Tonight’s YouGov/Sun poll has topline figures of CON 37%, LAB 42%, LDEM 10%. The Labour lead is obvously bigger than the 1 point lead yesterday, but it remains much lower than YouGov have been showing for most of August and July.

Throughout most of the last two months (in fact, pretty much since the phone hacking scandal broke) YouGov’s daily polling has been showing a steady Labour lead of around about 7-9 points. We’ve now had four YouGov polls in a row showing a Labour lead below that, between 1-5 points. My impression is that there has been a genuine shift, that the underlying lead has narrowed to something closer to 3-5 points.

The natural reaction when there is a shift in the polls is to ask why – see Paul Waugh and James Kirkup for example, pondering about whether it might be a Libya bounce or a law-and-order effect after the riots. I’m slightly dubious about either explanation – the narrowing in the polls seems too delayed to be a riot effect, and I’m always doubtful about the impact of foreign affairs stories – true, more people think Cameron’s handled Libya well than badly, but Cameron’s general approval ratings and perceptions of his qualities haven’t particularly changed. That said, I don’t really have any better explanation to offer up, and the timing appears to chime with Libya – perhaps the government’s handling of the riots and Libya have just given a generally more competent image, or perhaps it’s merely an absence of conspicous bad news for a few weeks.

210 Responses to “YouGov/Sun – CON 37, LAB 42, LDEM 10”

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  1. @ Old Nat

    “But isn’t that normal in an Empire (I know you don’t like that description – that’s why I use it! ) that is reaching its final stages?

    Instead of using the resources of all its people, it creates an oligarchy which uses the institutions of the Empire to keep control for their class.”

    I don’t know. I feel like we’re not an empire and that for a very long time, we did not have an oligarchy to keep control for one’s class. I’m still not sure we’ve reached that point either but we’ve certainly moved far closer to that than anyone would care to admit.

    On the other hand, hasn’t the oligarchy in the United Kingdom far preceded the British Empire (and depending on who you ask, far outlasted it?)?

    Empires don’t take people like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama and put them in charge. (Or Jimmy Carter). Hell, aside from the Bushes, even most Republican candidates would not qualify as emperor material.

    @ Amber Star

    “I’m going to ask her to donate to the Uk Labour Party; begging e-mails will, by me, be sent. ”

    Is that legal? I don’t want you to get in trouble for attempting to solicit a crime or anything. :)

    The U.S. Senate is becoming a millionaire’s club. Now certainly, I have not voted against any Senate candidate because of their large net worth (I’d be a hypocrite and liar if I said that I did). But I fear that a Senate that increasingly becomes comprised of millionaires is one that loses touch with the concerns of every day citizens.

    On the other hand, U.S. millionaires have a habit of acting differently than millionaires in every other country on the planet in that so many vote against and lobby against their own immediate best interests…going back to the Founding Fathers. So it might not be a such a bad thing….

  2. @ Amber Star

    “Mr Liu looks young & fit (all meanings of the word!); is it potentially a life-time appointment like the Supremes?”

    You actually read my crazy links? That makes my day! :)

    He does look young and fit come to think of it (that’s probably why he was blocked by the U.S. Senate). Unfortunately, his position is not a lifetime position. Instead, he will face a retention vote at the next election and if retained (and no one ever loses an initial retention election), he will serve 13 or 14 year term.

    His immediate predecessor, the incomparable Carlos Moreno, just won retention to a full 14 year term in November 2010. Then early this year, he inexplicably announced his retirement after serving on the Court for 10 years. So if retained, he will serve out the remainder of Moreno’s term (I don’t know when the clock starts to run though on that…). It’s certainly possible for Liu to spend a long time on the Court. Stanley Mosk, a legal giant and great visionary (one of the all time great judges), served nearly 40 years on the Court. The day he died was the same day he decided to retire (his letter to Gray Davis announcing his retirement was sitting on his desk). I think it was karmic or something (the universe sending a message that he was destined to be a judge).

    “The adverts Peter did were really corny; he was obviously playing for irony/ vamping but it went over most people’s heads. I don’t think the book sold particularly well either. :)”

    I think you have to be careful to not get too clever when advertising certain things. I think that most who criticize him for what he wrote didn’t actually read his book and just went by what they saw in the ads and quips from the Guardian and Telegraph.

  3. @ Iceman

    “Is Ed on holiday? Who exactly is holding the fort if he is? Apart from a couple of Douglas Alexander sightings the entire Labour front bench appears to be having a late summer nap!”

    Jim Murphy has been blogging and tweeting his opinions about Scottish soccer (football) woes and fashion. That’s something. (Of course I don’t think many people actually read his blog posts except for me and I can’t vote for him).

  4. Best Gov question shows little movement, which perplexes me a little (DK removed) –
    Lab Maj – 37.8 (-1.2 but the same place it was 2 weeks ago)
    Lab/Lib – 14.6 (nc)
    Con/Lib – 11 (nc)
    Con Maj – 36.6 (+1.2)
    This is the highest the Con score has been, since they were last on 37 in VI.
    Con Gov – 47.6
    Lab Gov – 52.4
    Weighted figures – Lab Maj – 38.2 (-0.2), Con Maj 35.6 (+0.6), Con/Lib – 11.6 (-0.5), Lab/Lab – 14.6 (-0.1)

    But there hasn’t been a great deal of change and Con/Lib is still performing relatively poorly.

    Perhaps the decision to push for the ideological ‘split’ early (rather than leaving it to 2013, as the independent reported) will benefit the LDs – a push closer to Labour would make the Tories nervous (and give the LDs more power in the coalition) and they could possibly get some voters back from Labour.

  5. The BCC has downgraded it’s growth forecast for 2011 – it now stands at 1.1%, down from 1.3% in June and down from 1.9% at the start of the year.

    It’ll be interesting to see if the government accelerates their growth (cutting red-tape, business taxes, etc) agenda, as groups like the BCC want.

  6. Amberstar

    Well, we can’t all be millionaires like the Tories front-benchers are.

    I am not sure that only millionaires deliver quality, nor that only Tories are millionaires.

  7. Labour leaderships who position themselves to the left of the majority of the people who Ernest Bevin called ‘Our People’ always lose GE’s.

    That is why maybe there have only been three Labour leaders, who have made the journey from opposition to a majority Labour government.

    Foot/Bevan, Foot/Benn, Kinnock and now Ed are to the left of where the non tribal Labour inclined voter is

    Blair was in the right place for winning.

  8. Tinged Fringe

    But there hasn’t been a great deal of change and Con/Lib is still performing relatively poorly.

    And Lab/Lib is not great either.

    Perhaps the rejection the replacement of FPTP was because people felt not just that the replacement was flawed but that rather FPTP is the best way of ensuring what people want, a Labour or a Tory Govt.

  9. i think amber was playing with the dual meaning of the word “poor”.

    Champagne Tories. Doncha just hate them.

  10. @Roger Mexico – “There are two open goals at the moment.”

    Make that three. I posted a couple of weeks ago that the planning law shke was going to be another forests sell off, and it is progressing nicely as an issue.

    Tory traditionalists in many rural areas are aghast at the proposals and when you have ministers accusing campaign groups like the National Trust and CPRE as being ‘taken over by left wingers’ you know the government is in trouble.

    Darling’s reappearance will be interesting to watch. I can’t see it having the remotest impact on current polls, but it reminds me of the action and engagement of the last government throughout the crisis, and the global leadership provided from Downing St. I am somewhat stunned that as we head to the second round of this, our PM and Chancelor seem utterly invisible. I just don’t think they grasp what is happening around them and it adds to my long held view that they just aren’t up to job.

  11. @TingedFringe

    “it’ll be interesting to see whether the government accelerate theirvgrowth agenda”

    Problem is sluggish growth is mainly a demand side problem = declining household income, increasing utility bills/ transportation costs/ rental costs, no pay rises, increased unemployment, diminished access to credit lines and credit APR on exisiting debt that have increased markedly the last 12 months.

    Reducing regulations won’t raise demand one iota: furthermore there is actually not that much capacity to reduce regulations before you collapse the whole system and run into externalities and rediscover the reason why you had the regulations implemented in the first place = the planning system ‘reforms’ are the classic example par excellence of this.

    Almost every newspaper is now lined up against them ;-)

    @Alec/ Crossbat/ Henry

    ‘blues- out- of- the- woodwork’

    Yep – rob sheffields law (the site witnesses increased postings by a party’s supporters when there are good polling numbers for that party) writ large. Henry- if there is a sustained lead on all polls (3-6 months plus) for the Tories then this site will have a plurality of blue posters… it did before. You are generalising from your own experience having not been on here for that long ;-)

    Last nights poll

    I am going to wait until the end of next week before I call a <4% trend on YG. The 'bouncing around we have seen' on YG the last 3 weeks could have been the 2% improvement for the Tories that people like AW and @ambivalent are proclaiming. If so it's not any great shakes IMO and is less than I thought would happen in the immediate aftermath of the riots and the populist response writ large amongst both media and general population. Or it could just be the polling depths of August and BH contamination [email protected] suggests.

    Lets see where we are going into the conferences- and of course where we are after. Then we move into a long dark winter…..

  12. alec

    That’s what I said somewhere. The Labour government might have been a mess of Brownian anger internally, but they got the job done when it mattered.

    Who is taking the lead now? Merkel?

    The Libya thing was just a distraction. The real problem is the western economies and the failure to have ant sort of plan. Doing what the “markets” DON’T want is probably best advice!

  13. Chris Lane 1945

    Blair was in the right place for winning

    Your analysis is very astute. I think Labour would have won in 1997 anyway, after 18 years of a very tired Tory govt, but Blair then won in 2001 and 2005, and possibly could still have taken 2010.

    Likewise HW, by the time he was leader, portrayed himself as a moderate with a charming personality, (helped by Mike Yarwood).

    Both these PMs demonstrated an ability to win with HW notching up 4 GE victories with 1970 being Harold’s only hiccup. I still find it difficult to understand why he lost in 1970 to someone (Heath) who I feel few of his own Tory supporters actually felt reflected either them or their views.

  14. Nick Poole

    That’s what I said somewhere. The Labour government might have been a mess of Brownian anger internally, but they got the job done when it mattered.

    IMO the election result showed that the significant majority believed this was not the case. The only support for Labour coming from its (much discussed) core vote.

  15. henry

    probably true, although yo can argue that the election vote was just as much about Cameron pretending to have moved to the left and promising not to tamper with things that work(ed).

    I grant you that Brown wasn’t popular and probably never will be.

  16. Rob Sheffield

    Henry- if there is a sustained lead on all polls (3-6 months plus) for the Tories then this site will have a plurality of blue posters… it did before. You are generalising from your own experience having not been on here for that long.

    Yes I am speaking from my own reading of the postings, which is a fair way of assessing the blue/yellow/red split. I agree I have not been on the site long, but I was here when Labour was thrashed in 2010. In view of the fact the three previous elections was won by Labour’s Blair, I am not sure when this ‘blue period’ some of the red posters refer to was.

  17. Nick Poole
    probably true, although yo can argue that the election vote was just as much about Cameron pretending to have moved to the left and promising not to tamper with things that work(ed).

    It is true that DC’s much espoused views on say safe-guarding the NHS funding was unusual for a Tory Leader. I am not sure he was insincere (on this matter). It is interesting that Mrs T gained three GE victories in succession, and yet made no attempt to be left of the Tory Party. I assume the Tory leaders wish to cement their core vote and then pick up another 15% points to secure overal victory, something DC failed to do.

    I suspect that there are many blue voters who think that they were misled by DC on areas such as inheritance tax, married person’s allowance and capital gains tax.

  18. “Labour were thrashed in 2010”

    29% of the vote is pretty poor. But the Tories only got 36%

  19. Darling’s Revenge will be interesting -not for telling us what we already know about GB’s character traits-but for reminding us again about the MO of Mr Balls.

    It probably won’t cross the radar of the average punter, but GO will no doubt tuck it away for one of those fun days in HoC.

    It’s comforting to see the Labour lead return-albeit at a slightly lower level.

    I would much rather see a gradual improvement in Con support over the next four years, based on fundamentals, than a temporary boost from a temporary headine or two.

  20. @Henry….

    After 1967 Wilson was given a truly atrocious press…. and after the 1968 backing off of the Unions it became merciless….the Trade Balance was turned into a sort of shibboleth and when there was a blip in the 1970 election the tide turned and the polls there were fewer in those days) showed it late….though I seem to remember Mori in its first outing picked it up…. in the last poll.

    And in ’74 Heath was favourite to win throughout the campaign and it was only a poll in the Observer the Sunday before the election that picked up the strange possibility that Heath might poll more votes but lose as the Midlands which has swung heavily to the Tories on Powell’s coat-tails in 1970 swung most heavily against him in ’74.

  21. Nick Poole

    “Labour were thrashed in 2010?

    29% of the vote is pretty poor. But the Tories only got 36%

    Yes a poor result, although if the votes had been reversed enough for an outright Labour victory. But I agree and in my last post to you ‘something DC failed to do’, I indicated I was not particularly impressed with the Tory GE performance. The LDs almost did well but tripped up on the run in.

  22. John Murphy

    Thank you for filling in on some of the possible reasons for the Tory victory. I assume that you would agree that while HW was well regarded by his own party and many non-committed voters, Heath was not well regarded by either.

    I think you were referring to Barbara Castle’s ‘In place of Strife’. IMO if BC had got her way then I think the subsequent political history would have been different and the full 18 years of Tory rule may not have occurred.

  23. @Henry

    With great sadness I think you are only too correct….and so much of value was thrown over because of the failures as much of the Unions as the politicians…

    Yes, Heath presented an uncomfortable figure…. maybe like Brown on one level just not made for the TV age.

    Of course, his first phase in government, I like to call it Selsdon Man phase …was very much what was tried in the 80s by the first Thatcher government. But as unemployment ratcheted up over 1 million the entire government lost its nerve ( this is a neutral not approving comment) and returned willy-nilly to a sort of Butskill consensus politics….but by then the unions tasted blood and when on looks back there was a sort of inevitability to the unravelling of the government….

  24. Q. At what point do those polled change from blaming the previous Labour government and instead hold the coalition government to accountf for decisions that they make ?

    The question relates to reduced spending and loss of jobs in parts of the public sector. Yesterday Liam Fox blamed Labour for having to make redundant armed forces personnel. Personally I would not hold Labour responsible for all of this, as the current government have made choices in spending. I would say a 50/50 split in blame would be more appropriate. 50% blame for Labour having had spending commitments with no money set aside to pay for these and 50% blame for the government for choices they have made.

  25. Very bad news from the Markit PMI survey of UK manufacturing in August. It fell to 49, denoting contraction. As this was meant to be the engine of growth it is seriously worrying.

    More alarming is the fact that the part of the index measuring new orders fell at the fastest rate for 30 months and that there was a ‘sudden and substantial drop’ in new export orders. This is the key forward looking element of the monthly index, and suggests very strongly that the overall small contraction denoted by the overall August index will get significantly bigger in the next few months.

    While you can’t necessarily blame every economic figure on the government, I think it is true to say that these figures are disastrous for the governments entire fiscal and economic strategy. Osborne specifically relied on manufacturing and exports to provide the growth to both absorb public sector redundancies and provide increased revenue to help reduce the deficit alongside the spending cuts.

    With manufacturing exports collapsing, the limited economic strategy he did have is bust and his fiscal strategy is groaning at the seams. By their old fashioned assumption that fiscal and monetary policy alone is able to take the place of a proper industrial policy thay have ignored the factors required for growth and we are now in a really terrible position.

  26. ““Labour were thrashed in 2010?

    29% of the vote is pretty poor. But the Tories only got 36%”

    Cameron’s tories won more votes and a bigger share of the vote in 2010 than Blair’s labour won in 2005. In other words, more people wanted a tory majority in 2010, than wanted a labour one in 2005. Cameron’s result showed that the tories did more to win outright in 2010, than Blair did in 2005.

    Brown’s labour in 2010 won a million FEWER votes than the thrashing handed out to John Major in 1997.

    The tories in 1997 were thrashed, hammered, almost wiped out.

    Brown got a million fewer votes and smaller share of the vote than Major. That is a severe electoral thrashing any way you call it.

    What shows how massive the pro-labour bias is in seating boundaries is the fact that if Brown in 2010 had won the same number of votes as Major got in 1997, then Brown would probably have been able to remain Prime Minister.

    And people refuse to believe that there is much of a bias to address??? The bias is HUGE!

  27. Just a quick question: Who chooses which is the main story on the TV news?

    For weeks it’s been Libya and the language has been of good guys versus bad guys, where we’re the liberators. (I wanted to see the regime removed, but I’m a bit wary of seeing this as a black & white issue.)

    Nevertheless, the main story has been upbeat for the government, and both ITV and the BBC have dedicated much of their 6 & 10.00 programmes to the story. BBC & Sky have it almost on a loop.

    My point is that I don’t see most people having a deep interest in Libya. They have other priorities, issues connected with their life style being eroded, for example.

    To me, it looks like the decision to focus on a particular story either aids or buttresses the Government’s position in the polls… so who chooses the story?

  28. “Q. At what point do those polled change from blaming the previous Labour government and instead hold the coalition government to account for decisions that they make ?”

    That depends on what state the economy is left in when a new government arrives. Are they left with a fiscal surplus? In which case the economy is theirs pretty much from day one. Whereas if they have a monstrous deficit to clean up before they can really do anything, then it could take several years. Clearly the bigger the deficit, the longer it will take to pay off. Thet is so blindingly and self evidently obvious, (I would have thought).

    And note the difference between deficit and debt. The debt cannot be reduced at all, so long as there is a deficit. Indeed, the fact that a deficit exists means that debt is going up. The slower the deficit is paid off, the faster the debt rises, the bigger the debt interest payments are and the less money is left over to pay for things like schools, hospitals and the military, and the more money that goes in debt interest to the same bankers that labour are vilifying. Strange then that labour’s stated policy of paying off the deficit far slower would mean that labour would be having to spend tens of billions more on debt interest to those bankers, over the coming decade, rather than have it available to spend on schools, hospitals and the military.

    As for saying we should blame the tories for spending decisions with only a little over a year having past since the election, what excuse do the left wingers on here have for still blaming Thatcher for policies which were taken many years after she left office? Even policies put in place and paid for by a labour government in some cases?

  29. got moderated. offending word removed?:

    Mr ned

    surely the only way to address the bias is PR? under fptp unless all the voters are spread proportionately around the country you will always get someplaces where the vote for the incumbent is weighed with a forklift.

    Addressing the “bias” bu reducing the number of constituencies and equalising th size is just trying to favour the Tories.

    I’d be happy if the Tories had got 36% of the seats and Lsbour 29% in 2010. You want to shuffle it so under that share of the vote the Tories can get closer to 50%.

    That’s just (censored). Let’s have PR. Then everybody could vote for who they want, no more tactical stuff and we’d have something closer to the real picture.

  30. “…the more money that goes in debt interest to the same bankers that labour are vilifying. ”

    I thought we were printing money and buying toxic debt off hte bankers? Why pay them back what we owe when we are buying other people’s debt off them?

    Let’s pay their IOS with printed money too. That way we inflate the debt away very nicely thank you, instead of just inflating away my wages.


    “I thought we were printing money and buying toxic debt off hte bankers?”

    QE is on hold in UK-after BoE ( aka The Treasury ) had “bought” £200bn of it’s own debt from financial institutions, in exchange for newly created cash.

    At some point those Gilts need to be “sold” by BoE to cancel the money created in buying them.

  32. Nick Poole

    “instead of just inflating away my wages.”

    You get paid to post on UKPR during the working day?

    Where can I find a job like that Nick?

  33. Nick Poole

    Addressing the “bias” bu reducing the number of constituencies and equalising th size is just trying to favour the Tories

    I am not sure what the arguement is to reduce the number of seats, although I am not against having fewer MPs.

    However I am not sure why you are against having constuencies of equal size. Seems fair to me.

    The Tories had 18 years to offer alternatives to FPTP and Labour 13. Both Parties had overall majorities and could have introduced any system but chose not to.

    Only the Coalition has offered an alternative, which was a compromise as LDs wanted proportional representation.

    Perhaps the next Labour Govt will offer the people of UK an alternative to FPTP.

    In the meantime the boundaries commission will try to achieve the fairest allocation of seats based upon the FPTP system.

  34. “”The eurozone manufacturing PMIs for August make bleak reading, with deterioration across virtually all countries and also across most components of the surveys,” said Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight. “Not only are the southern periphery eurozone countries and Ireland continuing to struggle markedly but there is also a sharp slowdown in manufacturing activity in the previously healthily performing core northern eurozone economies.”

    On the other side of the Atlantic, US manufacturing is expected to have shrunk in August for the first time in two years.”


    Tough times

  35. HENRY

    “I am not sure what the arguement is to reduce the number of seats, although I am not against having fewer MPs. ”

    It came from the aftermath of the expenses scandal & the increasingly obvious need for a reduction in Public Spending.

    DC’s line was -Parliament gets cut too .

    I looked at international comparisons for elected representation per capita at the time. We are certainly not under represented from memory.

  36. Even though I can post here during the working day, I happen to be on childcare duty today and tomorrow (that’s annual leave to you, although I’m sure it could be abolished when the pro-employer shredding of regulations and red tape is done and dusted).

  37. ChrisLane.

    Yep, that’s the conventional wisdom, but it is based on a quite limited data set and ignores other issues.

    1) Gaitskell was the archetypal centrist Labour leader and never came close to winning an election. (And I know that you didn;t say that centrist Labour leaders will necessarily win, but Gaitskell

    2) Bevan was never leader so is irrelevant to the discussion. Ditto Benn.

    3) Wilson had originally been a Bevanite of course and was certainly to the left of Gaitskell when he won in 64/66. It’s debatable whether he was to the left of the left-ish leaning voters at that time.

    3) Foot and Kinnock are germaine to the discussion, but of course they had the misfortune (self inflicted perhaps) to lead during the era of the Great Centre-Left Schism. That era ended in 2010 and any discussion of the prospects of Labour has to be conducted in light of that fact. In simple terms, where is a centre-left voter to go these days other than to Labour? Even IF the Labour leader is to the left of them, which in itself is debatable.

  38. @Henry – “I am not sure what the arguement is to reduce the number of seats, although I am not against having fewer MPs.”

    I looked at this a while ago to try and understand what the reasoning was, and I concluded that it was entirely politically motivated by the Tories as part of the attempt to maximise damage to their opponents as part of the restructuring of constituencies.

    The history of this is illuminating. Since 1800, when Irish MPs first sat in Westminster, we have never had less than 600 members. In 1800 it was 658, bouncing around the 650 mark for over a century until hitting a peak of 707 in 1918 – 22 before falling to it’s lowest total since pre 1800 of 615 in 1922 when the Irish Free State was formed and those constituencies were no longer represented. After 1945 numbers bounced around a little from a low of 625 (1950 – 55) and a peak of 650 (1997 – 2005).

    So historically, the 600 figure is extremely low, which raised my suspicions. I was also interested in the fact that the workload on MPs and the expectation as to their role and function has increased markedly in recent years. In the past they were expected to represent constituents in political terms, now they are increasingly expected to get involved in individual cases of things like benefit difficulties and other social affairs. Only a few decades ago, MPs didn’t actually have regular surgeries – if you had a problem you went to the council. So in this regard we need more, not fewer MPs.

    Secondly, Cameron has overseen a massive increase in the number of Lords, as he tries to re secure the inbuilt Tory advantage in the upper chamber. This is both nakedly political and completely undercuts his main argument for the MPs reduction which was one of shrinking the size of parliament to save money.

    Finally, while 600 MPs is a record low number in the post industrial period, the size of the government payroll vote is now higher then ever. This means that a 600 MP parliament will be much easier to manage as the government whips will have fewer backbench MPs to deal with and will have increased leverage on their own members.

    I would argue that most MPs try to do a very good job for their constituents and while I can disagree with many of them in terms of policies, and sometimes personal integrity, they perform an essential and largely thankless role, and I give all of them them my respect for that. My view is that anyone who actually likes democracy should be asking for more MPs, so they can better represent us and perform a better job at holding governments to account.

    600 MPs is a power grab, but forget party politics – it’s you they are grabbing power from.

  39. Alec/Colin

    I agree manufacturing figure is bad, but I would have put it something like this for balance:

    1. Bad news:
    The Markit/CIPS manufacturing PMI (headline activity index) fell to 49.0 in August. Exports fell to chronic level of 46.4 within that figure.
    This is the second straight month below the 50 line. separating contraction from expansion. Manufacturing output contracted for the first time since May 2009.

    2. The ‘good’ news:
    a) This figure of 49.0 was better than the expected 48.6.
    b) July was revised upwards to 49.4.

    It helps to look on the bright side. :)

  40. @Henry

    “The Tories had 18 years to offer alternatives to FPTP and Labour 13. Both Parties had overall majorities and could have introduced any system but chose not to.”

    I don’t think the Tory Party has ever seriously countenanced an alternative voting system to FPTP; in terms of protecting their electoral self-interest, why on earth would they? Labour’s stance has been more ambivalent, however, and I think Blair was having serious thoughts about the issue prior to the 1997 election. Even though he was massively ahead in all the polls, Labour’s innate defeatism still led him to believe that he’d fail to win an overall majority and that he’d require Lib Dem help to form an administration. He was cuddling up to Paddy Ashdown at the time in what Paddy, in his usual grandiose way, was describing as the great unfinished business of British politics; the realignment of the Left. Blair was dangling PR as part of the bargain and committed his party to convening a commission on Electoral Reform should he become PM.

    The tragedy for PR was that Blair won a landslide in 97 and it’s amazing how attractive FPTP looks when you gaze lovingly at your fellow 410 MPs and the sparse benches that lie opposite! Roy Jenkins commission headed to the political long grass.

    Had Blair needed Ashdown in 97, we may well have had PR by now. An historic lost opportunity and one that’s gone now for at least a generation after Clegg’s gauche and ineffective mishandling of the coalition negotiations in May last year when he was totally outmanouevured on the AV Referendum by Cameron.

  41. I tend to agree with Alec. While equalising the sizes of the constituencies is pretty hard to find much fault with, the reduction in number of seats is highly questionable, especially given the increase in the number in government and the increase in Lords.

    But I wonder if the reduction in size will be defeated if the Lib Dems realise that of the 50 seats that vanish, quite a few are going to be theirs.

  42. Colin

    I looked at international comparisons for elected representation per capita at the time. We are certainly not under represented from memory.

    That’s true on paper (please don’t look at the Isle of Man!) but England in particular has a problem of centralisation. There are no States or Laender or Regions which often deal with a lot of the things that get done at Westminster. We’ve also seen a lot of the powers of local authorities moved to London over the last few decades (governments of all colours are responsible). So the burden on MPs, especially from England, both with legislation and with casework is higher than in comparable countries.

    Reducing the numbers is not a good idea therefore at the moment – I’m also cynical about cost savings, because I suspect the expenses of the remaining MPs will go up to cope. What will diminish is scrutiny of the Government because of the loss of 50 backbenchers – no reduction in the number of ministers or there hangers-on is expected.

  43. BT

    “It helps to look on the bright side.”

    That you addressed this remark to me as well as Alec made me smile a lot BT :-)

  44. @Colin – “I looked at international comparisons for elected representation per capita at the time. We are certainly not under represented from memory.”

    Colin – lovely chap, but you are entirely and completely wrong. This is worth a read –

    While they find that the UK number of MPs is at the high end of international comparisons, the main difference in the ratio of parliamentarians to people comes from the inflated House of Lords – to quote – “It is therefore the substantial membership of the House of Lords (currently 750) which contributes most to making the British appear ‘over-represented’ at a Parliamentary level.”

    So Cameron is increasing the already over represented bit of Parliament while cutting the work horse end where the numbers are OK.

    In addition, many legislatures (France, US) don’t provide the executive, so those like ours that do will have to have higher numbers anyway.

    However, the killer blow is the fact that Cameron didn’t take into account the functions of Parliament and the other layers of representation. In England, we have no federal or state representation – it’s all done by MPs. If we were to reach the US levels of overall per capita representation, we would need to increase the number of elected officials from the current 21,000 to 125,000.

    Local level representation makes the difference even more stark. The UK has one councillor per 2,600 people – France has 116, Germany 250, and the next highest in Europe to us is Portugal with 1,125.

    Whichever way you cut it, UK citizens are under represented in global terms and we have a very small parliamentary system. As I said, you are entirely and completely wrong on this.

  45. @BT Says – “b) July was revised upwards to 49.4.”

    OK – I admit it. The July figures were terrible, but not as terrible as we first thought.

    Does that sound a bit more positive?

  46. see now there

    what alec said

    (how does he gather these facts so fast?)

  47. Roger Mexico

    “Reducing the numbers is not a good idea therefore at the moment ”

    I disagree-not sure what public opinion is -would be surprised if there isn’t support for less MPS

    ” no reduction in the number of ministers or there hangers-on is expected.”

    I agree-this has to be adressed to maintain the influence/power of backbenchers .

  48. I think what the polls are telling us is that, were there to be a GE tomorrow, it could go either way. Yes, it’s nice to see the blues only 1% behind in a recent poll but lets be realistic, 3 and a half years is an awful long time in politics, anything can happen and it always amuses me how animated some become on the release of the latest poll and what it allegedly means. If Labour are not 15/20% ahead in 18 months time, then victory for them in 2015 must be on a knife edge.

    My own view as to why the Tories have largely held the GE position for almost 18 months now, is that Cameron is doing what he said he would do. Sort out the economy. Those who voted blue understood there would be some austerity to come to return to normal times. The economy is bumping along the bottom & yes, there may well have to be some tweaking in order to stimulate small business growth & employment.

    The one thing that is obvious to me is that the government is united in a way that Labour isn’t at present. (It was the other way round in 1997). I look forward to reading the Darling book, he, by and large was a good chancellor in very difficult circumstances. And when those difficult circumstances have been exacerbated (not caused) by your current boss, you are in a very difficult place indeed, as everything you say or do, is implicitly a criticism of your boss & that isn’t good for career development!

    As for DC & GO not racing round the world like headless chickens trying to save it, I for one am content that it is all going on quietly behind the scenes. If anyone is to lead the world, it has to be Obama (but don’t hold your breath, he didn’t exactly lead on Libya) & in Europe it has to be Merkel & Sarkozy. The problem is, all three will be fighting for re-election soon & that is an obvious distraction. I have no doubt that DC & GO are putting in their twopenn’orth with all three of them.

  49. Colin

    I’m sure public opinion is behind the reduction of MPs – right up until they need their one to do something for them. MPs aren’t very popular at the moment, but reducing the numbers doesn’t necessarily mean you get rid of the bad ones. And it certainly doesn’t mean you’ll increase the number of good ones.

  50. Roger,
    ‘MPs aren’t very popular at the moment’.

    That’s a bit of an understatement. They are probably on a par with bankers, estate agents & lawyers (which many of them are anyway).

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