The tables for the weekly YouGov/Sunday Times poll are now up here, covering attitudes to Ed Miliband, the government’s recent U-turns, Rowan Williams and the Royal Family.

In the last few days the media narrative seems to have shifted significantly against Ed Miliband, with lots of stories in the media about him being in trouble, having a year to sort himself out, etc. Looking trough them there aren’t really many named figures there: it’s mostly “friends of” or unnamed former ministers. In any stories about internal party rumblings then unless there are names it’s impossible to judge whether it is just the usual suspects (any party has certain malcontents who can always be guaranteed to sound off about the leader), or if there actually are serious rumblings within the Parliamentary party.

What we can be more confident about is that public perceptions of Ed Miliband are not encouraging (and, of course, that will to some extent be due to the media portrayal of him, but that’s part of the game). Miliband’s approval rating today is down to minus 23, his lowest since becoming leader. Only 19% of people think Labour made the right decision in choosing him as leader, with 51% thinking he was the wrong choice.

Responses to questions like this are largely partisan, Conservative and Lib Dem supporters naturally don’t tend to be impressed by the performance of Labour leaders. However, Ed Miliband’s ratings are mediocre even amongst his own party supporters. 41% of Labour voters think he was the wrong choice. 45% of Labour voters think that David Miliband would be a better leader than his brother. Labour voters are evenly split (48% to 47%) on whether Ed is providing an effective opposition, only 43% say they are clear what he stands for (54% not clear), and only 39% of Labour voters think he has a credible policy on the economy (26% do not and 35% are uncertain).

Of course, in Miliband’s favour, under his leadership Labour are ahead in the polls. However, what we can’t tell is whether they’d be further ahead under a different leader, or what would happen in an election campaign when voting intention becomes (to some extent) more a choice between alternative governments.

If we look at the last two leaders of the opposition who went on to become Prime Minister, Tony Blair and David Cameron, Ed Miliband is quite evidently not in the same league. His approval ratings are now solidly negative, while Blair’s figures were consistently positive, and Cameron’s figures positive apart from the temporary effect of the “Brown honeymoon”. Ed’s polling figures risk becoming more reminscent of a Hague or an IDS, despite Labour actually doing relatively well in voting intention polls and (non-Scottish) elections. It takes time for party leaders to establish themselves, but Ed Miliband has had quite a lot of time now and seems to be getting the thumbs down. Once negative perceptions have established themselves in the public mind it takes something to shift them.

Before one writes him off though, the question I ponder is whether we just happen to have been spoiled by Blair and Cameron? Only two leaders of the opposition have become Prime Minister in the last 30 years, and they were cut from quite similar cloth, both charismatic figures who very clearly changed the whole political terrain when they became leader. It is clear Ed Miliband does not fit that mould and whatever you think of him, he has clearly not set the political world alight. However just because only one type of opposition leader has succeeded in the last 30 years, it doesn’t mean only that type of leadership can succeed (hell, if John Smith has not died, Labour would almost certainly still have won in 1997 and we’d have a very different model of what a successful opposition leader looks like). Mrs Thatcher did not set the world alight as Leader of the Opposition, yet won and went onto win three terms. That said, politics has changed since the 1970s and I remember many Conservatives whistling that same empty tune past the graveyards of Hague and IDS’s leaderships…

On other issues, given the unpopularity of the NHS reforms and increasing sentence reductions for pleading guilty, it’s unsurprisingly that people overwhelmingly though the government was right to change and drop the plans. How people viewed the changes were largely along party lines – Conservatives and Liberal Democrats tended to think it showed that the government were listening and willing to change, Labour respondents tended to think that it showed the government were weak or incompentent or hadn’t thought their policies through.

YouGov also asked how much people trusted David Cameron to fulfil the five pledges he gave on the NHS this week – 40% trusted him a little or a lot, 54% did not trust him a lot or at all. As one might expect, the there was a strong party skew – 86% of Conservative voters trusted him a lot or a little (and only 1% not at all), 86% of Labour voters didn’t trust him much or at all, Lib Dem voters were pretty evenly split.


199 Responses to “YouGov/Sunday Times on Ed Miliband”

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  1. RAF

    Barney is spot on with his history (as one might expect).

  2. Raf
    I think the modern idea that because you lose an election you pack in is idiotic. It was different then. Heath had absolutely no intention of going and if M Thatcher had not stood he would not have gone
    Of course another difference was that as H Wilson’s amateur spin-doctor pointed out there were dozen potential PMs in the Labour cabinet and only a few less in the Tory shadow cabinet and M Thatcher would not have been seen as one until the immediate aftermath of the first ballot!

  3. OldNat,

    We have the final proof: the North British Labour Party have lost the plot.

    Delighted to know that I have made it onto the rebuttal database. If the eels are bothering tailing minnows like me then they are less likely to see the shoals of salmon eyeing up a tasty snack.

  4. Barney

    Wholly agree that the concept that has developed of sacrificing the leader after a defeat is foolish.

    Mind you, it isn’t that modern. It was quite common in medieval times and earlier – though the sacrifice then was total!

  5. @Barney

    I agree that losing an election shouldn’t necessary be the end of the road for a Party leader. However, Heath had lost two elections in one year – the first of which he did not even have to call. This after an incredibly difficult period in office.

    However, I am prepared to concede that Mrs T did indeed wield the axe and ended up wearing the crown.

    But that was the last example. In the year I was born, 36 years ago.

  6. Stuart

    I fear that you are making the same mistake as Barney.

    You are both worthy individuals, but with no influence whatsoever on your respective parties.

    One difference, of course, is that AFAIK you never tried to become a candidate, or if you did, the SNP had the good sense to suggest nicely that an alternative career path would suit you better. :-)

  7. Stuart

    In case you took that the wrong way, I would never be a candidate either. A party would have to be really desperate for candidates to select someone who posted their personal views on the net!

  8. Stuart Dickson

    I assume the ‘Scotland on Sunday’ story has a misprint. Instead of reading:

    CONSERVATIVE and Labour politicians want Lord Reid of Cardowan to lead the campaign to keep Scotland within the UK amid fears that the Union is now in a “dangerously weak position”.

    It should be:

    SNP politicians want Lord Reid of Cardowan to lead the campaign to keep Scotland within the UK amid hopes that the Union is now in a “dangerously weak position”.

    In a way it’s a demonstration of my theory that the problem with Scottish Labour is that it’s too Scottish rather than not Scottish enough. By which I mean it conforms to a Scottish stereotype: macho, belligerent, partisan, self-pitying, clannish, xenophobic, socially conservative, all too willing to give and receive ‘favours’, vicious, sentimental and alcoholic. Rab C Nesbitt without the redeeming features and the jokes. Glasgow kisses and ‘Hey you Jimmy’

    Of course this is a dated and only ever marginally true image, but like all stereotypes it did have something in it. It seems something that Scotland has left behind in the last few decades; the country seems less self-conscious to me. But too much of Scottish Labour seems wedded to the old ways.

    Which is all a roundabout way of saying that SLab needs to be more like Amber Star and less like John Reid. 8)

    Incidentally, you were complaining that Anthony hadn’t mentioned the tns-bmrb poll in one of his postings. He doesn’t have to mention every poll (it’s his site he can do what he wants) and indeed in the last week he didn’t even mention some of his own polls. But on the whole I think that, to keep the site within manageable proportions, he usually concentrates on voting intention polls (he very rarely mentions even YouGovs that don’t include VI). The tns-bmrb was only on independence as far as I can see.

    Also I think the tns-bmrb figures are part of the their monthly omnibus which means they are both late (7 days after fieldwork) and, I suspect, non-commissioned. Anthony doesn’t want to encourage people getting poll results without someone paying for them!

  9. OldNat,

    Indeed!
    :D

    I am just a lil ole ordinary member of the party. I hold no position of responsibility whatsoever within the party, neither voluntary nor paid. I don’t even attend branch meetings these days. I have never been a parliamentary candidate, nor will I ever be.

    If I am “a vanguard voice of the SNP” (copyright B. Crockett) then Mary Scanlon is the leader of the British Conservative Party.

    By the way Barney, it was a nice touch hinting to Anthony that he might consider blocking me from commenting. You really must try that tactic again. Bound to make you an ace blog debater. Classy!

  10. Roger Mexico

    “Which is all a roundabout way of saying that SLab needs to be more like Amber Star and less like John Reid.”

    Absolutely. But if we can remove the sexuality from St Augustine’s words –

    “Give me Amber, but not yet.” :-)

  11. @ Billy Bob

    “If Osborne has his sums wrong, the best stategic option for Tories would be to bring about the coalition’s demise and call an election before things take a obvious downward turn.”

    Or go along knowing that the social relationships change to such a degree that makes any opposition quite improbable.

  12. S Dickson
    I am totally happy for you to blog. It was your own pressure on Anthony to which I was refering

  13. @ Virgilio

    Thank you, I put it very eloquently. I think that Hungary is very behind the Italians (always catching up – at least since the 14th century).

    As to the right in Hungary. In 1989 Palmer, the then US ambassador to Budapest organised a party for Bush (senior) and invited the Hungarian opposition. Bush then asked him: where did you get all these mummies from?

  14. Barney,

    Anthony is a big boy. He doesn’t need you to stick up for him.

    I asked him a civil question. He has chosen not to respond. That is his prerogative.

    As a former market research practitioner myself, I respect Anthony as one of the best bloggers in the business. Certainly the best one on the topic of social research. On the other hand, my opinions of SLAB parliamentary candidates are largely unpublishable.

  15. @ Virglio

    CORRECTION:

    “Thank you, YOU put it very eloquently.”

  16. With David Miliband coming to Ed’s defence, there seem to be some parallels here with how the Democrats were supposedly doomed due to Clinton supporters refusing to support Obama… Of course, that never manifested, since while they may say that Obama was the wrong choice, and they wanted Clinton, they were still going to vote for him.

  17. @Lazslo – “Or go along knowing that the social relationships change to such a degree that makes any opposition quite improbable.”

    Colin’s (and the Sunday Times) musings about replacing the Archbishiop of Canterbury (“Whether or not God is dead: it is impossible to keep silent about him who was there for so long”) makes your point in a small way.

    However, something about your post (“Pessimists are right. Pessimists are superfluous”) has prompted me to offer some words from Elias Canetti (not always the first place one thinks to run to for consolation)

    “Justice begins with the recognition of the necessity of sharing. The oldest law is that which regulates it, and this is still the most important law today and, as such, has remained the basic concern of all movements which have at heart the community of human activities and of human existence in general.”

    “The profoundest thoughts of the philosophers have something tricklike about them.A lot disappears in order for something to suddenly appear .”

  18. Oldnat

    If you can spare the time off when canvassing in Wemyss Bay, I’ll come across from Rothesay to buy you a Behaven in the station bar,

  19. No mis Behaven. Belhaven.

  20. @ Raf

    “The expression oft quoted in UK politics is the one used by Michael Heseltine after his challenge to Margeret Thatcher led her to resign as PM in 1990.

    When asked later about the reasons why he never became leader after her resignation he famously said:
    “He who wields the axe never wears the crown”

    So even if the axing is successful in its main aim, the axeman never assumes to the throne.”

    I think that’s usually right. Not always right but usually right.

    @ Top Hat

    “As a wise man once said: “If you come at the king, you best not miss.”

    (I do hope I’m not stereotyping awfully by assuming that as a Democrat-voting liberal American of a certain subset you will understand that quote!)”

    Yes, I understand the quote. Lol. :)

    I think for shadow cabinet secretaries who would challenge Miliband, they have to consider just what might happen if they challenge him for the post and fail to topple him. They could find their own power diminished and their prospects at ever being leader or Prime Minister gone.

  21. @ Jay Blanc

    “With David Miliband coming to Ed’s defence, there seem to be some parallels here with how the Democrats were supposedly doomed due to Clinton supporters refusing to support Obama… Of course, that never manifested, since while they may say that Obama was the wrong choice, and they wanted Clinton, they were still going to vote for him.”

    I think you’re right but there’s a slight difference. There were a lot of disgruntled Hillary supporters from top donors to rank and file Democratic voters to local activists to campaign volunteers to talented campaign staff (a lot of Hillary’s top campaign managers went and worked on other campaigns for 08′). But ultimately, there were more people concerned with electing a Democratic president than electing Hillary president. And ultimately, over the period of several months, a Sarah Palin nomination, and an economic crisis later, nearly everyone had come back to the fold.

    I think whatever anger or frustrating supporters of David Miliband may feel may ultimately subside and go away by the time you have your next election in 2014 or 2015.

  22. @ Roger Mexico

    “I’ve got attacked here before for saying you should never underestimate the Labour Party’s capacity for pointless internal warfare, but to start one on the orders of the Conservative Press, seems a little self-destructive even by their standards. The truth is that Ed Miliband has probably been attacked more frequently and thoroughly in his first eight months than any recent Labour leader – I think even Foot might have got off a bit lighter. The five-day honeymoon he got after his marriage (after being criticised for not being married, he’s now being criticised for getting married) was longer than any he got from the media.”

    This whole leeked victory speech of David Miliband is kinda silly. Instead of practicing his victory speech, maybe the time would have been better spent calling some of the Blairite MPs who voted for his brother (but who had they voted for him would have made him the Labour leader). Just a thought.

  23. @ Old Nat

    “In case you took that the wrong way, I would never be a candidate either. A party would have to be really desperate for candidates to select someone who posted their personal views on the net!”

    Lol…but apparently not those who post shots of their private business on the internet. J/k. :)

  24. @ Old Nat

    “Wholly agree that the concept that has developed of sacrificing the leader after a defeat is foolish.

    Mind you, it isn’t that modern. It was quite common in medieval times and earlier – though the sacrifice then was total!”

    I’m not sure. Sometimes it’s a good idea not to let political leaders hang around so that they can lose election after election. There comes a point where you have to say enough is enough. On the other hand, I think that one lost election doesn’t mean one should step aside automatically. Or that they’re unfit to lead.
    @ Amber Star

    Thought you might appreciate this:

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/politics/labour-s-jim-murphy-hits-out-at-miliband-doubters-1.1106496?localLinksEnabled=false

  25. @ Crossbat11

    “As you are a couple of posters I enjoy reading and quite often agree with wholeheartedly, can I mediate a little in your disagreement over Ed Miliband’s leadership capabilities? I’m more with Alec than Rob on this, as anyone who’s read my earlier posts on the subject will know, but I think, in partial agreement with Rob, Labour shouldn’t entirely rule out the possibility of changing leaders if there is serious and unequivocal evidence circa 2013 that Miliband has become unelectable. Where I agree with Alec though,is that we’re nowhere near there yet and a party that is seen to panic and flinch in the face of enemy fire, as Labour would be doing by dispensing with their leader inside 12 months, will open up fatal internal divisions and pay the electoral price for doing so.

    Miliband needs to develop and articulate Labour’s vision more clearly and he does need to score more of the open goals that the coalition are presenting to him, but where I disagree with Rob is that, unusually for an Opposition Leader, he does actually have a fair bit of time on his side.

    There is an old adage that applies to many endeavours in life and that is always do what your enemy least wants you to do. As the coalition approaches it’s most vulnerable period in office (2011/12), what do you think that they’d most want Labour to be doing? The answer to that question should determine Labour’s strategy and I think that means no leadership challenges or changes for now, don’t you?”

    It was interesting to look at the Canadian elections this year to see what happenned to the Liberal Party in Canada. It was only 5 years ago that they were turned out of office after 13 years in government and saw a small Conservative minority government. They thought they would come back to power very quickly and that all that was needed was a new leader. Well a few new leaders later, they’re in third place for the first time with the lowest number of seats ever held. Sometimes just changing a leader and a quick fix isn’t enough.

    Where Ed Miliband has been smart and effective as a leader is that he’s used the time in opposition to really focus on Labour’s platform and to use this time period as an opportunity to refresh and renew the party.

    Parliamentary leaders though have a difficult assignment though. They have to be one part legislative master, one part presidential, and one part master tactician/strategist. And in the UK, there’s a 4th part which requires a leader to be quick on his feet at PMQs. I think that if any Parliamentary leader is unable to live up to the demands of each role, they can be attacked as ineffectual.

    I also think Labour is in an odd position. You guys have always been the underdogs of British politics. Now you find yourselves in a position where you could become the natural governing party. I think Labourites are uncomfortable all around. You’ve got those who think Ed Miliband will return Labour to underdog status (they don’t like him) and then others who worry that Labour lost its way under Blair (they don’t really trust Ed).

    Your position of moderation sounds like a good place to be.

  26. @ Old Nat

    “Wholly agree that the concept that has developed of sacrificing the leader after a defeat is foolish.

    Mind you, it isn’t that modern. It was quite common in medieval times and earlier – though the sacrifice then was total!”

    One last thought here. After last year’s midterms, there were those who wanted Nancy Pelosi to give up her position as Democratic House Leader. She didn’t. I was glad, others were miffed.

    She got punished by the voters for things that were beyond her control. But of all the Democrats in federal office, she was the only one who actually did her job with consistent effectiveness. She knew how to recruit good candidates, she fundraised well, she pushed things through the House that never seemed to have a chance of passing. She knew how to count votes (a most important skill for any legislative leader). My feeling was, why should she go? She’s the best option there is.

    I think that when you consider getting rid of a leader of a party, you have to consider the actual attributes of the leader beyond the actual wins and losses on election night. If a leader is truly ineffective and hamstringing a party and has helped lead the party to losses, then it’s time to consider dumping that leader. But if the party loses for reasons well outside the leader’s control, then you have to carefully consider whether getting rid of the leader is what’s needed and will actually benefit the party.

  27. John B Dick

    You’re on!

    Anthony, can you give John Dick my email address, please?

  28. SoCalLiberal

    This whole leeked victory speech of David Miliband is kinda silly. Instead of practicing his victory speech, maybe the time would have been better spent calling some of the Blairite MPs who voted for his brother (but who had they voted for him would have made him the Labour leader). Just a thought

    You’re obviously far too practical for UK politics. A true pol should spend their time discussing plots with journalists ‘under lobby terms’.

    Actually you also indirectly point out something that is continually forgotten. The closeness of the result between the Milibands wasn’t because Ed got all the union votes and David the rest. Ed got 47% of the MPs/MEPs and 46% of the members, David got 40% of the union/societies vote. It means that Ed isn’t the ‘prisoner of the unions’ in any way except in the minds of certain newspaper columnists.

    It’s a bit like the artificial division between ‘blue’ and ‘red’ states. People forget that say 45% of Texas voted for Obama -not just 3 university professors in Austin. It’s all slightly different shades of purple.

  29. SoCalLiberal

    Lol…but apparently not those who post shots of their private business on the internet. J/k.

    Yes the case of Weiner’s wiener continues. Though I see that a majority of his constituents, presumably more sensible and less sex-obsessed than their legislators, are happy for him to continue.

    Incidentally can you clear something up for me. When US pollsters say for example “Of those surveyed, 411 were registered voters”, do they actually ask voters if they are registered or do they check against a register?

  30. SoCalLiberal

    It was interesting to look at the Canadian elections this year to see what happenned to the Liberal Party in Canada. It was only 5 years ago that they were turned out of office after 13 years in government and saw a small Conservative minority government. They thought they would come back to power very quickly and that all that was needed was a new leader. Well a few new leaders later, they’re in third place for the first time with the lowest number of seats ever held. Sometimes just changing a leader and a quick fix isn’t enough.

    But they chose a ‘charismatic’ leader who was a celebrity. What could possibly go wrong?

    This also ties in with your following point about keeping on Pelosi after the mid-terms. When choosing leaders, you shouldn’t take any notice of complaints from those who don’t really want you to succeed. Of course this may also include some of those on your own side who don’t want their comfortable lives disrupted. But mostly complaints about ‘unsuitability’ turn out to be about effectiveness. Some people don’t like it.

  31. @Stuart Dickson

    “@Barney Crocket
    By the way Barney, it was a nice touch hinting to Anthony that he might consider blocking me from commenting. You really must try that tactic again. Bound to make you an ace blog debater. Classy!”

    I think you ought to calm down dear!

    I find Barney Crocket’s posts to be measured and thoughtful and it is good to read the views of Scots of all persuasions and not just the SNP

  32. Anthony

    Any idea why my 9:49 comment is in moderation?

  33. Interesting stats showing a 30% fall in Chinese bank lending in May. Again, worse than expected and a clear sign that the rapid Chinese economic growth is slowing as their government struggles to contain inflation and engineer a soft landing.

    This juxtaposition of the west desperately needing strong growth but the east equally desperate to avoid runaway inflation followed by an uncontrolled slump is potentially very nasty. As the engine of global growth, seeing a sharp slowdown in China won’t do our recovery chances much good, although it does already appear to be helping reduce commodity prices that should help suppress our interest rates for a while longer.

    However, the overwhelming factor for UK exporters isn’t relative currency levels – it is having strong overseas demand for their output.

  34. @Rob Sheffield

    I take your point about the importance of party leaders doing well in the Polls but can’t help noticing that Labour’s forecast majority has gone up from 34 seats to 62. :-)

    I think the last thing Labour needs is a leadership battle.

    FWIW I’ve never been a fan of David Milliband and my view of him was confirmed by his behaviour after he lost the leadership election.

    Rather than going off in a sulk, he should have put his arm around his brother and said “Ok I lost but let’s work together for the sake of the country.”

  35. “I find Barney Crocket’s posts to be measured and thoughtful and it is good to read the views of Scots of all persuasions and not just the SNP”

    Well said Valerie-I very much agree.

  36. Looks like EM is going to embrace the idea of “the deserving poor” in his speech this afternoon.

    His thoughts on Welfare Reform have been welcomed in advance by FF. This is a shrewd move by EM , but :-

    Will they vote in favour of the Government Welfare Reform measures.

    Will AoC now write a stinging rebuke of Labour policy on Welfare ? :-)

  37. @VALERIE
    I have already posted several times that Rob Sheffield is the only Labour supporter who see’s the light on this issue. I say again, if the coalition cuts are as bad as you Labour supporters say, (well are they ) , of course the opposition will be getting the benefit in the polls. Therefore, my example that Donald Duck leading Labour, would at the present time give them “track position” in the opinion polls, reflects little or no credit on Ed Miliband.

    Rob is our fear, he would get rid. You (and others) are our allies, you want Ed to stay.

  38. Valerie

    DM won’t be leading the Labour party IMHO as I have stated on several recent threads (including this one).

    EM won’t win an election IMHO.

    Non politicos know that: it is the geeks on this site and active in politics (like myself!) who- largely do not.

    Unfortunately it is us geeks who are I’m charge of any leadedhip scenario.

    It took us 15 years last tome to select someone who was clearly electable and even the supposedly brutally efficient Toties took 8 years.

    I guess we may well have to learn the lesson of “appealing to non aligned voters” ( interested in ‘likeability’ far more than us geeks) all over again….

  39. Bloody iPhone predictive text and non-KB !!

  40. Simon Hughes, acting as government spokesman:

    “I think a few universities which have struggled to make their books balance may disappear”

    confirming my recent prediction of up-coming bankruptcies. “Diappear” is a very clinical way of putting a process that could get rather ugly. Who is going to carry the financial losses and what will happen to the students and workforce when a university goes bust?

    Presumably a similar fate could await both hospitals and schools. As far as I can tell this has yet to impact the public consciouness.

  41. “What we can be more confident about is that public perceptions of Ed Miliband are not encouraging (and, of course, that will to some extent be due to the media portrayal of him, but that’s part of the game). ”

    Given that almost all of the print media and a large proportion of the TV media are either openly supportive of the Conservative Party or are owned by people who are openly supportive them, it’s fair to say the game is rigged.

  42. Had a Ah Ha moment at work.
    Disregard anything I recently posted with a 30 day weighting. Just realised that although it shouldn’t be out by a huge amount, I have probably messed up the weightings that they give too much weighting to certain old polls which improve Tory figures slightly.
    Will have to rewrite the calculations when I’m back home at some point.

  43. @ Valerie
    I agree with your post at June 13th, 2011 at 12:51 pm.

    IMO, Lab needs to stand shoulder to shoulder with EM and give him 100% support. taht would boost his confidence.

    He is still in a learning curve, and also in a very difficult and probably unique situation for a leader of the Opposition.

    IMO EM’s questioning at PMQs is being to hurt DC and the Cons. DC almost always avoids answering the actual questions.

  44. @Hal – a very pertinent point. Failure is an essential part of capitalist systems, even in highly regulated market economies. The difficulty with trying to import competition based private enterprise into the public service sector is that the consequencies of failure are generally unacceptable, either in terms of temporary gaps in essential service provision or in just plain old political terms.

    You could theoretically overcome the gap in service provision by over capacity, which is basically what happens in most areas of the private sector economy, but this is inherently inefficient and is the payback for the overall efficient market allocation of resources that the free market is meant to be very good at. This would mean more cost to the taxpayer as the price for market efficiencies.

    The political consequencies of public service failure are not readily solvable though.

    This leads to the central difficulty of increased private sector involvement in public services – moral hazard. Everywhere you look in the public sector, private companies are taking profit in the good times and then getting bailed out by the taxpayer in one way or another when contracts fail or cannot be costed on a market basis.

    Subsidies to railways have increased, the government underwrites nuclear power decomissioning costs, overbudget MoD contracts require more government money and now we have calls for the government to step in to bail out Southern Cross.

    I don’t have a rigid ideological opposition to private provision of public services, but I do want to see clear thinking about who gets the rewards and who takes on the risks. In my view, contract provision should protect taxpayers from the risk of failure by either requiring the contractor to take out insurance against bankruptcy or mechansims such as the transfer of all assets to the state in the event of failure, at no cost to the government.

    By forcing private contractors to price in the risk of failure we can then get a more accurate view as to whether private provision really can provide cheaper and better public services.

  45. @ Roger Mexico

    “But they chose a ‘charismatic’ leader who was a celebrity. What could possibly go wrong?”

    Well first they chose a policy wonk nerd who turned off most voters and was completely unable to connect with anyone. He didn’t speak English either. I don’t think Michael Ignatieff was either charismatic or a celebrity. Apparently the worst thing about him to Canadians was the fact that Conservatives convinced average Canadians that he was really an “American.” Apparently, in Canada, there’s nothing worse than being an American. Lovely. :)

    “This also ties in with your following point about keeping on Pelosi after the mid-terms. When choosing leaders, you shouldn’t take any notice of complaints from those who don’t really want you to succeed. Of course this may also include some of those on your own side who don’t want their comfortable lives disrupted. But mostly complaints about ‘unsuitability’ turn out to be about effectiveness. Some people don’t like it.”

    I think you’re right about not listening to your opponents. They usually don’t have your best interests at heart. I think the Dems who wanted to see Pelosi go were simply following a knee-jerk reaction. The great irony about Pelosi is that she would never have been in elected office if not for Republicans.

  46. Some months ago there was extended discussion on here about the proposal by the gov to cap the total amount of benefits payable in any one year to £26k.

    I’m pleased the gov seem prepared to see sense and withdraw this proposal.

    I imagine however that there will be more disconsolate Con MPs.

    And the Cons party have yet hear the NHS (re)review changes.

    There may be trouble ahead…Now that’s a real story, not these pathetic attemps to stir unrest about EM (and EB).

  47. I think most of this thread has been artificially driven as a successful distraction from the obvious and increasing failure of the coalition’s deficit reduction programme ( i.e. it is not reducing the deficit) and their generally schoolboy approach to economic management in general.

    But as it happens, I do believe there are significant issues with Ed as regards his public persona: he is geeky, is bogged down in the detail and struggles to articulate the desired simple soundbites in response to complex problems. That, sadly, is the measure of modern political leadership. It is to be able to articulate a combination of the hook and the soundbite. Ed first needs to recognise these shortcomings as shortcomings – often not easy for technocrats like Ed – and address them, otherwise he risks becoming a liability ( Hague suffered likewise – and I think Hague is the closest parallel we have to Ed) But more likely like Hague he may be seen as a largely anonymous figure with peculiar mannerisms talking about stuff we ( the electorate) can’t really be bothered deciphering.

    I would agree he has until after next May’s elections to prove he has this touch. As it happens such is my gloomy expectation of the economic consequences of the deficit reduction that really any Labour leader who appears competent ( I think Ed does) however uninspired ( I think Ed has to date shown no real inspirational leadership) will probably lead the largest party after next election. A charismatic, inspirational communicator , of course would give Labour a real prospect of a landslide. (Sadly I don’t see one in the party at the moment)

  48. @ Roger Mexico

    “Yes the case of Weiner’s wiener continues. Though I see that a majority of his constituents, presumably more sensible and less sex-obsessed than their legislators, are happy for him to continue.

    Incidentally can you clear something up for me. When US pollsters say for example “Of those surveyed, 411 were registered voters”, do they actually ask voters if they are registered or do they check against a register?”

    I don’t think he should resign. Though I have some second thoughts about this if he’s going to take an extended leave of absence from Congress for “treatment.” Because then, it’s not just a scandal that’s somewhat laughworthy but instead it’s actually interferring with his job. That poll is in line with other poll results for all of NYC.

    As to your question, my best educated guess is that pollsters simply ask whether one is registered and do not check. I’m not sure how they could check given the emphasis on sampling people at random and gaining a representative sample. In fact, that’s why asking for self-identified party affiliation can often tell you far more about a state or a district than actual party registration numbers.

  49. MIKEN

    “I’m pleased the gov seem prepared to see sense and withdraw this proposal. ”

    Don’t know where you saw it-but even the LDs haven’t suggested it. They arelooking for “flexibility” for severe cases.

    IDS’ response ? :-

    h ttp://www.politicshome.com/uk/story/17772/changes_to_benefit_cap.html

  50. Alec

    “By forcing private contractors to price in the risk of failure we can then get a more accurate view as to whether private provision really can provide cheaper and better public services.”

    I agree with the thrust of your argument-which is why PFI was / is such a sham. As I understand it the State would pick up the tab in the event of a failure.

    You leave unexplained in your cost comparison, how we should evaluate the cost of failure in the public sector . The State’s facility to throw more & more taxpayers funding at any problematic service provision doesn’t meet the rules you wish to apply to the private sector.

    What we need to be measuring is not just real cost of public service provision -but effectivity-ie real cost per unit output of service.

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