On Tuesday Newsnight had an ICM poll showing that 57% of people thought that Gordon Brown was “tainted by sleaze”. We’ve had a flurry of polls showing people think horrible things about Gordon Brown at a time when the government is getting a bad press, so it’s hardly really newsworthy in itself.

The finding that actually caught my attention was that 15% of respondents thought that Vince Cable was was “tainted by sleaze”. This seems quite flagrantly unfair to me – even if you think the Lib Dems are sleazy, poor old Vince has only been filling in for a couple of weeks, and seems to have done in it an entirely blameless fashion. Why do 15% of people think the poor man is tainted by sleaze?

My automatic assumption was that it was down to partisan responses. I am becoming somewhat dubious about the value of questions about party leaders attributes (and for that matter, questions about which party is best on particular subjects) because I think many people answer them in a purely partisan manner. Many people who support the Conservatives will probably give a negative response to any question about Gordon Brown, and vice-versa. They aren’t really saying if they think Cameron is more competent than Brown or vice-versa, they are just saying they support the Conservatives and don’t support Labour.

They only become interesting when you look at the party support breaks and see if it’s all just partisan fluff (or when they are traced over time so you can look at trends). In this case the more worrying figure for Labour is probably that 53% of 2005 Labour voters think Brown is tainted by sleaze, rather than the negative opinion of the 74% of Tory supporters who probably aren’t going to vote Labour whatever happens. The other questions are answered on broadly partisan lines – 79% of 2005 Tory voters think Cameron is cut out to be PM, 82% think he is competent; 67% of 2005 Labour voters think Brown is cut out to be PM, 67% think he is competent.

Going back to the original question though, this doesn’t actually explain the Vince Cable figures. The people casting uncalled for aspersions on poor old Vince aren’t gangs of partisan Tories and Labour voters – even 14% of 2005 Liberal Democrats voters think Vince is sleaze-tainted. The only explanation I can offer is that they are ‘a plague on all your houses’ voters who think all politicians are by definition sleazy!

17 Responses to “Why do 15% of people think Vince Cable is sleazy?”

  1. This might be a bit simplistic, but the figure didn’t trouble me at all for one simple reason – Being “tainted” with sleaze doesn’t mean that he himself is “sleazy” Therefore, any past LibDem “sleaze” would taint the stand-in leader, however honest. As would the general atmosphere of sleaze that scandals create.

    I think Brown is tainted by the “sleaze” allegations, but I also believe he himself is relatively honest, and therefore not to be prevented from holding office because of it.

    I agree with the general point about partisan thoughts distorting objectivity, and I’d be hard put to put them to one side myself, if it came to it.

    Tony Blair said the other night that he regretted attacking the Major government on sleaze in the sense that he now felt that such allegations harmed the reputation of all parties in the end.

  2. It could just be that Lib Dem, as well as other voters, include in ‘tainted by sleaze’ any suspected involvement in leadership coups. Just a thought.

  3. Anthony, I thought exactly the same when I saw the figures and was shouting at the television when they appeared.

    Just suppose Vince Cable had just become leader of the Conservative party. I bet his figure would be higher than 15% then.

    Most questions about the nature of leaders just boil down to ‘do you like x or y person/party or not?”. Only a minority of people would think properly about such a question or be intellegent or open-minded enough to give any praise to a party that isn’t their own. I’m only young and don’t want to be a miserable old bugger already but I am continually appalled by the political knowledge and intellengence of the average voter and have serious rservations of the notion that the considered opinions of intelligent and knowledgable people like posters on this site are rendered irrelervant by the sheer number of idiots out there, like people who believe Vince Cable is sleazy.

    Interestingly, we are in a supposed age of ‘dealignment’- where party affiliations along class lines has largely broken down and people no longer blindly swear by their party colours like a football team. However, there figures seem to suggest otherwise.

  4. As treasurer of the libdems cable banked £2.4m from a crook.
    Is that not good enough?

  5. The very dubious donation of £2.4M may be at the back of people’s minds. No-one, I think, suggests that VC is himself sleazy, but that £2.4M certainly was and it’s understandable that some people might think he was “tainted” by it.

  6. Donations from crooks might be it. As might be the fact that all his “Environmental/Green” credentials suddenly appear after his time as chief economist of Shell Oil.

  7. Yes and no.

    If they asked the question.

    Do you think all politicians are sleazy?


    The answer would have been higher then 15%.

    This maybe fair. But there again it may not.

    However for the sake of personal survival in an increasingly dangerous world, it is best to assume ALL politicians are as bent as cork screws. The most honest looking politicians are normally the ones to watch the most.

    My personal advice is to strongly suspect the ones that promise to change anything, and especially fear, like slow painful torture, the sadistic devils that actually attempt to.

    Because 47 years experience has shown me one very important thing about democratic politics.

    A new government only solves problems that an old government created.

    As for all the other problems inherent in the human condition, government is more then useless. In fact it subverts perverts corrupts or deliberately messes up everything it get near.

    The world works as well as it does in spite of government action not because of it.

    An honest politician would tell the public this basic fact of life. As none of them do these days, as far as I am concerned they are all either serious criminals or potentially dangerous fools.

  8. prehaps it’s the links with Labour and the undemocratic tactical voting the Liberals have been practicing for the last 25 years does’nt help – i think a lot of people class Labour and Liberal as one and the same . Tarred with the same brush !

  9. Interesting to see a lot of the suppositions here, but I think it might be a rather simple and superficial answer- that he just comes across as ‘a bit sleazy’, in his personality and characteristics.

    My Mum- who is a barometer of consumer politics- said of him last week, on seeing him on a news summary of PMQs, “I don’t like him. He seems a bit slimey” (or something to that effect). He’s definitely not the cuddly Menzies or the “aww, bless ‘im” Charlie Kennedy.

    I can think of no other good reason for it- I doubt very much that most people are aware of the £2.4m question, either!

  10. Mike , it cannot be the links with Labour as Cameron’s figures are even worse than Cable’s with 23% of Conservative voters in 2005 thinking he is sleazy . I think it just shows the low esteem many voters hold for politicians of all parties much as they do for estate agents .

  11. “Undemocratic” tactical voting? What? How on earth is tactical voting undemocratic?

    Its a “pox on all your houses”, people don’t view politics as an honourable profession.

  12. “i think a lot of people class Labour and Liberal as one and the same”

    How odd, every seat I have ever worked in has seen the LDs appealing, rather successfully in some cases, for Tory supporters to vote LD to keep Labour out.The LDs are a blank piece of paper in the minds of most voters, which is the way the LDs like it.

    As for the question.I think Anthony’s final point of ‘a plague on all your houses’ is probably closer to the mark.I use AOL ,and most AOL poll results have always had a strong Tory leaning.For example, the Tories have always been way ahead in any straight’how do you intend to vote’ question, even when Hague and IDS were the party leader. A more recent AOL article with Cameron attacking Brown over party donations provoked a majority response of ‘you’re all as bad as each other’ from AOL users.

    I suspect at least 15% of respondents would regard ANY MP as tainted by sleaze, simply because they think all politicians are sleazy.

  13. Can it be credible that no Conservative’ has ever voted tactcally i.e. ‘undemocratically’ to keep Labour out? Are those councils which are run by a coalition of Conservatives and Lib. Dems. undemocratic as they keep out the largest party?

  14. Could Vince’s ‘Sleaze’ possibly be some people’s perception that he had something to do with Ming’s departure?

    While I doubt they’re saying Vince himself is sleazy, perhaps they’re expressing some kind of dissatisfaction with the Liberal Democrats for (as some see them as doing) dumping Ming?

  15. I think the previous comment may be partly relevant.
    On the night of Ming’s departure Vince and Hughes were smoothing it over but looking like a couple of sheepish vultures on a dark night.

  16. to John McGregor Vince Cable has never been Treasurer of the Lib Dems and at the time the donation was made wasn’t Deputy Leader – he wouldn’t have had any knowledge of this let alone involvement.

    I think the 15% represents people who assume all politicians are sleazy – I am surprised theis isn’t higher.

  17. The term ‘sleazy’ can be interpreted in many different ways so it would be interesting to find out what people actually think ‘sleaze’ is!

    Could it be that Vince is seen as responsible for the demise of Charles Kennedy and Ming?
    Maybe they think he is
    a) sleazy meaning that he is ‘sly’ or’mean and nasty’ OR
    b) they could mean that he looks sleazy in the way that some people think some men look like ‘dirty old men’

    Before you can fully analyze what the polls mean – find out what ‘sleaze’ means to different people!