What's Left of the Labour Leader? Tony Blair Is Closer to Tory Vote Rs Than to His Own Supporters. Peter Kellner Analyses a Surprising Poll. (Features)

By Kellner, Peter | New Statesman (1996), October 28, 2002 | Go to article overview

What's Left of the Labour Leader? Tony Blair Is Closer to Tory Vote Rs Than to His Own Supporters. Peter Kellner Analyses a Surprising Poll. (Features)


Kellner, Peter, New Statesman (1996)


Few things are more certain to get up Tony Blair's nose than the accusation that he has abandoned Labour's principles. He says it is all nonsense: witness all the money he is pumping into the public services, and the extra help he is giving poor families. However, the results of a new survey by YouGov suggest the Prime Minister should stop complaining. Yes, he is thought to have jettisoned his party's left-wing image. Indeed, the public now place him clearly to the right of Charles Kennedy. But far from being a political weakness, his perceived ideological location is an electoral strength--at least, for the time being.

Earlier this month, YouGov asked people throughout Britain where they placed themselves, and the three main parties' leaders, on a scale from "very left-wing" to "very right-wing". These are the main findings:

* Tony Blair is regarded by slightly more people to be right-of-centre (the view of 36 per cent) than left-of-centre (34 per cent).

* Kennedy, in contrast, is seen by far more people as being left-of-centre (44 per cent) than right-of-centre (10 per cent).

* Although more voters place themselves on the left (41 per cent) rather than the right (31 per cent), the key electoral fact is that a clear majority (58 per cent) regard themselves as moderates, ranging from "slightly left-of-centre" through "centre" to "slightly right-of-centre".

* Blair is placed in or near the centre by no fewer than 69 per cent of the electorate and Kennedy by 62 per cent - but Iain Duncan Smith by only 36 per cent.

IDS is the only one of the three with a clearideological profile: 70 percent regard him as right-of-centre; two-thirds say he is "very" or "fairly" right-wing.

Those figures help to explain why the Conservatives remain in the doldrums, even though voters are increasingly disenchanted with the government. However frustrated parents, patients and commuters feel about the state of schools, hospitals and transport, they are reluctant to turn to an opposition that seems to inhabit a different political planet from theirs.

More detailed analysis of the figures provides a fuller picture of Britain's political landscape. The ideological position of each politician and group of voters is determined by giving each response a number, ranging from minus 100 points for "very left-wing", via 0 for centre, to plus 100 for "very right-wing".

Look first at the party leaders, with IDS, 49 points to the right, furthest from the centre; Kennedy 22 points to the left; and Blair very close to the fulcrum, just three points to the right. …

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What's Left of the Labour Leader? Tony Blair Is Closer to Tory Vote Rs Than to His Own Supporters. Peter Kellner Analyses a Surprising Poll. (Features)
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