Thursday, 29 May 2008

Interpreting the polls

I didn’t quite know what to make of the detail in the opinion poll results on devolution this week, at first. The jump in Tory support for a parliament just doesn't fit with my own perception of likely Tory voters - not in this constituency anyway. Perhaps it’s different in other constituencies, but certainly many Conservative voters in Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire are people who have retired to the area, often from England; and in canvassing them, I cannot honestly say that I have found much support for any form of devolution.

(In passing, the Western Mail’s report is slightly misleading in one respect, when they say about the Tories, "In the party...there is now 39% backing for a law-making parliament." Not so; this was a survey of voters, not party members. I remain convinced that most rank-and-file members of the Conservative party remain hostile, even if it is true that their supporters have moved on.)

The problem is, if I'm suspicious about the suggested level of support for a parliament amongst Conservative voters, how much faith can I have in the rest of the figures? And yet; the rest of the figures do not seem at all surprising. They’re broadly in line with what most of us would probably have expected. And from memory, they’re in line with what other polls have suggested.

So, even if the level of support amongst Conservative voters is exaggerated (as I suspect it probably is), given the levels of support for the various parties as demonstrated by various elections and polls, this poll shows a referendum to be very winnable. And if the Tory figures are anywhere near right, it could be won by a pretty decisive majority as well.

The only thing holding us back seems to be Labour’s internal disagreements on the issue.


Draig said...

I have to be honest, the Tory figures don't fit with my perception either. I tend to associate the Tory vote with English retirees who have moved here, although that's obviously not exclusively the case.

What worries me is that the Crewe and Nantwich was not a blip, and the Tories are going to win big come the next election. We are in the middle of a rapidly developing energy crisis and it is gradually going to destabilise the incumbent administration - and maybe even topple it. Will Labour last till 2010? I'm not so sure.

In simple terms, we could end up with the "promise" of a referendum on law-making powers made in Cardiff, set against a huge Tory mandate in London. The current constitutional settlement, embodied in the Government of W ales Act 2006, is a mess, drafted on the arrogant assumption that Labour would be in power for a long time yet.

Who thinks that now?

John Dixon said...


With a majority of the size they have in Parliament, no particular external crisis will, of itself, bring them down. The only thing that will topple the government before the next election will be the actions of Labour MPs themselves. Whilst there are signs that some of them are starting to panic, it would take a much more widespread outbreak of panic than we are yet seeing.

But I agree with your comments on the current settlement. There is a serious and growing danger that the slow pace at which we are moving towards a referendum in Wales simply fails to take account of the way in which politics is moving in England.