Let’s start with what the polls are actually showing. The Conservatives level of support has fallen to around 39%. Of the ten polls this month, 7 have put them below forty, when every single poll in October had them at 40 or above, so it’s pretty clear they have dropped slightly (though to put this in context, they were polls showing them below 40 in September and almost all of of June). There also appears to have been an increase for Labour, more often than not they are now polling in the high twenties. Despite a couple of big increases in individual polls this month though, their average in November’s polls (27%) is actually fractionally down on October (27.6%). Labour are clearly doing better in the polls than they were earlier in the year, but it’s a more longstanding advance and we can trace it back to around about conference season.

So, what’s causing it? The harsh reality is that voting intention polls only tell us how people say they’d vote. They don’t tell us why, or why they might have changed their mind, so the rest of this post is by necessity conjecture.

I should start by knocking down some things that it almost certainly isn’t – whenever there is a move in the polls I tend to see comments saying it is the result of the story in the Mirror that morning about David Cameron beating his butler, or the MP for Backwoods West having claimed a plunger on expenses or whatever. I think I spotted one comment saying it wasZac Goldsmith’s tax status (a story that came out half way through ComRes’s fieldwork and only really got traction once it had finished!). Trivialities do not change the polls, they may have a cumulative effect upon how the parties and politicians are perceived, but taken alone they are not significant factors.

Here’s what I see as the four main hypothesis for what is going on:

1) David Cameron’s “reverse” on Lisbon has resulted in the Conservatives losing support to UKIP. In theory this seems plausible. Europe is an issue with very low salience as Ipsos MORI’s monthly issues monitor repeatedly shows (this month’s poll found 3% of people think it is an important issue), however, that tiny minority do care about it a very great deal and it is possible that it would shift their vote. The theory looks very strong if we look at ComRes’s polling over the last two months – prior to David Cameron’s announcement at the beginning of November they were showing UKIP at around 3% of the vote. In their two polls since then they have shown UKIP at 5% and 6%. However, other polling doesn’t back it up – prior to Cameron’s announcement YouGov were consistently showing UKIP at 4%, and in their two polls since the announcement UKIP have stuck resolutely at 4%. The other companies have also failed to pick up any great jump in UKIP support. Taken alone ComRes’s polls are pretty convincing, looked at in the wider context, I’m not so sure.

2) Increased economic optimism and confidence has brought people back to Labour. On the face of it this would seem a good explanation, the problem comes with the timing. Economic optimism has been strongly recovering since the spring, but hasn’t made much further advance in the autumn – yet that’s when we saw the narrowing of the gap. Perhaps it is just a slow burner and it takes a while for increased economic confidence to translate into support for the government. If this is the reason, and economic recovery is translating into government support, it raises two very interesting possibilities. Firstly, the formal end of the recession is still to come, and as regular readers will know, I think think that announcement has the potential to have a real impact on public opinion. Secondly, if we cast our minds back to the end of last year, back then we saw the government’s popularity increasing on the back of economic confidence, and we saw both of them collapse when a series of high street stories went to the wall in January. Earlier this week there were reports that insolvency practitioners were predicting another wave of closures this January as stores who fail to do well enough over Christmas fold. I’m no economist, so I’ve no idea how much water that holds – but it suggests we have the potential for further increases… or knocks to consumer confidence in the months ahead.

3) Labour have been performing better. Sometimes it isn’t what is happening that affects the polls, it’s what hasn’t been happening. The Labour party had a pretty good conference, and since then there haven’t really been any great plots or infighting, speculation about Brown’s future has largely faded, to use their own phrase, they’ve been getting on with the job. Disunity and incompetence are hugely damaging to a party’s image and support, so I think it is quite possible that this is a factor in the narrowing lead.

4) Oh those horrible Tories, run away! Strangely explanations for the narrowing polls I see proposed on blogs and forums tend to more often focus on the Conservatives having done something to drive people away than Labour having done things to win back support. My view is that voting intention will still largely be governed by people’s attitudes and opinions of the Labour government, it is a vote against Labour, not in favour of the Conservatives – as the well worn cliche goes, it is governments that lose elections, not oppositions who win them. Most things the opposition parties say and do are probably noticed by very few people anyway. For that reason, and because the Conservatives haven’t done anything overwhelmingly disastrous that would impinge on the public consciousness, I think it’s far more likely that a better performance from Labour and increased economic optimism are behind their recovery, but as I wrote at the beginning of the piece, we can’t tell for sure.

225 Responses to “Why the polls are narrowing”

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  1. I watch PMQs most weeks.

    Two things struck me about this week’s:-

    1. Cameron’s attack on “best placed to come out of recession/end to boom & bust ” etc bounced of Brown as usual-and for the first time left me feeling that it is history now.Whatever Brownian faults were there have been flogged to death.
    We need to debate the future now.

    2. Brown’s sudden and spectacular (re)adoption of the class based attack on Cameron by name.
    It clearly leaves Cameron dumstruck. His whole background and being presumably renders him unable to comment on the schooling & social background of his opponents & he is left looking shocked.
    My feeling was one of revulsion at this tactic & the vehence of it’s delivery. Commentary today in the Press indicates that it will play a major part in the GE campaign.So the reaction of the general public ( as opposed to anoraks) to it will be important.

  2. Alec – difficult though it may have been to come up with something credible, Cameron’s perceived U-Turn on the referendum promise will have affected journalists in the same way as Brown “bottling” the election.

    The media tends to turn on individuals who don’t stick to their guns. A post-ratification referendum would have made for lots of juicy, fairly easy to write pieces on Europe.

    Robbing a journalist of a good source of easy stories is a crime punishable by the offender’s character becoming the story itself.

    The logical conclusion of such a media narrative would take the stories of what Cameron got up to at Eton and bring them back to the fore.

    As regards un-edifying reference to the playing fields of Eton, equally un-edifying are the connotative references to “the bunker” by the chap who promised an end to Punch and Judy PMQs (BTW, it’s more like Judy & Judy)

    I was delighted to read Anthony Wells comments to you regarding the little every day gaffs and grinds that happen in
    politics. When I retired from the pension industry in 2003, I took a part time job delivering cars for the local Ford Dealer. In so doing I met “ordinary people” who had no more interest in
    Camerons “massive gaff” regarding Muslim schools, or Brown
    and Darling in the “grip of strife” regarding fiscal sovereignty, than the man in the moon. Yesterday, I posted several far to partisan comments regarding this delusion that every little issue
    is discussed in every home in Britain at length. The fact is, the vast majority are bored to tears with the whole business.


    “The thing that struck me from watching PMQs yesterday was Brown’s body language. He looked confident and at ease, and happy to be stood at the dispatch box. If (and it is a big if) this is a taste of things to come, then the GE leaders debates (if they happen) will not be as one sided as the majority are anticipating”

    An interesting comment-and yesterday I would have agreed with you.

    Today I read that Alastair Campbell is “coaching” GB. It is speculated that he gave him the very successful ” the more he talks, the less he says”, and has pushed to class attack to the fore.

    If this is true then one could expect Brown to be confident & happy at the dispatch box , gleefully anticipating the use of these materials to attack the Tories-something which he loves above all else.

    But the leaders debates ( depending how they are structured) might require both participants to think on their feet to a greater extent. I feel that Brown is not so good at this.

  5. @COLIN
    I have now read Brogan. If only it was Polly Toynbee, then we
    could be sure its wrong. Brogan tends to be right though.



    Your use of this word( which I would have spelt “cripes”-but I can’t spell) gives me a strange affinity towards you-as does your retirement date & most of the things you have to say.

    Yes- Brogan-can’t wait for the real thing.

  7. Agree with you Alec, they manipulate the media carefuly and they get short term advantage or vice versa. It gains traction too, but how much traction?

    I’m not a statistician but I can gauge a trend from a chart.


    Long term the tories seem to have found their home at about 39 with some volatility. Libs are in slight decline. Labour, whilst volatile, is in long term decline over the past 3 years.

    Or put it this way, if my sales figures over the last few years were represented by Antony’s chart, I’d be content with the blue line, a bit depressed about the yellow line, but worried about the trends shown in the red line. As I say, I am a layman and a shopkeeper so this is how I make sense of he statistics.

  8. @JIM JAM
    I have no idea who Ivan TT or the other guy you mention are,
    however unless Anthony strikes me off, I have no intention of joining them at wherever they are now.
    I am sorry for being over partisan in your opinion, but it is very difficult for me not to be in the light of the last 12 years.
    Like Gordon Brown I must try to do better.

  9. KH – fair enough.
    I enjoy partidsan stuff lower down threads whilst we wiat for the next poll and helps me understand better others viewpoint.
    I have some conservative friends (more not due to my back-ground) but they never want to talk politics except in very general terms so Iike the hear from you, Colin, Andrew etc.

    I have the anger at parts ofthe North being written off by Thatcher and her crew in the early ’80’s and see Cameron as a return to that period with albeit a less unprogressive social agenda.
    I am not apologost for Brown but see him a Labouir as the least bad option – not a ringing endorsement I know and I am a perty member.

  10. Sorry for terrible English and spelling was in a hurry.

    With regard to your last post, I dont know how long you have been a shopkeeper or how big your shop is. Without knowing anymore about you, I would hazard a guess that you know more about real world financial management, than many a son or daughter of JM Keynes who pontificate on this and other posts.

  12. @KH

    I commenced A Level Pure Maths and Statistics in 1985. Bewildering. Packed it in and did Religious Studies and got myself an A.

    I admire the skills of the statisticians and the economists, but I admire them even more when they make me a chart to look at.

    Very very small shop, by the way.

  13. @ Colin – “It clearly leaves Cameron dumstruck. His whole background and being presumably renders him unable to comment on the schooling & social background of his opponents & he is left looking shocked”

    Obviously caught off-guard but there are some rather obvious comebacks – many of the Labour cabinet come from somewhat privileged backgrounds don’t they? Harriet Harman, for example. Besides which, six months of class-based snideness is going to wear a bit thin I’d have thought. How man times can you roll out the “Tory toffs” line with it sounding old and embittered?

    Actually if Campbell is behind this, an obvious response would be for Cameron and co. to point it out whenever the hapless Brown recites from Campbell’s script. A PM reliant on a script is going to be fairly easy to trip up in the long run.

    God, it’s pathetic really. How did British politics sink so low?

  14. James – coaching isn’t the same as line-feeding. Coaching involves changing the way a speaker thinks, and in Brown’s case, the way he talks, stands, gestures and takes in the room.

    “Well-rehearsed” doesn’t really work as a criticism of some-one who is obviously over-reliant on listing facts and figures and policies. It would work better if Brown actually became a witty one-liner merchant like Hague was.

    A long-running come-back to Hague’s wit used to be “he’s the man with all the jokes, but when it comes to policy…” Brown can rattle off a list of policies as long as your arm if you gave him the chance, but I can’t see him as a stand-up.

  15. Colin,

    In response to my post yesterday you asked what the City reaction might be to Ed Balls as Chancellor.

    I can’t speak for the City, but my impression is that the answer may be unprintable, and it is very unlikely to be: “So what?”


    As Colin pointed out, while that riposte may appear obvious, it is one that runs counter to his upbringing.
    The point is that a “gentleman” who mocks another person’s background is no gentleman.

    Of course you are right, especially about the pathos.
    This class politics thing may play well in the East End of Glasgow or Barnsley, but the voters of middle England who Blair wowed in 1997, will reject it. Someone, I think Alec, said this new class attack is more subtle than previous attempts, it did not seem very subtle to me. If, and I doubt it, Cameron needs a reply to this kind of thing, their are as you say, more than enough
    socialist hypocrits to examine.
    Does it play do you think, to say, yes I am a Tory MP and send my son to Wellington. Why not? We believe it is everyones right to privately educate their kids.
    As opposed to, I am a Labour MP who stands against private education, but I send my daughter to Wycombe Abbey because
    she is my daughter and I love her. There are a number of examples of this hypocrisy which the public are not aware of.
    Further, would the hypocrisy of this even be recognised in the present age?

  17. Politics sank this low starting with Snobbery against Kinnock and briefing against her own cabinet by Thatcher. Sadly Labour thought it had to be better at it to combat and was for many years.
    JTT – a word in defence of Anthony’s Stewardship of this site.
    I have been posting for around 2 years and never once had a post moderated or edited.
    It is reasonable of us to discuss why polls have moved so we can try to predict the likley direction. Is the movement ethemeral or more significant and this is our recent debate, re Lisbon, By-Election bounce, PMQs this week and last, drip drip negative Tory stories etc.
    As (until) recently this site has been populated by more conservative supporters than the rest of us put togther there are bound to be more partisan over-reaches from the right but on the whole vitriol is limited.

  18. KH – It is only an issue because of the IHT policy albatros and non-dom candidates who happened to go the Eton as well.
    If cammo is seen to be helping his friends whilst hitting others it is an issue.
    may be unfiar but they way it goes.

  19. @ JIM JAM :-

    “I have the anger at parts ofthe North being written off by Thatcher and her crew in the early ’80’s and see Cameron as a return to that period ”

    I think this is a very interesting remark & one that David Cameron needs to address.

    I don’t want to exchange views on The Iron Lady- we would both have different ones perhaps-though there are points where they might converge I suspect!

    However, the memory of the effects of some of Thatcher’s policies in some areas of the country is clearly still a potent factor in UK politics.

    Your phrase “albeit a less unprogressive social agenda.” indicates to me some recognition of the” IDS agenda”-which from my point of view is very encouraging ( its very important to me too)-but there is a clear need for Cameron to try & address the memory of hurt which you describe. It may not be possible for him to convince people like you-but if he can it will be well worth the effort.

  20. JimJam – I’ve been coming here since Brown got in as PM, and I have no major complaints. However it strikes me as bizarre to see my normally quite reasonable posts awaiting moderation while the sly, casual ad hom. disparagements and wholly partisan right-wing guff of some people seems to sail through unchecked.

    I occasionally over-step the mark, but casual right-wing guff now goes unmoderated so often. Still, it’s Anthony’s site and I gues we don’t see what he does censor!

  21. Colin – he just has to wait. Most people who will vote for a new Govt will have forgotten or died. Apart from that, keeping in the centre is a safe way to build support.

  22. @John tt

    “Still, it’s Anthony’s site and I gues we don’t see what he does censor!”

    I think perhaps the most important thing we don’t see is Anthony’s view of what is partisan & what is not.

    Almost by definition-though most of us try hard most of the time-we cannot judge the degree of our own partisanship.
    What we each think of as blindingly obvious & irrefutable & objective may be seen as self dillusion , highly questionable & subjective to our correspondents.

  23. Logic and facts help Colin, and ascribing to writers little dismissive epithets neither helps the tone nor the argument either way. (not that I address you with that!)

  24. Jim Jam,

    I detect a delicious irony here:

    “Politics sank this low starting with Snobbery against Kinnock and briefing against her own cabinet by Thatcher. Sadly Labour thought it had to be better at it to combat and was for many years.”

    Your comment is highly perceptive and probably very accurate. But what is interesting is that this was never a Toffs v Oiks thing. Rather, it was the primness of the “LMC”, resenting the position of the upper class while busily distancing themselves from the working class. There is a marvellous poem by Hilaire Belloc entitled “The Garden Party” which encapsulates this well.

    Though long ago, my recollection is that the Labour leaders of the post-war generation were egalitarianist in the meritocratic sense. They may have castigated Macmillan and Heath for not doing enough for the working classes, but they never attacked Churchill, Eden or Home on the basis of background. (There were of course many rabid class-warriors in the PLP, but they were generally confined to the back benches.)

    John Major was genuine in his “classless society” approach, but it took a “Scottish Etonian” to bring class-based atatcks back into the political arena.

    The danger is not whether the public identify with one class or another, but the potential for it to back-fire – as it did so badly in Crewe. If there is one thing the Oiks hate more than a Toff, it is a hypocrite.

    PS – usage of capitalised terms is for clarity and not a statement of personal prejudices. IMHO the need to define oneself – or others – by labels is a sign of deep insecurity.

  25. @JIM JAM
    Your veiw regarding the “albatros” of Tory IHT policy is interesting. Brown, I noticed yesterday ignored Camerons question on the matter altogether. Remember Cameron is still leader of the Conservertive party and he knows one does not have to be the 13 Marquis of Bagpuss to be affected by IHT.
    This is probably the final straw for Browns premiership, Blair knew he needed a % of people in £400k homes with a Beamer on the drive. Reliance on the whippet breeding classes of Yorks Lancs and Northumberland is not enough.

    I agree with you James six months of ‘how dare you be privately educated’ will run thin.
    I am surprised that Labour has taken this tack as it was a disaster in the last crewe by-election.
    The Labour candidates took to the streets in top hat and tails to mock the Tory candidate.

    They subsequently lost!

  27. In Crewe Labour attocked the Tories as being Toffs for its’ won sake and got the rouncing we deserved.
    This is different it is saying ‘your rich fair enough but why give your estates and your friends estates such a tax break and make no other tax cut promise and lecture select a non-dom as a candidate’

    Re Labour IHT the question GB avoided was about rasing the limit from £350-375K.
    Under double allowance rules this mean £700 or £750 threshold enough to protect most people who have beenfited from house price booms in their area.
    Don’t be surprised if Cameron changes the £1m limit so it can no longer be combined by spouses and CPs.
    Which is worse for him doing as I say and been seen to back down or leaving as is and being viewed as helping friends.

  28. I am bound to say Jim after the Blair Brown years Cameron would be helping a tidy number of “socialists” also. Starting with the Kinnock family.

  29. People are looking at what’s on offer. Cameron clearly favours small businesses – unfortunately there aren’t many votes int that. He also seems to be at odds with his party – not a good vote winer either. Brown is singing the old labour song which goes down very well north of the Trent about stealing from the rich – unfortunately south of the Trent this message is poison. The Libs are talking about tax cuts – people know this is tosh but it responds to ordinary people so their vote share is going up.
    Cameron made a very big blunder by appearing to act as PR man for Murdoch – he has gained the undying hatred of the rest of the Tory press for so far very little benefit

  30. Jim Jam – it’s a thin line between mocking some-one’s background “for its own sake” and mocking his desire to help the wealthiest few families. The motive can be easily distorted.

    Cameron won’t adjust the combination of allowances because accountants have always been able to work a way to effectively do the same thing, and they would do so again. A U-turn on this issue would be a disaster.

  31. @COLIN
    On a number of bloggs I have seen exactly the opposite of the Specs figures quoted by govenment supporters. As in, “we are no worse off regarding debt than many other industrial nations”.

    As you say Colin very interesting, and not a little frightening.

  32. “stealing from the rich” – don’t you mean “by”? Aren’t the tax-payer funded bonuses described as such in the papers?

    Wolf – I agree with your last point entirely. It’s the same as Brown giving Andrew Marr the exclusive on the bottled election.

  33. @King Harold

    “Cameron would be helping a tidy number of “socialists” also. Starting with the Kinnock family.”

    Indeed KH-there are lots of Labour MPs with very significant property portfolios and/or wealth.

    The following come immediately to mind :-
    Barbara Follett
    Geof Hoon
    Ann/Alan Keene
    Micheal Meacher
    Geoffrey Robinson
    Shaun Woodward

    not forgetting our revered former Prime Minister.

    And of course as we now know MPs of all colours have assembled “second” homes funded by the Taxpayer.

    121 Westminster MPs are not seeking re-election.
    The sooner this Pig Trough Parliament is terminated the better for all of us.

  34. @Colin, I would be extremely suspicious of that graph.

  35. @ Wood

    would you?


  36. The debate re the ‘toffs’ attack line is interesting, but in some ways is missing the point. As KH said, I did claim this time is more subtle than the C&N byelection, for this reason. The attacks are less on anyone’s schooling or background, although a few barbs about Eton I feel are perfectly justifiable in the general political knockabout. Labour is tackling head on Cameron’s attempt at positioning himself as ‘an ordinary bloke’, and by highlighting the dislocation between him and the vast majority of the population I feel will score points, so long as it isn’t based purely on personal invective. What Labour have done is wrapped up privileged background, IHT, savage spending cuts, non dom candidates and wealthy bankers all in one (see Myners attack on RBS today – very telling). Its a potent mix. As I’ve said before, I expect to see stories about Cameron’s £50,000 access lunches for wealthy city folk shortly – it’s an appallingly ill judged fundraising method at this time and will, absolutely will, backfire on them at some stage. It’s way beyond Eton jibes, and is a dangerous flank for the Tories that they have in many ways opened up for themselves. I’m not saying I support, agree or think these criticisms are valid – I’m just saying this is what Labour is doing, and I suspect it will be pretty effective.

  37. @ Alec – it’s desperate stuff – silly, trivial nonsense masquerading as politics. Meanwhile, there’s Mandelson chilling out on yachts with greasy Saudi princes and the like. The whole thing is absurd and I suspect it will backfire badly if Labour persists with it.

  38. @Alec

    “What Labour have done is wrapped up privileged background, IHT, savage spending cuts, non dom candidates and wealthy bankers all in one (see Myners attack on RBS today – very telling). Its a potent mix.”

    I don’t understand why your assorted things are” potent-“or a “mix”

    They seem disparate & unconnected to me.

    What is wrong with a privileged background, and how does it impact on him?.He has made his views on social policy clear-you either believe him, or think he is a lier-or think his “background” makes him incapable of a broad understanding of people. Which of these things provides the “potency” here?

    Why is Cameron’s desire to reduce IHT any different to Labour’s?

    When did Cameron say he would make “savage ” spending cuts? What Osborne has announced in detail so far is a drop in the ocean compared with the programme outlined by Labour-ie halving a deficit of £200bn plus in four years.That could presumably mean £25bn pa over that period. Do you consider this “savage”-adequate-inadequate-what?

    Isn’t Mr Goldsmith going to relinquish his non-dom statue before he attempts to become an MP?

    What do you mean by “wealthy bankers” ?How is it germain to your suggestion in connection with Cameron?

    PLease don’t repeat your caveat that you don’t “support or agree” with these “criticisms”.
    I just want to understand why you believe these things to have political potency.

  39. Because it’s from a newspaper, the choice of where they get their figures, how they’re calculating them (in this case notably ignoring differences in government size), and which nations they’re comparing….will all be chosen to meet whatever political skew they’re aiming for.

    Those kind of things, those kind of stats or graphs….I just really wouldn’t trust newspapers for them.

  40. Colin
    This (yours) is an interesting point.

    **What Osborne has announced in detail so far is a drop in the ocean compared with the programme outlined by Labour-i.e. halving a deficit of £200bn plus in four years. That could presumably mean £25bn pa over that period. Do you consider this “savage”-adequate-inadequate-what?**

    One of the concerns that Conservatives seem to have is that Labour has no plan to tackle our deficit but you’ve outlined ‘how savage’ labour is going to be in just that.

    Also, your question **What is wrong with a privileged background, and how does it impact on him?**

    I would say it only impacts on him if his policies are designed to help a few at the expense of the many. For example, if Osborne had progressive tax policies to take millions of people out of poverty I would support him. But if his objective is to reduce tax for the wealthiest, then why shouldn’t I say he’s looking after his own?
    I think in that instance it’s fair to connect his background with his policies.

  41. @ Wood

    Well life must be a bit difficult for you Wood. You seem not to accept any data which appears in a newspaper….you must do an awful lot of original research?

    The graph I posted-along with other data which I didn’t-all appeared in The Spectator.

    I believe them to have been extracted from the public records of EU-so unless you can show me that they are not I accept them.
    Incidentally the differences in size of each country are irrelevant since the data is in respect of annual deficits as a % of GDP-thus allowing comparability.

    @ ALJ

    What Labour have announced is an objective to halve “the deficit” over four years.I take this to mean the ANNUAL deficit since halving the cumulative debt we now have/will have in four years would wipe out all government expenditure for over a year!
    But they havent said whether they mean 2009’s deficit ( say £200bn) or 2013’s deficit which will probably be higher. I’ve used £200bn

    They havent said how debt reduction will be accomplished.

    So my point is that complaining that Cons will implement “savage” cuts when they havent announced any in detail ( of significance), whilst Labour have indicated a fiscal tightening of (maybe) £20bn pa is just silly.

    I think both parties should say how much debt reduction is desirable for them-over what period-and how it will be accomplished.
    Neither has & I do not expect that either will-until after the GE, a) because the horror story involved is just too unpallatable.b) because the fiscal tightening ( tax / spend) is going to be a lot more than £20bn pa-a lot more.

    Regarding your second point, the Tory proposal to reduce IHT is not at the “expense” of the many-it is at the expense of the even fewer even wealthier non-doms.
    I don’t understand why you should believe that Osborne’s “background” is any more relevant to his policies than for Tony Blair or Shaun Woodward….or any one else .

  42. Colin

    You make some good points re our deficit.

    Regarding the second point – **the Tory proposal to reduce IHT is not at the “expense” of the many-it is at the expense of the even fewer even wealthier non-doms.**

    I don’t see this item as being ‘ring-fenced’or in isolation but rather as part of a tax package. Why shouldn’t the revenue from the non-doms’ charge be used to reduce our deficit instead (for example), or go towards protecting services?

    On the last point you stated **I don’t understand why you should believe that Osborn’s “background” is any more relevant to his policies than for Tony Blair or Shaun Woodward….or anyone else .**

    I don’t think I ever said Osborn’s background was ‘’any more’’ relevant than others. My point was that if Osborn’s tax proposals benefitted the wealthy/privileged, and because he has such a background, then is it wrong to connect the two?
    As regards Shaun Woodward, in my opinion, it’s to his credit that despite being a millionaire his policies (as part of the Labour governments), are designed to alleviate poverty etc. I know Labour has not met its target regarding eliminating poverty but at least they have made reductions. I can’t remember the Conservatives ever having policies to target poverty.

  43. @Colin
    Three quick points as it’s late
    1: I don’t disregard all data that appears in papers, but comparisons which seem dodgy anyway and have been created by newspapers, yes.
    2: Yes, I do do more original research, if you want to call it that, than most.
    3:You misunderstood me, I didn’t mean the size of countries, but the size of the governments….
    For a government that takes around 60% of GDP in tax revenue (eg UK) a deficit of 10% GDP wouldn’t be as large an overspend as a 10% GDP deficit for a government that takes ~20% (eg USA).
    In the last figures I saw, UK had the largest relative government of the 13 biggest economies.

  44. ALJ

    ” I can’t remember the Conservatives ever having policies to target poverty.”

    This is Cameron’s problem-the “memory” of Conservative government ( real or perceived) makes some people believe that he is incapable of enlightened social policy-whatever he says.

  45. ALJ-

    As a matter of interest did you disagree with Darling’s increase in IHT nil rate band from £325k to £600k as well?
    If not could you explain, at what point between £600k & £1000k you become opposed & why.

    [Colin – no, he can’t, because this is NOT a place for political debate – AW]

  46. Just as an aside – can anyone tell me whether the Conservative team have been granted permission to view the countries ‘books’ as I believe is tradition within 6 months of them possibly taking over the running of the country?
    If they have then surely they will have seen for themselves the state of our finances that the Conservatives will inherit!

    Just a point!

  47. @Wood

    “For a government that takes around 60% of GDP in tax revenue (eg UK) a deficit of 10% GDP wouldn’t be as large an overspend as a 10% GDP deficit for a government that takes ~20% (eg USA).”

    Perhaps I’m being dim -but is your statement correct?

    I’m not sure if you figures are right- for each country but that’s a different matter.

    In your example UK spends £70 for every £60 it collects in tax-or £1.17 for every £1 collected.

    In your example USA spends £30 for every £20 collected in tax -or £1.50 for every £1 collected

    The key point though is that ( in UK anyway) Tax receipts are collapsing whilst spending continues to increase. We will soon have a cumulative government debt of £ Trillion plus-heading towards 100% of GDP.

    As servicing cost of gilts frifts from 3% to 4% to ?5% we could be spending £50bn to £60 bn pa in interest costs-that is 10% of total government spend-or say one & a half times the Defence Budget.

  48. Mark,

    About 6 months before the election the opposition start having meeting with senior civil servants to brief them on policies, essentially so they can hit the ground running in the event that they win the election. I believe they get access to some numbers through that (after all, they can’t really discuss tax and spending plans with the Treasury mandarins without getting into the sums), but I don’t think they get total access to the government’s books.

  49. @WOOD
    I bet you would believe the Guardian if it claimed to have un – earthed evidence of violent racism in the Bullingdon club when
    Cameron was a member.

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