Is the improving economy harming Labour’s standing? According to a new Guardian/ICM survey out today, Labour is still ahead of the Conservatives by three points — but the gap is slowly shrinking. Since the last ICM poll in December, Labour’s lead has dropped to just three points, down from an eight point lead in November:
Today’s poll also looks at how assured people are feeling about their own financial position and their ‘ability to keep up with the cost of living’. 52 per cent now feel confident about the state of their personal finances — the highest level since October 2010. Confidence in financial situations plummeted in 2010 and a majority stated they did not feel confident about their situation until this September:
The solidity of Labour’s polling lead over the Tories is often questioned, particularly as it continues to fluctuate. According to these trackers, Labour had a 12 point lead over the Tories in February last year — their highest since the general election — yet six months later, the parties were neck and neck:
Except a bump during the party conference season, Labour’s lead has remained in single digits since the February high. Perhaps this is as a result of Labour’s inconsistent messaging on the economy. As today’s olive branch to the middle classes shows, Miliband appears happy to flit from one idea to another in an attempt to see what sticks.
For example in February, Miliband said in a speech ‘we were promised that we could have growth and a lower deficit. In fact, we’ve had almost no growth and the deficit is rising again.’ Then in his response to the budget, the Labour leader switched to arguing that the growth we now have is the wrong type.
On unemployment, Labour bemoaned in 2012 that the government was showing ‘terrible complacency’, before admitting last month the record levels of employment were ‘welcome’. The Shadow Chancellor switched tack by focusing on the high levels of youth unemployment and the ‘cost of living crisis’.
If nothing else, this polling illustrates that Labour needs to make the very most of the series of speeches planned by its top brass on the economy and cost of living to form a coherent message on the economy so that this trend doesn’t continue.