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Labour maybe 15 percent ahead in the overnight Populus poll but the leader who should be most worried is Ed Miliband

September 18th, 2012

When forced to choose just 31% want Ed as PM

The dramatic polling news overnight from Populus had Labour move to a 15% lead over the Tories. The figures, with changes on the last survey from the pollster in July, were CON 30%(-4): LAB 45%(+5): LD 10%(-2).

That’s the biggest lead we’ve seen since the election in a telephone poll where certainty to vote is one of the key determinants.

On the face of it, then, seriously good news for Ed Miliband and seriously bad news for David Cameron. But the Times report had this sting in its tail:

    “When forced to choose between the two, 31 per cent want Mr Miliband to replace Mr Cameron at No 10. However, 60 per cent want Mr Cameron to stay in Downing Street, up 4 percentage points from June. Of the 60 per cent of voters who want the incumbent to remain, 23 per cent say this is because they are happy with the job Mr Cameron is doing.

    The other 37 per cent say they are dissatisfied with the job done by Mr Cameron but still prefer him to Mr Miliband.

This polling reminds me of what we saw in Scotland ahead of the Holyrood elections in May 2011. Until a month before polling day Labour was enjoying a substantial lead across the range of pollsters and looked set to become once again the top party in the Scottish Parliament with some indications that it could achieve an overall majority.

The pointers that perhaps all was not well for Scottish Labour were the leader ratings when their man was compared with Alex Salmond. Iain Grey was miles behind the SNP leader and in some surveys was even behind his Tory counterpart. In the end the SNP was returned but this time with an overall majority.

Could Populus be pointing to a similar outcome at the general election?

When you are voting, of course, you are in effect making three choices. One for a party, a second for the local candidate who will represent your interests in parliament, and, of course, who you want as your Prime Minister.

Looking at things solely in terms of party tribe is only part of the story.

Mike Smithson @MSmithsonPB