Analysis: poll

Today’s poll presents some interesting results – some of them surprising, some less so.

Probably the most important result concerns the number of people who believe Gordon Brown should resign if Labour lose tomorrow. Should that happen, the chances of Mr Brown having to fall on his sword are slim to non-existent. There are practical reasons for that – most politicians and journalists are on holiday meaning party political and media pressure will be weak. And there are strategic reasons – most senior Labour figures think it would do the party more harm than good.

But there is still something to be learnt by finding out how many people think it would be the correct thing to do. And that number is – for Labour – perilously high. Exactly half of those asked thought he should resign, while only 42 per cent said he should stick it out.

Now there are many people out there who will agree to Gordon Brown resigning regardless of the reasons why. But the result does seem to point to a general feeling that Labour’s obscenely bad results of late require some radical thinking if an electoral catastrophe is to be avoided in 2010. Limited signs of recovery in recent polls – yesterday’s Guardian/ICM survey put Labour up three to 28 per cent – have done little to change the party’s fortunes. These uplifting results are less than surprising anyway. Labour support could only drop so low and it appears to have reached rock bottom.

Alex Salmond should treat the results as an impressive confirmation of his leadership abilities. A 54 per cent approval rating is heartening in any politician’s language, but taking into account the poll’s contributors makes it all the more remarkable.

Mr Salmond’s success has been at least partly explained by the populist, centre-left policies he has adopted north of the border, such as abolishing prescription charges and refusing to charge university students tuition fees. But the poll will include many respondents – probably a majority – who don’t live in Scotland. Without these economic incentives to make them take a shine, it’s interesting his popularity level remains so high. Not only that, but many English respondents will take an a-priori dislike to any politician campaigning for Scottish independence, let alone the ringleader.

The 51 per cent of respondents who believe the SNP would govern Glasgow East better than Labour reflect the dire economic state of the area, despite 50 years of Labour rule. Fifty-one per cent doesn’t look that high, but take into account the quarter of respondents who answered ‘don’t know’. That means only 24 per cent disagreed with the statement.

Finally, only 46 per cent of people think Labour can still win tomorrow. That’s probably inaccurate – most analysts are expecting a Labour win, albeit a slim one on a drastically reduced majority. But the fact so many people have given up on Labour’s chances in the kind of constituency the party was born to govern show just how negatively the public view Labour at the moment – not just in their own view, but in how they think other people view it.

There have been very few polls recently which Labour insiders will read with a happy heart, and today’s poll is no different. If Labour can salvage anything from their current predicament, its that with expectations this low, a victory tomorrow could be a springboard for more surprises in the future. That kind of optimism, though, is hard to find in the gloomy corridors of Labour central office.