Labour councillors upbeat but Ed Miliband seen as a hindrance

New polling reveals that Labour councillors are optimistic about 2015 but Ed Miliband viewed as a hindrance.

New polling reveals that Labour councillors are optimistic about 2015 but Ed Miliband viewed as a hindrance

Polling released by the Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin University today reveals that the Labour base is upbeat about the party’s prospects next May, but somewhat wary of the mandate the party will seek at the election.

Surveying over 400 Labour councillors across the party’s 106 target seats and the 50 Labour held seats most vulnerable to a Conservative swing, our polls show over three-quarters of respondents in such marginals believe Labour will emerge as the largest party in 2015.

Though sometimes mocked for its ruthless repetition, there is good news for fans of the ‘cost of living crisis’ agenda too – with over half the total respondents (55 per cent) believing it has made an impact on their local doorsteps.

Councillors are buoyant regarding the electoral maths – by a ratio of four to one, respondents in Labour’s target seats believe that UKIP will take more votes from the Tories than they will from Labour.

This may help account for the 54 per cent of such types who are ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ Labour will win in their seat. It is also reflected in the over six in ten such respondents who think offering a referendum on membership of the EU is a bad idea.

It is not all blind optimism however. In particular, Ed Miliband polls poorly – across the two polls he is more likely to be viewed as a hindrance to the Labour vote than a help (39.4 per cent to 22 per cent).

That said, the case for the defence here may well lie in his big ticket policy pledges – repealing the NHS bill, the energy bill price freeze, and scrapping the bedroom tax – accounting for approaching two thirds of respondents’ views as to what constitutes Labour’s most attractive policy offering to date.

The base, it seems, wants a bolder agenda. Almost eight in ten respondents believe Labour’s policy offering to date has been ‘too timid.’

The recent moves on rail in particular seem to be warmly welcomed. Though our polling took place before last week’s announcements on legislating for a not-for-profit entity to bid for new franchises, we did ask what the likely impact would be of the party ‘openly declar[ing] they will renationalise [expiring] rail franchises if it makes business sense’’ 88 per cent of respondents thought it would have a positive or extremely positive impact on the Labour vote in the target seats.

In terms of other potential new areas, 82 per cent of respondents to both polls combined would back further devolution of powers to local government and adopting the Financial Transaction Tax was deemed to be a potential vote winner by a nine to one margin. The ideas are out there.

And they may still be needed. Our polling suggests that Labour has nailed picking off the easy Lib Dem meat, but have been slower in making inroads into Conservative heartlands. In Liberal Democrat held seats 85 per cent of Labour activists are confident or very confident Labour will gain said seat. But in Conservative held seats the amount of confident or very confident respondents is at a much more modest 45 per cent.

There is much in this polling I would encourage people to take a look at it. On Labour and women voters, doing a deal with Clegg, and the phrase ‘One Nation Labour’ there are some interesting negative statistics. For fans of Andy Burnham, any incumbent Labour MP standing again, or just the overall Labour Party picture, there is also much positive stuff.

This poll is a useful or useless as any other taken in isolation, but as Labour seeks to break the historic cycle of the loss of office producing another defeat a few years later, the findings should hopefully provide some food for thought.

You can view the complete results of the poll here.

Richard Carr is a lecturer at the Labour History Research Unit, Anglia Ruskin University, and a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward. He publishes the book One Nation Britain this summer

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by becoming a Left Foot Forward Supporter today.