Yesterday the latest figures from the British Social Attitudes survey were released, with most of the media attention focusing on the findings that support for the government spending more money on benefits and the government redistributing income have both dropped to lower levels than in the 1980s (27% support the former, 36% the latter).

Polly Toynbee’s column in the Guardian today predicts that opinion will shift back in the opposite direction once public spending starts falling, unemployment rising and so on. The column produced something approaching ridicule in the comments section over on politicalbetting, but on that specific point Polly is probably right.

We certainly can’t accurately predict how patterns of party support will change in response to rising unemployment (and since I’m no economist, I wouldn’t predict levels of employment either!), you can’t really be sure about how public opinion on individual issues and measures will shift. What we can do is look at the broad left-right positioning of public opinion and how the “centre ground” moves from left to right (or vice-versa).

In Britain at the Polls 2010, John Bartle has aggregated together all the suitable tracker questions from polls since 1938 (a total of 4,236 questions) and coded responses as being left wing or right wing. This produces an average left-right position for the public each year, expressed on a scale from 0 (very right wing) to 100 (very left wing).

Above is how this political centre has shifted around since 1950. As is self-evident, public opinion gradually moved rightwards during the 1960s and 1970s, then switched and moved steadily leftward throughout the Thatcher-Major government, before moving to the right again under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. For the last two governments the correlation is pretty much perfect – under a government of the left the public react by moving to the right, under a government of the right the public react by moving to the left. It doesn’t seem to work quite so well pre-1979.

The second graph is the same line, but reversed (so left is now at the bottom of the scale and right at the top), and compared to public spending as a percentage of GDP. The match isn’t so perfect as spending as a % of GDP jumps about a lot in response to recessions and booms, but there is still a clear relationship – as public spending rises, people react by becoming more right wing, as it falls people become more left wing. Underlying public opinion essentially operates like a thermostat… as public spending rises, more and more people switch to thinking that the state taxes and does too much. As it falls, more and more people think the government should be re-distributing more, spending more on public services and so on (of course, most people don’t have a clue how much the country actually spends as a percentage of GDP. What changes opinions on an individual scale will be people’s own personal experiences.)

On the basis of how public opinion has moved over the last 30 years, we can legitimately expect public opinion to start moving leftwards now there is a government of the right in power reducing the amount of money spent by the state. On that basis, Polly is right. What we can’t conclude is that this will necessarily be some great boon for Labour, elections are about a whole lot more than left-right positioning, they are also about the leaders, party images, perceptions of competence on important issues and so on. Britain started moving leftwards in 1980, but it took a further 17 years for Labour to win back power; it started moving right in 1997, but it took 13 years for the Tories to return.

(Thanks to John Bartle for permission to reproduce his numbers)


98 Responses to “Will the cuts move opinion to the left?”

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  1. jay

    if ed brings home AV then many die hard dems will waver, but in the long run the dems are never going to be happy with just AV

    we will want more PR

  2. virgilio

    i was trying to suggest that PR was good for gender equality. i think there is evidence for this

  3. I don;t think Caroline Lucas has ever stood for or been elected leader of the Green Party, As far as I’m aware she a Co-Chair. I know there;s rather a tradition in the Green movement ( Friends of the Earth used to be rather bad at this) of some undemocratic types assuming they had moral superiority over the plebs but even in its present rather ragged state I doubt Caroline Lucas would claim to be superior to any other Green Party member,.

  4. I watched Gordon Brown on the Daily Show (He was on last night). Reaffirms my belief that he was a lousy politician but a brilliant man. I know he’s promoting his book and all but he had great insight on the financial crisis and was able to simplify it down so that the common man could understand.

  5. @Neil A

    Ed’s already committed himself to campaigning for it. And yes, I would say on ballance it makes more political sense. Since campaigning for AV will gain him more soft-libdem support than he’d potentially lose from any ‘backing the wrong horse’ effect. And failing to do so would certainly come with some damage for backing down from his pro-AV position.

  6. @Wolf
    It is true that most Green Parties have a sort of collective leadership, but since C. Lucas is the only representative of the Green Party in Westminster, one could say that she is the leader of the parliamentary Green Party .
    Also, Poland must be deleted from the “black list” because now it has a female political leader in parliament: Joanna Kluzik, leader of PJN, a new center-right party created as a split form the main opposition party PIS. PJN (which accuses the PIS of being extremely right-wing) has 15 MPs. (and this opens another discussion, the tendency for the creation of new center-right parties out of the older ones, such as FLI in Italy, Dem. Alliance in Greece, RS in France and TOP09 in the Czech Rep.)

  7. 39/42/9/9

    Cuts are starting to hurt the blues.

  8. I dont think the cuts have started to bite / have even been enacted yet.

    If the Tories are starting to drop in the polls I think it just shows that the coalition’s popularity does not have a particularly robust base

  9. Smallest ATTAD lead so far I think.

  10. @Richard in Norway – “… the dems are never going to be happy with just AV.”

    2010 coalition: AV with or without referendum.
    2015 coalition: PR with or without referendum.

    The weakness in LD tactics is that the AV referendum will be the end of the matter, either way, for the foreseeable future.

  11. MORI have polled Con 38, Lab 39, LD 11 according to the guardian

    h ttp://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/14/chris-huhne-liberal-democrats-poll

  12. @Richard in Norway

    “we will want more PR”

    Clegg’s biggest failure in the coalition negotiations was not to make a referendum on PR a pre-condition of forming a government with the Tories. He could have insisted on this at a time of Cameron’s greatest vulnerability and weakness and, even if it was unacceptable to the Tory rank and file, thereby scuppering the negotiations, it would have been the perfect alibi for walking away and forcing Cameron to form a minority government. He could have then opened up talks with Labour on co-operating at a future date on how best to make progress on real electoral reform.

    As it is, I fear, he’s contrived to get the worst of both worlds. A referendum on a system he derided during the election campaign, mixed up with other highly political reforms on constituency sizes and numbers of MPs, to be held at a time when it is quite likely to be lost, thereby quite possibly setting back the campaign for genuine PR for a generation. That degree of botch-up is almost the stuff of genius!

  13. Anthony have Yougov ditched the dailys?

  14. @Colin Wobbles – “I dont think the cuts have started to bite”

    Inflation + vat + interest rates = Gus O’Donnell kindly drawing up a Plan B for the government (as they don’t appear to have one).

  15. @Wolf:

    Lucas was voted the first ever leader of the E&W Greens, with ~92% of the vote in 2008.

  16. billy bob

    2020

  17. Anthony will probably give me a lifetime ban for saying this, but I think MORI’s 38;39;11 sounds more plausible than YouGov’s 39;42;9. Why do I think this? Well, MORI is confirming what nearly all of the other major polls taken recently have been saying and, if you’re running a poll that is consistently out of line with all the others, and has been now for some time, then I think it’s time to take stock. YouGov aren’t miles away from the others in a pre-election Angus Reedian sort of way, but there’s something a bit amiss I think. Labour have a narrow lead, and it may be growing, but I think YouGov might be overstating the support for both of the major parties, most probably at the Lib Dems expense. Don’t ask me why though!!

  18. nick H

    are you saying that clegg should have held the country to ransom

    that was what DC told the public would happen if they were silly enough to vote for a hung

  19. I can’t immediately recall an incident where the Civil Service have begged the government of the day to come up with alternative policies. At least not when it’s been leaked in such a direct way as this. And now there’s rumour of a very early cabinet reshuffle as well…

    These are not confidence inspiring incidents. I’m strongly tempted to go place a bet on a fresh general election before the end of 2011.

  20. Redrag – ???

    Phil has posted today’s figures further up the thread, 39/42/9/9

  21. @Richard in Norway

    2020 – as in vision? Or will the electorate be so fed up with AV by then that they will clamour for another new system?

  22. @ Neil A

    How can AV be “Nick Clegg’s baby” when your party proposed it first? Surely if Ed M doesn’t support it, and publicly campaign for it, then he is as much of an opportunistic self-serving snake as Nick C will ever be?
    —————————————-
    Nah, cause he didn’t sign a pledge in blood to vote against tuition fees then preside over the marketisation of HE & the trebling of fees.

    And Ed’s already said he is personally supporting AV but may not have time to campaign for it because of the timing – he is expected to put his efforts into getting as many Labour MPs for Scotland & Wales; & also as many Labour councillors as possible.

    He said he would campaign for a yes vote, if the date of the AV referendum is changed.
    8-)

  23. John Bartle’s graphs are fascinating. We tend to assume that the vast majority of people do not change their political beliefs, just their party allegiances. But here you see the swing of opinion as well as voting intention. Also, despite what’s been said, the British public are actually a little bit left of centre. By eye the midpoint seems to be around 53-54 (which is also the centre of the range)

    The anomalies in the graphs are curious too. Again going by eye there seems to be a leftish spike around the times of most General Elections, irrespective of who actually won. Whether because this is due to increased political interest or some side-effect of there being more polls around those times would be interesting to find out.

    The second graph reminds us that Government spending was actually above the totemic 40%, that free-marketers so worship, for most of the time, whoever was in power. Despite this none of the inevitable, dreadful freedom-destroying effects they warn us about seems to have taken place. I leave to economists to decide what the two sub-40 period have in common – under-investment looks like one thing to me.

    The biggest anomaly in the second graph is in the run up to 1979, where a increase in left-wingness was accompanied by a rapid decrease in Government spending. This was, of course, followed by the election of Thatcher. At the time there was much mockery of far-left claims that Labour lost because it wasn’t “left enough”, but this makes you wonder. It might also indicate that the adverse effects of dropping spending might make the voters want to throw the Government out. Not a happy thought for the coalition

  24. Roger – that decrease is, presumably, the imposition of IMF policies.

  25. @Phil

    You said “…AV has all the disadvantages and none of the advantages of PR. It boosts seats for the centre party without being sufficient of a reform to make other parties such as the Greens or UKIP or a progressive LD breakaway viable. So we’d be left with essentially a three party system in which Clegg would hold more seats and essentially be free to decide on the
    colour of the government after the election, probably time after time. I don’t see it as a stepping stone to proper reform at all…”

    I need to point out that a “No” vote to AV would make electoral reform the third rail of UK politics and kill any hope of PR stone dead. But you raise a valid question: would AV institute a system where Yellow would be the constant kingmakers between Blue and Red? I’m trying to read up on this, and this is what I’ve found so far:

    1) The Curtice models

    John Curtice is a Professor of politics at Strathclyde University. He looked at second preferences for the 1983,87,92,97,01,05 elections and postdicted the results if they had been held under AV. Did Yellow hold the balance of power under his postdictions? He said:

    * 1983: No (Blue majority in HoC)
    * 1987: No (Blue majority in HoC)
    * 1992: No (Blue majority in HoC)
    * 1997: No (Red majority in HoC)
    * 2001: No (Red majority in HoC)
    * 2005: No (Red majority in HoC)
    * 2010: Yes (Blue plurality in HoC)

    (Sources: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8506306.stm , see also h
    ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/nol/shared/spl/hi/uk_politics/10/alternative_vote/alternative_vote_june_09_notes.pdf, h ttp://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/opensecrets/2010/02/alternative_voting_systems_for_choosing_a_voting_system.html, h ttp://www.bbc.co.uk/learningzone/clips/alternative-vote-system/10099.html)

    So the answer is no: under the Curtice models, Yellow would not become kingmakers as you fear. It would have happened exactly as it did in real life.

    But these are models, not real life. What happens in real life?

    2) The Australian House of Representatives

    The Australian House of Representatives has been AV since 1918. If Wikipedia is to be believed, then the election results since 1945 were:

    * 1946 No (Red victory)
    * 1949 Yes (Hung: largest party 55 out of 121)
    * 1951 Yes (Hung: largest party 52 out of 121)
    * 1954 Yes (Hung: largest party 57 out of 121)
    * 1955 Yes (Hung: largest party 57 out of 122)
    * 1958 Yes (Hung: largest party 58 out of 122)
    * 1961 Yes (Hung: largest party 60 out of 122)
    * 1963 Yes (Hung: largest party 52 out of 122)
    * 1966 Yes (Hung: largest party 61 out of 124)
    * 1969 Yes (Hung: largest party 59 out of 125)
    * 1972 No (Red victory)
    * 1974 No (Red victory)
    * 1975 No (Red victory)
    * 1977 No (Red victory)
    * 1980 Yes (Hung: largest party 54 out of 125)
    * 1983 No (Red victory)
    * 1984 No (Red victory)
    * 1987 No (Red victory)
    * 1990 No (Red victory)
    * 1993 No (Red victory)
    * 1996 No (Blue victory)
    * 1998 No (Red victory)
    * 2001 No (Blue victory)
    * 2004 No (Blue victory)
    * 2007 No (Red victory)
    * 2010 Yes (Hung: largest party 72 out of 150)

    (Source: h ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_House_of_Representatives)

    So the answer is yes (1945-1970) but no (1970-date): under the Australian system, Yellow did not become kingmakers as you fear. Instead, they split into two parts: the leftish half fell away (analogous to the UK Beveridge group Yellows) and is now defunct, the rightist half (analogous to the UK Orange Book Yellows) is now permanently joined to another party (analogous to the CDU/CSU in Germany?)

    Summary

    The point I’m trying to make is that from what I’ve found so far, AV does not result in Yellow holding the power between Red and Blue. I’m sure Yellow thought that when they arranged for the referendum, but so far it doesn’t look as if it does. If I find something to the contrary, I’ll tell you.

    Regards, Martyn

    (see also: h
    ttp://www.suite101.com/content/how-the-alternative-vote-av-system-of-pr-works-in-practice-a236024)

  26. @John Murphy

    You make several points. Dealing with them as follows:

    1) Constituencies and AV

    I take your point about the elision of the 600-seat HoC and the AV ref. But the 600-seat HoC will go thru whether the AV ref fails or succeeds. Given that the 600-seat HoC will go thru whether one votes “yes” or “no”, it cannot be used as a reason to vote “yes” or “no”.

    2) The date issue, Clegg’s advocacy

    AV is right or wrong regardless of when the vote is held in a given year or who advocates/denegrates it. Res ipsa loquitur – the thing speaks for itself.

    3) Yellow as kingmakers

    You said that “…Nor is there anything inherently philosophically superior in an electoral system that’s designed to keep a smaller party permanently in power…” I agree. A lot of people think AV will result in perpetual coalitions, and (arguably) this is why Yellow wanted it. But there is just one teensy problem – AV doesn’t produce perpetual coalitions and won’t make Yellow into kingmakers. (Yellow got it wrong. Bless. Please, appreciate the irony). See above for this point.

    4) Accountability of MPs

    MPs are currently accountable to the electorate in only one way – by being unelected (OK, there’s court cases and things, but run with me for a mo’). That is true regardless of whether they are elected under FPTP, AV, STV, pure PR, or selection by ability to juggle. Keeping FPTP will not make MPs accountable and losing it will not make them unaccountable (see churn rates below).

    5) Churn rates

    You say that “…systems that make politicians over-mighty never get cleansed by electoral rejection…” I’m reading up on this and will get back with more details, but my current understanding is that the churn rates (the proportion of incumbents losing their seats in a given election) for AV are comparable to those for FPTP.

    6) Responsibility

    We’re alone in the polling booth, and the vote is down to us and us alone. We can’t blame Clegg, Cameron, Milliband or whoever for the way we vote.

    I think I’m correct that your logic is a) Yellow want AV to make themselves kingmakers, b) AV will make Yellow kingmakers, c) you will vote “no” to mess up Yellow. Point a) is correct, but point b) isn’t, and point c) will not mess up Yellow, it’ll be us who will suffer the consequences. You know, me, thee, your mum, my nephews, the girl you bought the milk off…us, the electorate.

    Hope that helps, regards, Martyn

  27. @Amber

    Letter from his mum again?

    Regards, Martyn

  28. Anthony

    Oh agreed – I’m not saying that there was a choice. Just that actions have consequences. Of course if you choose the particular action anyway, those consequences may still follow. Of course the coalition is hoping that everything will be under control by the time the next election happens.

  29. Roger – I wasn’t inferring anything, just explaining it for those pondering!

  30. @Martyn

    I don’t recall Yellow backing AV before the GE. In fact I distinctly recall NC et al being very vociferous in their opposition to AV. AV was proposed by Labour as a sop to the LD’s. But no self respecting LD would ever have advocated AV prior to the GE, as it is not proportional in any way (nationally), and is more likely to further distort the advantage of the big two. AV+ perhaps; PR certainly. But AV, no.

  31. @RiN

    Demanding a referendum – ie the people decide – is in no way holding the country to ransom. They were voted in on the basis they’d implement PR, and knowing how rare it is for the Lib Dems to be in a position of power to be able to get some of their policies enacted (once in a generation), they should’ve seized the power, and made it conditional, if they were to agree to a Tory budget.

    If the Tories couldn’t even bring themselves to offer a referendum on PR (that itself a compromise on the Lib Dem’s part, as there’s every chance it could fail), whilst bleating on about the need for ‘strong government’ and draconian cuts – none of which Lib Dem voters elected them on, or wanted, the Tories had better make it worth it. They didn’t. Lib Dems accepted, and are now in free-fall.

  32. @ Martyn

    It might not result in endless hung parliaments, but the key issue is it helps no-one but the Lib Dems. Why on earth would I vote to strengthen the Lib Dems? They’ve shown they’re quite willing to sacrifice their policies and their progressive conscience – if the leadership ever believed in it in the first place – for naked self interest.

  33. @Craig

    Off the top of my head, UKIP would be helped as well. And, as Amber pointed out earlier, the electorate and the system would adapt to each other so that Yellow would not be unfairly advantaged, as you seem to think.

    But I don’t want to get drawn into “this electoral system is good for this party and so we must have it”, nor “this electoral system is bad for this party and so we must have it”. If we start choosing electoral systems specifically to mess up parties we don’t like, then we won’t be living in a democracy. And we won’t deserve to be living in one.

    I would hope that the electorate would set aside any partisan interest they may have in order to improve our country’s democracy. I fear that they will not, but I still hope for the best from people (naive, I know, but…well, still)

    Hope that helps, regards, Martyn

  34. While there is a presumptive advantage in asking the same question over 10 years of Surveys, there is also a clear downside. The context in which a question was framed 10 years ago may mean that the question itself means something very different 10 years later!.

    The demonstration of that is the attempt to link answers to questions from English respondents to the British Social Attitudes Survey with similar questions to the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey.

    Specifically, the % of English agreeing that “Scotland should pay for its services out of taxes collected in Scotland” rose from 73% to 82% between 2001 and 2009.

    The % of Scots agreeing that “Scotland should pay for its services out of taxes collected in Scotland” rose from 51% to 57% over the same period.

    Regrettably the meaning of “it’s [Scotland’s] services” is not a constant. In the Scottish or British Social Attitudes Survey. In 2009, for example, an additional question in Scotland showed that Welfare Benefits were seen by 60% as something that should be controlled via Scottish taxes.

    It would be interesting to see the results of asking how a similar taxation/public spend systemfor Scotland as currently applies in places like South Tyrol (Italy), Basque Country (Spain) would be viewed in the UK.

    “Scotland should raise all its own taxes and pay for its own services from these. In addition it should pay the UK Government for the common services it provides. These common services should include –

    Defence (agree/disagree)
    Foreign Affairs (agree/disagree)
    [other reserved powers] (agree/disagree)”

  35. @ Old Nat

    If such a statistic is available, for every pound that Scots send to Westminster, how much is returned to Scotland?

    And if Scotland received maximum devolution powers, would there be a possibility of double taxation? That is, Scots would pay taxes to their government at Holyrood and Scots would pay taxes to Westminster.

  36. Garry K

    “…is Ms May getting those water canons warmed up?”

    Lol. It would of course be brutal to use cold water.

  37. @ Richard in Norway and Virgilio

    I’m not sure that gender equality in political representation is acheived through proportional representation and advanced voting.

    California’s Congressional delegation consists of 34 Democrats (literally, there are more Democratic members of Congress from California than there are total number of Congressmembers from any other state in the union).

    Of those 34, 18 are women and 16 are men. That is complete gender parity that I think mirrors society as a whole (there are slightly more women than men in total population). We obviously do not have advanced runoffs nor do we have proportional representation. We have single member districts based on population that are all equal (more or less) in size and have members elected on a first past the post basis. Nor do we have party officials selecting the candidates to run. So while there has always been a party goal of equality, there has never been (nor could there be) a Tony Blair style shortlist. Yet, we have gender parity anyway in the delegation.

  38. @ Mike N

    This is off-topic but related to an earlier discussion. I was watching an old episode of Fawlty Towers the other night. I think Cameron is more like Basil Fawlty (who was also tall, dark haired, staunchly Tory, slightly manic, slightly snobby, and possessed dislike of the working class). Clegg is more like Cybil Fawlty (trapped in an unhappy marriage where her husband is afraid of her but really can’t leave the marriage).

    Makes me wonder what would happen in a scenario where Clegg threatened to have the Liberal Democrats leave the coalition and left 10 Downing Street to decide what to do. And if Cameron, fearful of the Queen finding out and dissolving Parliament, would in a panic claim that Clegg was still the Deputy Prime Minister and was keeping the Lib Dems in the government…..but couldn’t see the Queen because he was sick in bed and had lost his voice. And then if the Queen wanted to see him anyway to cheer him up, if Cameron, in an embarassed panic, would bribe one of his young blonde interns to dress up as Clegg with sunglasses and get into bed in order to pretend to the Queen that Clegg was in fact still supporting the Coalition but was just too puffed up to say so. :)-

    Probably not……:)-

  39. “…is Ms May getting those water canons warmed up?”

    Lol, again, as just realised that “canon” has several meanings quite distinct from “cannon”. These include amongst other things “a general law, rule, principle, or criterion by which something is judged”; and “a piece [of music] in which the same melody is begun in different parts successively…”.

  40. SOCALLIBERAL

    Ah, yes that episode.

    Your scenario is utterly implausible.

    Are you suggesting there is a hint of farce about the UK’s government?

    :-)

  41. @Craig, hi!

    I’m sorry – I was so disconcerted by the antidemocratic thrust of your question (“I want to mess up a particular political party. Which electoral system should I choose?”) that I missed your actual point. You state that AV will give Yellow an inherent advantage (“…the key issue is it helps no-one but the Lib Dems…”). Er, no it won’t – that’s the point. If the electorate want to get rid of Yellow then AV will not prevent that, it’ll help that, through the use of preferences.

    Hope that helps, regards, Martyn

  42. SoCalLiberal

    I should imagine that the writers of The Thick of It are working on a similar scenario at this very moment. It’s interesting that when the coalition came in, satirists despaired as Cameron and especially Clegg seem to be too bland for good parody. (They also sound very similar which is a problem). Seven months later and it certainly isn’t the case.

    One of the strange things about politicians is that in time they can tend to become their caricatures. Blair particularly embodied this. Whether satire changes how we see them or grasps their essence or prefigures the way they will end up, I don’t know.

    By the way, you suggested the similarity between the word “santorum” and the name of the Republican ex-senator was a delightful coincidence. You are soooo wrong – full story here:

    ht tp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santorum_(sexual_neologism)

    Possibly NSFW and certainly Not Safe For Lunch (or in your case breakfast).

    (I would suggests Martyn also checks this if he wants to continue using “santorum” as a swearword)

  43. SoCalLiberal

    Revenue and Expenditure data isn’t easily extracted for parts of the UK, but statisticians of the Scottish Government have been making “best estimates” for some years.

    The following is for 2008-9

    With 8.4% of the UK population, Scotland provided 10.4% of the UK’s tax income.

    54% of our tax revenues are returned to the Scottish Parliament for allocation here.

    While 70% of the remaining “expenditure by Government in Scotland” can be fairly accurately identified, the remaining 30% is much more dubious. For example, it includes our per capita share of defence spending – though we don’t see our share of our taxes spent here – and things like the London Olympics, for which the UK Government bent its own rules by saying that the spend in East London would be of equal benefit to the entire UK, and we are charged for a per capita share of it!

    So hugely complex – just how the Unionists like to keep it.

  44. @ Mike N

    “Your scenario is utterly implausible.

    Are you suggesting there is a hint of farce about the UK’s government?”

    No. I was suggesting what might make for a good SNL style or Mad TV style opening sketch. And yeah, it is utterly implausible but of all the utterly implausible situations, that one seemed the funniest.

  45. @ Roger Mexico

    I stand corrected! I did not realize that Dan Savage had played a part in creating that.

    I don’t think Cameron or Clegg are too bland for satire. They’re both really kinda funny in that they both seem to be leading parties that don’t really like them with problematic members they need to corrall and bring in. And then there are the personal habits that backfire. I loved how during the election, Cameron had all these special handpicked candidates for certain constituencies that were part of his A-team who all proceeded to be massive disasters who then failed to take key seats the Tories should have won. Beyond his attempts to imitate Blair, Cameron is hilarious in that he’s so quintessentially English yet he manages in a very un-English way to cause diplomatic fights with other countries usually by accident. Clegg is blander but he’s funny in that he is stuck with the coalition but seems really annoyed all the time. And then the coalition itself is also kinda humorous because for whatever ideology gaps that they’re bridging, the Tories and Lib Dems seem really far apart when it comes to personalities. The Tories getting upset over Lynn Featherstone blogging about her new ministerial duties from the bathtub just strikes me as a culture clash between the older stuffy Tory mentality and the younger, less rigid Lib Dem mentality. When culture clashes on seemingly minor things take place that require officials to intervene and spend time discussing it, I find great humor in that.

    I think that charicatures of politicians (if they’re good) can make the politicians more like them. I think the most telling line came in this classic SNL sketch from 1992 where a newly elected Bill Clinton, played by Phil Hartman, visits a local McDonalds while out on his jog (where he subsequently is able to talk to all the restaurant patrons about a wide variety of pressing issues in depth…..but only does so in order to eat off their plates.) His secret service agents attempt to convince him not to since he’s only been jogging for three blocks and since they promised Hillary that they wouldn’t let him visit any more fast food joints while out exercising. The agents finally give in but ask him not to tell Mrs. Clinton. Clinton, with this boyish grin and a friendly voice, says “Boys….there’s gonna be a whole BUNCHA things we DON’T tell Mrs. Clinton. Fast food is the least of my worries, okay?”

  46. @ Old Nat

    “Revenue and Expenditure data isn’t easily extracted for parts of the UK, but statisticians of the Scottish Government have been making “best estimates” for some years.

    The following is for 2008-9

    With 8.4% of the UK population, Scotland provided 10.4% of the UK’s tax income.

    54% of our tax revenues are returned to the Scottish Parliament for allocation here.

    While 70% of the remaining “expenditure by Government in Scotland” can be fairly accurately identified, the remaining 30% is much more dubious. For example, it includes our per capita share of defence spending – though we don’t see our share of our taxes spent here – and things like the London Olympics, for which the UK Government bent its own rules by saying that the spend in East London would be of equal benefit to the entire UK, and we are charged for a per capita share of it!

    So hugely complex – just how the Unionists like to keep it.”

    The figure that is important is that you’re only 8.4% of the population but account for 10.4% of tax revenue (I didn’t realize how small the Scottish population was in relation to England’s). If I’m not mistaken, you guys don’t pay any taxes to Scotland’s Parliament. If they received taxation powers, would you continue paying taxes to Westminster as well?

    Also, while I could imagine anger over your tax money being spent on something that benefits East London, doesn’t your sense of Scottish communalism support help for East London especially when it’s the Olympics that bring a certain pride and joy to the country as a whole? Not to mention overall tax revenue increases.

    Of the 46% of tax revenues spent by Westminster on Scotland, what are the expenditures mainly for? And do you have situations where Holyrood and Westminster are spending money on the same things? Or are things more carefully delineated.

    California only gets back 78 cents on every dollar sent to the federal government (and we pay federal taxes and state taxes). I don’t mind this really. Except when people from other states (usually the south) begin lecturing on fiscal responsibility, moralitay, jaysus, and the evils of California. Then I get a little ticked off. My attitude is this: as long as we support you, STFU please. :)

    You’ll be pleased to know that when Gordon Brown was on the Daily Show and Jon Stewart asked him what country he was from. Gordon Brown said he was Scottish (not British) and from the United Kingdom.

  47. @ KeithP

    I’ve long hoped for PR as a means to mute the effects of what I saw as lurching from “spend” to “no spend” and back again – overshooting the centre compromise position repeatedly and unnecessarily. Unfortunately, some people I don’t like will then get into parliament and occasionally into power.

    ————

    I share your hopes Keith. The UK is centrist (in most areas) and is best governed from the centre. Remember the 1950’s? They were very good times. And that was under a moderate Tory administration. Not a Thatcherite one!

    If only the Conservatives would see that particular light and move back to the centre-right once more. One can but hope!

    As to your other point – “some people I don’t like will then get into parliament and occasionally into power” – I’m guessing that that also probably happens under the current system!

  48. John Bartle’s data is fascinating. But would they always apply? Eg. if you accept a simplistic view of his findings the Conservatives ought to get going now on increasing public expenditure if they want to win the next General Election!

    To Nick Hadley: the results of the latest Mori and YouGov polls are within sampling error. In fact all the recent polls seem to be more or less in agreement about the state of play regarding political opinion.

    I have commented on other threads that it is surprising Labour is not further ahead, so I take on board Polly Toynbee’s comments. One point is that Labour is still tarnished by Blair and Brown, appears to be in a problematic state organisationally, and has not yet start revising its policies. So as yet a Labour vote is effectively a protest vote or a tribal one.

    It is perhaps surprising that Others, such as the Greens, are not picking up support. I think, however, that the reason for that is that when there is no election in prospect people simply think about the major parties, and don’t put the extra effort into considering minor parties.

    There is an awful lot to happen before the next general Election. We don’t even yet know what the voting system will be – which will affect people’s choices. We don’t know if any new parties will emerge, for instance possibly through a LibDem split or a new party or parties. And, I am simply observing from a psephological standpoint, we don’t know how far people will engage in conventional politics to seek their aims in the next few years as opposed to taking to direct action along the line of recent student protests.

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