Stephan Shakespeare is a founder and global CEO of YouGov.
Can today’s numbers tell us how next year’s general election will pan out? I found this interesting: in a recent YouGov poll in which Labour had their usual slight lead in voting intention, the current Conservative offer was marginally preferred to Labour’s: faced with just a single binary choice, people said that they slightly preferred a Conservative government led by David Cameron rather than a Labour government led by Ed Miliband.
Those numbers come from a recent YouGov poll in which Labour had a slight voting intention lead over the Conservatives: 16 per cent said they would be ‘delighted’ to wake up the day after the general election to find Cameron still PM, 46 per cent would be ‘dismayed’, and 27 per cent say they ‘wouldn’t mind’. This edges Miliband, whose figures as a replacement are 17 per cent, 50 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.
Not much in it. YouGov also asked the question another way: “Realistically, only Labour or the Conservatives can lead the next government. Which do you prefer, and how positive is this p reference?” 23 per cent said they preferred the Conservatives and thought they would do a good job; 19 per cent preferred Labour and thought they’d do a good job. The rest divided their reluctant acquiescence to Conservative/Labour 16 per cent to 21 per cent. Combined, that makes it 39/40.
This is what I think is most likely to happen in the next election, assuming no big new enticements or threats on either side: something close to a dead heat. But the Conservative vote feels much more vulnerable: our poll shows that 20 per cent of people currently saying they will vote Conservative don’t think they will do a good job.
Indeed, seven per cent of likely Conservative voters say they would not be dismayed if Miliband ended up Prime Minister. These are the people who have somewhere else to go, something else to do with their vote: many are the ones who flirted with UKIP at the euro elections, and it makes me doubt whether the “Vote UKIP, get Miliband” slogan is quite as powerful as Tory strategists believe.
At the same time, the Labour vote does not seem vulnerable. Where else can they go? Yes, a few could shift to UKIP, but for every one of them, two or three Tories shift too. If the Conservatives are to stay in power, it seems to me they need to find a strong positive message from somewhere. Merely waving the Miliband spectre will not be enough.