Economic confidence at its lowest since the financial crash

Polls show increasing public discomfort with the economy -- but Labour is not capitalising on this o

Two polls today show that the public is increasingly pessimistic about the economy. A Guardian/ICM poll found economic confidence at its lowest level since just before the financial crash in 2008. Fifty-seven per cent of respondents said they were not confident about the state of the economy, while 42 per cent did, giving a net confidence index of -15 points. Since ICM began measuring financial confidence in 2001, it has only been lower once (July 2008).

A Times/Populus poll (£) has similarly poor results, with 79 per cent of voters saying they believe the country will fare "badly" over the next year, versus only 18 per cent who think it will do "well". This gives a net optimism score of -61, a 21 point drop since September. While the questions and indexes are slightly different in each poll, this too is the lowest score Populus has found since the time of the banking crisis, in January 2009.

There are clear reasons for this: unemployment is steadily increasing, growth predictions are constantly lowered, and the eurozone crisis is unsettling markets. All of this would appear to be bad news for the government and its austerity package, and a blessing for Labour.

However, this is not the case. The ICM poll found that 30 per cent still blame the slowdown on debts accrued by Labour, with only 24 per cent blaming the coalition's spending cuts. Meanwhile, the Populus survey found that 40 per cent of people trusted David Cameron and George Osborne to run the economy, while just 26 per cent said they had more faith in Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

While both polls saw Labour keep its narrow lead (two points ahead with ICM and eight with Populus), these results on the economy show the extent to which the party is missing an open goal. Yesterday, Cameron admitted that the government may not reach its deficit reduction targets, telling the CBI conference that "getting debt under control is proving harder than anyone envisaged", partly because of sluggish growth. The Office for Budget Responsibility is expected to downgrade its forecast -- again -- next week, when Osborne makes his Autumn Statement.

The coalition's narrative that Labour's profligacy is entirely to blame for this crisis should not hold for much longer: their policies are doing little to help the recovery; indeed, are compounding the problem. As Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman put it: "Austerity in Britain is going really, really badly." Labour must step up its visibility and present a clear, thought out alternative strategy if it wants to seize the opportunity of growing public discomfort with the way the economy is headed.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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UK election results: your guide to what's happened so far

Everything you need to know about the local and regional elections.


  • To little surprise, the SNP will be staying in government at Holyrood as the largest party by an overwhelming margin.
  • Nicola Sturgeon’s party looks set to narrowly lose its majority, yet given that the electoral system intentionally militates against majority governments, that shouldn’t be an enormous shock.
  • It was a dreadful night for Scottish Labour. Despite winning Edinburgh Southern from the SNP, the party has almost certainly slipped into third place behind the Scottish Conservatives. Kezia Dugdale, the party’s sixth leader in 8 years, vowed to carry on as party leader.
  • The Conservatives, wiped out north of the border in 1997 and barely ever a force in Holyrood since 1999, are now the assembly’s main opposition. Ruth Davidson, the party’s leader, won a constituency seat in Edinburgh from the SNP. The party also took Eastwood, long a Labour stronghold – perhaps hinting at broader problems for the Labour party nationwide with Jewish voters.
  • The Liberal Democrats are not dead yet. Willie Rennie, whose campaign highlights included being interviewed in front of a pair of romping pigs and launching his manifesto in a soft play area, took the seat of North East Fife from the SNP, while his party also held seats in the Scottish islands comfortably.



  • Labour remains the largest party, albeit probably in a minority, and should govern alone fairly comfortably.
  • Leighton Andrews, a long-serving member of the Welsh government, was unexpectedly defeated by Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood in his Rhondda constituency.
  • The Conservatives failed to make significant gains, with party sources blaming the row over Port Talbot’s steel.
  • UKIP won its first seats in the assembly, picking up at least 4 assembly seats through the list, including former Kent MP Mark Reckless – with disgraced former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton also expected to win a seat later on.
  • Labour retained the Ogmore seat at Westminster in a by-election, with UKIP in seco nd place.



  • Labour have become the first opposition party to lose seats in midterm elections since 1985 – when Neil Kinnock’s Labour Party still lost fewer seats than the Conservative government.
  • That said, the party’s results were probably not quite as bad as some feared – the party retained control of Crawley and Southampton, though lost Dudley to no overall control.
  • The Conservatives gained some council seats, taking control of Peterborough council, but losing Worcester to no overall control.
  • UKIP became the joint-largest party on Thurrock council, drawing level with the Conservatives – and missed out on taking a further seat from the Conservatives by just 1 vote.
  • Labour won the Sheffield Brightside by-election, with UKIP in second place.
  • Joe Anderson won re-election as Mayor of Liverpool with more than 50 per cent of the vote.



  • The count for London Mayor and the Greater London Assembly began at 8am, with the result expected to be announced in the late afternoon.
  • Campaigners on all sides predicted record low turnout. 

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.