I haven’t posted the daily YouGov figures for much of this week – simply because there hasn’t been much change – but after a while that itself is noteworthy. For the last three days YouGov has showed the Conservatives with a 2 point lead over Labour, with the Conservatives on 40-41%, Labour on 38-39% and the Liberal Democrats on 11-12%. If there ever really was a slight narrowing of the Conservative lead after the spending cuts it rapidly disappeared again – YouGov’s polls now are basically identical to those before the spending review.

The political debate for most of the week has been about housing benefit, which clearly hasn’t had any effect on support – not that we would expect it to. Straight after the budget in June when the housing benefit cap was first announced YouGov found 78% of people supporting it, ICM found 68% of people supported the cap. YouGov asked again in August as part of a poll to mark David Cameron’s 100 days in power and found 72% in support.

Of course, that was two months ago and it’s possible the focus on people in London losing their homes may have changed opinions… but I wouldn’t count on it. I expect we’ll see some more up to date polling on housing benefit sooner rather than later.

Public Sector voters

There was also a rather unremarked methodology shift from one of the pollsters this week. Back in 2008 when MORI reviewed their methodology after wrongly showing Ken Livingstone ahead in the London mayoral race, they discovered they had too many public sector workers in their telephone samples and started weighting according to it (quite drastically, it’s sometimes a case of almost halving the number of public sector workers). At the time I pondered whether, if MORI have too many public sector workers in their phone polls, would other phone pollsters have similar problems? At the time Andrew Cooper of Populus pointed out – correctly – that it was worth looking at but if there was a problem it shouldn’t affect voting intention as past vote weighting should sort that out.

Well, this month Populus have gone down MORI’s route and weighted their poll by public and private sector employment. As with MORI’s experience, it’s quite a big shift, weighting public service employees down from 19% of the sample to 12%. This may well still not make any difference to voting intention, but it might well make an impact on questions about the cuts, were there are big differences between public and private sector opinions – for example, Populus found 46% of private sector employees thought the cuts were fair, but only 27% of public sector employees.

Voting intention amongst public sector employees is hard to judge, since the sample size of public sector voters in standard polls is often under 200, so is very volatile (for example, this month Populus found the Lib Dems on 17% amongst public sector voters, ICM found them on 8%). Looking at the handful of polls in recent months that have included a public sector cross break though the rough position seems to be that the Conservatives are at around 25%-30% and Labour around 45%-50%. The polls from the last Parliament showing the Conservatives ahead amongst public sector workers seem to be a distant memory.


Today there have been a couple of interesting posts by Mike Smithson and James Frayne on how salient an issue Europe is, or more to the point, how salient an issue it isn’t. Essentially there is no conflict between their views. Europe is, as Mike says, an issue of very low salience that currently excites no one but Conservative diehards and some UKIP supporters (yes, only some, YouGov polling at the time of the last European election suggested that many UKIP voters were more motivated by immigration than Europe as an issue). However, James is also correct that it has potential to be more salient – you only need to look at the graph Mike uses to illustrate his piece to see that back in the 1990s more than 30% of people used to cite Europe as one of the most important issues facing the country.

248 Responses to “End of the week round up”

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  1. Do people really think that DC’s posturing on the EU budget rise is big news? That’s a genuine question, as I seldom buy print media these days and mostly get my news from the BBC website. Most of what I’ve read is either UKippers angry that he hasn’t managed a freeze and EUers angry that he’s trying to generate some politics points on a non-issue. Hardly incendiary political news.

    And as mentioned yesterday, having the leaders of other countries join in the “posturing” and support him by name probably boosts him a bit, but skinny old Swedes in glasses talking to an interviewer in monotone English is hardly going to get the public riled up in either direction.

  2. Housing Benefit.

    In all the uproar by the left (and Boris) about “Kosovo style ethnic cleansing” becuase of the cap on the total amount of housing benefit that can be received, they have missed the real change in the provision of social housing that will have a really long term effect, far greater than the cap itself.

    I am refering to the change that will allow Councils and Housing associations to charge up to 80% of the current local commercial rent for all new tennants.

    Combined with the 10% reduction in housing beneffit for those on jobseekers for more than a year, this will make social housing unaffordable, even with housing benefit, to those on the lowest incomes in expensive areas and lead to a gradual “gentrification” in the make up of these estates. IMO

  3. @Eoin,

    I agree that the trajectory is upwards for Labour (but slowly). The pace is glacial, but the sheer consistency mitigates against it just being MOE.

    Not sure about an analysis that says some Blues have jumped ship though. Surely at 3-4% higher than their GE score, if their vote declines it will be the loss of floaters rather than the loss of Blues that is the issue?

    And weren’t you still predicting that Labour would fall behind further, just a day or two ago??

  4. @ Eric Goodyer

    ‘ The anti EU movement is very well financed and highly vocal, with exceptional access to the media’.

    In all fairness the EU is also ‘ very well financed and highly vocal, with exceptional access to the media’ and we’re all paying for that marketing effort.

  5. Neil A,

    1% = 270,000 voters. July – Aug blue averaged 42% They are now much closer to 40.5%. A slow downward trajectory has begun.

  6. Neil A,

    Oh, yes, my guesstimate, yes I still forsee blue opening up a lead. But my guesstimates and current facts are two very different things. Mike N, (to whom I was responding) was pointing out a factual trend. Which it is incumbent upon me to agree with.

    That does not change my view of the long term direction, however, I simply did not wish to burden Mike N with that.

  7. Ed Miliband did give a good speech.

    With the Holyrood elections just six months away, Mr Miliband said they would be a “vital moment in Labour’s rebuilding across the United Kingdom”.

    And I believe he means it; I don’t think the Iain Gray will have to go it alone this time around.

    A policy announcement that may prove popular:
    …a [Scottish] Labour government would provide an apprenticeship for every school leaver who wants one.

  8. Amber,

    I have to beg to differ :(

    I would not advise anyone giving a speech about a Scottish election, to say to voters it is a chance to rebuild accross the UK. I thought his speech was car crash telly. It would have been better had he simply focused on Scotland’s elections not as a sringboard or stepping stone but as election of importance in their own right. His lambastation of SNP when the two manifestos are so similar is also probably a wrong move I thought.

    sorry :(

  9. @ Alec

    Child Benefit: Yes there is to be a select committee because the civil service/ treasury have said the plan is unworkable.

    David Cameron appears to have cleverly defended it by saying it will work like an honesty box & claimants will simply own up to their income being too high; on taxing the other member(s) of families, he says they will tick the box on their return. Thereby going against the legal principle that everybody may arrange their affairs to legally pay as little tax as possible.

    George Osborne is less trusting: People who do not provide accurate information will be fined.

    Avoidance scheme: I asked my partner, do they claim child benefit? They said no. They lied. You can’t fine me for that (of course if it is paid into a joint account, that’ll need to be changed).

    Actually, avoidance schemes are barely required because IRS has no way of checking who your partner is – unless you claim the married tax allowance when/ if it comes along.

    So, at the end of the day, it looks as if the income threshold change will only apply to the claimant. Anything else would be unworkable, as nobody is under obligation to tell their partner what their earnings/ tax code are. (The UK isn’t Sweden).

    If it ends up applying to claimant income only, I would need to check the CB rules, but I believe it may be possible for a child to claim it on their own behalf.

    So, potentially an enormous number of changes to the rules/ new rules will be required for not much of a saving; but was it about making a saving or having a soundbite & ending the priciple of universality? 8-)

  10. Amber
    “…but was it about making a saving or having a soundbite & ending the priciple of universality?”

    Both IMO.

  11. @ Éoin

    Ed’s speech to conference.

    That is interesting. I expect you are looking at it from the point of view of a Scot Nat, whereas the majority of people living in Scotland want a Labour government. Remember also, it was a speech to conference.

    So, I guess it depends on your perspective. I expect Old Nat to share your view rather than mine.

    I have said that regarding policy, there is nothing between Labour & the SNP except independence.

    Personally, I’d like to see a Labour/ SNP coalition. Ed M might be hoping for the same – if David B is correct about the rainbow alliance still being around, albeit on the back burner.

  12. Amber,

    There is a large amount of voters that float between SNP & Reds. [Ed did not take enough account of them]. I suspect some tactical voting from SNP voters helped reds in May 2010….

    I suspect that this election will see an increased vote for both parties (although much moreso for reds). A united Celt-Lab front in Holyrood to push for tax raising powers to ward off cuts. That would help tremendously for W-minster 2015.

  13. On the issue of CB claimants making an error…

    Of course, if the CB claimant’s partner makes an ‘error’ and indicates that their partner (the claimant) is not in receipt of CB when in fact the opposite is the case, he or she should be fined and subjected to the same treatment as anyone else under the Con gov’s proposals to punish offenders who make errors in their claims.

    So much for reducing the number of offences that people can commit.

    So much for simplicity.

    So much fior deregulation.

    So much for easing the burden on HMRC and DWP when they will be facing massive cuts in staff.

    It is highly amusing that the Con gov have picked up this CB idea from the ideas website thinking it was a great idea, didn’t ask HMRC/DWP/Treasury whether it was workable, and now look incompetent. Another example of the failure of ‘opportunism’.

    Brilliant, brilliant, brilliant.

  14. I have to agree with Eoin, EMs speech was badly thought out. IMO he looks out of his depth badly.

    Nice to see someone else is a European enthusiast. Does your enthusiasm stretch to being a European federalist?
    Eoin posted recently that he was for a federal Europe.
    I’m a federalist too but I tend to keep it quiet. In a lot of quarters, both left and right, this is akin to admitting you like eating cute cuddly kittens for lunch.

  16. Julian Gilbert
    I’m in favour of EU federalism, too.

  17. @MIKE N
    Hey, we’re all coming out of the closet now. There might be more of us than we think. ;)

  18. It sounds like the hoped for simplicity of using tax status alone as a method of weeding out “benefits for the rich” may be more difficult than thought (although I suspect they’ll find a way – support for this measure is very strong, and even if the government has to shift a few “principles of the tax system” most people won’t car). But perhaps that’s an opportunity to simply means test the benefit, but at an unusually high level. Any household with a joint income under, say, £50,000 would be eligible to claim?

    After all, that’s effectively what Child Tax Credit is already. Anyone in receipt of that is likely to want Child Benefit. Why not merge the two?

  19. julian

    i like eating cute cuddly kittens, i just don’t understand how anyone could bin them. they are so tasty

  20. Me sir! Me sir! (hand sticks up when asked about European federalism)

    The strange thing is, most people seem to believe federalism is about centralisation. When ‘power at the most appropriate level’ is explained, I find a lot agreeing.

  21. Now that European Federalism is so unpopular, I no longer feel the need to bite people’s heads off for it. Why rail against something that’s not going to happen?

  22. @Starchief,

    If you put things in general terms, most people agree with most things. After all GO is trying to set “welfare payments at an appropriate level”, the Taliban are trying to ensure that women’s behaviour is at an “appropriate level”.

    When a Euro-federalist tells me they want decisions taken at an “appropriate level”, I am inclined to ask whether the level they have in mind is “European Parliament”…

  23. @John Fletcher

    Good point. Ed M bears some of the responsibility by failing to force Cameron back onto the wider changes at PMQs, after he chose to focus on the cap. IMO the focus on the 3% of savings attributable to the housing benefit cap is actually being driven by the right as a means of a distraction from the changes to housing benefit and local housing allowance that are of far greater significance to many on low incomes (many of whom are in low paid employment or pensioners).

    However, in the weekend press there are some more reflective pieces which do pick up on the wider changes, so I’m not so sure now that Cameron has got away with it in the medium term.

    Re your reference to commercial rents. Rather than “allow” charges of up to 80% of commercial rent, I feel that a better description would be “strongly encourage” through the financial support (or lack of it) being made available henceforth.

  24. …depends if it’s appropriate…

  25. Okay, the Coalition can screw up on a few operational aspects, but overall, recalibrating the benefits system resonates well with the public, they know it makes sense, a bit of tinkering will see it work…….and we’re back on track.
    As for the issue of Europe, people generally just want cheap holidays with no hassle, they have been conditioned to the great Brussels rip-off and accept it.

  26. Neil A
    You may be right about merging CB and CTC. I don’t understand the intricacies of them to be qualified to point out differences that make them unsuitable for merging.

    However, a fundamental issue is that tax crdits are treated one way in gov accounting practices and CB another way I believe. It goes back to calling them tax credits rather than social security benefits I believe.

    IMO there are principles and aspects of the UK welfare state that cannot and should be not changed because once such changes are accepted they open the door to radical other changes that threaten the existence of the welfare state IMO. Some might argue that this is good and some might argue that it is bad.

    As I mentioned earlier, the Daily Express has suddenly woken up to the possibility that removing the CB universal entitlement principle could lead to the same being applied to the basic state pension.

    And today we’ve had this further proposal of carers earnings the right to be cared for later in life.

  27. Yes the “care credit” as it’s being presented by the media seems pretty bizarre. I can understand it if the idea is to compensate people’s loss of earnings whilst caring, but to restrict that compensation only to their future care is a bit wierd.

    What if you care for your sick mother till she’s 90, then live to 80 yourself in good health needing no care. You’ve still put in the time, and saved the state a packet, but you get nothing “back”.

  28. I don’t think “your tax affairs are a secret known only to you and HMRC” is one of the founding principles of the welfare state.

    As for merging CB and child tax credit, I too have never really understood the distinction. We get a tiny amount of CTC, but our income is assessed jointly in making the decision about how much. Now that my wife has found a part-time job we’ll probably lose some or all of the CTC we do get. I can’t really understand how that payment is assessed on both our incomes if CB can’t be.

    Lets just merge them, call the combined shebang “Child Benefit” and pay it to at the same rate to anyone with a household income under £50,000 including those out of work, and restrict the number of children it can be claimed for.

  29. Neil A
    I’m a cynic.

    I know that whatever we (ie joe public) think we’re ‘buying’ now so as to enjoy at some later date, it will not work out like that. some gov will move the goalposts (sorry mixing my metaphors). In a way a bit like the increase(s) to the state pension age.

    I’ve used to being conned (and that’s not some aspersion on just the Cons I hasten to add).

  30. @Amber

    Is that because Grey is incapable of doing it alone.

    So far in 2 weeks we have had.

    I want the council tax freeze lifted.
    Then I have no problem with the council tax freeze.
    He came back to increasing council tax with a 2% limit.
    Then finally when asked on tv he refused to say the council tax rise limit would be 2%.

    What is his final policy or is he waiting on Ed to tell him?

  31. Typo

    “I’ve used to being conned…” should read “I’m used to being conned…”

  32. The BBC are helping Cameron immensely by making his opponents look like comedy turns. Who was that double-barrelled Tory MP – I thought Douglas-Home and his matchsticks had turned up again.

  33. Speaking of the SLP conference, isn’t there a danger of London public schoolgirl Hattie Harman referring to a Scots politician as a “ginger rodent”?

    Speaking as the stepfather of a much-bulled redhead I’m not particularly impressed with that, and I’m not from a country of redheads…

  34. Neil A,

    When someone slags our Hattie, I am called to enquire…. who did she call a ginger rodent?

  35. @Eoin,

    Surely “who” shouldn’t matter? Is it alright to call some black people the “n” word but not others?

    (It’s Danny Alexander of course!)

  36. Eoin
    It’s not difficult to guess.
    She was talking about a LibDem.

  37. And my reference to her background wasn’t meant as a slag-off, merely an emphasis on aspects that don’t endear themselves to the Scots when they relate to Tory politicians…

  38. Neil A,

    lol. My lovely bex has a mane of red hair, so you are preaching to the converted :) but still Hattie can do no wrong!

  39. @ Phil

    Ref Housing Benefit.

    Despite the more refective pieces in the weekend press I do think the Govt have got away with it and EdM et alhave played into their hands by simply focusing on the families who will have to relocate.

    The Govt has made the agenda: Is it fair that the “hard working” tax payer should subsidise rent in excess of £21,000 pa.

    Clearly 78% of people think not.

    With the aid of the Left who have used emotive phrases such as “cleansing” and “final solution” this has now become fixed in the electorates colletive mind as the issue.

    Given that the effect of the 80% charge for NEW tennants will only take effect slowly I think it will be very difficult to move the goal posts of the arguement now.

    Rather like child benefit where the Govt made the issue about the fairness of low paid people subsidising the children of high rate tax payers, they have stolen a march on Lab.

    Lab’s problem is IMO that they so hate the whole “cuts” agenda that they over react to every announcement without first thinking through the consequences and without any overall strategy.

  40. @Amber Star – “Child Benefit: Yes there is to be a select committee because the civil service/ treasury have said the plan is unworkable.”

    But Amber – you obviously didn’t see in the quote in my original post that Politicshome named the Cheif Sec to the Treasury as one David Laws – that’s why I wondered if I had missed something…..

    On Child Benefit;

    I think Mike N got it right with his observation that the Express has finally woken up to the ‘thin end of the wedge’ argument about universality. Labour have got it absolutely right about universality, and interestingly enough, it was the Tories and Lib Dems in opposition who criticised Gordon Brown’s tax credits and means testing very vigorously, precisely because of the issues we are now finding with the CB proposals.

    I’m going to demonstrate the veracity of a comment from Eoin on an earlier thread regarding posters saying what they support, as opposed to what they oppose, and try to put together an outline of what I think should be done.

    Firstly, one option is to gradually remove CB altogether, probably by a long term freeze and eventual scrapping once the value becomes irrelevant. Alternatives would be to keep it for one child only or restrict it to u16’s. Maintain universality at all costs.

    If scrapping/cutting CB, after the deficit is brought under control in the medium term the money saved should be used to lift the minimum tax thresholds with a compensating lowering of the higher tax thresholds so the less well off get the benefit and work pays. Uprating of out of work benefits should also take place to ensure current families do not suffer from CB withdrawal.

    If retaining it, savings should come from adjustments to tax thresholds at the higher end. This is far simpler to understand and administer that the current clueless position.

    Osborne has claimed he wants simplicity, but the lessons from tax and benefit history is that tinkering for political purposes always produces additional complexity. The only way a simple and cheap to run system can develop is if a comprehensive view is taken of all tax and benefit changes and they operate in tandem. Osborne has failed his first big test on simplicity becasue he just can’t stop himself taking the easy political route.

  41. Or the government could pass the “Let The DWP Look At The HMRC Tax Database” Act 2011.

  42. The hard working, home-owning, taxpayer, who, if in arrears, would be forced to move, finds it difficult to rationalise the non-working, benefit claiming, non-taxpayer’s argument against moving, especially if the benefit in question is £26k or more.

  43. @ Neil A

    Allowing carers the prospect of being cared for begs the question, cared for by whom? Either the State is responsible for ensuring people are cared for or it is not. If it is, then it is. If not, then why would caring for somebody entitle a person to a future State benefit not available to other citizens? It makes no sense.

    So, I am trying make sense of it. Is there going to be some sort of volunteer network where you register as a carer; & perhaps can take a caring job without losing your entitlement to JSA & HB? Or is the scheme going to be open only to those who are not in receipt of benefits.

    Will it include caring for your own relatives? Who will decide that the person being cared for actually needed the level of care that was provided? And that it was actually adequately provided?

    Then, in the future, will somebody from this volunteer network care for you – regardless of there being others in greater need of care? Or will your care needs be assessed regardless of your past caring contribution?

    If there are insufficient future volunteers to provide care for all the guaranteed recipients, will the government underwrite the scheme by guaranteeing to employ paid carers? What if a future government decides to wash its hands of that responsibility?

    All my questions are rhetorical, Neil. I don’t expect you to have the answers – but if you do, or have a link that explains, I’d very appreciative.

    IMO, until my above questions (& many more besides) are answered, this policy idea has more holes in it than a string vest! I will not be surprised if the idea itself proves popular when/ if it is polled though; many unworkable ideas are very popular. 8-)

  44. The political story in Scotland today is Harriet Harman calling Danny Alexander a “ginger rodent”. This is now running on the BBC and on Political Betting Mike Smithson asks “Could the red team just lost some of the Ginger vote?”………….”By all means get into an argument on the issues but to use an inherited bodily characteristic to attack someone smacks of racism – which is even more outrageous given Harriet’s record in the equality area.”

    I feel this story may be very damaging to Labour. It is already getting linked to the legal action against Phil Woolas accused of stirring up racial hatred.

  45. @Amber,

    I think we’re in agreement. As currently trailed (ie I’ve read about three paragraphs about it – and nothing “official”) it doesn’t really make any sense.

    I’m all for identifying and compensating the “cash value” provided by those who care for their relatives so the state doesn’t have to, but I can’t think of a way to do it in practice, and this certainly doesn’t look like it.

  46. @ Alec

    But Amber – you obviously didn’t see in the quote in my original post that Politicshome named the Cheif Sec to the Treasury as one David Laws – that’s why I wondered if I had missed something…..
    Yes, he is being ‘rehabilitated’. He has been popping up all over the media.e.g. Writing articles in the Guardian about the pupil premium before having the rug pulled from under him by Gove.

    Now Laws will be in charge of railroading through ‘unworkable’ child benefit policy.

    The Conservatives will not allow a popular LibDem to sit on the sidelines & escape the humiliation that is being heaped on his comrades. ;-)

  47. Are the ginger rodents actually joining the sinking ship?

  48. Alec,

    Good post. I like your first option- a lot. Enough said really.

  49. Neil A

    “Or the government could pass the “Let The DWP Look At The HMRC Tax Database” Act 2011.”

    This already exists but under different nomenclature.

    Gov departments and LAs have been able to exchange data about claimants for many years. I believe the legisltion was introduced under Lab.

    But having the data is one thing, matching it with other data is the problem. And of course the process needs to be as automated as possible.

    Matching CB claimants and partners is the first step. What datum or data will be used for this purpose? Will the CB data drive the mathcing or will it be the taxpayer database? How will the ‘removal’ of the CB be automatically reflected in tax codes?

    I suggest that this is one process that HMRC do now want faced as it is with massive cuts in costs and capital expenditure eg new computer programmes.

    The Cons got this horribly wrong.

  50. @ Mike

    “ginger rodent”.


    Has the coalition got Lab rattled?

    Like some left wing posters here did they believe they would only have to oppose every cut willy nilly and that somehow the electorate would see the light and desert the coalition in theri droves?

    The 0.8% growth in the last quarter certainly threw them.

    Since the Colaition support for its defecit reduction, in its blaming of Lab for the cuts, in its changes to housing and child benefits seems to steady (or at most decreasing very slowly), they not the Govt appear to have no Plan B.

    For their deputy leader and somene as experienced as Harman to be reduced to personal name calling is IMO a reflection of the weakness of their current strategy.

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