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. @John B Dick
    Did poor old Franz – Josef have two heads like his imperial eagle ? The huge Austrian Crown on his right head and the “pretty” Hungarian Crown on the other.
    Please leave the Union before The Prince of Wales is forced to grow another head, with two pairs of ears he will be a danger to aircraft.

  2. Is it possible (in polling terms) to compare the “get power back from Bruxelles” brigade (Cash/Farrage etc), with the “power back from Westminter” contingent?

    In other words, a comparison between relative proportions of those with an uncompromising Ukip agenda / those who say they would support the UK leaving the EU, and, those who define policy through the lens of a Hollyrood/Westminster distinction / those who say they would support Scottish independence.

  3. Billy Bob

    While I get your drift, there IS a different policy definition between Holyrood, Cardiff, Belfast and Westminster.

  4. @ BILLY BOB
    I think you raise a very interesting point BB. I, as a Tory have great sympathy with the idea that Brussels has far, far to much say in our affairs. However, I see great good in a “common market”. Perhaps that is why I have quite a lot of sympathy with Scottish Nationalists. Having said all that, it does seem that Scotland has at least as much say in its own affairs vis a vis Westminster as Westminster does vis a vis Brussels.

  5. SAPPER

    Can’t believe that you have made a half sensible comment – well done! As a great supporter of the EU I have to say that over the last 20 years some important and liberal (sometimes libertarian) legislation would not have been applied in this country. Some of us see the EU as more of protection aainst the worst excesses of the Tories than the flabby muscularity of Clegg and friends.

  6. @ David B

    “Some of us see the EU as more of protection aainst the worst excesses of the Tories than the flabby muscularity of Clegg and friends.”

    When we have an electoral system that does better than giving the Liberal Democrats 8% of MPs for 23% of the vote (versus 47% for 36% of the vote for the Tories), then that will be a valid criticism.

    As it is, it is frankly a feeble, partisan jibe that deliberately ignores how our current system (including overwhelming hostility of the press barons and subtle media bias of the BBC) forces the Liberal Democrats into mortal combat with one hand tied behind their backs.

  7. @ Roger Mexico
    As Private Eye used to say in its glory days – Pass the Sick Bag, Alice!”
    Correct if I’m wrong, but wasn’t that the Sage of Auchtermuchty & editor of the Sunday Express, Sir John Junor? Now there was a Scotsman!”

    The phrase did indeed originate with Junor but was taken up by the Eye in its parodies of tabloid journalists [Glenda Slag etc] & was then used by them — & others — as a general comment on hypocrisy. It seemed an appropriate response to the spectacle of an SNP r applying flattery to his co-believers not so much with a trowel as with a fireman’s hose.

  8. @DAVID B
    Calm down dear, the objections I have to Europe are exactly the issues of “liberty” which you admire so much.
    The “trades association” is fine, France and Germany telling Britain about “human rights” is in my view a sick joke. So as you see I have not suddenly become sensible at all.

    Regarding protection from the worst excesses of Tory government, I can only say this; if they could ever come into power without an almighty financial fcukup to deal with, they would be less “excessive”.

  9. @Robert C
    Although not a fan of either the Li Dems or the current Tory Party I totally agree with your criticism of David B’s post, it was very partisan and feeble.

    I would love another vote on Europe as i was one of those who were conned by Ted Heath.

  10. @ Sapper.

    Your comments on Europe are bang on target!

  11. Sapper
    “…France and Germany telling Britain about “human rights” is in my view a sick joke.”

    But they don’t.

    And the European Court of Human Rights is quite distinct from the EU, CJEU (previously ECJ), EEA, EFTA, EEC, EC.

  12. @ Sapper

    The Thatcher governments in the period you mention, which followed one after the other, were never indebted as we are now.
    ———————————————
    Throughout the Tory reign & even under Ken Clarke, I am told, there was always a deficit & the debt-to-GDP ratio rose from 31.4% in 1992-93 to 42.5% in 1996-97.

    And under Chancellor Brown the debt-to-GDP ratio was as low as 35.9% in 2006-07, before the US/Europe/Uk financial systems went into meltdown.
    8-)

  13. Amberstar: “Throughout the Tory reign & even under Ken Clarke, I am told, there was always a deficit”

    ——————————————————

    Not quite. There was a surplus and net debt repayment between 1987-90 before the recession hit.

    There was also a surplus just before Labour took over in 1997 which continued until 2002 when Brown was ‘matching Tory spending plans’ as per Labour’s 1997 manifesto.

  14. Sapper
    “Britain should not take lessons from ANY European quango about human rights”

    It would be interesting to discuss what is within the scope of “human rights” but I daresay it would be off topic and lead us into a discussion that was outwith AW’s tolerance.

  15. Roland,

    What deficit :) :) ?

  16. Steve: “Not quite. There was a surplus and net debt repayment between 1987-90 before the recession hit.
    There was also a surplus just before Labour took over in 1997 which continued until 2002 when Brown was ‘matching Tory spending plans’ as per Labour’s 1997 manifesto.”

    —————————

    There most certainly was NOT a surplus just before Labour took over in 97! Instead debt was rising very fast. John Major was a screw-up.

    According to eurostat, debt as a % of GDP was 48.6% in ’94, 51.8% in ’95 and 52.3% in ’96. It starts falling under Gordon Brown – 50.8% in ’97, 47.7% in ’98, 45.1% in ’99, 42% in 2000, 38.7% in 2001, 37.5% in 2002, 38.9% in 2003.

    Eurostats figures are always higher than the treasury’s because they include PFI debt.

    T’was the wasteful spending on the Iraq war that started the increase in debt from 2003 onwards. A war that was supposed to end in six months went on for eight years.

  17. @ Sapper, Steve,

    I am not cruising for an argument either.

    I don’t think there was a surplus for the entire year 1997, maybe a quarter? I think that 2003 -> was impacted by Afghanistan & Iraq but that’s a whole other discussion.
    8-)

  18. So various people thought my comments about the EU ‘feeble’ whilst I think that left to our own devices our response to the growing demands for fairness and transparency would have bee poor if not non-existent.

    Someone mentioned that the electoral system was grossly unfair to the Lib Dems. I would say that if we adopted the most PR of the European voting systems (the German system would do) the Lib Dems would get a fair showing. I’d also remind people that Gordon Brown (and you’ll be pleased to note that I have always been a fan of Gordon) offered the Lib Dems AV by legislatioin followed by a referendum on proper PR and that offer was spurned.

  19. David B

    I’m a fan of the EU too. It has its faults of course, but these can be reduced over time while the benefits are enjoyed and expanded.

  20. @GREENBENCHES
    Indeed me old Shamrock, what deficit.

  21. Sapper – If I can’t trust your comments not to come across as attempts to pick arguments or cock a snoot at people with different political views then I’ll have to pre-moderate them…

  22. @AW
    Please do not trouble yourself Anthony, I will leave the board.

  23. @Izzy

    “There most certainly was NOT a surplus just before Labour took over in 97! Instead debt was rising very fast. John Major was a screw-up.”

    Much as I’d love to agree with you these are in fact apples and oranges.

    PSDR is the opposite of PSBR i.e. the ‘deficit’ = which does indeed need to be tackled rather than denied in some kind of infantile automatic conditioned response that the left of the Labour party seem to exhibit.

    You are referring to ‘the debt’- which most certainly was not eradicated by the Thatcher/ Major years.

    Now: if you had said ‘..the years of PSDR were a consequence of two things (neither of which was connected to sound economic management by the Tories), namely:

    – booming (peak) North Sea oil tax revenues; and
    – the receipts from several huge silverware , er, utility sell offs.’

    I could have agreed with you!

    The first being something that Thatcher was merely very fortunate with, the second a policy choice that has been shown in several cases (not all granted) to be utterly questionable.

    Throw in Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock as opposition leaders (and that vandal of Labours history Viscount Stansgate doing his worst from the sidelines) and you realise just how lucky Thatcher and Major actually were politically.

  24. @Old Nat

    I get your drift too (sometimes). ;)

    I suppose I am still thinking along the lines of a strongly agree/agree/disagree/strongly disagree/bothered type question concerning independence/more independence

  25. ROB SHEFFIELD

    Much as I like listening to the old rogue these days, I absolutely agree with you that Tony Benn was in part responsible for the coming of Thatcher aided and abetted by that old union diehard Callaghan who might also saved us from the 80s if he’s gone to the country in October 1979.

    Is there a problem with Labour leaders and going for a election when it’s a bit of the risk but the rewards are great – look at Brown in 2007 – he could have spared us the destructive and tedious wranglings of this coalition.

  26. @David B

    “saved us from the 80s”?
    I loved the 80s, best and most successful decade of my working life and most enjoyable in many other ways including my growing love of Opera, with some wonderful performances at both Covent Garden and the ENO. The only time in my I have voted positively for something instead of simply against Socialism.

  27. @DavidB
    “the rewards are great – look at Brown in 2007 – he could have spared us the destructive and tedious wranglings of this coalition.”
    ______________________

    In retrospect, the political reward could have been greatest for Labour if Brown had called a 2007 autumn election, Cameron had edged it (just) and with LD support had formed a coalition much along the lines of what we have now.

    A “what if” scenario then goes something like this. Labour leaves office with a sound economic record of 10 years near continuous growth, with Brown still popular enough to survive as leader. Within a year the financial crisis hits, with Cameron/Osborne either managing affairs much as Brown did internationally or risking an even greater financial collapse by frustrating international action. Either way, by about 2010 an unprecedented programme of cuts is being put through. “It’s all the fault of the bankers” cries Cameron, with no-one listening as his disasterous record is compared to what went before. Lots of mutterings from the Conservative right about Cameron’s supposed folly of supporting Labour’s spending plans right up to the election, and lots of responses from the left on the role of the “Conservative” recession as the cause of collapsing government revenues. LDs in meltdown, as now, but more inclined to pull the plug without an Orange Book leader. Cons polling around 28%, LDs around 10%, Lab around 48%. Possibility of coalition Government collapsing at any time, with a Lab majority looking nailed on if it does.

    But there is an alternative “what if” scenario: Brown and LDs form a coalition, financial crisis hits and Brown acts as he did in reality. The difference is that the LDs as well as Labour lose support. Polling by 2009: Lab 30%, LD 12%, Con 50%. With again the possibility of Government collapsing at any time, but with a Con majority looking nailed on if it does.

    Either way, a 2007 election would definitely have been one to lose, in terms of the political fortunes that followed, if not the wider interests of the country.

  28. @The other Howard

    “saved us from the 80s”?
    I loved the 80s, best and most successful decade of my working life and most enjoyable in many other ways including my growing love of Opera, with some wonderful performances at both Covent Garden and the ENO.

    I loved the opera too but I also buried more of my friends than I care to recall and spent more despairing hours in grim hospitals feeling useless and helpless than I’d want to remember.

    Perhaps that’s why we need History to ensure we don’t overlook the details of the past it may be the most difficult for us to remember….

    On another earlier thread: I’ve been perplexed for sometime as to which pieces of International Law those vociferoulsy opposed to all things European really wish to repeal. I assume the conflation of EU treaties with the separate Euopean Convention on Human Rights are only the first to be rescinded. Once that’s done with then we can probably also withdraw from the United Nations and annul the Treaty of Versailles. Once we’ve done with those Treaty Obligations which might equally be described as a surrender of our sovereignty….we could look carefully at the Congress of Vienna and maybe the Peace of Utrecht. And that might takes us back to the safety of the Glorious Revolution of 1688….

    But then why stop there…. let’s set aside Magna Carta and the Normans; let’s reclaim Wessex and Mercia for the real English and be done with it….unless… well we could repudiate the Romans and the Celts….

    The terrible truth is we were probably betrayed by Mammoths who sold us out ot hte North Sea because we wouldn’t allow them a right to forage in our forests.

    Whilst the rest of the world gets on the living in the reality we can feel safe hiding in the wild woods of prehistory where sovereignty is no more than worrying who’s going to eat whom.

  29. PHIL
    Enjoyed your ‘what if’ enormously. The scenario of an October 007 Labour win with a sufficient majority to see Brown through to autumn 2012 and an ‘Olympic bounce’ election is also interesting.

    Brown does all the things he did anyway, but locks in the recovery with the Darling cuts and tells us all that Tory plans would decimate as oppose to cuting-back the public services. I could see another Labour victory in October 2012, which would be the first UK GE under AV – not sure though whether AV by legislation would have been in a 2007 Labour manifesto?

  30. @DavidB

    I stopped too early at 2009. By 2012 Labour would have been lucky to be polling in the mid 20% range, even if the cuts Brown implemented had been just half as severe as those we’re now seeing. (IMO of course). It just shows how much political fortunes are at the mercy of events.

    Any Olympic bounce will last about as long as the high jump event. Even if it lasted the full 2 weeks of the Olympics the cost would be about £500m per day – cue a lot of “was it worth it” stuff after the event which will dampen down optimism very quickly.

  31. Latest YouGov/Sun results

    23rd May
    CON 38%, LAB 42%, LD 10%

    APPROVAL -22

    Labour holding steady at their post election 11 level.

    I wonder where the Lib Dem and Tory increases from Friday came from?

  32. @Rob S

    If we could out Ryan Giggs as a closet celebrity Tory supporter, then I think we could be 50% plus by the weekend!!

  33. I can’t believe you guys didn’t watch it!

    * h ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_Watched_Over_by_Machines_of_Loving_Grace_(television_documentary_series)
    * h ttp://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2011/may/06/adam-curtis-computers-documentary

    Tut, tut, tut… :-)

    Regards, Martyn

  34. @Martyn – very enjoyable watch.

  35. Did you watch the sublime Adam Curtis latest treatise tonight ?

    If not iplayer is here (plus bitorrent sites from about midnight if you prefer .avi files) !

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b011k45f

    This week it was the (disastrous) fallacy of ‘market stability’ based on individualism and mathematical modelling; Next week ecological systems theory applied to economy and society gets it in the neck ;-)

    “*Part Two: The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts*

    This is the story of how our modern scientific idea of nature, the self-regulating ecosystem, is actually a machine fantasy. It has little to do with the real complexity of nature. It is based on cybernetic ideas that were projected on to nature in the 1950s by ambitious scientists. A static machine theory of order that sees humans, and everything else on the planet, as components – cogs – in a system.

    But in an age disillusioned with politics, the self-regulating ecosystem has become the model for utopian ideas of human ‘self-organizing networks’ – dreams of new ways of organising societies without leaders, as in the Facebook and Twitter revolutions, and in global visions of connectivity like the Gaia theory.

    This powerful idea emerged out of the hippie communes in America in the 1960s, and from counterculture computer scientists who believed that global webs of computers could liberate the world.

    But, at the very moment this was happening, the science of ecology discovered that the theory of the self-regulating ecosystem wasn’t true. Instead they found that nature was really dynamic and constantly changing in unpredictable ways. But the dream of the self-organizing network had by now captured our imaginations – because it offered an alternative to the dangerous and discredited ideas of politics.”

  36. “very enjoyable watch.”

    Curtis always is.

  37. ooops-

    there is a lesson there in refreshing your page before making a post :D

  38. @Alec, @RobS, @MickP

    Two questions:

    1) Given Curtis’s thesis that financial elites exert political power to expatriate funds from bubble-countries to themselves, (thus saving themselves but collapsing the economies), what is the solution? The Chinese (post the 90’s Thailand and Indonesia problems) and the ECB (post the Euro problems) have adopted the same solution: far greater superstate control of the banks: should the US and UK adopt the same solution?
    2) Has Clint Mansell replaced John Carpenter as Curtis’s go-to guy for background music denoting SpookyStuffIsHappeningWoo ?

    Regards, Martyn

  39. @Martyn

    1) Remove the financial insiders from their conflict of interest positions in government where they are able to bend far reaching multi-billion government decisions to the benefit themselves and their friends in the financial sector. (Not going to happen though if you take a cursory glance at Obama’s cabinet. Money still talks in politics.)

    Britain did try a half hearted solution to the banks ‘too big to fail’ blackmailing power in the shape of the Vickers report. However, the fine print reveals that any supposed firewalls would be innefectual and the taxpayer would be stepping in again.

    2) What’s wrong with Clint Mansell ? :-D

  40. @Rob Sheffield

    Throw in Michael Foot and Neil Kinnock as opposition leaders (and that vandal of Labours history Viscount Stansgate doing his worst from the sidelines) and you realise just how lucky Thatcher and Major actually were politically.

    …and their luck got even better, as their “opposition” decided to adopt wholesale most of their platform, writing out their own reason for being and spent those 13 years in power doing more or less exactly what they would’ve done, with the cherry on top as their parting gift: an excuse to roll back even more of the state.

  41. Just had a look at the latest YG tracker poll figs.

    Apart from the NHS and Education where Lab are ahead or level respectively, the Cons are considered to be the party most people consider would handle a range of other problems best (albeit some narrowly).

    In reply to the question “Overall do you think the coalition’s military action in Libya is going well or badly?” 39% say badly compared to 35% who say well.

  42. “Apart from the NHS and Education where Lab are ahead or level respectively, the Cons are considered to be the party most people consider would handle a range of other problems best (albeit some narrowly).”
    And Labour are ahead for handling unemployment.

    So people think that the Tories should handle the legislative/taxation side of government and that Labour should handle the domestic/expenditure side.

    Has been the same for a long time.

    Perhaps it’s a good indication that they need to separate the legislative body and the body that handles spending.
    So two houses of parliament.

  43. “In reply to the question “Overall do you think the coalition’s military action in Libya is going well or badly?” 39% say badly compared to 35% who say well.”
    Now 36% who say well vs 41% for badly.

  44. @Martyn – no idea about the music, but my solutions to the issues Curtis talks about really revolve around improving democratic responsibility and the role of the nation state. I remember thinking it was total nonsense to talk about the end of the nation state in the 1980s when that was a fashionable thesis, and the outcomes since then have demonstrated clearly that complete reiance on global markets are not a good way to manage our affairs.

    My solutions would be fairly simple. Firstly, we need to end the regulatory capture of the finance industry in particular, but big business in general, over government policy making. That means accepting far ess influence from business representatives on advisory committees and taking a much more robust line with industry lobby groups.

    Secondly, we need to prevent any organisation or business from donating to political parties, and restrict individual donations to no more thaan £5,000. It’s the only way to ensure politics represents people and not business.

    Thirdly, I would favour a PR electoral system so that every vote has much more equal value. In this way, political parties would have to represent the full spread of the population rather than a small fraction. In the case of the UK, this would bring into play many of the people who have suffered the negative impacts of globalisation and encourage a more balanced view of how we should run things.

    In short, the problem we have with finance and big business is that we have constructed political systems in such a way that politicians are more frightened of the money men than the broad mass of voters. Business has simply used this fact to their advantage. The start point is a wholesale reform of how we do democracy, in my view.

  45. Tingedfringe

    Thanks for corrections. I blame an early start.
    8-)

  46. @ Craig

    How does bringing back down the share of public spending to 40% by 2014, higher than it was under Gordon Brown in 2006/07 amount to “rolling back the state” exactly? 40% is pretty average for the OECD and nowhere near the level of some places like the US or Hong Kong.

    People on the left keep on repeating this “rolling back the state” phrase, yet the facts don’t bear it out in any way.

  47. @ Phil
    Either way, a 2007 election would definitely have been one to lose, ”
    By 2012 Labour [if they had won] would have been lucky to be polling in the mid 20% range, even if the cuts Brown implemented had been half as severe as those we’re now seeing. It just shows how much political fortunes are at the mercy of events.”

    I like your two-track analysis. The one thing that is certain in all this is the 2008 crisis. If Brown had scraped home in 2007, maybe with Liberal support, he would have been execrated after the event for calling an election on the [false] justification of a change of Prime Minister. This had happened 5 times in peacetime from 1937-1990, without triggering an election. Besides, every voter knew in 2005 that Blair would not last the term: built-in.
    The electorate would have concluded it had been conned by Brown, rather as Major was regarded after Black Wednesday [Sept 92] when the Tories lost their reputation for economic confidence for 15 years: & as you say Brown would have been implementing massive cuts from 2008-11/12.

  48. @robert C – I think rather than talk about the % of GDP taken by state spending you really need to look at the actual services and service levels provided.

    I don’t have the figures, but I expect that the benefits bill is likely to be higher and that interest repayments will also take a greater share of overall spending. Likewise pension payments will increase with a ageing population. This would leave less to spend on discretionary spending, which is where the argument lies.

    I really don’t think it is particulary credible to imply (as you do) that Cameron wishes to maintain the state supported functions at the same level that Gordon Brown did.

    Indeed, we have Cameron’s own word on this. When he was engaged pre election on one of his meet the people events he took a question from a fire service worker (I think) who asked him direct whether the cuts would be reversed once the financial crisis was over and the budget position was more balanced. He answered a categoric ‘no’.

    I was surprised more fuss wasn’t made of this at the time, but it was absolutely clear from this answer that his underlying reason for cutting was not to close the budget deficit but was based on his political view that the state should spend less.

    As an aside, I think this is one area where Cameron got a very easy rise from a media tiring of Brown and Labour. Reversing this scenario to one where Labour was asked about tax rises and whether these would stay in place once the deficit was cleared, had Labour said ‘yes’ I think there would have been something of a media storm about this.

  49. @ Robbie Alive,

    Re 2007 election, I agree. I believe that Gordon Brown backed off from the election that never was because of BNP Paribas & Northern Rock.

    To go to the country for re-election, knowing that there were financial system issues which could perhaps erupt very soon after… Win or lose, it would have been deceitful & the Labour Party would suffer for such deceit, potentially for a very long time.

    IMO, Brown could not disclose his concerns, for fear of causing the very panic that it was imperative to avoid. To hold an election, without such disclosure, would have been rather dishonest.

    FWIW, I think Brown did the correct & honourable thing by not holding an early election. Why do I think Labour didn’t win. Because of all the stupid nonsense from James Purnell & those who tried to replace Gordon Brown. They did not trust him to win an election; to the public, it looked like they did not trust him to fix the economy therefore it became a self-fulling prophesy.

    The role those MPs played in losing the election is glossed over & all is blamed on GB. IMO, they should blame themselves.
    8-)

  50. Amber, I concur.

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