Looking back at 2011

In terms of polling 2011 has been almost static. In the last Parliament we were rather spoilt in terms of volatility, seeing the Conservatives move ahead after the election of David Cameron, then the Brown boost putting Labour briefly ahead until the election-that-never-was burst the bubble, then a second Labour recovery after the bank bailout. Even in 2010 there was significant movement as Lib Dem support fractured and support for the government’s cuts programme ebbed away. In contrast the story of 2011 has been one of stagnation.

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In terms of voting intention, in YouGov’s daily tracker Labour have maintained a steadyish five point lead throughout most of the year. There have been a few ups and downs, with the Labour lead temporarily widening to six, seven points or more in the Spring and after Hackgate in July, but most of the time voting intentions have rumbled onwards regardless of day-to-day politics.

The biggest exception was the impact of David Cameron’s veto at the European summit, which put the Conservatives briefly back ahead of Labour. As daily polling paused for Christmas the polls were still showing Labour and the Conservatives neck and neck – it remains to be seen whether this does have any lasting effect. The veto itself will, in all likelihood, fade from memory as things like the economy and public services resume their normal place at the top of the political agenda, but if the veto permanently impacts how people see David Cameron and his leadership there is a possibility of a longer term impact.

Economic optimism has remained resolutely dire throughout the entire year. Confidence in the government’s economic policy and support for the cuts rapidly fell in 2010, but since then have largely flatlined.

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The proportion of people thinking that the cuts are too deep or too fast has actually fallen slightly (“too deep” has gone from around 50% in February to around 42-43% now; “too fast” has gone from around 58% to around 48%), but the balance of opinion that the cuts are bad for the economy remains largely unchanged. More positively for the government people continue to think the cuts are necessary, and despite the passage of time there is little further change in the proportion of people who blame the Labour party for the cuts.

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Where there has been more movement this year is in perceptions of the leaders themselves. David Cameron’s ratings remain the most positive of the three main party leaders but have been on a downwards trend, interupted by peaks after the local elections and the European veto. The latter saw significant increases in the proportion of people who thought Cameron was a strong leader who is good in a crisis and sticks to what he believes in, but it remains to be seen if it endures.

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Ed Miliband’s figures have also been on a downwards trend, even while his party has been ahead in the polls. His decline was dramatically reversed by his response to Hackgate, but this faded away again leaving him languishing in the the minus thirties. Nick Clegg has the worst ratings of all, though they appear to have bottomed out after the defeat in the AV referendum. He suffered a sharp downturn after the European veto, but this was largely the result of Conservative supports, a minority of whom normally give Clegg good ratings, becoming far more negative about him.

Those are the figures, I’ll try to have a bit of broader rumination of the political situation at the end of 2011 over the next few days.


324 Responses to “Looking back at 2011”

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  1. @Oldnat

    The point is investors won’t lend to Spain, Portugal, Italy et al because they doubt their institutional arrangements to pay the money back, namely the ability to print more money in a crisis.

    This is not true for the UK, Denmark, USA, etc. because these countries have their own central bank and can print any money required.

    So rUK would be fine using Sterling, independent Scotland not.

  2. Oldnat

    I was just wondering because although the numbers for UK personal debt are quite frightening, they always seem to be smaller that what I would expect. I’m guessing that the level of personal debt is higher in the south where I come from and lower elsewhere. This would be interesting in the context of your discussion with hal, because while most are concentrating on govt debt the real problem is private debt, if Scotland has a lower private debt to GDP ratio then it could be argued that an independent Scotland would have less problems with debt deleveraging than rUK but of course the impact of massive deleveraging in rUK will be felt very strongly across the border.

  3. Alec

    Brilliant-thanks.

    Very interesting.

  4. Amber

    :-)

    Hope they remember the council house oligarchs before they formalise the discount entitlements .

  5. @ Old Nat

    “I note that Jim Murphy is asking how many aircraft carriers Scotland would have. the answer is the same number that the UK currently has – none. What does Denmark want with an aircraft carrier? – Nothing.”

    Jim Murphy could use his own personal aircraft carrier. That guy is so underated and having his own aircraft carrier would give thim the platform he needs…in the absence of a British equivalent of the Iowa Caucus and New Hampshire Primary.

    “Unless you are pretending to be a world power, and joining a real power in mounting illegal wars, or an ex-imperial power wanting to protect some outlying remnants of empire, why would anyone want an aircraft carrier?”

    To make an amazing music video.

  6. Hal

    Denmark’s krone is pegged to the euro, they could break the peg but haven’t yet.

    Spain has lots of bad banks and a continuing problem with declining real estate values

    Italy has a big problem with its banks and many investors believe that they will have to bail out their banks, almost doubling their debt, it not so much the debt that they have now which is the problem but the debt that they are likely to incur in the near future. Ditto France

    Portugal I can’t comment on except to say its not Scotland

    My own take on this would be that Scotland can always pay its debts because it has oil. It would be unwise to be in a currency union with rUK because they would be importing inflation but having their own currency could be a problem because it would likely be a very strong currency which could be damaging to Scottish industry. Fortunately most of their industry was destroyed in the early 80s, so they don’t really have to worry about that!! :smile:

  7. RiN,

    Yes I suppose if there is enough tax revenue from the remaining oil production then that would stabilise the inherited debt (and also the Scottish banks?).

    It still seems to me a Scottish currency would be a much more efficient solution.

    Happy new year everyone.

  8. Re the oil, I take it that some decision has been made about how much of it is English? i.e. If the border is continued on the line roughly Carlisle to Berwick out into the North Sea, a reasonable proportion of the oil fields would fall on the English side. Also, what about the status of waters around Rockall for instance?

    I’m just saying that it shouldn’t be assumed that absolutely all the remaining oil belongs to Scotland.

  9. Oldnat

    “If they are just anti-independence, and not offering suggestions as to how the Union could be reconfigured to ensure its survival, they are politically inept.”

    So? What’s fresh? Everything is normal.

  10. Pete

    I think most of the oil is in Scottish waters

    Hal

    Which Scottish banks? Just because a bank has the name Scotland in it doesn’t mean that it is Scottish, most banks are based in London, in the event of Scottish independence some might want to relocate to Edinburgh if the regulatory envionment is pleasing for them, but Scotland does not have to accept them and would be insane to do so. The smaller banks that are based in Scotland may be quite safe, if they have only been lending in Scotland and there is no housing bubble up there, I don’t know what the situation is in Scotland, Scottish economic matters are not often reported on, in fact I can’t remember reading anything about the Scottish economy, the danish yes Italian yes Finnish yes………. But not Scotland, should I assume that all is well up there?

  11. Pete B

    Lizzie has already drawn the border between Scottish and English waters along a line which is (or is claimed to be – I haven’t checked it myself :-) ) equidistant from the coasts of both England and Scotland – which is the main determinant in international law.

    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2031/made

    You can see the map here

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Img/352173/0104218.gif

    There are arguments which could be made to vary that line a wee bit. If you are really interested, have a look at the map on p98 of this academic article.

    h ttp://www.ejil.org/pdfs/12/1/505.pdf

    However, all the attribution of oil revenues are currently calculated on the basis of the 1999 line

  12. Pete B
    Lizzie has already drawn the border between Scottish and English waters along a line which is (or is claimed to be – I haven’t checked it myself ) equidistant from the coasts of both England and Scotland – which is the main determinant in international law.

    h ttp://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1999/2031/made
    You can see the map here

    http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Img/352173/0104218.gif

    There are arguments which could be made to vary that line a wee bit. If you are really interested, have a look at the map on p98 of this academic article.

    h ttp://www.ejil.org/pdfs/12/1/505.pdf
    However, all the attribution of oil revenues are currently calculated on the basis of the 1999 line.

    Reposted. I keep forgetting the one link only rule!)

  13. Anthony

    Why aren’t you asleep? :-) That was a rapid release of my post!

  14. RiN

    “I don’t know what the situation is in Scotland, Scottish economic matters are not often reported on, in fact I can’t remember reading anything about the Scottish economy, the danish yes Italian yes Finnish yes………. But not Scotland, should I assume that all is well up there?”

    A good question, and part of the case for separation is that we might get to know.

    I think I can say that some parts of the Scottish economy are in good shape and have exciting potential and that other parts we just don’t know much at all.

    What is clear is that the CBI/big business is no good for Scotland but we should look to the FSB and FSU

    SME’s in food production industries are where there is growth potential for quality, sustainable often organic, high welfare, GM free, local food, with integrated marketing in tourism and healthy diet promotion is beginning to coalesce with rural development, education, renewable energy and other policies.

    I wouldn’t call it “vision” at present but it is getting there.

    The SNP are so far ahead now, that they cannot fail to have a third term to 2020, the anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroat. If they do not win the 2014 referendum, or have devo-max, that would be a good time for another try.

  15. Oldnat

    Here’s something to think about on your own evidence.

    Most Scots don’t want full inependence.
    Defence and Foreign affairs they want to keep in UK
    Most Scots don’t want Trident
    Most Scots were against the Iraq war
    Many if not most Scots are critical of increasingly obvious subservience to America and are unimprssed by anti-EU posturing.

    Why then do they tell pollsters that Devo-max is the thing if they think, as they do, that Defenceand Foreign affairs are done badly?

    It may be that Defence and Foreign Affairs are packaged by the polling organisations and the question is understood as “The maximum possible devolution short of outright independence” and that people vote for that despite a poor opinion of the UK governents’ handling of these things.

    My guess is that the answer is not that there are two overlapping but different “mosts”, but there is a fear of a big leap to independence and (to use a phrase I havn’t heard since I was a teenager) they don’t want to “go all the way” but could be persuaded in time.

    There is a promising line of attack for the SNP there, I think. Persuading people that you can do a better job on Health and Education is a done deal. You could suggest that defence and fireign affirs could be handled better, but I think the cost, or the imagined cost could be an issue.

    A step by step approach,

  16. JOHN B DICK

    If I could explain the obvious contradiction between Scots attitudes to Defence & Foreign Affairs and their wish to have these powers shared with rUK, then I’d be one of Alex’s senior advisers!

    Murphy, however, is even more uncomprehending than me – asking “How many aircraft carriers” Scotland would have! Presumably he thinks that world domination can come again for the UK? :-)

  17. JOHN B DICK

    I think the Scots can be persuaded to move from “heavy petting” (a phrase I never understood as a lad when I read it in the Readers Digest) to full orgasm. :-)

  18. Oldnat

    Yes they can, to use GB’s expression “when the time is right.”

  19. RiN,

    Royal Bank of Scotland and Royal Bank of Scotland Group are both registered in Edinburgh and have their headquarters there. As someone said, it would be impossible for that to continue post-independence. I haven’t checked for the other banks but presumably the smaller ones would be fine. The Bank of Scotland is also run from Edinburgh as are a number of substantial insurance businesses.

    How much of all this would relocate to London is an interesting question. The problem is that if it doesn’t happen, Scotland would be firmly in the Iceland league of having too big a financial services industry, and if it does that a lot of tax revenue and employment will disappear.

  20. Hal

    Thanks for that, I didn’t know that. In which case an independent Scotland would need to introduce draconian regulation to persuade those banks to leave, shame about the jobs and tax revenue but keeping those banks would be too risky, only problem is would they be welcome elsewhere?

  21. Hal
    I am afraid there are no small banks based in Scotland. The SNP line has been to use reductions in corpoarate taxes to persuade more financial service companies to move to Scotland. iceland and Ireland were the models. A Salmond wasthe last politician I know of who was still supporting the banks during the crunch, terming those critical of RBS as the “spivs” from London. SNP councillors on pension panels in Scotland were instructed to move that funds vote against the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds on the grounds HBOS was still healthy.
    Amber
    I have debated the issue with SNP politicians and none has mentioned the possibility of a Scottish pound. For the reasons given by Hal it is a non-starter. The SNP line is that there will be a “shared” currency.
    RiN
    As said to Hal, I’m afraid there are no small banks HQed in Scotland. There is an insurance sector and some fund management. Other than the financial sector the private sector is small. Until Labour was elected in 1997, Scotland had much lower household debt but as with many other differences this diminished greatly in the time of Labour government, as did many other differences to the extent that Scotland is now the most average part of the UK as far as I can make out.

  22. @”SNP councillors on pension panels in Scotland were instructed to move that funds vote against the takeover of HBOS by Lloyds on the grounds HBOS was still healthy.”

    HBOS is shaping up to be a bigger disaster than RBS. Total bad debt write offs of £60bn are in prospect .


    US shareholders have launched a claim for compensation against the former management of Lloyds TSB, the bank that merged with Halifax Bank of Scotland at the height of the financial crisis.
    In a writ filed in a New York district court, Eric Daniels, who stepped down as Lloyds chief executive last year, and Sir Victor Blank, the former chairman of Lloyds, are accused of acting “with reckless disregard for the truth” following the disastrous takeover which saw HBOS rescued by Lloyds in 2008.

    It was revealed after the completion of the takeover that the Bank of England provided £25.4bn of emergency liquidity to HBOS at the height of the crisis to enable it to continue to trade. The US Federal Reserve provided a further $11bn to keep HBOS afloat, according to the writ.”

    FT

  23. Clydesdale Bank is the smaller one I was thinking of – based in Glasgow but owned by an Australian Bank. Still counts as Scottish, I would think, as far as regulation and deposit insurance goes.

  24. The RBS Group may be listed on the London Stock Exchange, but it remains headquartered in Edinburgh. Tesco Bank is apparently registered in Edinburgh, too. There’s also the small Airdrie Savings Bank, although I can’t see that one causing the Scottish government many headaches.

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