in the latest YouGov poll the environment is the joint third-highest issue the public say is facing the country. An Ipsos Mori question on which issues voters said would determine their vote also found climate and the environment was the fifth-top priority (in both it’s joint with the economy).

The surge in concern has opened new electoral battlegrounds but it’s not self-evident how they’re playing out. Two possible routes stand out.

Toxifying the Tories

One way climate change could play in voting decisions is for it to toxify the Tories. This is like what happened in 2017, when pro-Labour websites did a remarkably successful job of building the salience of previously obscure stories attacking the Tories on environmental issues, like their failure to pledge a ban on sales of ivory products.

But even last election there wasn’t much on climate change. In fact, the Tories have largely avoided being punished on climate change at elections. They probably have David Cameron to thank for that: his husky-hugging trip to the Arctic in 2006 and support for the Climate Change Bill meant, to casual viewers, there wasn’t much distinction between the major parties.

But since 2017 a lot of people have stopped viewing climate change just casually. The Tories can point to having strengthened the UK’s climate target, from an 80% cut to net-zero by 2050 (which means they’ve already enacted a law that’s stronger than Labour pledged in their 2017 manifesto) but there is plenty of space to criticise their record in delivering policies to meet the target, as Labour have already been doing.

Since the people most worried about climate change are more likely to be Remainers and 2017 Labour or Lib Dem voters – ie not the people Johnson is aiming for – the significance of any toxification of the Tories might be to squeeze Lib Dem votes. If the Tories look sufficiently unpalatable on climate, Labour can argue in Labour-Tory contests that a vote for the Lib Dems is too much of a risk.

Competing for climate voters

Is there any hope for the Lib Dems? Possibly, but they would need to start talking about climate change differently.

Rather than just being repelled by bad policies, voters could also be attracted to vote for parties with strong climate policies. If the voters care enough, the party with the strongest pledges should benefit – implying a race between Labour and the Lib Dems for more ambitious climate policy. This seems like the logic behind the various pledges to plant many trees to help absorb carbon.

But I’m not persuaded that this is actually happening very much. Labour and the Lib Dems might have the most ambitious climate policies they’ve ever had, but they’re not using them to fight each other. 

Looking at the Facebook ad library – which records political ads – none of the parties have spent more than a few hundred pounds on climate ads (to put that in context, the three main parties have between them spent a bit over £400k on Facebook in the last week). Same goes, as far as I can see for surrogate accounts like Labour Future. The climate debate on Channel 4 was also pretty consensual, without much effort between the parties to criticise one another’s policy.

Maybe this isn’t surprising when Labour and the Lib Dems have moved so far in so little time. They’ve perhaps caught themselves by surprise at where they are now. But it means that climate change still hasn’t become normal politics, in the way that Labour and the Lib Dems are happy to argue about Brexit, despite having pretty similar policies.

This is probably fine for Labour because it means the main distinction is with the Tories (though I’m still surprised they’re not doing more to attack the Tories on the climate). But it’s a problem for the Lib Dems. So long as the contrast is between the Tories and all the other parties, Labour can put the fear of Johnson into their want-away Remainers.

It may be too late for this election, but for the Lib Dems to benefit from the surge in concern about climate, they need to show how they would be better at halting the crisis than Labour would be. The argument the Lib Dems need is probably that only they have credible, deliverable policies that are appropriate to the challenge. Maybe also a hint that they would insist on the Tories being better on the climate in any coalition negotiations.

In short, the Lib Dems need to persuade 2017 Labour-voting Remainers (and some Lib Dems too) that, on climate change, it’s not just a question of the Tories versus the others. Until they do, the growing alarm about the climate crisis will mostly help Labour, and not them.

My book, The Climate Majority: Apathy and Action in an Age of Nationalism (New Internationalist), shows why public opinion about climate change is important and what could overcome climate apathy.

Extinction Rebellion has won the first battle – now it must win the war

Posted in Climate Majority, Extinction Rebellion on October 30th, 2019 by Leo – Be the first to comment

Extinction Rebellion seems to have cracked using protests to transform public debate. But as it starts another major rebellion this week, it might find the challenge ahead is even greater.

Extinction Rebellion’s April protests were an enormous success. Together with the BBC’s Attenborough documentary and the school climate strikes, they created a surge in public concern about the environment. The climate emergency is now established in the top five most important issues facing the UK today, at around the same level as the economy. Since the April protests, the government has legislated for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and Labour is moving towards a much more ambitious target.

This article was published on the Guardian To continue reading for free, click here.

My book, The Climate Majority: Apathy and Action in an Age of Nationalism (New Internationalist), shows why public opinion about climate change is important and what could overcome climate apathy.

And they’re off! General Election 2019 kicks off – Polling Matters

Posted in Politics, Polling Matters on October 30th, 2019 by Leo – Be the first to comment

And they’re off! General Election 2019 kicks off.

Keiran and I look at the numbers as a December 12th election is announced. Who is best placed? What is the path to victory for each party and what should we look out for in the coming weeks?

What happens now? Polling Matters

Posted in Politics, Polling Matters on September 8th, 2019 by Leo – Comments Off on What happens now? Polling Matters

After the most chaotic week in Westminster since the last one, Keiran and I sit down and discuss how it is all playing out in the court of public opinion and where we go from here.


Boris Johnson is the new Prime Minister…what now? – Polling Matters

Posted in Polling Matters on July 25th, 2019 by Leo – Comments Off on Boris Johnson is the new Prime Minister…what now? – Polling Matters

On this week’s podcast, Keiran and I look back at a momentous week in British politics and discuss what comes next.


Is Boris Johnson now inevitable and is he a vote winner? – Polling Matters

Posted in Polling Matters on June 13th, 2019 by Leo – Comments Off on Is Boris Johnson now inevitable and is he a vote winner? – Polling Matters

Keiran Pedley and I look at the numbers and ask whether Boris Johnson is now a shoe-in to become Britain’s next Prime Minister and also whether he is the vote winner that some say he is.

Polling round-up. Euros, wacky polls, Tory leadership and Peterborough – Polling Matters

Posted in Polling Matters on June 6th, 2019 by Leo – Comments Off on Polling round-up. Euros, wacky polls, Tory leadership and Peterborough – Polling Matters

On this week’s Polling Matters podcast, Keiran and I take a look at the numbers on a host of recent political events.


Polls reveal surge in concern in UK about climate change

Posted in Climate Majority, Climate Sock on May 10th, 2019 by Leo – Comments Off on Polls reveal surge in concern in UK about climate change

Climate change has been unusually prominent in the UK media over recent weeks – and this is mirrored by a noticeable increase in climate “concern” in the polls.

From 15-25 April, climate change was high on the news agenda in response to the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, a major BBC documentary presented by Sir David Attenborough and the visit to London by the Swedish school climate protestor Greta Thunberg.

Data presented by Carbon Brief and the University of Colorado both found that the media mentioned “climate change” more in April than it did in almost any previous month.

Several research agencies have conducted opinion polls of the UK public since the protests started and have now published their results. This means we can see what effect the events of April, and the resulting media coverage, has had on public opinion.

This article was published on Carbon Brief. To continue reading for free, click here.

My book, The Climate Majority: Apathy and Action in an Age of Nationalism (New Internationalist), shows why public opinion about climate change is important and what could overcome climate apathy.

Looking back at the Local Elections and looking ahead to the Europeans – Polling Matters

Posted in Polling Matters on May 9th, 2019 by Leo – Comments Off on Looking back at the Local Elections and looking ahead to the Europeans – Polling Matters

The Polling Matters podcast returns! Keiran and I look back at the local election results and look at what the EU election polling tells us about what is to come.