New poll shows Osborne harms the Tories and Balls helps Labour

Support for Tory economic policy falls when Osborne's name is mentioned and support for Labour policy rises when Balls is mentioned.

After the 2005 election, Lord Ashcroft famously published polling (Smell The Coffee) showing that voters often supported a particular policy until they were told that it had been proposed by the Tories (the psephological basis for "detoxification"). It seems that George Osborne now has a similarly toxic effect. A new poll by Ipsos MORI for the Evening Standard shows that voters back Osborne's deficit reduction plan - but only if the Chancellor's name isn't mentioned. 

Asked whether "tackling the deficit and keeping interest rates low should be our top priority" (the Osborne position) or whether "we need more government spending on investment to kick-start our economy and a temporary cut in taxes to support growth" (the Balls position), 52 per cent said the former and 41 per cent the latter. But when the policies are associated with their respective authors, the coalition's 11-point lead becomes a Labour lead of 16 points. Only 37 per cent say they support Osborne's approach, compared to 53 per cent who support Balls's. 

The poll will embolden those Conservative MPs who have long argued that Osborne is acting as a drag on Tory support and who are preparing to demand the removal of the Chancellor if the economy fails to improve. It's also evidence that, far from being a "toxic" figure (as Anthony Seldon claimed in the New Statesman last month), the shadow chancellor is an asset to his party.

Chancellor George Osborne is pictured at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Cabinet audit: what does the appointment of Liam Fox as International Trade Secretary mean for policy?

The political and policy-based implications of the new Secretary of State for International Trade.

Only Nixon, it is said, could have gone to China. Only a politician with the impeccable Commie-bashing credentials of the 37th President had the political capital necessary to strike a deal with the People’s Republic of China.

Theresa May’s great hope is that only Liam Fox, the newly-installed Secretary of State for International Trade, has the Euro-bashing credentials to break the news to the Brexiteers that a deal between a post-Leave United Kingdom and China might be somewhat harder to negotiate than Vote Leave suggested.

The biggest item on the agenda: striking a deal that allows Britain to stay in the single market. Elsewhere, Fox should use his political capital with the Conservative right to wait longer to sign deals than a Remainer would have to, to avoid the United Kingdom being caught in a series of bad deals. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.