The Labour leadership bandwagon seems to be rolling again. So, do the polls tell us anything about whether Labour would be better off without Brown? The answer, I’m afraid, is often no.

Questions in polls about alternative leaders normally take two forms. The first is a straightfoward “who would you like to be leader of X”, which is normally no more than a recognition contest. People like Jack Straw invariably head the list since people recognise their name, whereas few if any know who James Purnell or Jon Cruddas, for example, are. They should never be taken as a sign that, were people like Purnell or Cruddas as widely recognised as Straw, they wouldn’t be as popular as him.

The same problem also affects the other main type of “pre-leadership election polling” – hypothetical questions asking how people would vote if X became leader of the party. Generally speaking people simply don’t know enough about the alternate leaders and lots of people who might well consider voting Labour with a new leader accurately say “don’t know”, giving the impression that the party would do badly under less well known leaders when it isn’t necessarily the case.

Even when the alternate leader under consideration is well known there are still problems, because people are not very good at imagining how they will react to future events. Take the example of Gordon Brown, prior to his election polls universally suggested that he would perform very badly indeed in comparison to Tony Blair. Yet most observers correctly predicted that he would in fact receive a healthy boost upon becoming leader. The public were answering the question simply by transferring Gordon Brown’s head onto the existing Labour government, with everything else remaining the same. In reality a new Prime Minister also brings changes of policy, emphasis and party image – and in the case of Gordon Brown at least a huge swell of sympathetic media coverage.

Gordon Brown is an interesting example though because in the long term he has done very badly in the polls. Does this suggest the polls were right all along, and hence would be just as useful this time? The answer is partially yes, but no. I wrote at the time that those hypothetical polls probably were a very bad sign for Gordon Brown because of the reasons behind them: he wasn’t polling badly because people thought he was weak, incompetent or had the wrong ideas, to the contrary, people back then still had extremely positive perceptions of Gordon Brown as a strong, experienced and capable Chancellor. The reason he polled so badly appeared to be that people just didn’t like him.

I said back then that a politican could probably make themselves look strong or capable by performing well in office, but if they weren’t likeable there was little or nothing they could do about it. Brown’s figures boded ill for him because they appeared to be based on something that he couldn’t correct. In contrast, if we see polls showing Alan Johnson, James Purnell, Jack Straw or A.N.Other wouldn’t do as well as Gordon it doesn’t follow that it is for the same reason. It may be because they aren’t well known enough, or people don’t think they’d perform well in office, or haven’t got good ideas or other percieved failings that a potential leader could correct in the future.

I would urge great caution in reading too much into these sort of leadership polls if they do turn up, which given the recent news coverage of the Labour government, should be quite soon! I would not, however, ignore them completely – while I don’t think they show much, they do seem to carry a lot of weight with MPs and the media, in the early part of 2007 there was a period where the media would build up an alternative to Gordon, eventually do some polling on them, find they wouldn’t do any better than Brown, and move on to the next alt-Gordon. So, even if leadership polls like this are rubbish, they shape the debate – just wait till the day comes when a poll does finally show X performing significantly better as Labour leader than Brown would.

98 Responses to “A word about leadership polling”

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  1. One of the strengths of an elected Upper House would be the brilliant way someone like Joanna Lumley could be elected as an independent (I am here assuming the Upper House would be like most elected Upper Houses, not a single member electorate but representing a large part of the country.) She’d easily get in…

  2. ********* POLLS DUE ?? **********


    YOU GOV CON 47 LAB 25 LIB 19
    POPULUS CON 48 LAB 24 LIB 19
    ICM CON 46 LAB 26 LIB 19

  3. Some of the Gurkha coverage has played best for the Libs so I can see them taking the lions share of any further deterioration in Labours share.

    The latest stuff about expenses seems to be focusing in on Labour ministers only and the Tories are playing it well from what I’ve seen so far.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see some gain for the LDs from Labour in the short term and the Tories getting over 45% in a week or two.

    How low can Labour go?

  4. John TT

    That’s quite a leap from a class-based anti-toff campaign against Cameron to the way vulture funds operate. What on earth does the way various industries inter-act with government have to do with the political strategems employed by one party against another ?

    Are you suggesting that the opposition front-bench have been “hoovering-up” tax payer funds ? It seems to me that teh current revelations indicate taht it is Labour ministers who are literally cleaning up on their expense allowances.

  5. Paul – that was what I was saying.

    There’s no correlation between the attacking personalities and policy. I don’t understand how they can be conflated, but you did so when you juxtaposed “anti-toff” campaigns (not policy at all) with “soak the rich” (a policy probably supported by people if they knew about how vulture funds take hundreds of millions of tax payers’ pounds and give it directly to wealthy investors)

  6. Isn’t it extraordinary that only Labour’s expenses are deemed worthy of scrutiny!

    No doubt all the Conservative MPs stopped claiming expenses after Derek Conway set his example.

    Having said that, isn’t it an old adage that Labour MPs were always brought down by financial scandals, whereas Conservatives were always brought down by sex scandals?

  7. John TT

    Ah, I see. But “soak the rich” is not really a policy, just a frame of mind – of a kind with class warfare.

    Are you really suggesting that taxation policy should be set on the basis of prejudice and emotion rather than on the basis of what is required to fund the services which the government deems desirable ?

    Note that decisions about what services the government does / does not provide is clearly a matter of “policy”, and whatever the motivation for those policies, they are still “policy”.

    However, the purpose of taxation should be to raise revenues, not penalise those whom the government deems undesirable. Chucking decades of principles on tax and natural law out the window to raise a small and uncertain sum which could have damaging ramifications for the economy for the sake of some headlines and the creation of clear dividing lines between parties is not “policy” – it is puerile petty-mindedness.

    Incidentally, the real damage is not from the headline 50p rate, but from the excessively convoluted withdrawal of allowances, and, even worse, the bizarre changes to relief on pension contributions.

  8. Are you really suggesting that taxation policy should be set on the basis of prejudice and emotion

    No, and I don’t think that’s where the resentment comes from. it’s more to do with a feeling that my hard-earned tax money is being wasted on extremely wealthy people. I’m not “envious” because a mugger has my money, but I am angry about it.

    Personally, i’d have the top rate at 43%, but clearly the treasury believe 50% is going to return more.

    I don’t think their researchers put spite into the mix, but I see that you are suggesting that an “anti-toff” mind-set, while not technically “policy” can lead to policies which are consistent with unreasonable prejudice. So to that extent I get your drift.

    Personally, i’d like to think whoeveer gets in next time will produce policies that are consistent with growth and transparent fairness, at least in principle since we both know life’s not fair etc.

    I ghet the feeling there are a few too many out there encouraging extremely damaging policies in the mistaken belief that being true to an ideology is the same as having integrity.

  9. Any news on when the next polls may emerge?

  10. @John TT – Tories are brought down by sex scandals – well come on John Major was one hell of a catch :-)

    The reason Labour is in the news so much regarding the expenses is :-

    a, there seem to be a lot of them on the fiddle for either large amounts of money or rediculous claims (bath plug)

    b, and this ones a doozy……they’re the ones in power telling us how they are “helping” us with “our” problems

    I admit that the Tories and the Lib Dems won’t come out of this looking rosey, but they aren’t in power so are on a slightly smaller pedestal.

    Regarding the treasury believing 50% tex will bring in more – well they actually know it won’t. Several leading think tanks and economic advisers have already stated that what will actually happen is that people will move their money elsewhere or themselves elsewhere and the increase in tax will be marginal at best. Even Blair thought they could just about get away with 45%.

  11. They don’t “know” any more than you or the IFS “know” how much avoidance will go on.

    We’ve been here before – very complex, no-one knows. the IFS thinks 43% is “optimal”, but based on flimsy evidence.

    I thought the reason for no Tory stories re expenses was that they’re being “timed”

    Can we keep this thread out of the bathroom please?

    i’d be interested to see a more balanced comparison with the polls of 1 year prior to 2005 than the one Philip JW came up with. What are the circs in which Labour could bounce up to 35%? Or theTories below 40%? Hopefully without sleaze getting in the way.

  12. @John TT –

    So we agree that your version of 43% is as unsupportable as the treasuries 50% – however it would still be small beans compared to the debt levels so why pick that to do when it means breaking manefesto pledges – silly really

    Tories out of the paper only in terms of this report, but in almost all other cases, it’s Labour who are being reported on as having their snouts very frimly in the troff – I hear they’ve even moved it into the bunker (may explaing the cleaning costs)

    In terms of keeping it out of the bathroom – if you’re ready for us to move on to that stage in our relationship, then we should go and hire a movie or 2 (I’ll even let you pick the shade of blue)

    I’d be more interested in just having a poll – come on guys if we chip in together we could get one commissioned.

  13. Keir – it’s not “small beans”, and David Davis castigated people yesterday for comparing £5bn of costs to £500bn of debt. Just because people find fancy ways to dodge tax legally doesn’t mean we should just let them get on with it. (Keep it out of the larder as well, and your proposition is firmly rejected.)

    Re tory stories – Francis Maude was relegated to the inside pages last weekend – if he’d been Labour he’d have been on the front page.

    I think the poll-commissioners are waiting for the Euro campaigns to pickup before committing.

  14. @John T T and Keir

    It’s not that it’s “small beans” – it’s that such punitive attacks on the wealthy will cost the State money (cf. the 98% to 60% income tax reduction in Thatcher’s first government). Even in the short term, it will generate very little, and in the medium-to-long-term, multinationals will shift their highly-paid workforce to lower-tax economies as London becomes less attractive.

    I’m assuming that you agree that funding the government’s aims of spending is surely the only good reason for tax, not attacking people that you want to call a “mugger”.

    @John T T

    “Just because people find fancy ways to dodge tax legally doesn’t mean we should just let them get on with it.”

    This faces 2 problems. Firstly, it’s legal. You’ll have to either rely on writing new laws or simply ignore the laws, and accountants who are being paid to think of tax dodges are infinitely quicker than the necessarily slow and careful law-making system of Parliament.

    Secondly, you’ll have to close the borders, because the ultimate tax-dodge is to leave the country.

  15. Richard – I could refer you to an extremely complex research report, but i wouldn’t wish a headache on you. There is no way of knowing whether 50% will yield less than 40%, until we’ve had a year or two of it.

    100% avoidance would negate the argument for taxation. However, there will be many who will not move to a more tax-efficient country for the simple reason that they like it here and are prepared to pay their whack, without necessarily voting for it.

    The calculation of extra cash versus the upheaval and change of environment is down to each person. To say what will happen with any certainty is impossible.

  16. ‘dodge tax legally ‘; ??? a John TT comment above…

    Is this possible? Surely we either pay tax legally or we dodge tax illegally? I am not sure the concept of dodging tax legally is one I can accept; certainly some of may try more assiduously to pay less tax but that is generally with individuals who can afford the expert advice required. It would still be legal though…

  17. ‘john t t

    Isn’t it extraordinary that only Labour’s expenses are deemed worthy of scrutiny!

    No doubt all the Conservative MPs stopped claiming expenses after Derek Conway set his example.’

    I believe this is not the complete story; look out for more over the next few days apparently. Labour was the lead solely as they are in power and so more ‘interesting’. The other parties are due over the next couple of days after all the telegraph who may or may not have paid a lot of money for this leak need to sell a lot of papers to recover the (possible) cost of their news…

  18. @John TT – 100% tax evasion??? no more like a few people who evade some tax and some people who move – if there was 100% tax evasion then we would be recieving less than we do now :-)

    In terms of upheaval, then I think you need to find a better accountant. I can still be here but live elsewhere and still earn money here but have it taxed elsewhere. It really isn’t that difficult and any financially savvy investor or clever bod will be able to do this quite easily – sorry no “upheaval” just minor annoyance.

  19. To dodge is not an illegal act, in my view, but has been hijacked by the language police who assert that to avoid is legal, but to dodge is not.

    Same thing in my opinion. Neither involves fraud or dishonesty, but both are ever so slightly reprehensible, and there’s a lot of it about.

    I’d like to see a poll that gauged public opinion of tax avoidance – I’m not sure to what extent people would be against the dodges themselves ,or aginst the dodgers, or against the pesky taxman.

  20. @Jack – Cameron has already commented and assures us that there is less embarrassment in his shadow cabinet – we wait and see I guess. However he also said that he is unaware of any member of his team having made a financial mistake and been asked to repay any money – again we wait :-)

  21. @John TT – Gordon Brown suggests that he paid £241.41 per month to his brother for the cleaner in cash as it “helped her NI payments” – so yes lets have a poll on tax dodgers and those who help them to get away with it …. incl. PM

  22. @Paul H-J
    “Are you really suggesting that taxation policy should be set on the basis of prejudice and emotion rather than on the basis of what is required to fund the services which the government deems desirable ?”

    No not on the basis of prejudice and emotion but also not merely on the basis of what is needed to fund the services. It is perfectly legitimate to use tax to discourage undesirable behaviour (e.g. tax on smoking) and to encourage desired behaviour (tax relief on pension contributions), and to reflect societal goods (landfill tax to encourage recycling for example).

    I would also argue that creating a more egalitarian society is a perfectly legitimate use of tax policy. if this means high inheritance tax and progressive income tax then so be it. Certainly there is a need to ensure efficiency – no point in an easily-avoidable tax that distorts other priorities – but there’s nothing wrong in principle with “soaking the rich” if it allows less-priviledged people to keep more of their money.

    And I also consider that the argument against a 50% band – that many people will successfully avoid it – is unproven. Many of my work colleagues (I am a management consultant) will be paying more tax under the 50% band but a) it’s only on the excess over £150,000 so even for someone on £250,000 they’re only paying an extra £10,000 a year and b) these are people whose skills are largely their UK know-how, they have young families and are in no position to shift assets (their home) or themselves abroad, let alone employee expensive accountants to find loopholes or to encourage them to invest in high-risk VCTs or other tax vehicles. Some may grumble, but all will pay their extra taxes.

  23. “employee expensive accountants” – that should have read “hire expensive accountants”

  24. Keir – i don’t know how the cleaner worked for certain, but I would assume she was buying her Class 2 stamps weekly at a post office, in which case cash would have no effect whatsoever on the level of NI, but would simply be more convenient than writing out a cheque for £11 or so every month.. I think you would be wrong to classify that as a dodge.

    Leslie – so will international premiership football players pay the extra, who for some reason are bound to the PAYE system no matter what nationality or which accountant they can afford.

  25. @Leslie – Sorry to disappoint you, but it won’t be the small fry on just over £150k that leave, it will be the richard branson wannabe’s – you know the guys that “actually” create jobs rather than a government that no matter how much they posture can only enable a market for job – one that this gov are currently failing at.

    @John – hmm interesting thought that, you seem to be able to go against general oppinion that someone who is paid cash in hand, isn’t trying to avoid tax – actually in fairness I don’t believe NI should apply to oow income families anymore that income tax does but that’s a different issue.

  26. @John T T

    You’ve said that predicting things with certainty is “impossible”, and that there is “no way” of knowing the effect of 50% vs. 40%. In our last debate, you made much the same assertions.

    You are effectively declaring certainty of the future to be impossible, and thus close down the debate by declaring all sides of the debate equal in their valuelessness. I consider that mode of debate disingenuous and urge you to reconsider. I like reading your opinions; they challenge my own and force me to think outside my own box to analyse them.

  27. Richard _ apologies, I was driven by spending ages reading this …

    and I was simply seeking to prevent a commonly held idea from prevailing over the correct position.

    I’m not closing down the debate, simply pointing out that there’s a range of possible outcomes. It isn’t necessarily true that higher taxes at the top will yield less money.

    What interests me more than assertion v counter-assertion is where people think the tipping point is, both on moral grounds, and , separately, on pragmatic grounds.

    I believe (not certain) that the point at which the yield falls off the cliff is ahigher than50% (though I accept the other measures and other taxes do push towards the edge at a rate of 50%)

    On the moral wuestion, I think most people would regard a 50% top rate as being supportable. Clearly, a rate much higher than that would result in hurt feelings rather than hurt bank balances.

    Likewise re the cut and thrust Richard.

    On your general point, I’m all for open debate, but if some-one points to a fact that kills a line of argument, I’d prefer to try to validate it than repudiate.

  28. Richard – I’ve responded, buit a link to the IFS report means that I’m awaiting moderation.

    I appreciate your comment, and I certainly would not want to kill a debate with you.

  29. Leslie,

    Using tax policy to create an egalitarian society is a legitimate approach – if that is what the electorate voted for. However, It most definitely is not the platform on which this government (or any other) was elected. If any party proposed a manifesto with the aim of using tax to produce such a result, they may find that this is not well received by the electorate. If imposed, then I think the esoteric debate between legitimate tax avoidance and illegal tax evasion would be eclipsed by the stampede for emmigration.

    BTW – your reference to an egalitarian society belies the classic fallacy that equality of opportunity is the same as equality of outcome. A truly egalitarian society can only ever be achieved by reducing everyone to the lowest common denominator – which is what the “progressive” educationalists have been doing to our schools for the past fifty years.

    On the 50p tax, please remind me never to employ your firm if this is the kind of analysis they provide. The new 50p tax is not just on the excess over £150k since it is coupled with a tiered withdrawal of allowances, including relief for pensions contributions. The problem is that clarity has been removed from the system and in some cases the marginal rates are crippling. This will impact not just those on salaries over £150k, but everyone with aggregate annual income over £100k.

    Yes, I agree that many people who earn between £100k and £200k (or perhaps even more) will end up paying the extra tax, since most do not have the luxury of upping sticks and leaving the country. But to suggest that this is a tax to soak the rich is mendacious. It is a tax on professionals, middle/senior managers and other hard-working people – mainly in the South East.

  30. John TT

    Either you are being incredibly naive, or you believe that illegal tax evasion on a small scale is acceptable while sophisticated, but legal, tax avoidance is not.

    If Brown believed that the cleaner preferred cash because she enjoyed popping out to the (closed) post office to buy her stamps, rather than having money paid into her bank, then he merely demonstrates how completey out of touch with normal life he truly is.

    If, as any intelligent person must surely have done, he understood the reason for cash payments, then we have the unedifying spectacle of the Chancellor of the Exchequer colluding in tax evasion.

    So which is Mr Brown ?

    – naive and disconnected from reality ? or
    – a hyopcrite and accomplice to a crook ?

    Answers on a postcard to 10 Downing Street.

  31. @Jack
    It’s the old difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. Tax avoidance is legal (such as buying an ISA), tax evasion is illegal (such as not declaring cash receipts in a business).

  32. Paul – are you sure the cleaner is fiddling her tax? Aren’t there laws about libel that you should be careful of. I’m sure Brown can take it on the chin, but the cleaner probably has more to lose by being defamed like that.Forgive me if I’m not so well-informed as you, but I don’t think it’s particularly naive to pay cash.

    Talking of hypocrisy, you and others seem to condone perfectly legal tax avoidance measures, and yet are quick to codemn equally legal measures to maximiuse income by playing the system. OK, so they are perhaps in a position to self-legislate, but there’s not much hope of them all being like Hilary Benn, or as hopeless at playing it as Derek Conway.

    There again, one hears loud and clear that Francis Maude’s position (as chairman of a company which advocated going up to the hilt on ortgages in Spain at the top of the market) is beyond reproach, because of the “legal” nature of what it did.

    Pet B – is it a moral position you’ve taken there? Is there a moral equivalence between buying an ISA in order to save, incentivised by a tax break, and piling your money into an offshore artrangement, or into a company that gets involved with vulture funds or sub-prime-related robbery?

  33. Apologies for bad spelling, Pete, I didn’t mean to be intimate!

  34. Anthony, please rescue my earlier post from moderation – happy for you to de-link, but I did address Richard’s comment (and I’ve forgotten how so can’t re-phrase myself)

  35. @ John TT
    You can be as intimate as you like, so long as you’ve got TTs!

    Anyway, I was stating legal facts as I understand them, not taking any moral position at all. I don’t even know what “vulture funds or sub-prime-related robbery” are.

    Wasn’t there a famous judgement (in Scotland, I believe) some years ago, where the judge said that there was no obligation on anyone to organise their affairs so as to maximise the payment of tax?

    There are plenty of legal tax-avoidance methods available to everyone – e.g. ISAs, as I mentioned, and even some National Savings products which are offered by the government itself. Obviously, anyone with more money than can be invested in these products will look for other legal avenues to minimise their tax bill.

    I’m not sure what your point is, but if you are comparing this to the MP expense claim scandal I do see a moral difference. The things I outlined above are perfectly legal, and even encouraged by the government. MPs’ ridiculous expense claims are deliberately pushing the boundaries of ‘the rules’ in a way that is certainly fraudulent in some cases, and definitely immoral in others.

    For instance, one thing I have noticed, but that does not seem to have been picked up by the media yet (as far as I have seen), is a point regarding Gordon Brown’s cleaner. However much and to whom he paid money, why on earth should the taxpayer pay ANY expenses for a private flat when he has been living in Downing Street for 12 years?

    The above is not a partisan comment, as I will say the same about any Tory or Liberal MP if they are shown to be pulling the same kind of scam.

  36. @John TT – is the reason you are happy to pay cash for services rendered because : –

    a, there’s no audit trail (oh dear what have you been up to)


    b, because magically the person is able to give you preferential rates as for some reason it allows them a greater profit margin (go figure…how do they manage it) :-)

    or finally

    c, no I’d better not, although it made me laugh

  37. Times/Populus poll:

    ‘Scottish devolution accepted both sides of Border, ten years on’

    English and Welsh voters want to preserve the Union but seem unlikely to man the barricades to do so. While 49 per cent hope that, in any future referendum, Scottish voters will decide to remain part of the United Kingdom, 15 per cent hope that they will decide to become independent. But 36 per cent say they do not mind either way what Scottish voters decide.

  38. Keir – I’m happy topay cash because I’m old fashioned and enjoy the feel of a wad of the queen’s picture.

    Pete – top joke!

    I think MPs should be able to claim expenses in the same way that normal employees do – if it’s work related then fine if not, tak eit oput of your salary, and in every case provide evidence.

    I’m not targetting ISA’s etc, but there’s something a little disreputable about setting up systems left right and centre to avoid paying tax. The moral link I make is to do with what level of “honour” is expected fom individuals. If we condone low levels of honour among taxpayers in general, we shouldn’t be surprised when “honourable members” fall to a low level as well.

  39. Who is the “we” that condone low levels of honour among taxpayers in general? I certainly don’t. For instance, when I ran my own business on a larger scale than I do now, my accountant used to tell me to claim the maximum rate allowable under the Inland Revenue rules for mileage. I didn’t, because I calculated my real mileage costs and claimed what i thought was a fair rate, allowing a bit over in case my calculations were out.

    It is time that “we” should all expect high levels of honour in all walks of life.

    Of course there will always be exceptions, like estate agents, used-car salesmen and politicians! (That’s a joke, I’m sure there are some very honourable estate agents and salesmen).

  40. “We” includes everyone who accepts that the yield from the top rate of tax will be around 30-35% of what it would be if everyone had your attitude, Pete. Higher standards of “honour” would also lead to more generous charitable giving, more volunteering, etc. The best place to set an example is at the top – in the House of Commons.

  41. You get “more generous charitable giving, more volunteering, etc” in countries with a lower tax take. It is well documented.

    You also get smaller government and less money sloshing about for those in the House of Commons to trough.

  42. Where Ivan? Is there a paper somewhere on levels of corruption in other countries and links between low tax and charitable giving? How about a comparison between different coiuntries’ tax tregimes and levels of charitable giving?

    Presumably you think we have a higher tax take than we would have had there been a Conservative or LibDem Govt. Do you really believe there would have therefore been less abuse of the expenses system? Or any transparency at all?

  43. I believe, though I don’t expect you to agree John, that the ‘free market’ punishes corruption more readily than any ‘public’ organisation.

    An example would be the EU, which is a hotbed of very well documented corruption and something of a gravytrain for it’s elected representatives.

    I think you’ll be hard pressed to find any private sector organisation which could continue unchecked having failed to pass it’s accounts on a yearly basis (as the EU has failed to since its inception!)

    The UN is another fine example. Absolutely rife with corruption and answerable, unlike a private sector or truely democratic organisation, to nobody.

    A quick check on Google is all I have time for but it does back up my assertions on philanthropy also.

    Despite a very long tradition in charitable giving, the UK, gives about 1/3 the amount to charity (much in the form of government subsidy rather than individually given-an important distinction) per head as the US.

    The French, who have I think we can both agree, a much more ‘socialised/state driven society’ give much, much less.

    US- 1.7% of GDP

    (2005. Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy)

  44. we need a new poll!!

  45. @ JohnTT – it doesn’t really matter how we compare to other countries or how hypothetical Conservative or LibDem govts might have been just as bad or worse. The fact is that this is Britain and we have a Labour govt that has been in situ for 11 years. And that Labour govt has to take responsibility for its own failings and not feebly attempt to wriggle out of them by pointing out that corruption is worse in Zimbabwe or that imaginary govts might have been even worse than the actual govt.

  46. James

    The fact is that the system would be just as corrupt had the Tories continued to hold the responsibility for the expenses sytem and Freedom of Information. No-one’s vomparing us with Zimbabwe, but I do think it’s apt to make comparisons with how other countries treat their representativves. Ours appear to be relatively well-paid, for instance.

    It’s hard to resist the urge to be partisan, and you’ll alkways try to spin int so that it’s your opponents fault, but in this case that’s not realistic.

    Ivan – left-leaning countries are no more likely to become corrupt than right-leaning ones. You could argue that the fewer laws there are, the less law-breaking there’ll be, and there are fewer laws in right-of centre regimes. However, dishonesty is dishonesty, and you can’t pin it on the political position of the Govt.

    Re charity – it kind of follows that lower tax countries rely more on charity as they have more poverty to alleviate.

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