Smelling the Coffee….
The New Statesman comments that it thinks Ed Miliband is the Labour leadership who has ‘smelt the coffee’ provided by a YouGov/Left Foot Foward poll. We have to treat this poll with a little bit of caution; for example, the perception that Labour is divided is hardly surprising coming as it does in the middle of a leadership contest with five candidates jostling for position. Similarly, the feeling Labour is ‘weak’ would tend to follow from seeing it as divided; here the electorate is wrong to see division as a sign of weakness but the two classifications tend to follow.
Words of caution also have to be said about the ‘soft on immigration’ perception as being a justification for what Ed Balls has said. Anthony Wells makes the very appropriate point:
we shouldn’t go away from this polling thinking that it says a harsher immigration policy is the necessarily the answer. Firstly, people are not always good judges of what drives public opinion or sometimes even their own decisions, so just because immigration was seen as a main driver of Labour’s defeat, it doesn’t mean it necessarily was. Secondly, it may not make good strategic sense for Labour to change their stance on immigration anyway – while it could please their traditional working class supporters, the Labour party is a broad church and also contains middle-class intelligentsia who would be repelled by an anti-immigration policy.
I am a little suspicious of YouGov as a pollster given the current CEO is a former Conservative candidate. However, that being said Labour did lose at the one poll that matters – the General Election. At the end of the day though I am not sure this poll has much of value to say, for example, 59% of those polled thought most of the money Labour spent on public spending was wasted but only 29% think this was important in losing the election. A contradiction that is perhaps explained by the fact I suspect that Labour’s economic competence had already been offered as a criticism. If Labour were economically incompetent it logically follows that the money they spent was wasted so they agreed with the criticism but found it ultimately insignificant.
Other contradictions emerge; for example, 63% of the general public agree with the criticism that Labour did not do enough for its working class supporters but again only 29% think this cost it the election. When presented with a series of negative statements it seems people were all too willing to jump on any of them (no doubt encouraged by the fact they lost, and ipso facto there must be a reason); the only criticism that wasnt endorsed was Labour not taking enough notice of the unions. The insights provided by this poll into why Labour lost are limited and the guidelines for a positive strategy for renewal are even more limited.