Poll suggests Labour will stagger on
Posted by Left Luggage on May 22, 2009
A story on The Guardian website today is headlined “Quarter of voters to reject mainstream parties at EU elecions”, based on an ICM poll that puts the combined total (from those who expressed a preference) for Labour, Tories and Lib Dems at 72%. But reading beyond the headline to the data itself, what seems really extraordinary is that the poll indicates an increase in support for all three main parties compared with the 2004 European elections. The Tories are up +3% to 30%, Lib Dems have increased in support +3% to 18%, and even Labour has gained +1% to take the party to 24%. Given the depth of the public anger over the recent MPs expenses revelations this is most unexpected. While the Guardian report attempts to exaggerate the poll’s findings somewhat, it seems that the predicted meltdown of support for Labour is not quite upon us. This polls seem to indicate the possibility of its staggering on in the same grim fashion, rather than anything more terminal.
It also shows support for the British National Party is lower than many had expected, at only 1% according to the ICM figure, although this is likely to be an underestimate due to the reluctance of those polled to own up to supporting the BNP. At present this is down from the 5% it achieved in 2004. From the (admittedly small sample of) data gathered by ICM in another recent poll (pdf), support for the far right seems to be highest among men, those aged 18 to 24, and voters in social class C2 (skilled manual workers), showing again that the far-right’s support is strongest among working class people. They also seem to be stronger in the Midlands than the North or South. Clearly it is to be welcomed if the BNP do suffer a decline in support, but it should not distract from the Left’s task: building of working class political organisation to fill the vacuum the far-right is attempting to exploit. A poor BNP showing cannot be a charter for the “anyone but the BNP” strategies of mainstream anti-fascism to persist.
Other notable figures from the EU election poll are the increase in support for the Green Party, which is up +3% on its 2004 result at 9%, and the decline in stated support for UKIP, down -6% at 10%.
It’s worth being cautious about all these figures, not only because they produce counterintuitive results. The full data sets are not yet available on ICM’s website, but it seems certain that the sample will have included a large percentage of “don’t knows” that could radically alter this picture, or put a cross by the BNP on polling day.
One thing is certain, however: yet again the Left has let an opportunity slip. In the midst of both the largest economic and political crises in generations, there is no credible challenge from the Left whatsoever. The electoral platform No2EU doesn’t register even 1% in the poll, which should be unsurprising given how late in the day they launched their campaign. In any case, once again the Left is out of contention.