The full tables for the YouGov/Sunday Times poll are up on their website here. Questions today are, unsurprisingly, largely about the two cabinet politicians under clouds – Ken Clarke and Chris Huhne. The most interesting (and worrying for the government) finding however is about crime.

Asked whether the current government is more tough or less tough on crime than the last Labour government, 30% think the coalition is less tough on crime than the last government compared to only 9% who think it is tougher (43% think they are much the same). Even amongst Conservative supporters only 20% think the government is being tougher on crime than Labour were.

Now, this doesn’t mean that Labour have become the public’s perferred party on crime. YouGov regularly ask people which party they would best handle the main issues, and the Conservatives retain a strong lead over Labour. There are various ways to explain this apparent paradox, but my guess is that the difference is between the Conservative party’s long-term reputation for being tougher on crime, and people’s short-term opinion of what they’ve seen of the coalition so far. Right now people are saying that generally speaking they trust the Tories more on crime… but that the coalition so far has been weak on the issue. If that perception persists, then it will start to eat away at the Conservative party’s reputation on crime.

On crime policy itself, there is widespread opposition to the idea of increasing the maximum sentence discount for pleading guilty early to 50%. Only 26% of people support the idea, compared to 62% opposed. There is even less support for reduced sentences for people who plead guilty to more serious crimes like rape, where sentence discounts are supported by only 13%.

Notice, however, that public opinion is not always blanket opposition to anything that reeks of shorter sentencing. YouGov found more a more balanced split in opinion over whether there should be more use of community sentences rather than short prison sentences for minor crimes (41% supported it, 45% opposed).

That brings us to the first of our politicians in trouble – Ken Clarke. 64% of people thought that Ken Clarke was wrong to draw a distinction between different types of rape, however, only 32% of people thought that he should resign over his comments. Note that this is significantly lower than when YouGov asked should Ken resign earlier in the week for the Sun – perhaps as a result of Clarke apologising and the media narrative become somewhat less opposed to him in the 24 hours between the two polls.

Turning to Chris Huhne, 62% of people think that the allegations against him are probably true, 58% think it is reasonable to investigate them despite the passage of time since 2003, 79% think that getting someone else to take points on their licence is a serious offence. However, despite all this people are broadly evenly split on Huhne’s future – 37% think he should resign, 35% think he should not.


295 Responses to “Coalition seen as less tough on crime than last Labour government”

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  1. @ Roger Mexico

    “Well at least the SNP actually won their election, without the help of the Supreme Court or voting machines (yes I have doubts about 2004 too)”

    Yes, that’s true. I had some doubts about 2004 too. But I’ve kinda moved on (never saw any evidence either for the proposition).

    @ Amber Star

    A kumquat is a delicious type of fruit. It’s kind of like a little mini orange that looks like a berry. My late grandmother used to have a kumquat tree or two in her backyard.

  2. @ Roger Mexico

    “Well at least the SNP actually won their election, without the help of the Supreme Court or voting machines (yes I have doubts about 2004 too)”

    Yes, that’s true. I had some doubts about 2004 too. But I’ve kinda moved on (never saw any evidence either for the proposition).

  3. I am very depressed. A whole thread all about crime (my area of specialist knowledge) and it gets hi-jacked by infighting Jocks and international healthcare rankings…..

    (If there is evidence that Huhne tried to get his penalty points offloaded onto someone else, then it should be taken to court. If there isn’t, then that’s the end of the matter, or doesn’t the last thread’s “innocent until proven guilty” apply to Liberal Democrats?).

  4. @ Amber Star

    A kumquat is a delicious type of fruit. It’s kind of like a little mini orange that looks like a berry. My late grandmother used to have a kumquat tree or two in her backyard.

  5. @Colin – “And it is equity capital -risk capital-which provides the innovation & technology which improves health outcomes.”

    Er – are you sure? UK’s biggest medical research funder? – The MRC, government funded, £750m (2010).

    UK’s second biggest medical research funder? – the Welcome Trust (a charitable endowment) – £600m annual spend.

    I think your statement is a little one eyed – state and non commercial funded research is extremely important in medicine.

  6. @ Neil A

    I’m sorry you’re depressed. :(

    For some reason I can post about kumquats and my comments to Amber keep getting put in moderation.

    “(If there is evidence that Huhne tried to get his penalty points offloaded onto someone else, then it should be taken to court. If there isn’t, then that’s the end of the matter, or doesn’t the last thread’s “innocent until proven guilty” apply to Liberal Democrats?).”

    You’re right. I think everyone is entitled to due process even if they are Lib Dems.

  7. @ Old Nat

    “Whichever of us “wins” (and I suspect that the referendum decision will not be a clear “win” for either) we will continue to share that common pool of politics”.

    __________________________________________________

    I don’t understand what you mean by this. The last referendum in Quebec, which happened many ears ago, was lost by less than 1%, but that wasn’t only a clear win for the federalists, it effectively killed off any further attempt at independence.

    I think many SNP supporters are deluding themselves if they think they can come out of a referendum defeat, however narrow, unscathed.

    Yes it would be a shock to the UK state if it only got 51% of the vote, but it would be an even greater blow to the SNP, and a much smaller percentage could be devastating.

    That’s why I feel passionately that Alex Salmond should only take it to a vote if he feels confident. I don’t care if I have to wait. I’d rather wait than see the chance of getting independence blown in a reckless referendum he knows he won’t win.

    The only fudged result would be if there were more than two options and the middle option won the vote.

  8. @neil A – It’s a fair cop – you’ve caught us bang to rights guvn’r.

    On crime, I think AW is right and that this will alarm Tory strategists. In terms of politics, I think crime is one of those areas of great danger for governments. In the next four years there is a bound to be a number of dreadful crime stories – there always is. If it involves an early release, someone on bail or just smacks of weak justice for any reason, a government seen as weakening the fight on crime will find it gets labeled.

  9. Neil A

    Hours yet for posts about crime! – and you do provide a uniquely knowledgeable perspective (even if we might disagree on political points from time to time).

  10. Neil A

    Agreed about Huhne btw on the possibility that a crime might have been committed. There is either sufficient evidence for a charge, or there isn’t.

    Politically, however, I don’t get the impression he has handled it well.

  11. @AmberS, @Colin. @OldNat

    For interpreting comparative international statistics on health or just about anything, it’s hard to beat this site

    http://www.gapminder.org/

    But you can avoid all that detail, and focus on just one simple statistic that says it all. Life expectancy in Cuba is equal to that in the USA.

  12. Phil

    In deference to Neil A’s hurt feelings, I refuse to comment further on healthcare statistics. :-)

  13. Neil A

    While the sub sample for Scotland is far too small to be meaningful, that a majority of those responses confirmed our recent election campaign where hard right policies on crime and imprisonment were embrace by Labour and rejected by the electorate.

    I note that the balance of opinion on community sentencing seems to be the other way round in England.

    To what do you attribute this?

  14. I agree that there is a tactical danger for the Tories from a “weak on crime” perception. Long term brand identity can be a more important consequence of policy pronouncements than short term poll showings (as AW has pointed out in relation to the political approach to issues like Europe and immigration).

    There are two “buts” I would insert into that way of thinking, though –

    Firstly, due to the need for cuts, the government is unlikely to be able to generate positive energy on any area of policy, other than possibly fiscal rectitude. The current government can be fairly accurately characterised as “weak on crime, weak on education, weak on defence, weak on health, weak on social justice, weak on taxes” etc for the simple reason that it will spend less on all of those areas (and tax more) than the previous government. That is a consequence of economics, rather than deliberate policy in the specific areas. A freshly returned Brown government, or a Rainbow Coalition, would probably have had similar problems, for the same reason.

    Secondly, the realities of coalition politics make the fallout from polls on “perceptions of the government” a little uncertain. Even given that the Justice portfolio is held by a Tory, it is quite likely that the next General Election will be fought with Tories and LibDems at each other’s throats. They will try and put clear blue (or yellow) water between them, and it is altogether possible that the Tories will enter that election with some tougher criminal justice policies that the LibDems won’t support. The refrain “give us a majority so we can return to ‘proper’ crime policies” might well be heard on the doorstep. Unfair, perhaps, to the LibDems, but likely nonetheless.

  15. @ Valerie
    I do think it’s a bit rich to describe Amber’s perspective as an “ inchoate and emotionally undefined vision of the Union”. Would have thought those terms could equally be applied to some of those who support the SNP.”

    Agreed Valerie. I have read hundreds of posts by Nats since May 5th telling us how much better off Scotland would be economically under independence but I wait in vain for a coherent and unemotional explanation of why this is the case. The mode of argument seems to be: the burden of proof is borne by those who support the Union, who are required to justify it as a whole; those who support independence merely have to provide piecemeal arguments about selecive advanatges that independence would bring about.

  16. @ Old Nat

    “What you may not realise is that one of the reasons why Amber and I can debate is that we share a huge amount of common ground on most political issues.”

    You know you and I debate and ironically I think that you and I are farthest apart politically but closest in terms of philosophical leanings. And I think that makes our debates civil.

  17. SoCalLiberal

    Debate is pretty meaningless between people who are polar opposites on what they see as the fundamental overarching aspects of life – but fairly easy (and, I find, enjoyable) where people can engage as people rather than treating opponents as caricatures.

    The closer the agreement, of course, can be the more bitter the disputes. My favourite example is from the history of Scottish religious schism, where we had the following within virtually identical theological positions –

    Auld Licht Burghers
    New Licht Burghers
    Auld Licht Anti-Burghers
    New Licht Anti-Burghers

    (and the jokes about “I’ll have an Auld Licht Burgher, with chips” are almost as old as the conflict! :-) )

  18. Neil A

    Is the effect of the crime figures not an important issue, however? I’d have thought that if the Coalition can demonstrate falling figures during their term of office, then both parts of the Coalition could claim credit.

  19. @Oldnat,

    Noone pays any attention to the crime figures. The media prefer a highly charged atmosphere of fear, which sells papers. The public don’t believe the figures are honestly compiled (which they sort of are and sort of aren’t).

    The current drivers of “soft on crime” perceptions are cuts to the police and reductions to the number of prison places. Both of those are essentially austerity measures (although Clarke may actually believe in the prison thing). Logically both should have a detrimental effect on crime figures, just the same as cutting 20% of cancer treatment spending should logically have a detrimental effect on cancer survival rates.

    In truth, the “non-criminal justice” contribution to crime statistics (immigration, demographics, economics, technology, fashion etc) are probably the larger determinant. There is an interesting article in the book “Freakonomics” about how crime figures are reduced by imprisoning more people, but how this pales into insignificance compared to the huge drop in crime that appears to be linked to the legalisation of abortion.

  20. Neil A

    “Noone pays any attention to the crime figures. The media prefer a highly charged atmosphere of fear, which sells papers.”

    Interesting. Apart from the Labour tabloid, the Daily Record, the drop in Scottish crime figures got wide coverage in our media.

    Even the BBC highlighted the data

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-11212557

    “The number of crimes recorded in Scotland has fallen to a 32-year low, official statistics have shown …. The figures also showed that the country’s eight police forces managed to solve 49% of reported crimes.”

  21. Neil A

    “this pales into insignificance compared to the huge drop in crime that appears to be linked to the legalisation of abortion.”

    So legalising and taxing drugs could be a real vote winner!

  22. Strange as it may seem for a Tory who was until recently a Narc, I actually support the legalisation of drugs. Although I think you’re (perhaps wilfully?) misunderstanding my meaning.

    The essay in Freakonomics argues that the legalisation of abortion led to diproportionate removal from the population individuals who had a statistically higher likelihood to be involved in crime. Both in the US and the UK, the legalisation of abortion was followed 15-20 years later by a big (and hard to explain) drop in crime.

    Whether the Freakonomics essay has the causality right or not, I quoted it as an example of how factors that have nothing to do with the police and/or the courts can have a major impact on crime levels.

  23. On the tough on crime theme – does anyone have an explanation for why all the major parties are against the death penalty, whereas I believe that the public is in favour whenever the question is asked.

    I know that the EU forbids it, so we have no choice now, but all three parties have been against the death penalty ever since it was abolished.

  24. As for the crime figures, I wouldn’t take them at face value if I were you. Especially the “clear up” statistics. A great deal of expertise has been developed in statistical massage. I have no personal knowledge of the Scottish forces, but having worked in two of the English ones, and “with” several others, I could point to a range of tricks that keep figures low and clear ups high.

    But even given a general downwards trend, it is in my opinion quite unlikely that this has very much to do with anything (other than shifting goalposts) the Scottish police or the Scottish courts have been up to.

  25. @Neil A

    “The refrain “give us a majority so we can return to ‘proper’ crime policies” might well be heard on the doorstep. Unfair, perhaps, to the LibDems, but likely nonetheless.”

    Problem being that like with health and the economy it’s conservative ministers who are front and centre.
    But you are absolutely right and the conservatives will do this on every front where they feel the need to bolster core support and strengthen a campaign message.

    They will certainly do it on the economy as Osborne is unlikely to tolerate the notion that he can’t manage the economy without Lib Dem help.

    I always found the notion that the conservatives would play nice and apportion gushing praise to the Lib Dems come the next election a naive fantasy. I’m guessing after the AV referendum Clegg and his high command might finally have realised it too.

  26. @Pete,

    I am probably incapable of neutrality on capital punishment, as I have completely opposed it my whole life, but I would say the answer to your question probably lies in the degree of thought that people apply to the issue.

    I am sure there are numerous deep-thinking and carefully considered advocates of capital punishment, but I am also sure that in general terms the more educated, and the more knowledgeable people are the more they tend to oppose it. I don’t mean that in a pejorative way. Just because people are “educated” doesn’t mean they’re right – in fact it may just reflect the fact that the well-heeled are at one remove from the horrors that draw people towards a “pro-death” position.

    However, I believe that the vast majority of the professional classes, and particularly lawyers, are opposed to the death penalty. And our politicians (and parliament) are overwhelmingly made up of people from the professional classes, and overwhelmingly by lawyers.

  27. @ Phil

    “Life expectancy in Cuba is equal to that in the USA.”

    While I would love to see that – I’m afraid it’s completely flawed statistics. Just look at the methodologies of reporting mortality and it will be clear (look at what mortality means in the US and what it means in Cuba. Take away the first-day of life dead in the US and the statistics will not tell you what it’s claimed.

    I really would like to see superiority of the Cuban health service to the US, but it is not there (or for that matter any other that the internet touts) – not even for poor people. The scandal of the US health statistics is not with other countries, but intra-US.

  28. Colin

    Even at the cost of annoying Neil A, I’ll raise comparative healthcare as well. Actually I regard the Sunday YouGovs like the Sunday papers – you don’t actually finish with them till Wednesday – so there’s plenty of time.

    The real problem with the Government’s NHS ‘reforms’ is that they are based on two pieces of dogma. The first is that the UK* has a grossly overfunded health service. In reality we do very well in comparison with other countries. If you look at the Cross-country comparisons section here:

    ht tp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_system

    You’ll see that we get our NHS comparatively cheaply in absolute terms and as a percentage of GDP. The figures are from 2007, so there more recent than some quoted, but equally distorted by the effect on GDP of the financial crisis. WE probably did even better in the past when we underpaid nurses and hospital doctors, but that’s another story.

    The second piece of dogma is that ‘privatisation’ will automatically make things better. As you point out, there is already (and has always been) a considerable private sector within the NHS. However what I think we are seeing being promoted here is something different. This is the ‘corporatisation’ of health care. Services being provided not by individuals, small partnerships or charities, but large public corporations, often US originated. These can often overwhelm local operators, develop preferred bidder status, lobby for special treatment and become effective monopolies or cartels.

    Now in various ways, quite a lot of this was already tried under New Labour. The effect was to make the NHS more expensive and bureaucratic and a massive increase in corporatisation will no doubt do the same.

    Even if the undermining of the NHS’s legal obligations that Alec warned us about is stopped, and the lack of effective regulation that Clegg wants changed is addressed, the Bill will not improve anything. If anything it will entrench the existing problems and add to them.

    I think you’d agree that NHS reforms should concentrate on producing the best outcomes in the most cost efficient way. Lansley’s sidelining of NICE, which had exactly those aims, shows that there is no will for that. These proposals (like there many Labour and Tory predecessors) are interested in the bureaucratic rather than the clinical.

    Incidentally there’s a typically irritated piece by David Mitchell in the Observer:

    ht tp://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/may/22/david-mitchell-mary-portas-shopping-coalition

    about the way in which politicians tend to try to want to find magic bullets for things. It’s worth it just for the phrase “privatisation; supposedly the cold fusion of our public services”. Well I laughed.

    * I know, I know, but the dogmatists don’t. To keep OldNat and co quiet, I direct them to a Scottish NHS survey:

    http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/yg-archives-life-royalcollegenursingscotland-scotland-120511.pdf

    Actually what interests me most about this is the way it shows that people are willing to travel to get the best and/or most cost effective treatment, despite the cries from every politician of ‘Save our Local …’. But again we have to start out by looking at getting the best outcomes – and convincing the public of it.

  29. Essentially, the US reports any baby that has any sign of life as birth – consequently the death rate in the first day is very high and also the first year one. No other country (as far as I know) does this.

  30. Neil A

    Thanks for the explanation re the legalisation of abortion. I had misunderstood your reference to it.

    My reference to the crime stats was political/media related (though that does seem to vary between your media and the ones here) rather than their exactitude. However, my friends in Strathclyde Police do suggest that changes in practice have produced a real improvement in prevention and solution. That there will also be better massaging of the figures one takes for granted!

  31. @Lazslo,

    Looking at the comparitive diets and lifestyles of Americans and Cubans, if the USA even managed parity on mortality statistics it would be a massive tribute to the skills and technology of their health professionals.

    I am a tubby old goat myself, but by crikey there are some landships sailing around the malls of Florida…

  32. @Neil A
    “However, I believe that the vast majority of the professional classes, and particularly lawyers, are opposed to the death penalty. And our politicians (and parliament) are overwhelmingly made up of people from the professional classes, and overwhelmingly by lawyers.”

    That’s interesting, and the best explanation that I’ve seen, though it would be interesting to see a demographic breakdown of one of these polls. If true, it does rather destroy any claim that we have to being a democracy however. The ‘ruling class’ think they know better than the people on a range of issues, of which this is only one. It seems profoundly undemocratic that such a popular opinion is unrepresented by any major party.

  33. @ Roger Mexico

    Once you start to talk about cost effectiveness you fall in the trap: there is no possible way to identify marginal cost of any activity in the NHS (hence the sheer madness of Green’s (was it him?) report. From this point on any suggestion on cost, revenue or whatever are flawed.

    The only possible way is creating an NHS where the common norm (treating the sick) is agreed (both formally and informally) and done in a responsible way. It would require a completely different management structure, remuneration, communication, etc, but it’s quite feasible, but it would require a little thesis here. And if you can do that in the NHS successfully, it can be done elsewhere in the economy…

  34. @ Neil A

    While extreme overweight comes with all kinds of health problems, do not believe the propaganda. All research shows that overweight people live longer…

    Also, in any mortality statistics, the first five years is that really count. And then in the developed world and in large sections of the developing countries the whole thing depends on what is considered as “birth”.

  35. SoCalLiberal

    Part of my belief in the dubiousness of the 2004 election sprang from the Rep John Conyer’s report What Went Wrong in Ohio, Ohio being of course the swing state that year. However I also wonder about some other states that Bush might have won in any case, but numbers might have been inflated to cover meddling in Congressional contests.

  36. @Oldnat,

    The biggest single explanation for drops in crime is technology.

    Once upon a time, everyone (including me) was getting their car nicked repeatedly. Then they invented immobilisers and it stopped. Nicking cars became the preserve of “fishing rod burglars” and geeks with sophisticated electronics know how.

    Once upon a time, everyone (luckily, not including me) was getting their TV’s nicked. Then TV’s got so cheap that it was hardly worth carting them away for the £5 you could flog them for. Instead, computer components became the target, until they too became so cheap they weren’t worth the trouble.

    The targets of choice for criminals these days are mobile phones and personal data (for financial crime).

    Most forces have a policy of discouraging the reporting of mobile phone theft – basically unless you can prove it was stolen, they will only report it as “lost” (not a crime statistic).

    Most forces have a policy of not investigating financial crime unless the institution concerned (ie the card provider) hands over the relevant documentation. The institutions concerned find it cheaper to just reimburse their customers than to pursue the matter, and so don’t bother cooperating with the police (ie no crime statistic).

    Add in the effects of better security measures and CCTV.

    That’s why you get these “crime is down but violent/sex crime is up” statistics. There are technological reasons for falling property crime. No technology stops people brawling outside pubs or battering their wives.

  37. sapper @ OLD NAT

    What is the nationalist view of the future (after separation) regarding the Crown?

    We have an old one we can use. It’s much prettier than yours, more like the Hungarian one.

  38. @Roger,

    My understanding is that however fraudulent the election of Bush may have been, it is a pale shadow of the fraudulence of John Kennedy’s election.

    @Pete B,

    I know what you mean, but I think opposition to capital punishment tends to go with the territory. Even if you’re born into a pro-hanging family of miners, by the time you’ve dragged yourself up to being an MP (whether through trade union activism, education or whatever route you chose) you’ve been exposed to so many of the “beautiful people” that you’ve probably switched your position. The preponderance of lawyers is certainly an issue in politics, although I suppose given that we are electing people for the express purpose of making laws, having some experience of the law probably gives them a head start.

    @Laszlo,

    I haven’t personally seen any statistics that suggest the overweight live longer. Longer than the undernourished perhaps, but not longer than the “normal sized”. Scientifically it is known that surviving on a very low calorie diet actually extends life, but only if you reduce your physical activity to match your calorie intake (not an option for sub-Saharan mothers of ten with dead husbands and no transport, healthcare or sanitation, I suppose).

    I have seen lots of people in their 20s up to their 60s with BMIs in excess of 40. I can’t remember the last person over 70 I saw that was that big.

  39. Roger Mexico

    Thanks for the link to the YouGov poll on NHS Scotland – I’d missed that.

    The willingness to travel figures don’t surprise me. I’ve never heard any suggestion that the Beatson in Glasgow (providing cancer care for 60% of Scotland’s population) should be disaggregated and it’s facilities spread around the General Hospitals.

    At the same time, people will always complain if any facility they have on their doorstep is taken away, and local politicians will always look to gain votes rather than address issues.

    Although closing A&E facilities in Ayr Hospital was a step too far, Ayrshire & Arran have successfully implemented many of their proposed changes by centralising certain specialisms in either Ayr or Crosshouse, while providing consultant appointments at locations much nearer the patients. It seems to work.

  40. Further to mortality statistics and fallacies.

    In the US if the new born shows any sign of life, she/he is consiered birth. In most continental European countries there is either a minimum weight or length of the “birth” to be considered “born”. In other Continental European countires births under a certain number of weeks is considered “non-birth”.

    In many countries babies who are born and die in the first 24 hours are not registered.

    If you factor in all these, the US has an excellent mortality rate (actually the best in the world).

    The OECD explicitely says do not try to compare mortality statistics – but unfortunately it is done, thus such comparisons take away the edge from the really important thing: that the US system could be better by getting rid of the current financing model.

  41. Neil A

    “No technology stops people brawling outside pubs or battering their wives.”

    That’s why we need you guys!

  42. @ Neil A

    There are many other pieces of research, but here’s one: ht tp://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4468001.stm

    You are right restricted calories intake can extend the life – under medical supervision…

  43. @Laszlo,

    Thanks for the link. I think I see where they’re coming from now.

    Essentially it comes to down to definitions of “ideal weight”.

    As the article says, officially “underweight” is a BMI below 18.5 and “overweight” is a BMI above 25.

    But if you actually looked at a selection of people, you’d probably observe that those with a BMI of 25-28 looked “normal”. 20-25 would look “slim”. People with a BMI under 18.5 would look “very skinny”.

    What I am saying is that the medics, for some reason known only to them, have defined “skinny” as “normal” and “normal” as “fat”. Of course, if you’re significantly thinner than the doctors’ own ideal then you’re probably starving.

    There are very, very few countries left where the average person cannot access sufficient calories to maintain a BMI of 18.5 or above.

  44. Mick Park

    “It took quite some stupidity for SLAB to try to pretend that this was a Westminster election when the media and debates were pointing out the obvious for months.

    Almost as much stupidity as when they went back to the incredible foolishness that the Scottish elections were a vote on independence when everyone knows that was a lie and a referendum was required. How they ever thought that nonsense would work when people were even voting on a referendum on election day defies belief.”

    What I don’t understand is why MSP’s went along with it, seemingly willingly. More than a few of them are now ex-MSP’s. Didn’t they see it coming?

    It wasn’t as if they were going to be shot at dawn if they ignored instructions or argued with the London “experts” who advised them.

  45. @Laszlo

    You seem to be claiming that US life expectancy rates are lowered substantially by the US being unusual in including in the statistics a very high number children “born” who die in their first day, which other countries wouldn’t count as a birth. If so, that would be evidenced by some very high infant mortaliity statistics in the US.

    In fact, US infant mortality statistics (deaths in the first year of life) are only about 1 death per 1000 live births higher than those of both the UK and Cuba. Even if this difference is an artificial one due to differences in treatment of what is a birth, the difference is so small that the effect on comparative life expectancy statistics would be negligable.

  46. @ Old Nat

    “Debate is pretty meaningless between people who are polar opposites on what they see as the fundamental overarching aspects of life – but fairly easy (and, I find, enjoyable) where people can engage as people rather than treating opponents as caricatures.

    The closer the agreement, of course, can be the more bitter the disputes. My favourite example is from the history of Scottish religious schism, where we had the following within virtually identical theological positions –

    Auld Licht Burghers
    New Licht Burghers
    Auld Licht Anti-Burghers
    New Licht Anti-Burghers

    (and the jokes about “I’ll have an Auld Licht Burgher, with chips” are almost as old as the conflict! )”

    Mmmmmm…..burgers…sounds delicious. Might have one for dinner.

    I find debate between polar opposites to be stupid and pointless. That’s why Crossfire was such a horrible show. I just look for common ground with people wherever I can find it. Even Henry Waxman teamed up with Bill Dannemeyer to pass legislation once. It happens. :)

  47. We have bought Kumquats (and Kurbiskernsamenol) in the Co-op in Stornoway.

    I would have thought they were commonplace in cosmopolitain Edinburgh.

  48. @ Laszlo

    “In the US if the new born shows any sign of life, she/he is consiered birth. In most continental European countries there is either a minimum weight or length of the “birth” to be considered “born”. In other Continental European countires births under a certain number of weeks is considered “non-birth”.

    In many countries babies who are born and die in the first 24 hours are not registered.

    If you factor in all these, the US has an excellent mortality rate (actually the best in the world).”

    I did not know that. That’s interesting.

    @ Roger Mexico

    “Part of my belief in the dubiousness of the 2004 election sprang from the Rep John Conyer’s report What Went Wrong in Ohio, Ohio being of course the swing state that year. However I also wonder about some other states that Bush might have won in any case, but numbers might have been inflated to cover meddling in Congressional contests.”

    I think a number of things did go wrong and do go wrong on election day with high voter turnout. Usually the inner city precincts are ill equipped, understaffed, and result in very long lines (which helps depress voter turnout). I don’t think that’s fraud so much as it is systemic abuse that Republicans like because in the middle class and wealthy precincts, they know that things will be done properly.

    Other thing is, Republicans do often go into minority precincts and do their best to disenfranchise voters, confuse voters, intimidate voters, challenge voters, etc. I wouldn’t call this fraud so much as it is targeted harassment designed to prevent racial minorities from voting (to reduce Democratic vote totals). But this is one of the reasons why the Obama campaign had such a comprehensive early voting campaign and built up incredible legal teams to go out and protect voters and prevent their harassment by Republicans.

    The thing about 04′ is that I wanted to believe in my heart of hearts that there had been fraud. But no one could even show even the slightest evidence of fraud let alone come close to proving it. There were some early exit polls that were leaked that were optimistic but they weren’t complete exit polls. And a lot of the final results were actually better for Kerry in a number of states than the last polls predicted.

  49. “… various ways to explain this apparent paradox”

    BBC Parliament repeated the Wormwood Scubs QT last night, during which Ken Clarke recovered some of his bluster after a distinctly uncomfortable start.

    This was slightly punctured when, in an attempt to belittlte Jack Straw’s claim about Labour’s acheivement in cutting crime and providing more prison places, Clarke launched onto the theme of preventing reoffending – until a prison officer pointed out that funding for all types of rehabilitation of prisoners is being cut by this government.

  50. Alec

    I was thinking of the R&D in new drugs by the pharma industry-and the developement the awsome equipment which now sits in operating theatres.

    I had an angiogram + stent recently in a small theatre which resembled the deck of the Starship Enterprise. Keyhole surgery-home after two days. Not long ago all we stented mortals would have needed invasive bypass surgery.

    re stats-I am focussing on the WHO because I thinkthey have global credibility. But their annual reports are awash with stats ( including amber’s comparative demographics) & take a bit of ploughing through.

    Certainly an accurate & objective assessment of UK’s comparative outcomes are vital if this debate is to rise above mere political ideology.

    And the last thing we want is a repeat of the disastrous dentistry contract , which has resulted in the de facto privatisation of that service.
    Nor do we want any more extra payments to private providers for doing no work -or in the case of GPs the same work.

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