by Freddie Sayers
Friday, 15
July 2022
Analysis
10:08

Note to MPs: YouGov is not wrong about Penny Mordaunt

The polling company has a near-perfect record for leadership elections
by Freddie Sayers
Penny Mordaunt sets our her stall.

Asked this morning on Radio 4 about the YouGov poll showing a commanding lead for Penny Mordaunt among Tory party members, Liz Truss supporter Iain Duncan Smith rolled out an old classic: “the most important thing is not to look at what the polls say.”

Well, actually Iain, that’s not such a great strategy. Pollsters YouGov (at which I used to work) have been eerily accurate in forecasting every major party leadership election of the past era.

When Jeremy Corbyn entered the 2015 Labour leadership, he was considered a tokenistic Old Left candidate, an irrelevance, a feature of every Labour leadership election for decades. Only when the first YouGov poll of Labour members showed him leading the pack with a stunning 43% did the realisation — and panic — about his potential victory set in. The rest is history.

The following year, after the mayhem of the Brexit referendum, Boris Johnson was widely expected to win the resultant Tory leadership contest. Michael Gove’s 11th hour change of heart is often remembered as the moment that scuppered his campaign, but in fact the stunning YouGov poll of Conservative Party members just days earlier, showing Theresa May strongly ahead of Boris, had already given a clue as to his fate. It was a major contributing factor towards Johnson’s decision to step aside later that week.

In 2017, YouGov clearly showed Johnson’s forthcoming victory over Jeremy Hunt with Tory members and in 2019 the pollsters forecast Keir Starmer’s victory over Rebecca Long Bailey in the Labour leadership contest of that year. In short, they have got every recent party election right. Party members are well represented on their panel, and they have reliable methods of surveying them.

Credit: YouGov

When news broke this past Tuesday of the YouGov poll showing Penny Mordaunt handily beating every other declared candidate with the Tory membership, it was the most significant moment of the campaign so far. It revealed what very few had noticed — that Mordaunt has somehow been crystallised as the unambiguous front runner with party members. Of course, dramatic things can still happen in the leadership debates and news in the coming days, but Tory MPs should be clear: if Mordaunt is put before the party membership, she will most likely win and become prime minister.

Opinion polls are controversial, even when accurate. If, by alerting Tory MPs to Mordaunt’s popularity with the members, the YouGov poll gives energy to a ‘Stop Mordaunt’ campaign that successfully denies her a place in the final two — would that be democratic? To many people it would seem intuitively wrong that the person likely to be the members’ choice is not even put in front of them. To others, polls are simply data, and it is always better to know than not know.

Either way, the events of the next week, with historic consequences for this country, could once again turn on a single opinion poll. Tory MPs would be wise not to listen to Iain Duncan Smith on the subject.

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Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
1 month ago

Penny Mordaunt is spectacularly unqualified to be PM. Her family went through tough times when she was a teenager. Nevertheless her educational attainment is far below the level typical of Prime Ministers, or of senior figures in business. Her experience outside politics was in the public relations industry, and she has very little cabinet experience either. Philosophically she is another Boris Johnson: an economically illiterate leftish Brexiteer with Woke tendencies. She is a disaster waiting to happen. Tory MPs should do whatever it takes to block her from the final two.

Last edited 1 month ago by Stephen Walshe
Philip Burrell
Philip Burrell
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

She sounds perfect to me provided she appoints the only economically literate candidate as Chancellor. Rishi does seem to be the only one that understands that cutting taxes in the current situation with healthcare and social services on their knees is insanity and in any case is not playing well with the majority of Tory voters.
My main concern is that combination would worry Keir Starmer more than anyone else. Any of the rest of the bunch, he should consider a gift from very kindly gods.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 month ago
Reply to  Philip Burrell

If we get the uber-woke Mordaunt as the leader, any distinctive position at all (some) Tories may have, often receiving massive flak for doing so, in the battle for economic ideas and in my view much more importantly, ‘The War on The West’ (a much much bigger than the shenanigans in a few universities) – will be a lost cause. We may as well then elect Starmer, who at least may be a little more competent.
I don’t know exactly how being a bit richer (just possibly, but unlikely) stacks up against the increased chances of the daughters of ordinary people being assaulted or raped by ‘transwomen’, but the latter issue isn’t some minor unimportant detail.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

“Her educational attainment is far below the level typical of Prime Ministers, or of senior figures in business” Really. Aren’t you being a bit of a snob because she didn’t go to Oxford or Cambridge. That’s outrageous. The University of Reading where she graduated in Philosophy is a perfectly good university, and II.1 honors is perfectly fine too. As for senior figures in business, it seems to me the most successful have been college dropouts who therefore didn’t reach the level of educational attainment that Stephen is talking about (Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Marc Zuckerberg, etc. etc.)

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Johann Strauss

Yes, but they dropped out for a reason: to build great businesses.
She is just another woke nonentity.
Still, poll shows that Tory members lost their marbles, if they consider her best candidate for leader and PM

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 month ago
Reply to  Andrew F

To be fair to them, they face an appalling choice. I look from one candidate to the next and I see nothing. Perhaps the members should accept that the Tory Party is not a liable concern – Wind it up and start from scratch.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Look, none of that matters. The Tory membership is at the moment in self destruct mode. They once actually picked Iain Duncan-Smith before sanity eventually descended. Cost them years out of power. The only mitigation right now is that history is on the march against the left globally, so they may end up damaging themselves less than might be expected despite themselves. I agree though Mordaunt will prove to be pretty hopeless, certainly worse than Johnson. Getting rid of Johnson, merely to put Mordaunt in place seems to be the height of stupidity, but what will play out, will play out.

Last edited 1 month ago by Prashant Kotak
David McKee
David McKee
1 month ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

As someone who was around at the time of IDS’s leadership, I can explain. MPs had decided that two front runners were Ken Clarke and IDS. (It would have been Clarke and Portillo, but the latter had annoyed one backbencher too many.) Clarke thought he had the leadership in the bag, so he did not bother to hide his enthusiasm for Britain to join the euro.
So people like me voted for IDS to save the Conservative Party from euro-lunacy. Well, was that my ‘insanity?’

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
1 month ago
Reply to  David McKee

I accept you have a point. I too was a member at the time (I joined after the Blair landslide). I didn’t renew my membership once they ditched Portillo and picked Duncan-Smith as leader, and never rejoined again. It comes down to picking a candidate whose values you might agree with, but is manifestly not up to the job, or someone who can clearly do the job but has enthusiasms (like the European project) which you don’t agree with at all. In that situation, I will, reluctantly, pick the one who is competent – because complex western nations cannot afford someone who might make catastrophic mistakes, especially in foreign policy, unless they are surrounded by a high quality team of competent and ruthless people, viz Reagan. A very similar dilemma is again visible: I’m not at all enthusiastic about Sunak, but him over Mordaunt unfortunately – although it is already clear, Sunak will lose to either Mordaunt or Truss.

Last edited 1 month ago by Prashant Kotak
LF Buckland
LF Buckland
1 month ago
Reply to  Prashant Kotak

Her ‘astonishing’ popularity is thought to be because she looks like so many local party members. They happily imagine she will behave like them.
Those department heads she has worked in are unanimous in saying she is not competent, doesn’t turn up for work (‘Penny Dormant’), sends someone else to conferences, and cannot grasp her briefings. None of them has chosen to back her for PM.
hearing her on the channel4 debate, was not impressive. Kemi Badenoch on the other hand was very good indeed, clear, intelligent policies, stood up for what she believes, and we really need someone of her calibre to restore faith in politics.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Wasn’t Cameron in PR?

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

Yes

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

If her main working experience is “selling snake oil” then we would surely get the same appalling premiership that Cameron stumbled through.
Boris Johnson was flawed – but another Cameron would be a tragedy for this country.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
1 month ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

Sure…..but the point is that Yougov gives her as a winner …….some people within the party must be up for catastrophe

Molly Bennett
Molly Bennett
30 days ago
Reply to  Stephen Walsh

not your favorite then ! Thank God it is a peoples choice !!!!

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
1 month ago

Am I the only one who doesn’t really know who Mordaunt is (except TWAW)? For me she is on a par with Tugendhat, as in I don’t really know either of them. Am I THAT uninformed?

D Glover
D Glover
1 month ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

There’s a good article by Will Lloyd on this site. He’s read her dreadful book so that we don’t have to.
I thank him.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago
Reply to  Arkadian X

No idea whether Tugendhat is woke but at least he advocated for change of policy on China.
As you said we are not well informed and that is why it should be members of Parliament who choose party leader.
They know candidates and it is in their interest to choose one which can win elections.

Russell David
Russell David
1 month ago

Mordant is the head girl from hell. Just as Sunak is the head boy from hell.

Johann Strauss
Johann Strauss
1 month ago
Reply to  Russell David

Perhaps you meant that Mordant is the British Nanny from hell, perfect for the nanny state.

Matthew Powell
Matthew Powell
1 month ago

This may be a damming inditement of the eco chambers in which we live in the modern world but I don’t know a single Tory support or member who backs Mordaunt. I would love to know who her core demographic is?

Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
1 month ago

Some fair points are made here. I think it should be pointed out, however, that several of the candidates are not very well known this time, probably even among much of the party membership. I doubt Mordaunt is too much of a known quantity to many, and Badenoch even less so. Therefor a poll showing Mordaunt with a lead at this point should not be taking too seriously, even if not lightly dismissed either. Things can – and I think probably will – shift in the coming days. This race is far from over.

Alison Wren
Alison Wren
1 month ago

I really hope so. Mordaunt will be a total disaster for the 51% of the population who are women!(adult human females). I was so hoping for Kemi!

Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 month ago

Pollsters have been so stunningly wrong in many or even most elections recently that I find it difficult to listen to a self confessed pollster saying they are right this time.

Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
1 month ago

“ Iain Duncan Smith rolled out an old classic: “the most important thing is not to look at what the polls say.”

Just like Valérie Pecresse and Eric Zemmour used to say during the campaign.
They were credited of less than 5 %……..and they got less of 5 %.

Kerie Receveur
Kerie Receveur
1 month ago

The Zahawi-owned “YouGov” is no arbiter of the opinions of real people.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Kerie Receveur

But as the article points out, it has been fairly accurate when polling party members

Phil Rees
Phil Rees
1 month ago

This article didn’t age well did it? Current polls show her support dropping very rapidly as the truth emerges regarding her woke position on trans and her attempts to hide it by, not to put to fine a point on it – lying in debates. If she goes through as one of the two, I’m confident that the MSM will reveal all and I can see the headline now – “tories never learn – after Boris they select another liar to replace him”.

M. Jamieson
M. Jamieson
1 month ago

I suspect the poll is accurate, but I really wonder why. She hasn’t done anything very exciting. Is it that she seems very middle of the road?
I think she would be a liability running against Starmer’s Labour in a GE – she’s too much like him, so she won’t be able to go after the votes of the many people who have been disaffected by the Labour Party.

Last edited 1 month ago by Meghan Kathleen Jamieson
patrick macaskie
patrick macaskie
1 month ago

I suspect she is no less qualified than the others. As we teeter on the edge of a depression it should be obvious we are stuck with big government whether we like it or not. That rules out Rishi (who is in the pockets of our friends at the treasury who got us into this mess). After that it is interesting to see we are talking about tax cuts before we have a strategy for avoiding depression and restoring monetary order. Corporation tax cuts are a complete waste of time until we have straightened out competition policy and the perverse incentives that abound as a result of “easy money”. Tax cuts for households are (like interest rate cuts) a very blunt one size fits all instrument that work efficiently if the machine is working efficiently. In these circumstances we need to define what is is we are trying achieve and then make sure our interventions are very very targeted around the objectives. My vote goes to he/ she who admits they don’t have answers and will commit to an emergency plan devised by an economic panel that includes people that understand money and credit. Most of our experts and the great and good are too invested in the status quo. Nobody in politics has the skill set or the depth of theoretical and historic knowledge to be in a position to challenge the treasury. That means the treasury (the architects over 20 years of the crisis) will end up in charge of what happens next. Sadly It would be no different if her majesty’s opposition were in charge. So a general election won’t help either.

Molly Bennett
Molly Bennett
30 days ago

All this “political batting” does nothng to assure people that the person they have selected has been given the support they should have ……IF THE PEOPLE HAVE DECIDED THAT SHOULD BE ENOUGH !. IF IT TURNS OUT THEY HAVE MADE A GRAVE MISTAKE ? THEN AGAIN THE PEOPLE WILL HAVE A LOUD ENOUGH VOICE TO ACCEPT THEIR MISTAKE AND TAKE WHATEVER RELEVANT ACTION THROUGH THE CANDIDATES TERM OF OFFICE!!!!