The brief post-budget bounce aside, Labour now have a pretty consistent lead in voting intention. However, the answers other questions are often rather bad for Labour.

On best Prime Minister Cameron has a 13 point lead over Miliband, on dealing with the deficit the coalition lead Labour by 14 points, Cameron & Osborne have a 9 point lead over Miliband & Balls on general trust on the economy. Ed Miliband’s own approval ratings are mediocre and 47% think he isn’t up to the job of Labour leader.

To put this in context, if we look back at 2006-2007 when the opposition Conservatives had a comparable single-digit lead over the Labour government, David Cameron was pretty much neck and neck with Tony Blair as best PM, the Conservatives and Labour were pretty much neck and neck on who would run the economy well and Cameron had a positive approval rating.

What explains this paradox? Why have Labour got a solid lead in the polls, but comparatively bad ratings in supplementary questions? Or indeed vice-versa? There are two alternative explanations for this – one more comforting for Labour than the other.

Part of the answer is down to the new landscape of coalition politics. People’s responses to poll questions are often very partisan, supporters of the governing party tend to say nice things about the governing party, supporters of opposition parties tend to say negative things. Now we have a coalition government, we tend to get both Conservative and Liberal Democrat supporters saying nice things about the government, whereas prior to 2010 only one party’s supporters did. This translates into higher support for the government in secondary questions, but not in main voting intention questions where government supporters are split between Conservative voters and Lib Dem votes.

This shouldn’t worry Labour of course – in fact it’s a reminder of a positive for them. While it is probably wrong to view voting behaviour too much through an ideological prism (models of electoral behaviour these days tend to be more dominated by voters perceptions of compentence, rather than ideology), throughout the 1980s the left-of-centre vote tended to be split between two parties. With the Liberal Democrats reduced to a rump of supporters who are less antagonistic towards the Tories, the right-of-centre vote is looking more split. Certainly the group of voters who think the present government are competent is split between two parties.

However, this does not explain everything, and here we come to the explanation that is less comforting for Labour. A lot of people who say they would vote Labour do not give particularly positive answers to other questions about Labour. Only 63% of Labour’s own voters think Ed Miliband would make the best Prime Minister, only 54% think he is up to the job of Labour leader. Only 69% of Labour voters trust Labour more than the coalition more than Labour to deal with the deficit, 77% trust Miliband & Balls to run the economy more than Cameron & Osborne. 45% of their own voters think Labour need to make major changes to be fit for government. In short, a substantial minority of people who say they’ll vote Labour don’t seem to be very pro-Labour when you inquire further.

My guess is that the reason is that Labour are really the only major opposition party to the coalition and hence many people will be telling pollsters they’d vote Labour as the only mainstream way of voting against the coalition. If that is the case, you wouldn’t necessarily expect all those people to have positive views of Labour – they are benefitting from a negative anti-government vote, not necessarily a pro-Labour one.

But does this matter? Not necessarily – a negative anti-government vote counts just the same as a positive vote when it goes in a ballot box and the evidence from 2010 suggests that a large proportion of Conservative voters were driven more by anti-Labour feeling than support for the Tories. It does become a problem if it is an indication of soft support for Labour, if the government become less unpopular once they have a better economy behind them, if minor parties establish themselves as alternative recipients of anti-government votes or if during an election campaign it becomes more of a choice between two alternatives, rather than a judgement on the incumbent.

I’ve always stuck hard with the truism that oppositions don’t win elections, government’s lose them. The caveat I always add to that is that while oppositions probably can’t win elections, they are quite capable of losing them – it’s arguably what happened in both 1992 and 2005, when the incumbent governments had done plenty to make themselves unpopular, but the public did not see the opposition as ready for government. Right now there are probably four years to an election, so as long as Labour recognise the issue and address it, it doesn’t need to be a problem at all – the best position for them to build up more positive support again is from a position of strength. What they need to fear (expressed rather well by their former General Secretary Peter Watt today) is complancency.


288 Responses to “The paradox of Labour’s lead”

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  1. Amber
    Strangely, Eoin does not seem at all non-partisan to me! He has been crystal clear in calling for Labour to be defeated in Scotland.

  2. Colin on Socal
    Which bit? -she’s made several contributions.

    On the second point, I thought that was due to the car economy failing, although I learned from the same newspaper that Americans drove 21 billion more miles in 2010! (yes that’s not total, that’s more!). Their accident rate is lower last year, although it is twice as bad as ours. It’s not helped by the yankee habit of watching television on one’s mobile (they call them cell phone) while driving………..

  3. @ Colin

    I think Obama’s Keynesian policies have worked. If anything, he didn’t go far enough (and now it’s too late). But Obama still favors Keynesian policies. I don’t think we’re headed for structural unemployment but because of the massive job losses experienced in 08′ and the first half of 09′, it will take a while before those jobs come back. And I don’t know of any economic plans that can produce a million jobs a month.

    I will say that to cut the unemployment rate, the Obama administration, is very unwilling to turn to massively increasing the number of public sector jobs (even if they oppose cutting those jobs). I have some issues with this but ultimately I think it’s the right decision longterm.

  4. Barney

    I wasn’t sure from my cousin’s email whether your use of a naughty word at a recent hustings was directed at the questioner or not.

    In any case she was distinctly unchuffed by it!

  5. Colin

    What am I to learn? – I thought it all went bust there when the car economy went down but I read that they drove 21 billion more miles last year than the year before. Presumably looking for jobs (they don’t have ‘yer bikes’).

    Apparently they watch TV on their mobiles (sorry cell phones) while driving. Still their accident rate is only twice as bad as ours so perhaps doing that is considered worth the risk.

  6. I expect you are wondering why there were two similar posts. I am not gelling with UKPR this evening!

  7. Old nat
    You have me mystified! I have only been at one hustings (they are not a way of getting votes). I have to say the organisers who are going around Scotland were astounded to have a hustings where all the participants seemed to know quite a bit about the subject (housing) and where there was productive discussion. It was good fun

  8. Old N
    Does your cousin work in housing?

  9. For those interested in the Scottish parliamentary elections, note that Victor Chandlers have in the last day or so extended their range of constituency betting to cover virtually every seat. There seem to be a few opportunities out there still.

    The value betting seats seem IMO to be the ones held by the LDs over an SNP challenger, given the potential for collapse in the LD vote. For example you can get evens on the SNP taking Caithness and 2/1 on them taking Aberdeenshire West. Both of those would fall easily under the uniform swing in the recent YouGov poll. But I feel that the uniform swing model doesn’t deal accurately with the LD vulnerability in such seats, because if it were to hold true the LDs would end up with negative votes in a whole host of seats where they polled under 10% last time. So mathematically it has to be the case that in Scotland they must be losing more in seats where their votes are average levels or above. Hence the LDs appear even more vulnerable than a uniform swing model would imply.

    And just to put the icing on the cake in Caithness, the sitting LD MSP there has stood down, so there’s a lost incumbancy effect to factor in. It makes evens look extremely generous. So I’ve put a few bob on that one.

    Incidentally….

    @Barney Crockett – I note that you’re priced at 6/4 to win in Donside although the SNP remain favourites. Given that the notional result for the seat seems to make it a tall order for Labour, the odds suggest you’re running a pretty effective campaign to get it that close to evens. Best of luck, anyway.

  10. Barney

    From your response, she may have misunderstood.

    Interesting what you say about hustings, however.

    I regret the demise of the hustings where the voters are able to make a judgment on the person rather than the carefully controlled message in the leaflets (if anyone reads them before consigning them to the recycling) or the sound bites for the press.

    Brian Wilson lost a number of votes here because his body language made it clear that the whole process of interacting with voters really bored him.

  11. @ Old Nat

    I am glad to see you (it feels like you haven’t posted in a while…..might be a good thing, lol). This completely off topic so I apologize for that but I was curious about something you had mentioned once before about Scotland, pre union. Do you know if Scottish Kings had sovereign immunity or could they be sued?

    Also, you had mentioned that Scots had a policy or a law of some kind where they could remove a king for not doing well on the basis that the King of Scotland had broken his contract with the Scottish people. I’m curious though as to how it was decided whether a King had broken his contract and who could make this claim.

  12. Phil
    Thanks a lot. I think it would be fair to describe my campaign as energetic. I think we have already done more than ever before including when we won in1999.
    It may also be that locals factor in an unpopular local situation for the SNP. I am very well-known if not (see Old Nat’s cousin) universally popular. Marmite?
    I think that is a clue that bookies are a bit unwise in setting odds as local knowledge may be better than science. However where you are spot on is your appreciation that the Lib Dems simply must lose more in the seats they hold simply because in most places their vote is so low. I think that in most cases they must come third in the seats they hold and that will include Caithness. It is unusual in having good and high profile SNP and Labour candidates.
    West Aberdeenshire is different in that the incumbant works very hard at being on the independant right of the LDs in a very very wealthy seat. A Salmond did float the idea earlier of standing there which at that time seemed a tall order.

  13. Old Nat
    I very much agree with you on real hustings. The event I mentioned was called a hustings but was really a specialised regional event aimed at professionals and with one exception all of the hustings events I am attending are of that kind.
    I think your cousin must have misunderstood. I certainly hope so

  14. @ Howard

    “Apparently they watch TV on their mobiles (sorry cell phones) while driving. Still their accident rate is only twice as bad as ours so perhaps doing that is considered worth the risk.”

    Anyone who does that is an idiot. The economy went into crisis because the federal government under teh Dubya administration stopped regulating home mortgage companies and allowed them all to make reckless loans to people, allowing them to move into homes they couldn’t otherwise afford. I think for some of them, it was their hope that they could see subprime loan defaults and then own a whole lot of valuable land. THe only problem is that if everyone starts doing this, there’s a problem. What the subprime lending initially allowed for was for a construction and housing boom in the real estate development industry. Of course with the collapse of the subprime markets, that entire industry ground to a halt (and there have been huge construction layoffs).

    But what really made this turn from bad economic policy and recession inducer into worldwide financial crisis that nearly took down capitalism as we know it was the decision to securitize the loans. This was due to the decision of the Dubya administration to stop agressively policing the stock market and to let various brokers do whatever they wanted. So all these bad supbrime loans were securitized (and no one said anything) and lots of the big banks and big insurance companies bought up these loan interests. And then lo and behold, when these loans went into default, people found out that so much of their securities were worthless.

    I think though that these problems are different from long term structural problems that have negatively impacted the economy though. This would include outsourcing, deindustrialization, crumbling infrastructure, counterproductive immigration policies, and failed public education. The problems that precipitated the 08′ meltdown have been difficult to fix but they’re getting fixed. There are now tighter restrictions on lenders. There are now additional restrictions on the stock market. There are now consumer protections for stock market investors (which is GREAT btw and good politically for Obama). Most of the TARP bailout money has been paid back. Long term problems though still haunt us.

  15. SoCalLiberal

    You have to separate the concepts of the monarch as an individual and “the Crown” which is a different legal entity (analagous to the “People of the state of California”).

    “The Crown” can’t be sued, just as the “people of the State of California” can’t (I presume) be sued.

    Monarchs in Scotland are rather like Presidents of the USA (actually given the role of Scots in the creation of the US Constitution, it should be the other way round) – the only legal method of dealing with their breach of the constitution is via impeachment.

    Just as the US Congress can impeach your President, a Scottish Parliament can determine that a Scots monarch has broken their contract with the people. in both cases, the process is totally political.

    In Scotland, it has only happened once, when James VII was deposed. The English Parliament had to go through all kind of contortions to claim that he had “ceased to exercise royal authority upon leaving the British Isles”.

    In Scotland, a simple resolution of the Scottish Parliament via the Claim of Right and the Article of Grievances, enumerating James’s breach of the “contract” was enough. Because of his actions in violation of these laws, they determined that James had forfeited the Scottish throne

  16. SoCalliberal

    Previous Scottish Kings were got rid of by the much quicker method of assassination – another similarity between Scottish monarchs and US Presidents!

  17. Using the Electoral Calculus website, if AV had been in place at the 2010 Election, the result would have been:

    Con – 300
    Lab – 238
    Lib – 87

    Hence, the Conservatives would have 7 fewer seats and Labour 20 fewer seats. Accordingly, Labour seem to suffer far more from AV than the Conservatives, a situation that will be aggravated by the boundary changes and the reduction in seats to 600. Under AV in 2010 moreover, Green leader Caroline Lucas would not have been elected!

    Given this, why are Ed Miliband and Caroline Lucas supporting AV?

    My own preference is the STV. Let’s have an end to 2 party politics – this country needs realignment where one can vote positively for a party that you actually want to vote for and where your vote counts.

  18. JamesW

    Even better – STV starts to erode the tyranny of the party machine. A crap candidate put forward by the machine can be ignored by the voters.

    That thought must terrify the party tribalists on here – probably why only AV is on offer.

    Political parties really don’t like power lying with the people. They much prefer lying to be the preserve of the party.

  19. @ Howard

    And to just add to that. Long term problems (which include an overreliance on oil) are one of the reasons why the autocompanies have suffered. There has been some restructuring under the Obama administration and it’s actually led to the major auto industries turning profits and adding jobs for the first time in decades.

  20. @ Old Nat

    Thank you for this explanation. It helps a great deal. The people of California can’t be sued and neither can the state (unless the state consents to the suit or if Congress, in certain circumstances, abrogates that sovereign immunity). The reason I ask is because I am learning about the concept of both state sovereign immunity and federal sovereign immunity. The concept is that neither the United States nor the states can be sued because of sovereign immunity. And this sovereign immunity is claimed to have derived from English common law predating the Constitution (even though it’s not actually in the Constitution itself). The whole concept is kinda ridiculous but it’s stuck with us.

    I asked about the Scottish kings because it would seem like if you could get rid of a monarch on the basis that he or she broke the contract, that would suggest that you don’t really have sovereign immunity. Of course, as you point out, while the concept was labeled “breach of contract,” it really is more akin to the concept of impeachment.

  21. Night folk :)

  22. Socal,

    We agree on something, Big O rocks! Unemployment at a 2 yr low today! :)

  23. @ Alec

    I may have misread Amber’s post, but that was my reading of it.
    ————————————————–
    And your interpretation was entirely correct, Alec. :-)

  24. @ Barney & Éoin

    Strangely, Eoin does not seem at all non-partisan to me! He has been crystal clear in calling for Labour to be defeated in Scotland.
    —————————————————-
    Yes, but he doesn’t live in Scotland & won’t be voting so I don’t mind. ;-)

  25. @ Eoin

    “We agree on something, Big O rocks! Unemployment at a 2 yr low today!”

    He does rock. And I think we probably agree on a lot.

    @ Old Nat

    “Previous Scottish Kings were got rid of by the much quicker method of assassination – another similarity between Scottish monarchs and US Presidents!”

    You have to be careful with jokes like that these days. But we haven’t had that many presidents assasinated….only four actually and with any luck, the number shall remain at four.

    We did have this weird trend for a while actually where every president elected in the year ending with 0 died in office. Reagan broke the trend though (albeit he came very close to death 30 years ago this week) and Dubya almost restarted the trend the time he nearly choked to death on a pretzel and collapsed. But he failed…..like so many other things he did in life.

  26. jamesw

    The most obvious thing about your projected number os seats is that Lib Dem and Lab could have formed a Government and the mainstream anti-Tory anti-right wing vote would have prevailed.

    Anybody read Polly Toynbee today saying exactly what i said last night? There’s a head of steam moving away from cuts towards stimulation. As it quite clear and will become clearer that the cuts are killing the economy.

  27. Nick,

    She said this

    “Instead, Labour should seize this moment. Increasingly trapped inside Alistair Darling’s straitjacket, Labour should embark on a new economic direction. The FT quite fairly analysed the figures: the difference between Labour and coalition deficit reduction plans is just £24bn by 2014.”

    I think she understates the point.

  28. Nick,

    Fraser Nelson says the following,

    “total spending cuts in 2011-12 total 0.6pc. Darling proposed 0.2pc.”

    I think he understates the point.

  29. Oliver Letwin just days ago said

    “Leading up to the recent Budget, we took the view collectively in Cabinet that we faced an immediate national crisis in the form of less growth and jobs than we needed. And we were determined collectively to try to increase that growth and those jobs.”

    I don’t think he understates the point. He is admitting implicitly than a plan b has been embarked upon.

  30. SoCal

    ” I don’t think we’re headed for structural unemployment ”

    I hope you are right-I have been listening to commentators on Bloomberg who think you are wrong.

    I fear that in UK we have had structural unemployment for some years-and it will show increasingly as we experience skills shortages during an economic recovery.

    (we already have them is some sectors)

  31. @Eoin – the problem with quoting people who back your view is that you need to be sure that they do actually understand what they are talking about and are not making the same mistake as you are also making.

    Polly Toynbee, for example, is saying that the difference between Darling’s and Osborne’s plans is ‘just’ £24b, but neglects to mention that Darling’s plan was reliant on cuts ‘worse than Thatchers’.

    I can’t find the Fraser Nelson quote but he is not an economist and in previous pronouncements has made exactly the same mistake as you by claiming the planned cuts are tiny and people are making a fuss over nothing, displaying a complete misunderstanding of the structure of government spending and the role of inflation.

    For example, I note that you declined to respond to my post of 7.06pm where I pointed out that your 1.86% departmental budget increase is actually only around a 0.85% increase if you strip out the increase in debt servicing costs that you list. Under any inflationary scenario this will be a cut, and with inflation likely to be at 3%+ for most of the year it will be a big cut. That’s before you start looking at automatic rises in pensioner numbers, unemployment etc. Arguing that this won’t amount to major cuts is fanciful.

    Likewise you declined to respond to my 9.56pm post correcting what I thought to be your error in understanding Amber’s ‘savage cuts’ post, a view she later confirmed at 12.21am.

    It’s one of you’re traits I’m afraid – you post something controversial which generates lots of disagreement, stir it up a bit, but when evidence comes forward that you don’t like you quietly ignore it, while continuing to fly in the face of factual data. I just think you have this one wildly wrong.

    In the spirit of non partisanship, I will raise a scenario in which you could eventually be half right. There is no question that Osborne’s planned cuts are very deep, very painful and will be very noticable – there really is no point trying to deny this. However, as you say, making these cuts is very difficult and we are already seeing the wider economic impacts of these.

    Osborne has used the trick of defining his aims by reference to the structural deficit – a very slippery definition and one liable to revision and alternative interpretation. That was a clever move. Already we have seen the projections for total borrowing increase by £44b but hey presto, that’s not structural, so that’s OK. This will be Osborne’s get out when he fails to deliver such an impressive deficit reduction result.

    In this scenario, he may well be forced into cancelling some of the cuts (or at least spending more in other ways, such as on benefits, interest payments or economic stimuli). He’ll argue that this is OK as it won’t be structural. His problem here is that politically he won’t be able to simple cancel the cuts, as you imply – far too much political capital has been placed on that strategy. The cuts will happen, but would be softened by spending elsewhere.

    His biggest problem is that in this scenario he could well be undone by his own cleverness. Establishing the OBR was meant to provide him independent cover for spending cuts. Fast forward to 2014 and if Osborne wants to claim he has dealt with the structural deficit, even if the deficit is still much bigger than projected, it’s the OBR that will make the call, not him. I suspect this will be his undoing. Brown wriggled out of his very similar Golden Rule because he defined the numbers himself. Osborne has boxed himself in.

    In this scenario, you might be able to claim that spending has not, in fact, been ‘cut savagely’. However, that won’t mean that services have not suffered terribly, as you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the constituent parts of total government spending and the role of inflation, and it also won’t be a golden scenario for Osborne – it will as likely be a humiliation and failure of a radical experiment.

  32. SoCal
    “I think Obama’s Keynesian policies have worked”

    Good -oh.

    Some have a different view :-
    h ttp://blogs.forbes.com/richardsalsman/2011/03/15/obamas-stimulus-precluded-a-robust-recovery/

  33. Nick Poole

    May I refer you to the closing paragraphs of the Forbes article I linked SoCal to.

    Alternatively you might like to consider this study :-

    h ttp://www.nber.org/digest/mar11/w16479.html

    When you consider the categories of economy where the study found zero or negative fiscal multipliers, you should remember that UK has a flexible exchange rate-and our total government debt % to GDP hit the 60% identified in the study as critical-this FY.

    It will peak at 70%.

    I’m not saying any of this will have any effect on public sector workers losing their jobs. They will still plead that keeping them in work, by borrowing more money, tp pay them with, will somehow “sustain” the economy.

  34. Alec

    “Already we have seen the projections for total borrowing increase by £44b ”

    Sorry to be picky -but that is at end 2015/16 ( £1316bn to £1359bn )

    At end Parliament -2014/15- the slippage is £30bn ( £1284bn to £1314bn)

    I have to make use of my Red Book notes ! :-)

  35. Alec

    Interesting thoughts.

    If GO continues to slip badly on his DEficit/Total Borrowing forecasts, he can call it non-structural, cyclical, Labour’s fault, too much snow-or anything he chooses-but none of it will wash.

    His credibility will be shot-and that would spell big electoral trouble for Cons .

    …….on the other hand Gordon missed every fiscal forecast he ever made as Chancellor-and stayed in the job :-)

  36. There is a Plan B in play, but you need to know how Government works to see it. Whilst Gove, Lansley & Pickles are in abolition mode – regardless of the economic and social consequences – the Treasury and BIS are slowly rolling out classic Keynsian growth policies; and reinstating Central scrutiny of public services and infrastructure developments contrary to the Localism agenda.

    e.g. Regional Growth Funds which used to be managed the RDA’s which were locally accountable and business led – abolished by Pickles – picked up by Cable and now run out of his Department direct with Michael Hesletine handingout the money.

    Grants for Research & Development – abolished when the RDAs were abolished (these are small grants to small businesses typically £25k but up to £250k for doog ideas) – now re-instated within BIS and managed centrally

    The Audit Commission, which ensured quality and value for money of Local Government, abolished by Pickles in the name of Localism to be replaced by ‘armchair auditors’ – now rescued by Osborne to ensure good financial practice

    The NHS reforms, which took away local control of medical services) are clearly being undermined and are unlikely to proceed as Gove wanted. He has also been forced to partially reinstate BSF and EMA

    Immigration quotas, which damaged UK Industry (one of my key researchers was denied a work permit – he was responsible for securing my client over £1 Million in new business and walked straight in to a job at Siemens in Germany) are slowly and very quietly being lifted.

    the list goes on – but the early rhetoric of a new government is slowly giving way to pragmatic U turns

  37. sorry some editing errors make the above look weird – but you get the message – Plan B is in play now

  38. @colin – “…….on the other hand Gordon missed every fiscal forecast he ever made as Chancellor-and stayed in the job”

    Agreed, but that was rather my point. He defined his own targets, and when he broke them he basically said it was the target that was wrong. To be fair to Brown, his record on predicting GDP and unemployment was often much better than the city forecasters.

    Osborne’s difficulties may come from the OBR. We’ve already seen the coalition get into trouble on occasion when the IFS makes independent pronouncements with regard to budget measures, but if the OBR exerts it’s independence and completely undercuts any attempt to claim he’s fixed the deficit that would be painful for him.

    It wouldn’t necessarily be terminal electorally – real people don’t lie awake at night calculating the structural or cyclical deficit – but if life still feels tough, it would make it difficult for the Tories to claim they delivered, which will be one of their two main planks at the next election if it goes well for them.

  39. One reaction by Cameron during the Q&A after his relaunch of the Big Society has stuck with me… when someone pointed out the paradox of a civil service administering this policy initiative and rolling it out across the country.

    One of Mandelson’s more interesting remarks concerned Brown’s paranoia about Treasury orthodoxy – his worry that Darling was not fighting it energetically enough.

    Early this year, when it became clear that Coulson could not magic the problems away, a policy unit was set up in No 10 – staffed by civil servants because of a dearth of policy wonks in the Tory party.

    At the moment there is a stand off between them and the Landsleyites as to who will blink first over the NHS.

  40. @ Alec who said.., @ Eoin
    A thought for you – the NHS, in it’s entire history, has never had a single year when it didn’t receive a real terms increase of less than 1%, with this ultra low level experience only in a single year since it’s creation. It now has to cope with virtually no increase for 5 years

    Alec I totally agree with your earier post and share your surprise.
    I am wary of appearing partisan, so will not expand apart than to say that in one County alone (tiny North Somerset) local government cuts are 18.6 million pounds. everyone I know who works in public sector is feeling this.
    I do not see a change at all of Osorne’s policy whether or not they are seen to be good for the country or not by voters, he is implementing them , and tehre is plenty of evidence for that than I can see.

  41. In the last five budgets spending has climbed from £619bn in 2008 to a projected £710-11bn in 2011-12.

    The deficit in 2009 was forecast to be £176bn
    The deficit in Mar 2010 was forecast by AD to be £161
    The deficit in Mar 2010 was forecast by GO to be £150bn
    The deficit in Mar 2011 was forecast to be £122bn by year end [financial]

    In the CSR in Oct, projected spending for 2011-12 was forecast to be £701bn. Just a few months later it is now forecast to be £711bn.

    Conundrum: If this spending stuff is heading upwards… how is this structural deficit stuff heading downwards?

    To be clear spending from £619bn-£711bn but at the same time structural deficit from £177 down to £122bn..

    Hmm.. The answer is not difficult. As any good Keynesian will tell you .. growth improves the tax take and thus reduces the deficit without the need to cut spending. I have always been gay and proud when it comes to this…

    The tax take was forecast at £496bn in 2009
    The tax take was forecast at £541bn march 2010
    The tax take was forecast at £548bn in June 2010
    The tax take was forecast at £589bn in March 2011

    Tax?

    I love the stuff.

  42. @Eric Goodyear – “…to be replaced by ‘armchair auditors’ – now rescued by Osborne to ensure good financial practice”

    I was tickled to read about the new contract to run the reoffending program at Doncaster nick was given to a private company. The value of the contract is being kept secret as it is ‘commercially sensitive’.

    I love the openess.

  43. @Eoin – what exactly was the point of your last post?

    You’ve made a basic error is assigning the full deficit to be the structural deficit, but asides from that I can’t work out what you are trying to say with regard to the discussion in hand, which centres on your apparent assertion that there won’t be any significant departmental spending cuts.

    You appear to playing your standard strategy of making ever more obtuse points to avoid the fact that your initial assertion was some way off the mark.

  44. Labour have a choice when the deficit is reduced to c.£120bn in 11 months time. They can

    a) As folk on here seem to intimate put it down to Osborne’s cuts, cuts, cuts.

    b) As this amateur argues, claim that it was not cuts but an increasing tax take that achieved it.

    Quite the choice.

  45. @Eoin – a neat segue away from the debate in hand.

    An illustration of how cuts are affecting real people:

    h ttp://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/apr/01/jobcentres-tricking-people-benefit-sanctions

  46. Alec,

    You confuse yourself. I am not debating with u.

  47. JAMESW

    Using the Electoral Calculus website, if AV had been in place at the 2010 Election, the result would have been …
    As nobody counted first preferences, let alone second, third or fourth ones, your would is, to say the least, a bit strong.

    The Electoral Calculus site will certainly need a big makeover if AV is introduced, as its one key benefit is the obviation of tactical voting.

    Swings will still be relevant, but probably not until at least two general elections have occurred, to give time for the electorate to understand that no vote need be wasted.

    Under AV in 2010 moreover, Green leader Caroline Lucas would not have been elected!
    You can certainly enter numbers on the Electoral Calculus site to achieve that result, but why not start by looking at the facts?

    The actual votes cast – which will have been a mixture of first preferences and tactical votes – were:

      16,238   Grn
      14,986   Lab
      12,275   Con
       7,159   L-D
        948   UKIP
        148   SLab
         61   Cit
         19   Ind
         51,834   Total

    We can’t even be sure that more wouldn’t have voted if their votes had some chance of being effective, but we can say that had 51,834 electors cast first preferences then the first count quota would have been 25,918 and nobody would have been elected in the first count.

    Because the leading candidate would have been 9,680 votes short of the quota, We can be pretty confident that the second count would have eliminated all but the top 3 candidates, because the votes cast for the L-D on down totalled only 8,335.

    Nobody would have been elected at the second count, but the second preferences of the bottom 5 candidates would have been crucial in determining which one of Con, Lab or Grn was eliminated in that count. The balance of probabilities suggest that the Grn would have survived, and if the UKIP preferences went to the Con it would have depended on where the L-D second preferences went whether the Con or the Lab candidate survived to be in the third and final count.

    At that point, all we can say is that Ms Lucas would have been in with a good chance of being elected, but all credit to her for putting democracy before personal advantage.

    My own preference is the STV.
    Mine too, but if the AV referendum fails there is little chance of electoral reform for a generation. I watched quite a bit of the debate in their lordships’ house and I must have nodded off if the likes of the formerly honourable but currently noble Baron Prescott, of Kingston upon Hull in the County of East Yorkshire were putting forward amendments to the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill substituting STV for AV.

    I do think the pro AV campaign are missing a trick, though, by not stressing that AV is instant run-off voting. Use of the US “IRV” terminology now would be confusing, but the meaning and process should be stressed again and again.

  48. @Alec

    “It’s one of you’re traits I’m afraid – you post something controversial which generates lots of disagreement, stir it up a bit, but when evidence comes forward that you don’t like you quietly ignore it, while continuing to fly in the face of factual data. I just think you..(are)…wildly wrong.”

    There’s simply no point- other than the occasional necessary Socratic put down (which I feel you have achieved here with aplomb). You are but the latest in a long and honourable list of posters to reach this conclusion. You will most certainly not be the last…..

    This is something that became clear to me last winter- that old web discussion board adage: “never argue with a drunk or with an extremely pompous fool prone to ‘contrarianism-for-the-sake-of-it’ and who has an extremely selective relationship both with political facts and political history: not forgetting flights of unintentionally amusing egotistical fantasy” (fact checking some of the personal claims on the internet is extremely instructive and sonethingI’d hightly recommend).

    Although there are still a tiny number of gullible posters on here most of the personality cult appears to have (thankfully over the last 3 months) upped sticks and departed to the love-fest in another place. Good riddance to the blinking lot of them.

  49. @Eoin

    “Alec,
    You confuse yourself. I am not debating with u.”

    Ooohhh, get you matron!!! (as the great Kenneth Williams used to say)

    @Rob S

    “Although there are still a tiny number of gullible posters on here most of the personality cult appears to have (thankfully over the last 3 months) upped sticks and departed to the love-fest in another place. Good riddance to the blinking lot of them.”

    What disappoints me sometimes, although this site is more often than not blissfully cant-free, is a seeming intolerance of disagreement. None of us are monopolists of the truth, we all have our individual political views and these will often lead us to see the world differently. This doesn’t mean we’re “confused” or “don’t get it”, just that we have different opinions. Now, opinions aren’t the same as groundless assertions, however, and I have to say that when I see those repeatedly made without any supporting evidence, I think they should be challenged; albeit gracefully and with humour.

  50. “You confuse yourself. I am not debating with u.”

    Could have fooled me, but then I’m not a discourse analyst.

    It’s like trying to nail an eel to a sheet of glass. [And that isn’t a compliment, BTW]

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