YouGov’s voting intention figures for the Sunday Times this morning are CON 37%, LAB 42%, LDEM 10%, so pretty much stable. On the regular trackers, leader approvals are Cameron minus 4 (from minus 6 a week ago), Clegg minus 46 (from minus 49 a week ago), and Miliband minus 32% (down from minus 23 a week ago, and easily his worst ratings so far).

There is also negative news for Ed Balls on the question of who would make the better Chancellor. YouGov first asked the question straight after Balls’ appointment, and found him neck and neck with George Osborne, 27% a piece. Osborne now leads Balls by 29% to 22% (48% of people said they don’t know). The poll would have been only just after Balls’ speech calling for a VAT cut… but I wouldn’t necessarily expect most people to notice a speech by the shadow chancellor anyway, such is the nature of opposition. More generally YouGov asked whether or not the last Labour government spent money wisely – 27% thought it did, 56% that it did not.

On the subject of the economy, 55% of people said they thought the worst was still to come for the financial crisis and the effect on the economy, with only 22% disagreeing. 37% of people think the government is managing the economy well, 53% badly (slightly up from last week, when it was 35% well, 58% badly). Overall the “feel good factor” stands at minus 48, with 10% expecting things to get better for them over the next 12 months, 58% to get worse.

Most interestingly though we have some questions on the public sector strikes and pensions (though sadly not any direct questions on whether people would support or oppose strike action on cuts, or by teachers. I’m sure some will turn up soon!).

In terms of strikes, a majority of people continue to think teachers should have the right to strike, but don’t think doctors or the police should. On the whole people do have sympathy with the idea that there should be a turnout on strike ballots – only 24% think a strike should be allowed on a simple majority, 7% that there should be a relatively lax 25 percent turnout threshold, 24% a fifty percent turnout threshold, 24% an exacting seventy-five percent threshhold. 11% simply disagree with the right to strike altogether.

Turning specifically to the issue of public sector pensions, 38% of people think that public sector pensions are too generous, 14% not generous enough, 25% about right. This means people are evenly split between thinking public sector pensions are too generous, or about right/not enough, and indeed when people are asked if they support the recommendations in the Hutton report there is a broadly even split, with only slightly more opposing than supporting – 38% support them, 43% oppose.

The YouGov tables also have cross-breaks by public/private sector workers and by whether people are trade union members. These are interesting in themselves. To start with the caveat, these are cross-breaks, the poll is weighted to be representative overall, not necessarily of trade unionists or public sector workers – it can only be indictative of those sub-groups. That out of the way, Trade Union members are, as one might expect, overwhelmingly Labour supporters – Con 15%, Lab 68%, LD 4%. Public sector workers are also more Labour than people in the private sector, but the contrast is not as large as think some people imagine – Labour lead by 11 points amongst public sector workers, compared to 2 points amongst private sector workers.

Turning to the pension questions, public sector workers are unsurprisingly less likely to think that public sector pensions are too generous (though 18% do!), and only 21% support the Hutton Report’s recommendations, with 66% opposed. Amongst private sector workers 46% support Hutton’s recommendations, 33% are opposed. It’s worth remembering that people’s opinions are not entirely selfish. While clearly self-interested, there are people who support policies that may be detrimental to their own interests, and people who oppose policies even though they personally benefit from them.


100 Responses to “YouGov/Sunday Times – CON 37, LAB 42, LD 10”

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  1. The next month or so could see another major crash in the financial markets according to many reports I have seen. UK banks are withdrawing funding from banks in the Eurozone to reduce the risk, as there are fears that several banks in parts of Europe are on the verge of collapse. Will they be bailed out this time or allowed to fail ?

    Will this draw the largest economies UK, France and Germany together, in looking to form a two speed Europe. What role would a government led by Cameron play in reshaping the EU ? Would Cameron be forced into a pro EU position, due to the affect on UK trade/finances and parliament having a pro EU majority ? Or would he align himself with Eurosceptics, of which there appears to be a majority on the Tory backbenches ?

    Just starting a debate on how a further major financial crisis in Europe, may affect UK politics. If the speculation turns into reality, it could turn the current pension reform in the public sector into a side issue, as the government struggles with other bigger issues.

  2. Those EM numbers are bad.

    It does look as though there is something more fundamental in the public’s mind than the vagaries of his performance at PMQ.

    He seems to be better thought of when he avoids making speeches :-)

  3. Some strange things from the yougov polling –
    Well, not strange first-
    Labour leads vs Age group –
    18-24 +13, 24-39 +7, 40-59 +5, 60+ -1
    Nothing unusual here.

    But..
    Approval –
    18-24 -20, 24-39 -13, 40-59 -27, 60+ -28
    So disapproval is actually highest with the groups most likely to vote Tory.

    David Cameron’s approval –
    18-24 +6, 24-39 +3, 40-59 -9, 60+ -8
    Again, disapproval highest with groups most likely to vote Tory.

    (From now I might as well dispense with the 18-24, etc, I’m sure you can work it out).
    Coalition government Good or Bad for people like you –
    -25, -26, -34, -27
    Similar figures across the board, except the 40-59 group, where Labour holds the smallest lead (where it has a lead).

    Government’s management of the economy –
    -13, -10, -18, -16

    Budget deficit management –
    -12, -10, -22, -19

    So economic/budget views not positive from those most likely to vote Tory.

    “Would you say recent reductions in public spending have made Britain safer, put it at greater risk or have they made no difference?”
    More Risk vs Same/Less Risk
    -4, -13, +5, +6

    So overall the older, ‘more likely to vote Tory generations’ are more pessimistic about the government’s handling of the economy and just generally of the government itself.

    Could this disparity be explained by Labour’s polling with those groups?

    Who was most to blame for the financial crisis –
    Gordon Brown –
    26, 29, 36, 46

    Who would make a better chancellor –
    Osborne vs Balls –
    +7, +5, +4, +12

    Ed M approval –
    -12, -27, -36, -45

    So rather than the groups who are more likely to vote Tory seeing the government/Tory party/Cameron as a force for good, just seen as the lesser of two evils?

  4. Managing the economy from -23 to -16.

    Given AW’s caveat about who would have noticed EB’s speech, that would seem to be an encouraging move .

    Wonder if the unemployment drop fed into that ?

    There is so much water to go under the bridge yet-and Government ratings will be under pressure for a year or more -but they are holding up better than I thought they would at this stage.

  5. So the public is still split on most issues.

    Apart from party leader, where DC has a lead of 30% over DM and 40% over Clegg. And yet, even DC’s numbers are negative!

    One wonders what might have happened if the Tories had won an extra 20 seats and gained an overall majority. I would suggest it would have been likely that the Tories and DC would by now be facing far worse figires. The Coalition is really benefiting the Tories in at least 2 ways:

    (a) The moderation of stated policies ( U-turns, or changes following Coalition vabinet debate) gives the public the impression that their concerns are being addressed, and that the Coalition is a big tent government and opposition, leaving Labour isolated;

    (b) it has allowed Tories and,LD to form a united front with all guns pointed at Labour and,Miliband. This helps the Tories more, as most Conservative voters are viscerally opposed to Labour, and more so as it gives the impression that reasonsble other parties (LD) support their view; and

    (c) The LDs/Clegg take most of risks and get the flak. They really have become a lightning rod for unpopular coalition policy, and have gained little benefit for any of the moderation.

    IMHO of course!

    with DC and the LD acting as a lightening rod

  6. The latest YouGov poll has Lab and LD combined at 52% of the vote. The Conservatives achieving 37%.

    Contrast this with the “left” high point of the last 20 years: the 1997 GE result saw Lab and LD combined achieve 60% of the vote. The Conservatives achieved 30%.

    And contrast this with the “right” high point of the last 20 years: the 2010 GE result saw Lab and LD combined achieve 52% of the vote. The Conservatives achieved 36%.

    Bearing in mind the boundary changes that are to come, it does make me wonder – with only around 8% of the UK electorate having any real influence on what happens during elections, can either “main” party expect to govern again without LD support?

  7. @TingedFringe
    “David Cameron’s approval –
    18-24 +6, 24-39 +3, 40-59 -9, 60+ -8
    Again, disapproval highest with groups most likely to vote Tory.”

    I think this might be because Cameron is seen by many Tories as being more like Blair than like any previous Tory leader. He has a certain charisma and confidence, but there is a sense that there isn’t much behind it – that he has no strong beliefs.

    Nevertheless, I think he will always be ahead of Miliband in approval for a very simple reason. Whether we like it or not, personal appearance and mannerisms counts with the electorate. That is why Douglas-Home had no chance against Wilson, nor Foot against Thatcher, Kinnock against anybody, Hague or Howard against Blair etc.

  8. @TINGEFRINGE
    “So rather than the groups who are more likely to vote Tory seeing the government/Tory party/Cameron as a force for good, just seen as the lesser of two evils?”

    IMPO, this is about right, after all we have got a coalition and Dave the “moderniser”. A lot of older Tories have not really grasped that. However, you are dead right, very much a lesser evil in the eyes of a Tory.

  9. @COLIN
    “There is so much water to go under the bridge yet-and Government ratings will be under pressure for a year or more -but they are holding up better than I thought they would at this stage.”

    Entirely my feelings. Last week or the one before, there was some tiny encouragement for the left for two days running. New cabinets were being formed on the strength of nothing. I warned at the time, that serious disappointment would be forthcoming. The results of the monthly polls and above all the EM figures, must prove me right.

  10. @Tinged Fringe

    Interesting micro-analysis of the polling figures but, agreeing with AW’s caveat, the sample sizes involved in the cross break analysis are so small that they sit somewhere between unreliable and meaningless. In fact, I’d counsel caution with a lot of the polling micro-data at the moment with some highly leading and selective questions being asked of the respondents and, accordingly I suspect, some pretty ropey and transitory responses given in return.

    What are my conclusions from the current polls? I think that there is no doubt that the recent “noise” on Miliband’s leadership has dented Labour and bought the coalition some temporary respite. Interestingly, while this has had an effect on Miliband’s personal ratings, it has had little or zero effect on VI figures. I noticed people got excited about yesterday’s ComRes poll but, when the micro examination of some the rather tendentious questions was ignored, it revealed that the VI ratings of BOTH Tory and Labour had declined within MOE tolerances. Hardly earth shattering stuff and it still appears that the sub-question responses are stubbornly refusing to feed into VI figures. Here’s the contradiction in a nutshell. YouGov respondent to pollster;” Yes, I think Balls and Miliband are a couple of clowns, and their economic record is terrible and their policies risible, but if there was a General Election tomorrow, I’d vote Labour”. Hmmmmm……….let me think about the robustness of that sort of polling data, for a minute please!

    A theme to the polling, for what it’s worth? People don’t have great enthusiasm for the incumbents, but even less so for the alternative currently being offered. Cameron? No-one’s greatly in love or enthused (shades of GE campaign in 2010), but the alternatives, as currently perceived, are even worse. Osborne? Not much confidence, but probably, for now, the lesser of two evils. Post Labour government hangover persists for now.

    Conclusion? Struggling opposition (it always does in its early days. Ask Cameron circa 2005/06) but a very vulnerable government too. All to play for in my view.

  11. Quite surprised there’s no “do you support/sympathise” question – I thought it’d be a cert.

    Anyway, interesting comparing the “right to strike” results from last year’s:

    2010| 2011| Job
    –40 | –21 | Police
    +12 | +23 | Teachers
    –10 | –02 | Nurses
    –29 | –17 | Doctors
    –18 | –07 | Prison officers
    –34 | –23 | Armed forces
    +29 | +32 | Rail/Underground
    +35 | +42 | Bus drivers
    +14 | +24 | Social workers
    +23 | +28 | Binmen
    +05 | +15 | Utility workers

    — = – (trying to keep them in line)

  12. Craig – if you have a dig around, YouGov have asked the question more than once before (though sometimes with slightly different lists of occupations – for example, I think we’ve asked civil servants and job centre staff in the list in the past).

    Have a google and you may be able to get a better time series.

  13. Recent local government poll figures have been terrible for the LibDems

  14. Through Google (I had hoped Yougov search might’ve done it better) I found a Jan 2011 poll, which asked about 5 sectors:

    +31 Rail
    +34 Air travel
    +14 Schools
    +27 Local council workers
    +22 Civil servants

    ht tp://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/YG-Archives-Pol-ST-results-14-160111.pdf
    (pg 8)

  15. A poll way back in 2007 which asks just regarding police = -42

    ht tp://extras.timesonline.co.uk/results071214.pdf

  16. Until I saw this polling, I thought Roland H & I were two lonely Harrier Jet fans with everybody else not being much interested in such things.

    Actually 57% support keeping them; only 15% oppose.

    Labour are strongest supporters for keeping them. Jim Murphy is a doing a good job on this issue ;-)

  17. Pete B,

    Didn’t Alec Douglas-Home nearly beat Wilson in 1964? Had just 7 constituencies voted differently, the Tories would have been the largest overall party. There was about a 0.7% difference between the Tories and Labour. Saying Alec Douglas-Home couldn’t have won in 1964 is like saying that Ted Heath couldn’t have won in February 1974.

    Given that he was leading a scandal-ridden fag-end government, I thought that Douglas-Home did very well! After all, he won a greater share of the vote than Tony Blair did in 1997, and Tony Blair is not usually considered to be unelectable.

  18. @Tinged Fringe

    The responses from the different age groups provide fascinating food for thought, though there are significant fluctuations day-to-day.

    If you look back over recent weeks, on many days the 40-59ers have been way more pro-Labour than the 25-39 cohort.

    Often the 40-59 and 18-25 groups seem to lean one way and the 25-39s are closer to the +60s… in terms of giving consistent reponses 60+ are way ahead, and 25-39s least so imo.

  19. Amber – you and Roland could still be the only ones who care!

    Support/oppose questions don’t really tell us anything about the salience of an issue, or whether people are aware of it – they tell us whether people support or oppose something, not how strongly they feel about it.

    In theory, the people could answered that question could have been completely unaware of the issue right up to the moment they saw YouGov’s question.

  20. @ Anthony

    Yes, indeed… but somebody cared enough to ask the question – so there are at least three of us who think it matters. :-)

  21. Fascinating to see that today’s ComRes Scottish sub-sample mirrors the recent Populus sub-sample: SNP well ahead on Westminster VI.

    ComRes/IoS
    Westminster voting intention – Scotland
    Sub-sample size:
    (+/- change from UK GE 2010)

    SNP 39% (+19)
    Lab 31% (-11)
    Con 17% (n/c)
    Grn 7% (+6)
    LD 6% (-13)

  22. Sub-sample size: 156

  23. @Bill Patrick

    “After all, he won a greater share of the vote than Tony Blair did in 1997, and Tony Blair is not usually considered to be unelectable.”

    Be careful with apples and pears comparisons. You could well have gone on to say that in the1964 General Election that you draw our attention to, Wilson gained a greater share of the vote (44.13%) than did Thatcher in any of her victories in 1979, 1983 and !987.

    Presumably, on your analysis, Wilson was a more popular leader than Thatcher.

  24. Did anyone see the Sunday Times article today about David Laws? Behind the paywall:

    ‘Disgraced Lib Dem faces new police inquiry’
    – Avon and Somerset constabulary have been asked to investigate a claim that David Laws broke electoral law as well as MPs expenses rules

    … The allegation appears to be supported by Laws’s own written submissions in January 2011 to the Commons rent payments inquiry, in which he admitted that “based on nights in residence” the London home was “our main residence”.

    … The police complaint was made last week by Paul Bradly, the Conservatives’ agent in Yeovil.

    A Lib Dem party spokesman declined to comment.

    http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/Politics/article651846.ece

    I predict that come UK GE 2015, the on-the-ground relationships between Tory and Lib Dem constituency associations will be absolutely poisonous, regardless of how chummy Cameron and Clegg are in London.

    We saw this in Scotland last month, eg. in Berwickshire and Aberdeenshire: Tories and Lib Dems spitting teeth at each other.

  25. “Did anyone see the Sunday Times article today about David Laws?”

    Yes-it made me think that his comeback is even further off than I thought it would be.

  26. However competent (or not) Laws may be, it sets the wrong example to allow someone office who has been found guilty of such wrongdoing. (If he has been so found).

    Parliament/Government really ought to be able to work that much out for itself.

    No point jailing folk for 8 months for contempt when others – who have done worse – are allowed to work in government!

  27. A very interesting view on Labour’s current situation by Martin Ivens in the Sunday Times. ( Paywall)

    It would bring a knowing smile to the face of Rob Sheffield………..and muttered oaths from the Neo-Marxists.

    But I think Ivens is spot on.

    Three cheers for Ed Balls :-) :-) :-)

  28. Bill Patrick
    “Didn’t Alec Douglas-Home nearly beat Wilson in 1964?”

    You’re quite right. I was relying on childhood memory of a skull-like face (especially parodied by Gerald Scarfe) and commentators at the time saying that in what they considered to be the first TV election, his appearance would be a handicap.

    Now that I’ve checked the results, it was indeed quite close, though in my defence the Tories did poll 1.75 million fewer votes than in 1959.

    Interestingly, the Labour vote also dropped slightly, and most of the ‘missing’ Tory votes went to the Liberals, which suggests that in those days the Libs were seen more as an alternative to the Tories than to Labour.

    Much modern commentary (on here and other places) seems to assume that (the Coalition notwithstanding) Lib and Lab are normally alternative left-wing votes against the Tories.

  29. CHRIS TODD

    “No point jailing folk for 8 months for contempt when others – who have done worse – are allowed to work in government!”

    Fair point.

    It’s as “wrong an example” as -say ( :-) ) an Old Labour Socialist MP with a family income of £100k + complaining that the Government’s plans to ban high earners from council houses are “wrong” because he could not afford to leave his £160 pw Bloomsbury council flat , and it would mean “another impoverished family moves in – that way you create sink estates.”

    You have to feel sorry for these brave class warriors-still at least Bob can still afford the odd glass of Morgassi Superiore 2009 Piedmont at Scott’s whilst he is planning the Revolution.

    You couldn’t make it up could you ? :-)

  30. If for the sake of argument one in three Yeovil LD voters defected to Labour or stayed at home, that would still leave a fair margin (5% swing?) for a Conservative candidate to make up

    However in 2001, when Laws took over the seat from Paddy Ashdown, LD’s vote share fell by 4.6% and the Con vote rose by 8.4% (6.5% swing). The seat was last Tory in 1979.

    Considering Laws campaigned, in part, on the poor expenses record of Conservative MPs in neighbouring constituences, it would be a tough campaign for him to face re-election.

  31. Crossbat,

    “Be careful with apples and pears comparisons. You could well have gone on to say that in the1964 General Election that you draw our attention to, Wilson gained a greater share of the vote (44.13%) than did Thatcher in any of her victories in 1979, 1983 and !987.

    Presumably, on your analysis, Wilson was a more popular leader than Thatcher.”

    I think it’s pretty obvious that he was. Wilson may have never inspired the devotion of 40-odd % of the population like Thatcher did, but he commanded the general approval of a greater proportion of the population in the mid-1960s than Thatcher ever did. The Labour party of 1964 and 1966 was a much broader church than the Tories in the Thatcher years.

  32. R Huckle
    Co-operation of UK, Germany and France seems unlikely.
    The most striking feature of the Euro crisis has been the reluctance of the German political class to act in the way they know is in their best interests from fear of the electorate. Even the slightest shift from crude self-interest has to be presented as a reluctant sop to keep the French going.
    For its part the UK will keep as far out of it as possible, again partly for electoral reasons.
    If Greece defaults then France is horribly impicated. The risk has already had Moody’s issue a warning that they will be reducing the big 3 French banks’ credit rating.
    Ireland is next in line for treatment and this will be a big challenge for UK government. They shouldn’t expext German help.
    If I could also make a historical point on defaults someone pointed out that the UK had defaulted in the 30s crisis with the implication that claims government in Greece might collapse in the aftermath of default were over-blown. However what counts in a crisis like the 30s and conceivably now is where you are on the line of dominos. The UK was at the very end of a long line so the default was only a muffled culmination of events which did have climactic impact on the first countries notably Austria and Germany. In these conditions it is where you are in the line which count and who is most willing to help you and on what terms.
    In the inter-war period small countries were battled over by bigger powers in exactly those terms and I could not help but notice that the new Greek finance minister has the same surname as the politician I believe was closetst to Britain in that priod but maybe Venizilos is Smith in Greek

  33. PETE B/BILL PATRICK

    So many things could have happened. If Callaghan had gone to the country in October 1979 we might not have had Thatcher (if she had lost the Tories would have tossed her out with unseemly haste If Kinnock hadn’t made the Sheffield speech Major mighgt have been deprived of a majority. If Brown hadn’t had a Mrs Duffy moment Labour might have got enough extra seats to form a viablecoalition with the Lib Dems.

    There’s going to be a ‘what if’ moment for golden boy Cameron sometime which may also change the course of our political history. I wonder what it will be?

  34. @ Amber Star

    “Until I saw this polling, I thought Roland H & I were two lonely Harrier Jet fans with everybody else not being much interested in such things.

    Actually 57% support keeping them; only 15% oppose.

    Labour are strongest supporters for keeping them. Jim Murphy is a doing a good job on this issue.”

    1. I care in spirit. I tend to find myself caring about issues that aren’t of great interest to others or lack newsworthiness so I understand your feelings on the Harrier jets.

    2. Of course he is.

  35. Bill Patrick,
    I agree with your main point re Alec Douglas-Home.. He did pretty well – indeed at the beginning of the campaign in mid – September 1964 the Tories were ahead in the polls and favourites to win again – Labour only regained the lead in the last ten days.On a GB – rather than UK – basis the Labour lead was 2%
    On the wider point of the national % vote share, we have to be very careful when making comparisons with much later years simply because the Liberals contested far fewer seats. In 1964 they actually fought 365 seats – the highest number since 1950 – which meant that nearly 40% of constituencies were a straight fight between Labour and Conservative.. The effect ,of course, was to artificially inflate the share of the vote won nationally by both main parties.

  36. Graham,

    I do agree that the Liberals not standing in many seats was significant, but I think it was an effect rather than a cause of the popularity of Labour and the Tories: the Liberals were unable to stand in much of the country because of the overwhelming popularity of Labour and the Tories in that period.

    For the same reason, there were relatively few minor parties and nationalist parties were totally insignificant.

    I made a mistake in not paying attention to the influence of Ulster on the voting figures.

  37. Bill Patrick,
    I don’t believe the Lab/Con parties were ever that popular as such.It was much more a case of the Liberals lacking the resources to fight many seats and the memory of their disastrous experience in the 1950 election when they fought 450 seats – losing their deposits in the vast majority of them.By contast in the 1951 and 1955 electios Liberals only contesyed 109 and 110 seats respectively.

  38. @Stewart Dickson

    “We saw this in Scotland last month, eg. in Berwickshire and Aberdeenshire: Tories and Lib Dems spitting teeth at each other.”

    My experience of working on the ground in both local and parliamentary elections is that this is indeed the case in most of England too. Lifelong antipathies are rarely assuaged by leaders cosy-ing up to each other in Westminster. I expect normal hostilities and mutual loathings to re-surface well before 2015 and it will be very interesting to observe. I have to say, I’m quite looking forward to it!

    @Bill Patrick

    “The Labour party of 1964 and 1966 was a much broader church than the Tories in the Thatcher years.”

    Yes it was, containing as it did such diverse characters as Ian Mikado and Lord Pakenham (Longford)! The 1966-70 Wilson Government contained many of my early political heroes; Wilson himself, Roy Jenkins, Tony Crosland, Barbara Castle, Dick Crossman, Jim Callaghan, George Brown, Denis Healey, Michael Stewart, Shirley Williams, to name but few. Forgetting just for now its many strengths and weaknesses as a government, just reciting those names reminds us of a lost era where political giants, in both parties, walked our land. Compare and contrast with the front benches of all three major parties in Westminster now, and, with very few exceptions, diminished and shrivelled figures plaintively stare back at us. Mediocrities in the main, dancing on the head of a crowded pin as they try to differentiate themselves in a managerialist mush that possesses little, if any, genuine political verve or excitement . In the main, it’s an ideology-free and principle-bereft power struggle.

    Maybe, our materialist and consumerist society has finally got the politicians it deserves?

  39. Crossbat11, I agree that the modern generation in all parties seem to be pygmies compared to the 1960s.

    I wonder how much this is due to advancing age? When I was a youngster ministers were much older than me and seemed to know more, and though they argued with each other they all deserved respect. Nowadays most leading politicians are younger than me and I can see through their rhetorical tricks.

  40. Crossbat,

    One alternative explanation is that political talent is now diffused across a lot of parties. So Alex Salmond would be either on the Labour right wing or the Tory left wing in 1965; Nigel Farage would be a Powellite Tory; Caroline Lucas would be in the Labour party; and so on.

    Equally, if Jenkins, Castle and Callaghan could have found a way to be in three different parties, they would have done so.

    An argument that is rarely made for PR is that coalition governments tend to pool together more talent, which has become diffused among many parties.

  41. Pete B,

    I think hindsight is very important. Thatcher’s cabinets don’t seem so bereft of talent as they did in the 1980s, and Blair’s first cabinet looks very good with the advantage of hindsight. Once a politician is through most of their career, one can see their accomplishments (if any); it’s not surprising that the current cabinet, almost all of whom have never held office, seem like lightweights in comparison.

    (Incidentally, political differences aside, it’s fascinating to see which figures have impressed the most. Theresa May and George Osborne have been a lot better than I thought, whereas Vince Cable and Andrew Lansley have performed beneath my expectations. It just goes to show that you can’t just a horse until you’ve seen it run.)

  42. Bill Patrick
    Absolutely. It’s the same syndrome as when you look back and try to pick the best England cricket team that ever played. You could pick a team from years ago because it was full of famous names, forgetting that at the time some were at the beginning of their careers and others were near the end, so it didn’t seem nearly so impressive as it does now.

  43. @ Colin

    “Those EM numbers are bad.

    It does look as though there is something more fundamental in the public’s mind than the vagaries of his performance at PMQ.

    He seems to be better thought of when he avoids making speeches”

    Yeah, he’s got some issues. His PMQ performances aren’t bad but I think he doesn’t, for whatever reason, measure up as a leader in the minds of voters.

  44. @ Crossbat11

    “My experience of working on the ground in both local and parliamentary elections is that this is indeed the case in most of England too. Lifelong antipathies are rarely assuaged by leaders cosy-ing up to each other in Westminster. I expect normal hostilities and mutual loathings to re-surface well before 2015 and it will be very interesting to observe. I have to say, I’m quite looking forward to it!”

    If anything, leaders cozying up with each other can make their natural voting base grow angry with them and feel a sense of betrayal. Could you explain though why Lib Dems and Tories have natural antipathies towards each other? It’s not over Mary Whitehouse and what constitutes appropriate children’s clothing, is it?

  45. @ Pete B

    “I agree that the modern generation in all parties seem to be pygmies compared to the 1960s.

    I wonder how much this is due to advancing age? When I was a youngster ministers were much older than me and seemed to know more, and though they argued with each other they all deserved respect. Nowadays most leading politicians are younger than me and I can see through their rhetorical tricks.”

    Back when my grandfather was still alive, I asked him about this. Why it seemed that politicians were generally declining in terms of quality compared to the times when he was my age. He actually gave me the most interesting answer. He told me that politicians were actually getting better and were of a higher quality but that we didn’t notice because of heightened media coverage and exposure. Therefore, the great politicians we admire from history (or depending on one’s age, from childhood) weren’t that great, they just has less media coverage of their problems and shortcomings. And they had less media exposure, therefore natural shortcomings were not as easily noticeable.

    My grandfather was fairly conservative too and did not have a high opinion of either government or politicians.

  46. @SoCalLiberal
    “Therefore, the great politicians we admire from history ….. weren’t that great, they just has less media coverage of their problems and shortcomings. ”

    There’s something to that theory too. Not only are there far more media outlets than years ago, but there is also less respect shown by them. It is quite an eye-opener to see old videos of political interviews.

    The saturation coverage that makes us see all politicians’ foibles, also makes us think that there are more natural disasters than there used to be. There aren’t really, we just hear about more of them.

  47. @SoCalLiberal – “… something more fundamental in the public’s mind”

    Brown’s little catchphrase “this is no time for a novice” perhaps?

    His last contribution in the leaders debate was ” … these two [Cameron and Clegg] are not ready for government.

    My own feeling immediately after the GE was that it would have been better for GB not to stand down (though I understand the reasons) partly as at the time, an October election seemed to be a real possibility.

    The prospect of Cameron slinging “Labour’s mess” taunts in his face across the dispatch box, (and the reponse) would have been something to behold.

    We now have party leaders, a chancellor etc all barely into their forties, whereas imo Barack Obama (49 going on 50) just about qualifies in terms life expirience for the top job.

    Although I find myself agreeing with Rob Sheffield on a good many things, his notion that in the unlikely event of Labour deciding to change leader, they should skip another generation and choose their leader fron the 2010 intake would be stretching things too far.

  48. @ Rattigan & the Liberal Party
    Did anyone listen to the Radio 4 broadcast yesterday of Rattigan’s play “In Praise of Love”? Savaged by critics on its 1973 debut, it seemed to me rather good: it contained one prophetic line: the central character, Sebastain Cruttwell, a dyspeptic & world-weary literary critic, dismisses the Liberals as “A vote-splitting organisation carefully designed to keep the establishment in power.”

  49. @SocalLiberal

    “Could you explain though why Lib Dems and Tories have natural antipathies towards each other? It’s not over Mary Whitehouse and what constitutes appropriate children’s clothing, is it?”

    I don’t know about the Mary Whitehouse thing, but the antipathies are natural ones, arising from different political traditions and views. It may seem difficult to believe now, especially when you see the current Lib Dem leader nodding like an obedient dog alongside Cameron at PMQs, but the two parties have a history of fighting like cat and dog at local level and these battles, and the antipathy and distrust they obviously generate, lead to deep antagonisms. In the South West of England, outside the urban concentrations, it’s a straight Tory v Lib Dem fight and both parties have indulged in some pretty brutal bare-knuckle fighting over the years. It’s true that there are similar antagonisms between Labour and the Lib Dems, particularly in Northern marginals, but there is more common ground between the two parties, certainly amongst members, party workers and voters.

    I never thought I would see a coalition between the Conservatives and Lib Dems in Westminster and the fact that one has materialised has gone a long way to enfeebling, probably terminally, a once vibrant and left leaning political party. They have been grievously betrayed by a craven leadership and used ruthlessly by their senior coalition partners who, I suspect, still rather despise them.

  50. crossbat11

    “used ruthlessly by their senior coalition partners who, I suspect, still rather despise them.”

    The dynamics of coalitions are an interesting study in themselves. That description would also have been true, I think of the first Lab/LD coalition in Scotland – to the extent that the LDs played very hard ball in the next coalition discussions with Labour and forcing them to put through STV for council elections.

    That STV damaged Labour severely in Scotland was undoubtedly true, although the LDs weren’t the beneficiaries – the SNP were.

    It amazed me that the UKLDs were so daft as to go for a referendum on AV for Westminster (which they didn’t want anyway) instead of STV for local elections in England – where there isn’t an “SNP equivalent” for them to lose to.

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