Over the next few days I’m going to be rounding up the position the three main parties find themselves in the polls at the end of 2010, and looking forward at what faces them in the year ahead, starting with the Conservatives.

The Conservatives received little in the way of a post-election honeymoon (there was nothing like the huge leads Labour recorded over the summer of 1997), but equally their support has been surprisingly robust. There was an expectation that the cuts and tax rises in the government’s first budget would damage their poll ratings, but if anything it increased their standing. That was followed by the expectation that the announcement of detailed cuts in October would lead to Conservative support crashing, but instead it has proved remarkably robust. The vast majority of polls (basically everyone but Angus Reid) continue to show the Conservatives at or above the level of support they recorded at the general election.

This is unlikely to last forever. There is a gradual decline in approval of the government, and public opinion is slowly moving away from the cuts strategy. Around November a plurality of people began to think the government was handling the economy badly (the latest figures are 40% well, 47% badly), in December for the first time more people thought the cuts were bad for the economy (43%) than good for it (40%). The strategy of placing the blame for the cuts on Labour is also wearing thin – 65% of people continue to blame the last Labour government for the cuts (not much changed from straight after the election), but 47% now blame the current government, up from 36% just after the election (the figures overlap because 24% blame both of them).

Despite attempts to present their cuts as progressive and balanced, the government are increasingly losing the argument on whether cuts are fair or not – only 32% think they are fair, 54% unfair (though it’s worth remembering that some people will regard cutting the deficit as more important than protecting the least well off – so thinking the cuts are unfair is not the same as opposing them).

At some point this trend is likely to be reflected in support in the polls – my own expectation is that Conservative support will drop after the local elections in May. They are defending seats won on anti-government protest votes in 2007, I’d expect them to suffer some hefty losses and their first big defeat to crystalise the growing disillusionment with the cuts.

It’s more debateable how much this matters. Of course, it would be easier for David Cameron if he still led in the polls, but it was probably never to be. The Conservatives seem to have bet the farm on the strategy of imposing the cuts, suffering the unpopularity, and waiting for the economy to improve in time for them to face the electorate (though one might very well conclude that it was the only strategy really open to them). To some extent, therefore, how well the Conservatives do in the voting intention polls in the short term while the economy is still struggling and the cuts are still being implemented is irrelevant – they are expecting to be unpopular. What will be critical is whether their position in the polls recovers once the cuts have bedded in, public services have adapted, and people’s economic optimism and opinion of the current state of the economy start to rise… and we’re probably a year or more away from that. We should expect the next year to be one of bad polling news for the Conservatives, but it will be the polls in 2014 and 2015 that tell us how likely they are to be re-elected.

In the meantime, there are probably two or three short term concerns:

First, while the Conservative leadership’s strategy accepts it will be behind in the polls, it doesn’t mean the rank and file will be quite so sanguine. If the party starts suffering badly in the polls it may also result in growing unhappiness on the Conservative backbenches, and an image of disunity is normally extremely damaging for a party (though for those anxious to see bad news for the government, remember that governments can happily accept constant criticism from the usual suspects – the opposition of John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and so on was basically ignored by Tony Blair. People like Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone and Philip Davies are the Conservative equivalent – so don’t take noises from that direction as sign of impending disaster).

Secondly, there is to what extent presiding over the cuts undoes the Conservative attempts over the last five years to rid themselves of the image that they are only concerned about the rich. While Cameron made great progress in detoxifying the Conservative party, he did not manage to rid it of the perception that they cared more for the rich than the poor, and most commentators (correctly in my view) see this as a reason the Conservatives fell short at the last election.

Some people have floated the idea that the Conservative alliance with the Liberal Democrats would complete the process of “detoxification”, people would think that the Conservatives couldn’t be so bad after all if the cuddly, bearded old-Lib Dems were happy to work with them (though if anything it seems to be working the other way round – the coalition is “toxifying” the Lib Dems). More recently there are concerns it will work the other way round as the media narrative over the relationship between the coalition partners has often been couched in terms of the Lib Dems being the nice cop and the Conservatives the nasty one – perhaps being together in a coalition could make the Conservatives look even nastier by constrast. Certainly the growing perceptions that the cuts are being done unfairly is unlikely to help.

Either way, so far perceptions haven’t changed much one way or the other – in May 2010 just after the coalition was formed 46% thought the description “It seems to appeal to one section of society rather than to the whole country” applied most to the Conservatives, when YouGov asked the question again in December 2010 the figure was unchanged on 46%.

Thirdly, there is the position of the Liberal Democrats. If David Cameron is depending upon the eventual economic recovery he needs his government to endure for long enough to see it happen. The biggest threat to that is the coalition collapsing in some way. Hence in many ways, he needs to be more worried about how his coalition partners are doing in his polls than his own party’s rating… but I’ll address the Liberal Democrats in more detail in the next post.


88 Responses to “End of year round up – the Conservatives”

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  1. @Robert C

    I said this in the comment you replied to, but I think I have to say it again. Our military is currently mobilised and in action in Afghanistan, and has been since 2001. It’s amazing we’ve kept expenditure so low!

    1982 saw public expenditures go up to 48% of GDP after the Falklands war, which was a shorter more contained conflict.

  2. Good analysis Robert – returning to 40% but with much higher debt interest of course and higher transfer payments initially. So doing so by 2014/5 is in fact deflationary to the Economy and may create more cost over a 10 year cycle that traking 10 years to get to around 40%.
    This is the kernel of the debate on too fast and the nearest parallel I can think off is the (tax raising in recession) 1981 budget which divides opinion. Either the most daring and important budget since the war or the biggest mistake costing more over the piece and affecting social cohesion with added costs as well.
    I take the latter view and like Ed Balls description of the Chancellor and Coalition conducting a big experiment with big downsides if they are wrong.
    On a political note though I do not believe the cost of too fast too soon will be sufficiently apparent by 2015 to give Labour a victory but hope I am wrong.

    Of course Osborne could be a Genius.

    (NB blame GB or banks for the high debt interest take your pick it is not relavant to the point about 40% being deflationary).

  3. A stopped clock only tells the right time twice a day.

    That’s the Conservatives in a nut-shell. They had to wait for a very unusual combination of circumstances, both economic & political, to be in government at all.

    The clock will soon be ticking again; circumstances will change but the Tory Party will not. Change is against their nature – they are Conservatives.
    8-)

  4. Bit partisan Amber?

    Bit of a cheap and easy point for you don’t you think?
    :)

  5. @R.Huckle;
    I think that your analysis is absolutely spot on.The Euro is
    the key to everything.I know that the city is predicting huge
    problems for the Euro next year,friends in high or low places, depending on your point of view!

  6. Well the wait wasnt as long as Labours was it? Are all your points this niggly and pointlessly partisan?

  7. Bit partisan Amber?

    Bit of a cheap and easy point for you don’t you think?
    ————————————————
    An easy point to make? Yes, but valid none-the-less. Sometimes those of us who are interested in politics become immersed in deep & difficult points that are outside the mainstream’s interest in politics.

    Often, cheap & easy wins the day – & I think we need to remember that, at least occasionally.
    8-)

  8. @JimJam,

    The problem with waiting 10 years to get back to balance is that statistically we will probably be in the next recession by then. If the “cycle” is anything of the kind then we need to at least pay off the last “Keynesian Boost” before we start splurging on the next. Of course we could always ask Gordon to come back and abolish busts again.

    As to the point over comparative growth rates, I accept that France and Germany enjoyed slightly higher growth in the Thatcher years than the UK, but the difference is very small. There are plenty of other factors that could affect this, and I don’t think the difference is great enough to form the basis of a “high public spending means higher growth” argument.

    @BT

    It’s pointless arguing with Amber on Tory vs Labour, as her very definition of “wrong” is whatever the Tories propose.

  9. @Ian in Lichfield

    The govt has decided on a vast range of cuts and it will have to stick to most of them however some of them will be wrong. I don’t have a problem with the govt being persuaded that a decision is wrong. Rather that than the poll tax or the 10p tax band. Commonsense over ideology or pride.

    The VAT rise will not be popular and will help the finances however it is not enough. The alternatives to vast ranging and unpopular cuts are either more tax rises, 5p in basic rate in addition to VAT, or increases in borrowing. At least the borrowing would be popular for a limited time and then the proverbial would hit the fan.

    As for the FSS, I must apologise because the losses are £2m per month and not per year as I stated.
    The organisation became a govt company in 2005 and was being prepared for privatisation. The market was opened up and some of the business has gone elsewhere. A restructuring grant of £50m was made in 2009. Most criticsm of the decision has centred on the R&D work rather than the routine testing that has been undercut by the competition. As I understand it the FSS has been acting like a private company for some time but the grant money is close to running out.

  10. “Often, cheap & easy wins the day – & I think we need to remember that, at least occasionally.”

    I really don’t think we do need reminding of it here… if you look for, ooh, a fraction of a second, you’ll find loads of partisan comments elsewhere on the internet ;)

  11. @ Neil A

    Okay, here’s a challenge for you:

    List 3 significant policies, instigated & implemented by the Conservatives, that have been specifically intended to improve the lives of citizens in the UK & have achieved that objective.
    8-)

  12. @ Anthony

    Point taken – but I was channeling your “Even a stopped clock…….” I can’t do that anywhere else; nobody would get it. :-)

  13. @Amber,

    Easy. Curtailing the power of the Unions, staying out of the Eurozone and reducing income tax.

  14. As the Eurozone didn’t come into being until 1999, I thought it was Gordon Brown (against the wishes of Tony Blair) who kept us out of it, not the Tories.

  15. @ Neil A

    I’ll allow:
    1. Curtailing the power of the Unions because it was a popular policy & the public perception is that it has achieved its objective.

    But:
    2. Eurozone – wrong Party on that one, I think.

    3. Reducing income tax – I think all the Parties have/ have had that policy, in one form or another; I think non-Cons may have been equally (or more) successful in achieving it.
    8-)

    You didn’t mention policies encouraging home ownership instead of a lifetime paying rent. That’s one of the few Tory policies that – from a pragmatic rather than an ideological position – I would support.

    I thought its implementation was half-baked because it didn’t do enough to upgrade properties & neighbourhoods to encourage wider participation.

  16. @ Neil A

    I don’t think it’s possible to centralize all forensics services across the 50 States and District of Columbia. But it would be possible to come up with uniform standards of how evidence is handled.

    This National Academy of Sciences report had a major impact (though not on police departments). In late 2009, the Supreme Court (with the very conservative Justice Scalia writing for a 5-4 majority) held that forensics reports could not be submitted against criminal defendants without violating the 6th Amendment. Now, for all criminal cases, forensic evidence cannot be presented on its own against a defendant. The experts who prepare the reports must be subject to cross examination at trial. This is a very positive change and helps protect people from faulty forensics being introduced without proper challenge.

    As for public defenders, they often are starved of money and usually not the most prestigious offices for young attorneys to work in (the D.C. Public Defender’s Office being the exception).

    In terms of scaling back Legal Aid in the UK, if it’s just for civil cases, it is unfortunate but not the end of the world. Losing civil cases sucks, especially when you lose because the lawyer you hire is an idiot and doesn’t know what he’s doing. But it’s different to miss out on a jury award (although I’ve heard there are no more jury trials in the UK in civil cases) of damages than it is to be convicted of a crime. I once remember hearing from a leading judge of the D.C. Superior Court about piss poor lawyering. When he presided over civil trials, he rarely intervened to do a lawyer’s homework for him. He’d only intervene when he could see a great injustice being done (i.e. you have pro se litigants who would otherwise have a very good chance of winning but they’re up against an experienced legal team). He said “look, if you have a bad lawyer in a civil trial and you lose because of your lawyer, sue your lawyer for ineffective representation.” However, criminal trials were different when there were actual constitutional issues at stake and people faced a loss of liberty.

  17. There are a number of ways in which the government becomes an engine for growth. And does so even if it uses the private sector to accomplish its goals.

    For example, government assistance to real estate developers by giving them and their investors credits in exchange for building something the government wants and in the infrastructure build up. I’ll give an example.

    There’s a neighborhood in Los Angeles, North Hollywood that was for many years somewhat run down. In one part of this neighborhood, there was the terminus of a subway line that runs from the Valley to Downtown LA. The subway line cost billions. Costing a few hundred million was a busline that began at this subway terminus and ran all the way out to the West Valley (an edge city neighborhood known as Warner Center). The location of the land at these two station terminuses was excellent for development. However, to do a big project like that, any developer would have to raise hundreds of millions from investors. The investors put up the cash and the developers (in a perfect world) build their great development and then sell it off to go on to do the next one. But they can’t do it if they can’t line up the cash to do it. And if they’re proposing a project that is unusual for the area, older potential developers may be more reticent (transit oriented development in LA as opposed to London or Paris or New York City is not something people are used to).

    In this case, the government had a clear idea of what they wanted. They wanted an open common space for neighborhood residents and they wanted affordable housing. They especially wanted affordable housing that would be transit accessible (helps reduce traffic and polution if people can commute to work via public transportation). So the government gave the developer tax credits to build affordable housing and make the project as transit oriented as possible. They also provided additional incentive by offering tax credits and tax write offs to those who invested in this project. For the developer this is a major bonus. Why? Because let’s say an investor is looking for a real estate development to put some money into. Let’s say they have two real estate development projects they could invest in and these two are for all intents and purposes equal (the different prospectuses offered by the companies show equal returns on investment). If one project is one where they will get a tax credit from the government for investing, the investor is likely to choose that project. Not only does the investor make more money but it becomes easier for the developer to pull off a successful project because the developer is going to be able to raise funds more quickly.

    So this project got built and was extremely successful. The developer, with government support, made a huge financial profit, the investors not only got their return on investment but received extra benefits from the government. And the city got a huge new supply of high quality affordable housing (the more affordable housing the developer included, the more market rate units they could include) on top of two transit lines, along with new public space for the community, and an increase in public transportation ridership.

    Would this project have gotten off the ground without government support? Probably not. And even if it had, the developers and the investors would not have made nearly as much money as they did. In this case, the private sector was enabled by the public sector (in exchange of course for things the public sector wanted).

  18. Is it only me who pays attention to politics?

    The Euro was established by the Maastricht Treaty in 1992, under a Conservative government. John Major negotiated an opt-out, which is how the subsequent Labour government were able to decline entry when the final details were established in 1998. The Conservative Party campaigned hard (and in the face of a great deal of abuse from Labour and the Liberal Democrats – “Little Englanders” anyone?) against UK membership. Gordon Brown declared his public support for membership “when the time was right” (code for “when we reckon we can win a referendum” ie probably never).

    I’m sorry, but the Tories can claim some credit for that one.

    As for right-to-buy, it wasn’t one of the first three that came into my head but probably would have come in at number four. Jay Blanc some time ago convinced me that there were quite serious flaws in its implementation, and that there was a consequent net reduction in the availability of housing. But on balance I think the policy was a creator of social good.

  19. @SoCalLiberal,

    Surely the extending of tax credits to a private project perceived as being of general benefit is not “The Public Sector as an Engine of Growth”, it is simply the state getting out of the way. What it really illustrates is that taxing things can discourage them. Public spending to generate growth in one area requires taxation in another area which stifles growth there.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Teabag nutcase who doesn’t agree with taxation, public spending etc. I am moderate even for the UK Tory party (for example I oppose the privatisation of the Royal Mail, and I’m very comfortable with a top rate of Income Tax at 50% for the foreseeable future). I am completely convinced that there are areas of policy where the state has the main role (sometimes the exclusive role) and that without the state, the country can’t function. I am uncomfortable with the intrusion of private business into some areas of public life (for example the use of what are, in anyone’s language, mercenaries being used to do soldiers’ jobs in conflict zones).

    None of this means that I believe that public sector spending is an “engine for growth”. That implies that the government can take £100 from a taxpayer and turn it into £110, which I really don’t think it can. When the state has tried to do that (nationalised industries etc) it has largely failed.

    I should just add that I don’t actually think GDP growth is necessarily a good thing. We all rely on it to support every increasing per capita spending, but I’d be quite happy with zero growth if we could get the country and it’s economy into some sort of balance.

  20. As an active member of the European Movement I enjoy EU and Euro debates. However the reality is that most UK citizens do not care. UKIP and fellow euro-sceptics have been predicting the end of the Euro and the EU ever since either or both came in to being – yet they are both still here. The Euro is not and will never be an issue in the UK as we are unlikely to ever join. Yet just over 8% of all financial transactions reported by the UK clearing bank system are in Euros. There are Euro cash machines popping up at travel centres, and even TESCOs. I run an engineering business and ALWAYS ask UK companies to quote me in Euros for EU supplied components as it is cheaper. So despite being a total Europhile I see no need for us to join the Euro, it is already circulating in the UK. It is also not an an issue apart from the minority of us who are galvanised enough to gabble on either for or against the EU and its institutions. So there will be a spat in the Tories about the EU and the Eurozone, but it will make no long term difference. I still think that the only game in town is how the economy performs, with perhaps the impact of the excessive cuts on public services.

  21. @Eric,

    Completely agree with you.

  22. That implies that the government can take £100 from a taxpayer and turn it into £110, which I really don’t think it can.
    ———————————————-
    Of course governments can do that. They took a load of junk from various banks & turned it into shiny bank notes & AAA rated bonds.

    Or am I taking your point too literally? ;-)

  23. @Amber,

    LOL!

    No I didn’t mean bailing out banks, or even printing money!

  24. @SoCalLiberal

    There is one minor problem with the government’s intent to scale back legal aid provision to criminal cases only…

    The European Convention on Human Rights.

    There are precedents going back to pretty much the start of ECHR case law on this. A signatory to the convention is obliged to provide legal aid in civil cases as well as criminal ones. Despite the legislation providing for Legal aid barring provision for Libel cases, Libel cases are currently given legal aid because of the “McLibel” case ECHR ruling. Despite the claims that they can avoid supporting legal costs for “custody cases” and other family law, there are explicit ECHR rulings that such support must be provided.

    It would mean having to withdraw from significant swathes of the ECHR in order to enact the policy as declared. And if you read the consultation white paper, you’ll find that what they intend to do is set up a second fund for “obligations under international treaties”, and just not advertise it exists and make it hard to apply for funding from it. Something that I expect will eventually result in another ECHR case, making the same ruling in line with previous ones on a government’s obligation to provide legal aid.

  25. @Jay,

    I have to say I agree that withdrawing Legal Aid from whole categories of cases does seem a little Maoist (to use Clegg’s own phrase in a different context). European Law usually insists on a much more surgical approach. I can see the proposals being diluted to the point where Legal Aid is available in all kinds of cases but is subject to some sort of more rigorous assessment and perhaps a stringent cap.

    I doubt that every signatory to the ECHR allows unrestricted, uncapped Legal Aid in every case. Nation states will be allowed a degree of flexibility I would expect. Perhaps the policy as announced is a negotiating position.

  26. @ Neil A

    “Surely the extending of tax credits to a private project perceived as being of general benefit is not “The Public Sector as an Engine of Growth”, it is simply the state getting out of the way. What it really illustrates is that taxing things can discourage them. Public spending to generate growth in one area requires taxation in another area which stifles growth there.”

    Let’s not have one of those classic Anglo-American discussions where a feirce argument persists for 45 minutes between a Brit and an American before they finally figure out that they were actually in agreement (or close agreement) but misunderstood each other because of linguistic differences. :)

    I think that if the private sector acts but does so because the government helped them to do it, it constitutes public sector involvement. So in my example, the government decided they wanted a certain number of housing units built at a prime location. In this instance, the government may not build the housing itself but by spending the money on the development and protecting/encouraging investors (things they wouldn’t otherwise normally do), the government is acting to create growth. It’s not the government getting out of the way so much as it is the government aiding a private actor because they will get public good out of it.

    “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Teabag nutcase who doesn’t agree with taxation, public spending etc. I am moderate even for the UK Tory party (for example I oppose the privatisation of the Royal Mail, and I’m very comfortable with a top rate of Income Tax at 50% for the foreseeable future). I am completely convinced that there are areas of policy where the state has the main role (sometimes the exclusive role) and that without the state, the country can’t function. I am uncomfortable with the intrusion of private business into some areas of public life (for example the use of what are, in anyone’s language, mercenaries being used to do soldiers’ jobs in conflict zones).”

    You are most definitely not a teabag nutcase. You’re a cop and I greatly respect cops (my dad was one). And I think we’re in agreement here. I do not want nationalized industries (except in rare and temporary cases). I do not want mercenaries fighting in combat zones or acting as police officers.

    “None of this means that I believe that public sector spending is an “engine for growth”. That implies that the government can take £100 from a taxpayer and turn it into £110, which I really don’t think it can. When the state has tried to do that (nationalised industries etc) it has largely failed.”

    I look at it differently. The government works to create the optimal conditions for economic growth, particularly private sector growth. Public sector growth is done with the purpose of promoting private sector growth.

    “I should just add that I don’t actually think GDP growth is necessarily a good thing. We all rely on it to support every increasing per capita spending, but I’d be quite happy with zero growth if we could get the country and it’s economy into some sort of balance.

    Not sure I entirely agree with you on GDP growth.

    I tend to be a fiscal pragmatist. Different times call for different economic measures. There aren’t one-size-fits-all peices of clothing, I don’t see why people expect there to be one-size-fits-all economic policies.

  27. @ Jay Blanc

    “There is one minor problem with the government’s intent to scale back legal aid provision to criminal cases only…

    The European Convention on Human Rights.

    There are precedents going back to pretty much the start of ECHR case law on this. A signatory to the convention is obliged to provide legal aid in civil cases as well as criminal ones. Despite the legislation providing for Legal aid barring provision for Libel cases, Libel cases are currently given legal aid because of the “McLibel” case ECHR ruling. Despite the claims that they can avoid supporting legal costs for “custody cases” and other family law, there are explicit ECHR rulings that such support must be provided.

    It would mean having to withdraw from significant swathes of the ECHR in order to enact the policy as declared. And if you read the consultation white paper, you’ll find that what they intend to do is set up a second fund for “obligations under international treaties”, and just not advertise it exists and make it hard to apply for funding from it. Something that I expect will eventually result in another ECHR case, making the same ruling in line with previous ones on a government’s obligation to provide legal aid.”

    Interesting. I did not know that. Does scaling back funding neccessarily equate with not fulfilling the treaty obligations though? If they’re scaling back the aid but not getting rid of it, theoretically it still exists.

  28. @ Neil A

    It was a very wise decision to not abandon the pound and join the Euro. I think John Major should get credit for successfully negotiating the opt out. But I think Labour should get credit (or at least Gordon Brown) for taking advantage of the opt out. Even if they strongly considered joining it, they were only considering it. They never actually joined.

  29. The danger for the conservatives is that the reform policies vreate a chaos they cannot manage…They’ve gambled upon it being possible to deliver financial restraint and cuts in public services at the same time as reforming those services without there being any decline in the services themselves. Like most three card tricks it spends upon skill and luck in equal measure.

    Heath tried a similar game and got unlucky. Thatcher in ,79 got lucky: first with Labour falling apart and the Argentinians coming to her resue; later with Mr Scargill reinforcing the perceptions that Kinnock wasn’t the answer….

    This time Labour may not fall apart….and Milliband may be many things but his negatives are not as bad a Kinnock’s… probably no worse than Wilson’s in 1974….

  30. @John Murphy,

    I agree with your analysis. 2011 will be a nail-biter for the coalition. The polls will be awful of course but the real suspense will be seeing whether the gamble looks like it will pay off. The early signs should be apparent within a few months I think.

    The danger for Labour of course is that the chaos isn’t as bad as they “hope” and that Cameron emerges from it looking statesmanlike into a decent recovery in 2013-2014. In recent weeks the coalition have done a sterling job of looking unstatesmanlike, so not too promising on that score. Ultimately it will depend on the health of the wider economy. If the recovery manages to plug the employment and revenue gaps caused by the cuts, the pain will be felt fairly narrowly, and disproportionately by natural Labour supporters.

  31. @ Neil A

    Yes that’s all very true…

    But I think the cuts this year will make things choppy but the reforms in Health, Education and Local Govet Services will only start to be felt in 2012.

    There’s a naive assumption being made that this will all be fine….but like of this flu business…it’s going to be much more difficult than the government thinks… or has allowed for…

    They’ve embarked uponchanges that will deliver on paper but because they beleive it to be deliverable… won’t make it so. And i’m not sure they’ve got the practical skills to manage the process. Those who do are being made redundant and will be looking for new jobs at the time their skills are most needed.

    Once the waiting lists rise and the closures come and GP practices can’t cope with an epidemic for example…then there will be problems that will swallow up resources faster the the bank of England can print money.

  32. Just one grumble – “plurality” is a North American word, or rather this meaning of it is. The use of it here does not make sense to an English ear (as in plurality: what, more than one person?)

    In English English, the word is “majority”, as in “my MP has a majority of a thousand”.

  33. @ Jimjam

    You seem to have factored out the consequences to UK economic stability and growth of the sheer chaos that might be caused by the government simply declaring that it had no real plan to sort out the deficit – which is what a “ten year debt reduction plan” really amounts to. External financial observers would simply treat that as a declaration of intent to let the budget rip.

    No-one is saying that reducing the deficit isn’t deflationary. Of course it is. The question is, how well can the private sector stand up to (absolutely necessary) deflationary policies.

    Surveys of company employment and investment intentions that I have seen show they are rock solid for the coming year. The Recruitment and Employment Federation survey for December showed a net 50% of companies intend to create either full time or part time posts in 2011. This points up the huge divergence between what business is saying about the economy’s prospects and what media commentators – even those on the right – are saying about it. The Telegraph’s write up of the recruitment survey mentioned above was negative, presumably because the journalist was afraid to write a good news story out of tune with the prevailing mood. This was despite the actual figures shouting “employment boom”.

    Ed Miliband has well and truly retreated to fantasy island on public spending and it would serve him right if the other parties prepared an “alternative budget” showing how disastrous his outright opposition to any cuts whatsoever would really look in terms of public borrowing.

    Looking at the rapidly declining IPSOS MORI ratings for Ed Miliband’s leadership, I actually think Labour have had the best of it in late 2010. The more trade union leaders like Mark Serwotka spout their views about their opposition to any cuts at all, the less credible the left in general and Labour in particular will become. If the economy continues to ride things out better than expected, particularly through the next two quarters, those Jeremiahs will be left looking increasingly foolish as 2011 wears on. Of course, outside events (e.g. recovering US economy, Euro zone collapse) etc. will all have a huge bearing on all of this.

    We shall see.

  34. Good and interesting articles Anthony (the three party round ups).

    Happy new year (+ to all).

    We’ll see.
    As a Tory, I’m reasonably optimistic that the government still seems to have a little more goodwill amongst the public than at the turn of 1979/80.

    But we don’t have an overall majority.

    On the other hand, the economy should grow (then it was turning down).
    So the main question could be how painful the cuts are, and whether they are politically manageable in a context of a growing economy.
    And Labour seems to have picked up around 10% without any real policies.

  35. @HAL

    I thought but may be wrong was that plurality is a winning percentage that’s less than 50% of the votes cast….hence in the US majority presidents are those elected with more than 50%….

    Our use of majority is the vote difference between first and second…but as in the forthcoming byelection in Oldham Saddleworth it’s not a very effective description of a three way marginal where a small swing might put last first….etc

  36. Cameron has the same problem that John Major and Heath had in that he is seen as to the right of the country but far to the left of the party membership. There;s also a lack of talent in the Party – in fact this could be the least talented Tory Party ever.

  37. wolf
    Early on I made a similar point and was howled down for partisan ship as i am a Labour member but I was bieing objective. I posted earlier this week on a great reposte by Boris but most mininsters are so light they should blow away.

  38. @ Barney Crockett

    “Early on I made a similar point and was howled down for partisan ship as i am a Labour member but I was bieing objective. I posted earlier this week on a great reposte by Boris but most mininsters are so light they should blow away.”

    I think you’re right too. That’s why I don’t think that Labour is facing another 18 year stay in opposition or even the more traditional 13 year one (though Cameron may be PM for a while). The Labour front benchers are a bit green but they strike me as generally talented. If Ed Miliband decided to quit politics to go be president of the Boston Red Sox, Labour could find a replacement without skipping a beat.

    You acknowledge your pro Labour bias (you’re a party member and I think you said once you were a local city councilman) but by acknowledging it, you actually gain credibility. You’re not being a Labour cheerleader in this instance, simply giving an objective view.

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