YouGov’s weekly poll in the Sunday Times this week has the first questions asked about Ed Balls as Shadow Chancellor – asked if his appointment will make Labour stronger or weaker, 24% of people think it will strengthen Labour, 18% think it will weaken them (though to some extent, this is respondents believing what they want to believe – Labour supporters think strongly that it will make Labour stronger, Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters are more likely to think it will weaken them).

More relevant is probably a question asking who will make the better Chancellor of the Exchequer. When we asked it a week ago George Osborne was favoured over Alan Johnson by 25% to 21%. In a choice between Osborne or Balls they are level on 27% a piece, so Balls does get a slightly better rating than Johnson.

Two caveats to this – firstly it doesn’t necessarily translate into any vote of confidence in Balls, it could easily just be people aren’t that enthralled by George Osborne. In my earlier post I noted that people were more likely to think Osborne was a liability to the party than senior Tory frontbenchers. Today YouGov asked how much confidence people had in various figures to make the right economic decisions for the country and people had significantly less confidence in Osborne than in Cameron (31% had confidence in Osborne, 43% in Cameron. 30% had confidence in Ed Miliband to make the right decisions).

The other caveat is, of course, the one I mentioned on Friday – Balls’s upside was going to his vigour and command of the brief that will instill confidence, his possible downsides in terms of party image and positioning would take longer to emerge.

Looking at the rest of the poll, all three leaders have slight drops in their approval ratings. Also note the questions on the economy – 78% think the current state of the economy is bad, one of the worst since the general election. The feel good factor (those thinking the economy will get better over the next 12 months minus those who think it will get worse) is minus 55, the second worse it’s been since the election. As we saw during the last Parliament, economic optimism does have a significant impact upon voting intention, that won’t have been the case so much since the election because the economic state will have been seen as something the government inherited, but over time the relationship will have started to build up again.

The only economic question with even a smidgin of good news was the proportion of people thinking the country will go back into recession was marginally lower on 52%, compared to 55% in September. Everywhere else opinions were still resolutely negative.

On other questions, the government’s NHS plans were supported by 25% and opposed by 39%, with a chunky 36% saying don’t know. Asked how well they understood the government’s NHS policy 43% said they understood it well (37% fairly well, 6% very well), 48% either not very well (39%) or not at all (9%) – which probably explains the very high don’t know figure in the first question.

On education there was a pretty evenly divided response to Free Schools – 33% said they supported them, 35% said they opposed them. The figures were pretty much the same when we asked if people would be interested in a Free School in their local area 32% said they’d like to see one locally, 33% would not. Of those who said they’d like to see one in their area, about a fifth said they would be interesting in helping set it up.

Questions like this, incidentally, are the sort of thing that provoke headlines saying “only 6% would involve themselves in big society” etc, etc. These rather miss the point – if 6% of the population were happy to actively volunteer to help their local schools it would be more than enough (hell, it would likely be beyond Michael Gove’s wildest dreams). The problem is whether people would actually volunteer, rather than telling a pollster they would, which can be an entirely different matter. One requires you to tick a button on a screen, the other requires you to give up lots of your spare time.

Going back to the poll, YouGov also repeated some questions on Tony Blair and the war in Iraq, which were first asked in January last year. Opinions were pretty much the same – 51% think Tony Blair lied over Iraq, 30% think he did not. 24% of people think that Blair knowingly misled Parliament and should be tried for war crimes.


201 Responses to “More from the YouGov/Sunday Times poll”

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  1. alex

    it’s been obvious that there would be a GE this year since Xmas

    red ed knows it, that’s why ballsy got the shadow CoE job

    it seems like hulne is getting his arse in gear to dump clegg, but can he get the deed done with enough time to spare before a GE

    i gotta say that i don’t know who is/would be pushing for a GE

    we know courtesy of the DT that libdem ministers are not happy but…………………………

  2. @Amber Star – “… the government’s lack of strategy”

    Treasury have just responded by saying that they will look again at what can be done to promote growth.

    I did think there was a hint of “mission accomplished” about GO’s New Year message that “everything is now in place to tackle the deficit.”

  3. @Richard in Norway – I incline much more to Lazslo’s view than yours to be honest.

    I struggle to see why Cameron would be inclined towards an election in the midst of his year of pain and before we can see the economic recovery really happening. In fact, I see the likelihood of a 2011 election has actually declined since Christmas, as we have had some relatively poor economic news and a clear Labour lead developing. If he was going to go, Autumn was the time.

    The other consideration is that he set such a store on a 2015 election – even to the extent of legislating for it. I don’t know how it would affect the final result, but I would imagine there would be an awkward campaign launch if he now had to tell us why a snap election is suddenly in the national interest.

    I guess the rule of thumb has always been that governments facing troubles go long. Quick elections only come out of force majeur or when the incumbent is confident of victory. Looking at Anthony’s latest projection I think we can discount that idea for a while.

  4. @Alec – This from Toby Young on Jan 12, the day Tom Watson posted his ‘predictions’… one of which has proved remarkably accurate – giving Jan 25 as Coulson’s departure date (he hasn’t actually gone yet), it also holds out the prospect of industrial action as a backdrop to any possible May election:

    h ttp://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tobyyoung/100071521/will-cameron-call-a-snap-election-in-may/

    Of course providing a germ truth is indispensible to disinformation. Potential Tory rebels might be particuarly wary of having to face the public, especially given that the December Labour lead has proved to be no polling blip. My theory was that Cameron was floating twin strategies in the run up to OE&S: May election *or* long term Con/LD pact.

  5. Alec and others interested, some info on impact of moving to CPI for determining pension increases. (My apologies to those not interested.)

    According to a press release from Towers Watson, consultants, the total impact on FTSE100 company pension liabilities could be in excess of £15 billion.

    The average reduction in pension liabilities for large companies who will now base at least some pension increases on inflation as measured by the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) rather than the Retail Prices Index (RPI) is around 2.5%.

  6. I really don’t think a General Election is likely this year.

    And if China’s economy collapses in an overheated heap this year, I think we will be glad of our austerity measures rather than cursing them. The international debt market would be likely to incline to extreme parsimony and only the most hard-headed countries would be in a possession to keep borrowing what they need.

  7. Mike N

    What is the consequence for public sector final salary schemes?

  8. I am not sure the switch from RPI to CPI will cause that many ripples, simply because it is so unversal. Everyone suffering a “cut” at the same time.

  9. Oldnat
    I haven’t seen anything about impact on final salary schemes. If I spot anything I’ll post it.

  10. alex

    i don’t know, first you invite me to discuss and then you shoot me down :lol:

    but maybe there is a bit of wishful thinking, after all i don’t think that the economy can be easily fixed, so why not put labour in for 5 years and let them take all the blame

    i might be kidding!

  11. ” haven’t seen anything about impact on final salary schemes” should be

    I haven’t seen anything about impact on public sector final salary schemes.

    But mostly public secotr schemes are pay as you go. So, the ’employer’ will not benefit from reducing the pensions liability – unlike private sector schemes. (I think. I’m no expert !)

  12. @ Neil A

    “And if China’s economy collapses in an overheated heap this year, I think we will be glad of our austerity measures rather than cursing them. The international debt market would be likely to incline to extreme parsimony and only the most hard-headed countries would be in a possession to keep borrowing what they need.”

    As I said earlier, I don’t see China getting to such a state this year, but if it happened, our least important problem would be the international debt market. The rules would be rewritten, lenders would have to take on a serious discount on their outstanding claims and almost certainly there would be an inflationary (printing money, governments borrowing from central banks directly) financing of the sovereign borrowing.

    While the processes could happen as you described, I think the squeeze would be such that would eliminate such “minor” differences as 3% or 10% deficit/GDP ratios.

  13. Mike N

    Public sector pensions are, of course, “you pay, while we go!” :-)

    I’m presuming that the various layers of Government will have to pay out less.

    As to the effect, I agree with Neil A, everyone getting the same cut should be seen as “fair”.

  14. Oldnat
    As I understand things, private sector companies have to show their future pension liability in their accounts under standard accounting requirements (FRS17, I think).

    So, if those pension liabilities reduce, there is a gain that can be reflected in the P&L account. Hence, greater profits and greater dividends to shareholders. So, good news for some.

  15. for any one interested in the upcoming Irish elections and/or the bankers role in bankrupting Ireland

    this is a good link

    ht tp://golemxiv-credo.blogspot.com/2011/01/ireland-was-germanys-off-shore-tart.html

  16. On the drive home I’ve been thinking.

    Dangerous for me.

    What if Caneron never expected to get beyond a year or two at the most? Slash and burn and legislate and bonfire the regulatory bodies, tear up civil service terms and condtions, “reform” the NHS and then jump ship to the country blaming somebody else?

    Perhaps they have the agenda and they don’t actually care if they lose next time?

    Ed and Ed would inherit some scorched earth and not much in the way of tax receipts.

    Probably wrong. I usually am.

  17. My view about (against) a 2011 Spring election more coherently than earlier:

    1) Without either the LibDems leaving the coalition or a major scandal in the government – highly unlikely. It would be rather difficult to explain the reasons for a snap election within one year – except: if the government wants something big and argues that it requires the authorisation by the people. However, it would require to show some success about the previous “authorisation”.

    2) If this hurdle could be overcome, then the next problem is the polls. Would be unlikely to have an OM for the Conservatives – except if Ashcroft’s private research shows that the collapse of the LibDem vote would sufficiently benefit the Tories.

    3) The cuts are not only about balancing the budget (although politicians may not quite get it, but their economic advisors must know that a balanced or a surplus budget could be worse than a deficit, etc.), but also introducing a massive social change (not the Big Society, although it’s part of it). At the current stage the cuts are reversible in the sense that have not affected those targeted social relations sufficiently – except that both economic and social policy existed only in high level (ideological outline with few practical steps), while the introduction of the concrete measures are obstructed by the LibDems (to a degree), the civil service and other organisations, hence only a significant victory could allow the Conservatives to ignore or wade through these forms of resistance, otherwise it’s just not worth to be in government.

    4) In the current formation Cameron does not have an obvious successor/usurper, while large sections of the Tory upper echelons are probably unhappy with him. He does not need another unfulfilled victory – except, if he could be forced into it and if he lost, he could be replaced (but by whom?) while letting Labour to get into trouble again (even if the size of the cuts could be much smaller, they would be still quite painful and hence Labour could be blamed for both: creating and tidying up the problems).

  18. Re the election this isn’t/won’t be/might be – I sometimes think we are far too deep sighted in the way we analyse politicians.

    Sure, they make their plans and discuss ideas all the time, but at heart they are nearly all remote from real life and not very bright, in the broadest ‘real life’ sense.

    If Cameron thought he could win a majority he would hit the go button. If he thinks he can’t he won’t. I don’t think there is anything more demanding than that in all of this for us to analyse.

  19. @TheGreenBenches

    Will answer your question about Yellow’s performance and the viability of 18% in 2015 later, but for now, here is the answer to your question regarding English language sources

    Local sites I’ve used in the past
    More difficult to understand because of the weight of assumed knowledge absent in the foreign reader, local sites are invariably quicker and more detailed than their international counterparts. These are the English language ones I’ve used.

    * Austria: n/a
    * France: n/a
    * Germany: h ttp://www.spiegel.de/international/
    * Greece: n/a
    * Spain: h ttp://www.elpais.com/english/

    The Economist
    It’s well worth subscribing to the Economist for the full picture (it’s very good), but even those bits that are publicly available are good.

    * Austria: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/austria
    * France: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/france
    * Germany: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/germany
    * Greece: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/greece
    * Spain: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/spain-1

    The BBC
    In between staffing “Newsnight” with idiots (except for Paul Mason) and passing off Reuters releases as their own, the BBC does occasionally do proper journalism. Its country profiles give a nice overview and links to local papers/TV stations.

    * Austria: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1032215.stm
    * France: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/998481.stm
    * Germany: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1047864.stm
    * Greece: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1009249.stm
    * Spain: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/991960.stm

    Honourable mentions
    * The American print media (h ttp://www.newsweek.com/ , h ttp://www.time.com/time/world , h ttp://www.nytimes.com/pages/world/europe/index.html) have a distant view of EU nations but sometimes that’s just what you need.
    * Reuters (h ttp://uk.reuters.com/ ) Cut to the chase already.
    * Google News (h ttp://news.google.com/ ) Cut to the chase already II.
    * Google Translate (h ttp://www.google.co.uk/language_tools?hl=en). When you need the local stuff real fast.

  20. Actually of all the accusations I’d level at politicians, not being bright wouldn’t be one of them. Practically all that I’ve met have been intelligent, articulate and well-meaning, whatever their political creed. I think the greatest failure of politicians is GroupThink. It is rare to find a politician that has the independence of spirit to be the boy who points out that the Emperor Has No Clothes. That’s why I like the rogues so much.

  21. @TheGreenBenches (reposted due to bad HTML)

    Will answer your question about Yellow’s performance and the viability of 18% in 2015 later, but for now, here is the answer to your question regarding English language sources

    Local sites I’ve used in the past
    More difficult to understand because of the weight of assumed knowledge absent in the foreign reader, local sites are invariably quicker and more detailed than their international counterparts. These are the English language ones I’ve used.

    * Austria: n/a
    * France: n/a
    * Germany: h ttp://www.spiegel.de/international/
    * Greece: n/a
    * Spain: h ttp://www.elpais.com/english/

    The Economist
    It’s well worth subscribing to the Economist for the full picture (it’s very good), but even those bits that are publicly available are good.

    * Austria: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/austria
    * France: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/france
    * Germany: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/germany
    * Greece: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/greece
    * Spain: h ttp://www.economist.com/topics/spain-1

    The BBC
    In between staffing “Newsnight” with idiots (except for Paul Mason) and passing off Reuters releases as their own, the BBC does occasionally do proper journalism. Its country profiles give a nice overview and links to local papers/TV stations.

    * Austria: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1032215.stm
    * France: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/998481.stm
    * Germany: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1047864.stm
    * Greece: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/1009249.stm
    * Spain: h ttp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/country_profiles/991960.stm

    Honourable mentions
    * The American print media (h ttp://www.newsweek.com/ , h ttp://www.time.com/time/world , h ttp://www.nytimes.com/pages/world/europe/index.html) have a distant view of EU nations but sometimes that’s just what you need.
    * Reuters (h ttp://uk.reuters.com/ ) Cut to the chase already.
    * Google News (h ttp://news.google.com/ ) Cut to the chase already II.
    * Google Translate (h ttp://www.google.co.uk/language_tools?hl=en). When you need the local stuff real fast.

    Regards, Martyn

  22. laszlo

    i envigeded the dems pulling the plug

    i also thought a oct GE

    but a may GE would avoid the “you got what you wanted(AV ref) and then you dumped us” complaint from the blues

  23. envigeded = envisioned

  24. =envisaged?

  25. Richard,

    Irish Election Called…. 25th Feb

  26. neil A

    maybe

    i don’t know, i’m illiterate

  27. @Billy Bob

    “I did think there was a hint of “mission accomplished” about GO’s New Year message that “everything is now in place to tackle the deficit.”

    Good point- cheers.

    I had exactly the same feeling: ditto those who turn of the year were arguing that the game was up for Labour in 2015 if his mission was indeed acomplished!

    @MikeN

    “Alec and others interested, some info on impact of moving to CPI for determining pension increases. (My apologies to those not interested.)”

    If you go here (January 2011 ‘social indicators’)

    h ttp://www.parliament.uk/briefingpapers/commons/lib/research/rp2011/RP11-005.pdf

    and look at pages 9 and 10 (out of 60 in the file) you will see quite clearly why CPI is this conservative-led governments favourite inflation measure.

    Historically- aside from the very recent past due to specific contextual factors- CPI is *lower* than RPI.

    RPI is predicted to exceed CPI 2011-2015.

    Put simply: its cheaper…!

    Any item uprated by CPI will in effect be a real terms (RPI) cut. Whether benefits, state pensions or company pensions.

  28. @ Richard in Norway

    I left out the LibDem’s pulling the plug for two reasons. One is that I think, but could be wrong, need the AV for internal political reasons, thus they need something really big, elementary Tory resistance to something to justify the pulling of the plug. So far, there was no significant demand and the Conservatives accommodated some of these minor wishes – they would make it sure that the price of such a LibDem move would be very high in a GE. The second was SH’s performance in QT last week. On the other hand, he, whatever senior position he has, may not be informed…

  29. @ Alec

    While it’s Cameron (or Brown in 2007) has to say yes or no at the end, I doubt if they make the real decision. Both the Conservative and the Labour Party are very defined organisations with clear managerial hierarchies. Their decision making also seems to follow the Carniegie model.

  30. Hmm not so sure about the Tory party. I think it runs more like a gang. So long as the gang members think the gang leader is still “top dog” they mostly back him and do what he wants. As soon as his crown slips they savage him and find a new one.

    I think Cameron’s crown is a long way from slipping.

  31. eoin

    thanks

    4 weeks of campaigning, are we in for a shock

    bankers across Europe will be losing sleep over this, and politicians in the other PIIGS will be watching carefully

    the Irish voters might be deciding the fate of citizens in all the IMF controlled or son to be controlled countries

    maybe i should hop on a ryan air and do a little campaigning :lol:

  32. The question is, can the government get the finance bill throught the Dail? If not, there will be a very, very difficult few months ahead.

    Am I alone in thinking the Greens rather want to have their cake and eat it?

  33. Richard lol. BIIG-PUSI [you forgot UK/Belg]

  34. @ Neil A

    You could be right… They do give this impression, but somehow I cannot believe them :-) Probably when money is plenty…

    Your point about GroupThink is an important one. Reading AC’s diaries, it was certainly all over in the Labour Party – just competing GroupThinks (oddly, there is no literature on this in Organisation Studies…).

  35. thegreenbenches

    BIIG-PUSI it is! Thanks for that.

  36. @Laszlo – “… the AV for internal political reasons”

    A split in the coalition could be sudden and take on its own momentum. Over Christmas (following the clipping of Cable’s wings) the danger subsided, but at some point (dispite, or because of polling figures) LDs may conclude that they have to pull the plug on the “Maoist revolution”.

    AV comes early in the projected life of the coalition… pass or fail, why go on (after conference season)?

    In that case Cameron would have to soldier on until his minority administration falls.

    May 2011 would be the last opportunity (before fixed-term legislation takes effect) for Cameron to be master of events – if indeed he concludes that the coalition (and in the run-up to 2015 a Con/LD pact) is doomed.

  37. It’s my personal assumption that the talk of a May election comes from, in my order of likelihood,

    * A stalking horse, held up by Cameron as a threat to his own back benchers. If so, it’s not working.
    * The Lib Dems are either drawing up contingency plans for an early split, or getting ready to force one.
    * It’s just a baseless rumour.
    * Cameron thinks he’s in over his head, and sees no other way to withdraw from the situation while saving face than calling and losing an election.

  38. Public pensions?
    Most are funded in a similar way to the dwindling number of private final salary schemes. The funded nature of local government, post office etc etc is a key advantage for the UK. I am a trustee in one of the larger local government schemes which has over £2 billion in the kitty. As such these funds face the same stress as private final salary schemes but they are still an enormous set of assets which other European countries mostly don’t have.
    If you want to be terrified for others, Ireland (Republic of) has a similar structure to UK but the government are compulsorally putting big chunks in to funding the bad banks etc
    The Scottish Teachers Superannuation Scheme is an exception in that it is not funded.
    I am attending a meeting in London on Thursday to be told more. (Missing campaigning time)

  39. I am afraid there is no likliehood of a GE in May. For the Lib Dems, the die is cast. Only individuals can escape. In Aberdeen South, the Lib Dem candidat in a Lib Dem seat gives prominence in his newsletter to a message of support from C Kennedy but hold on the photo is from a previous campaign and so I think is the message.

  40. I think the speculation seems to be about Cameron pulling the plug.

    Having dismantled all the things that regulate the Tory bosses, as soon as he has okayed Murdoch’s purchase of the bSKYb shares he might as well go for broke and see if he can shed the lib dems.

    If he loses he shrugs and says what the hey. If he hangs on he knows the lib dems will bring him down eventually.

  41. BARNEY CROCKETT
    I am afraid there is no likliehood of a GE in May.

    Are you suggesting that the Scottish General Election, foreseen by the Scotland Act 1998, will be held earlier because the Scottish budget is voted down and the government resigns? Or don’t you count national General Elections but only statewide ones?

  42. @ Neil A
    The problem with revolutions in democracies is that they involve the subjection of the will of the people by the will of the people who nominate themselves to speak for “the people”.
    But revolutions only really get off the ground when the people by and large aren’t being listened to. The problem with describing contempory politics as the “will of the people”, is it’s so blatantly not. We’re participating in a rigged system, where we’re disincentivised voting for anyone other than the main three – and now just the main two – and the current orthodoxy on anything from imperialist interventions to neoliberalist orthodoxy show we’re increasingly being offered an ever more narrow spectrum. If this financial crises shows anything, it’s that, no matter what your voting system is, what your public wants and what party they elect, if the markets say slash-and-burn austerity, you’re having it.

    Every day I start to think our capitalist “democracy” is no more representative than communist dictatorships – and I’d contest that revolutions change nothing; Cuba or the USSR shows that’s not true, even if both eventually resulted in deformed workers’ states and never reached/actively stopped from achievin their goals.

    @Alec
    That’s a shame. We made a reasonable fist of it first time round, but there is a fair bit of unfinished business that we could attend to if it came to it.
    I think the ground’s more fertile than it’s been for a long time.

  43. @ NickP

    “What if Cameron never expected to get beyond a year or two at the most? Slash and burn and legislate and bonfire the regulatory bodies, tear up civil service terms and conditions, “reform” the NHS and then jump ship to the country blaming somebody else?

    Perhaps they have the agenda and they don’t actually care if they lose next time?”

    It has certainly also occurred to me … and it fits with Mervyn King saying that the government winning the GE2010 would not get back in for a generation.

    Once the 20y contracts are signed for the private health companies working on behalf of the GP consortia are in place, the free schools, the changes to corporation tax, the legitimate squirreling away of private wealth in Swiss bank accounts and whatever other deals to ensure that the wealthy hang on their wealth… these wealthy ministers could just walk away leaving ‘scorched earth’.

  44. This thread has just gone utterly crazy with this ridiculous election rumour. There is not going to be an election until 2014/15.

    Only Labour would be hoping for an election right now and even they wouldn’t really want one because they would actually have to have come up with some policies and sort out the mess they made of the public finances.

    Who would really benefit? Not the Tory right, not the Tory centrists, not the Lib Dems, not the Labour party.

  45. craig

    lets see what the Irish do with their “democratic choice”

    i’m not optimistic but i am a little hopeful

  46. @ Robert C
    The country. Temporary cuts vs dismantling what remains of the welfare state for good would be an easy choice.

  47. barbazenzero
    In my original comment I had UK but I cahanged some of the words and didn’t notice I had not put UK back in. However I don’t think General is common usage with the Scottish election. Normally I think we say Scottish Parliament Election. I think the budget will go through

  48. @ Richard in Norway

    Indeed; I’m wondering if Ireland will squander an opportunity to break away from the identical mainstream politics with another vote for FG+Labour – when they’ve both stated they’ll pretty stick to what has made FF so unpopular. Hoping this ‘lurch to the left’ that’s been described materialises.

  49. Nice international media links Martyn, thank you.

  50. Barney

    I don’t know who you mean by “we” (and I’m not going to be partisan and speculate! :-) ), but the Scotland Act calls them “general elections”.

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