The Guardian’s report on their poll this month has made the assumption that a drop in Conservative support is due to NHS policy, various other commentators have this morning jumped to the same conclusion.

The truth is, as ever, rather more complex than that. Firstly we should set aside the ICM poll apparently showing a 4 point drop in Tory support as the NHS row continues. This is a classic case of making the outlier the story, the media’s constant failing in reporting polls – the underlying trend in polling is ignored while the rogue poll (and the reversion to the mean afterwards) gets a headline. Looking at the broad range of polls the Conservatives have not lost four points of support: they have gone from a position in December when, after the European veto, they appeared to be slightly ahead of Labour in the polls to a position this month when they appear to be a point behind or so, a drop of one or two points.

Many commentators today have also fallen victim to a fallacy I often see in the comments here – ascribing whatever movement happens in the poll to whatever subject they personally feel strongly about. Hence the Guardian and many bloggers feel strongly about the NHS, there has been a slight drift downwards in Tory support, therefore the former is probably the cause of the latter (it’s also a sort of availability bias – the poll contained questions about the NHS, they are bad, therefore that’s the cause. What if the other questions in the poll had been about, say, crime?)

However, this ignores other possible explanations, which could actually be better evidenced. Here are a couple, though I certainly wouldn’t claim these are exhaustive – there are no doubt other possibilities, including those that are less well served with tracker polls.

The first hypothesis is the unwinding of the European veto effect. You will remember that in November Labour had a lead of four or five points. The Conservatives then pulled level after David Cameron’s veto at the European summit. We should be expecting the effect of the veto to gradually unwind and, indeed, there is evidence to suggest that is what we are seeing.

The proportion of people thinking that Europe was an important issue facing the country peaked at 38% just after the veto, but has since faded away again, and is now back down to 23%. Similarly we saw some sharp increases in perceptions of David Cameron on the back of his veto. The percentage of people thinking Cameron “sticks to what he believes in” rose from 26% to 39%, decisive went from 20% to 29%, good in a crisis went from 13% to 18%. Since then most of these figures have fallen back down a bit (“stick to what he believes in” back to 31%, decisive back to 24%, good in crisis back to 18%).

One straightforward explanation therefore is just the fading of the leadership boost that Cameron received from the veto.

A second hypothesis is less negative coverage of Ed Miliband. In January the media narrative was dominated by criticism of Ed Miliband’s leadership, and the media impression was increasingly that he was a no hoper. In February that has faded a bit, the attacks have mostly stopped coming, he’s had a few good PMQs under his belt and the media narrative has largely moved on (to a great degree to the NHS!). This is reflected in Miliband’s own ratings. In January he hit record lows in his approval ratings, reaching a nadir of minus 53 points. In February he has recovered a but to the low minus 40s. His ratings are still significantly worse than they were last year… but he has risen off the canvas.

A third hypothesis is the NHS. The recent coverage has certainly pushed the NHS up the agenda – going back to the YouGov issues tracker, the proportion of people naming the NHS as an important issue is up to 32% from 22% a month ago. We also have lots of questions that have shown the government’s policy is unpopular and that people don’t trust the Conservatives on the NHS, but these don’t necessarily indicate change – it could’ve been unpopular all along.

The ICM poll yesterday shows that people trust the Conservatives less on the NHS now than in 2006, which is an interesting finding in itself, but it doesn’t follow that the drop in trust has come in the last few weeks or is a result of the current policy. If we look at YouGov’s regular tracker on which party people trust the most on the NHS there is a distinct lack of any recent drop in the proportion of people who prefer the Conservatives on the NHS.

In fact, the Conservative trend in the last year is pretty flat – what drop there was happened in late 2010 as the government’s honeymoon faded. What is also worth noting in this graph is that the Conservative detoxification on the NHS is something of a myth – it never really worked very well, and Conservative leads on the NHS were small and transitory.

This, I suspect, is one of the reasons the NHS hasn’t damaged the Conservatives that much – most people never trusted them on it in the first place. The other reason is that most people have no clue about the reforms and what they are or are not likely to do – take this recent YouGov poll for the Sunday Times which, rather than tell people about the reforms and ask about them, just asked people to say if they supported or opposed them based on what they’d seen or heard about them. 48% of people were opposed… but over a third (34%) of people said don’t know, a comparatively high figure for any question.

That is not to say that the NHS reforms are not politically dangerous for the government – I think Tim Montgomerie’s point that any future problems with the NHS (and there will always be some problems with the NHS, even if there were not budget squeezes and reorganisation) will be blamed on the policy is well made. Equally, just because it hasn’t made a big impact so far doesn’t mean it couldn’t do so in the future.

However the claim that it is already doing significant damage the Conservatives in the polls is weak. The drop in Conservative support in the polls is small and there are alternative and perhaps better evidenced explanations for it.


307 Responses to “What causes poll movements”

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  1. @ Hannah

    Some bizarre cross breaks there.
    ———————–
    It’s the 4% who want a Con majority or Con/Lib Coalition but would vote Labour which caught my eye.
    8-)

  2. Tactical voting by the inordinately tactically inept…

  3. Even Messrs Speer and Sauckel did not expect their ‘recruits’ to work for nothing.

  4. Looks like the Tories have dodged a poll “bullet” tonight. Very favourable sample and yet two points behind………

    Graham,

    “Even Messrs Speer and Sauckel did not expect their ‘recruits’ to work for nothing”

    Good grief, that is one of the most crass comments I have ever seen on this site……..

  5. Hooded Man,
    It also happens to be true!

  6. Hmmm, and to balance things out it’s time for my input. Onto the ever going discussion is Labour widening it’s lead? I think we can only really begin to tell that if the averaging starts to sway from the one points it’s being on so far. 4 point leads are currently at the top of MOE and seem to be more down to sample variation, than anything else – see the Tory leads of 1, and 2 points as well. Sample variation will always produce a few MOEs here and there, so I’d wait about a month more being so keen on an opening lead – rather, the larger labour perhaps establish they’re ahead by about a point or so – as in the earlier weeks, this wasn’t so apparent.

    Onto wherther Miliband is entering a new era; I think the polling evidence suggests otherwises. We are in a pretty static period of close meters between the big two, and the NHS for all it’s coverage has not moved that fundemental staple. We’ve seen minor 1/2 point movements between both parties over three months, but that is it – and the polls so far we’ve seen don’t indicate that is dramatically going to change. As Anthony stated in his earlier post, this debacle has not really changed on YouGov data on party trust on the NHS.

    It’s not really changed the standing of any of the two leaders, it’s not really changed party support that much. In fact the only, thing it’s done is notch the subject up by a couple points in respective polls, on piority matters, but it is still massively outflanked by the economy, which remains the defining matter of our politics. I say this to those who think Miliband’s fortunes will be transformed because of this; people may trust Labour on the NHS, but if they don’t trust you on how you spend their money, then that is irrelvant.

    You need to be trusted on how to handle the financial role of government, before the polices of public services can even come to play. That is why, I believe Labour have not had a massive jump on this area – because as recent data has continued to show, Labour are not seen as the party of responsibility, and tough decisions.

    The ”mood music” has changed; but wherther it effects the overall picture is up for debate. Miliband has been given some short term breathing space, and Cameron is in a problem. But neither factors have really changed how both men are seen overall to the voters. Which is why it’s questionable now wherther the SW1 mood music really matters, in this case.

    Like the phone hacking scandal, Cameron was said to be trouble – indeed I would be not surprised to here many talking up Miliband now, where the same people who thought this was Cameron’s ”Iraq moment” and MIliband’s ”breakthrough”, but two months after normal service had resumed, even with riots in the street and heavily criticised PM. The VI itself did not really move that much in July in response to events – Miliband’s ratings for four weeks soared though to even been quite near to DC’s. Even now where he is apparently having a turn of fortunes, he cannot even do that.

    The NHS does pose challenges for the Tories But wherther it is a vote shifter, still remains to be seen, and so far it hasn’t – and my gut instinct is, it won’t be.

  7. @Crossbat11

    “they might be opening up a widening lead, ”

    I think it’s more that the Tory are slowly losing their ‘veto’ bounce. Looking at 5 day averages, Labour VI has been pretty stable, but as of today the average Con VI is the lowest since the ‘veto’. SImilarly, government approval is the worst it’s been over the same period.

  8. Neil A: “Tactical voting by the inordinately tactically inept…”

    Presuming that was a response to my comment, not necessarily that inept. They may not agree with Caroline Lucas politically, but she’s one less Labour MP towards an overall majority or a more favourable position in coalition negotiations.

  9. Graham,

    I think you need to stay in more…..

  10. @Robin

    Looking at the UKPR Con average, it’s barely changed within a month, if not more than that. Same for Labour. So I doubt it’s there lowest since the veto (infact I think when it believed the Tories’ had a 1 point lead, only 1 point was added to the current projection we have here). And government approval has been at minus 23 (if anything they’ve had lower than that) after the veto quite a few times, so it’s not their lowest.

  11. @Boo Boo

    Have you been missing sleep again?

    Taking 5 consecutive polls in a row, the average Con VI as of today is 38.0. There is no instance of 5 consecutive YouGov polls giving an average that low since before the ‘veto’. Not a matter of opinion, not open to doubt. Fact.

    Taking 5 consecutive polls in a row, the average approval as of today is -25.0. Apart from yesterday, when it was the same, there is no instance of 5 consecutive YouGov polls giving an average that low since before the ‘veto’. Not a matter of opinion, not open to doubt. Fact.

  12. @ Colin

    “Then may I suggest you read about them before commenting on their achievements.

    Actually I think you will find that the career achievements of all three, when set against their upbringing & backgrounds will appeal to the American ethos of initiative, self help & entrepreneurship.”

    I did not comment on their acheivements. In fact, I was very careful to cabin my statements in that regard.

    I was simply pointing out my own skepticism to take certain individualized cases of success and apply those lessons to everyone.

  13. @ Robin

    Thank you for the article.

    I don’t know the legal issues here so I’m not going to predict how successful her case will be or if it even has any merit. I could envision the argument that she is getting paid for her work since she gets paid 53 pounds a week for her job seekers allowance.

    As for the policy being bad, I generally agree with her (though let me just say that . Here’s why. 53 pounds a week is not very much (I can’t even imagine how one could live in London on that amount). Even when you consider the exchange rates, that amount in dollars is not enough for people to get by in less expensive U.S. cities. The time that she works in this “training program” is time that she could otherwise spend searching for actual paid employment.

    I think the real problem here is that the employer is taking advantage of the system. If you say you’re willing to hire people but only if they train for the position, then it should be a real training. That’s a fair compromise if you think about it. The employer says “look, I’d love to hire people, especially those who struggle to find employment but we need employees with training and these applicants are untrained and I can’t afford to train them.” The government comes in and basically agrees to subsidize the training for the employer. Sounds like a good deal for everyone involved.

    The employer gets an employee who they can train but don’t have to pay for the training, the unemployed person gets the opportunity to receive training for a job that they otherwise wouldn’t qualify for, the government creates a private sector job, and once employed in the private sector the government saves money on paying out benefits. It’s a win for everyone.

    But the training has to be actual training. Cleaning floors and putting things on shelves is not training. You don’t need to train people to do that. You need to hire a janitor for that. And if that’s indeed true (as she alleges), the employer is the one who’s really taking advantage of the government.

    It’s possible that an employer might not want to hire a trainee. That’s fine. But if the employer is not actually training the employee and has no intention of ever hiring the trainee, no matter how well the trainee does, that’s a fraud on the state. In the case where these employers claim that they’re going to participate in this program in order to eventually hire people, they’re committing a fraud on the trainee.

    Now, some Labourites want to get rid of all unpaid internships (well those on Labour Uncut). That’s something I definitely don’t agree with. Unpaid internships can provide a valuable experience to the intern. And, as long as things are clear where the employer is up front that they’re not planning to hire the intern (and they don’t expect the same performance of a paid employee), that’s fair.

    However, if the employer offers an unpaid internship and claims it to be part of a training program where the intern will ultimately be hired without ever having the intention of doing so (and without actually training the employee), that’s a VERY different situation. The government should not be actively supporting that.

  14. Robin

    I am a sleepy head. However, I have to say five polls is too much of a tiny sample for me. YouGov’s polls in January this week on it’s first week looked nearly simlar in terms of pattern – and look what happened in the coming weeks of that month?
    Lab led 2 three times, and led four once.

    I’d a say the Cons have always been averaging about 38.5 since January though. See this averaging which includes Yougov, ICM, Populus, Ipos Mori, and ComRes…..

    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    39
    38
    38
    38
    38
    38
    38
    38
    38
    38
    38
    38
    40
    40
    40
    40
    40
    40
    40
    40
    41
    41
    41
    41
    37
    37
    37
    37
    36

    All the averaging of number times, grouped together.
    good night

  15. All the polling data suggests that, in terms of preferred party of governance, Wales wants Labour, Scotland wants SNP, NI does its own thing, and England is more or less equally split.

    “What a tangled web we weave”.

  16. @ Liz H

    “Colin very rudely put you down but it seems you were right after all in your surmise of the background of these CEO’s.”

    I don’t know anything about these CEOs and I don’t want to get into a pissing match over it.

    My point is that we ought to be careful when we look at the rise of certain individuals and then take their examples and apply them to EVERYONE. Because often, those stories really aren’t applicable.

    I’ll give you a story about a man who I admire a great deal. He worked as the lawyer to a California based competitor of Starbucks. Back in college, this same man was a barrista for this company earning just over minimum wage. Back then, this competitor was small, maybe 4 stores. By the time this man became the lawyer for the company (having impressed the owner of this company with his smarts and work ethic), this company was massive with stores outcompeting Starbucks across the state and franchises opening internationally.

    But does this man claim to be an up by the bootstraps success story? No. Because if he did, he’d be lying out of his ass. And if some right winger tried to claim that this man’s story would be an example that any minimum wage barrista could rise up to be a top lawyer would be full of crap. Let’s have a reality check.

    This man was raised by wealthy parents in one of Los Angeles’s finest neighborhoods. His parents paid completely for his private prep school education and his college education (and all the other related expenses with that). He worked as a barrista because he wanted some extra money to spend that didn’t come directly from his parents (his dad upset by this choice, offered him extra monthly spending money so that he would quit his job and focus on his studies). After college, this man moved back in with his parents while he attended law school. His parents paid for law school in full. They paid for his car. His mom made sure dinner was on the table every night and the housekeeper made sure that his room was clean and his clothes were always freshly ironed.

    Now, that in NO WAY takes away any admiration I have for that man. Not in the least.

    However, he would not have become a lawyer and ultimately become the lawyer for this company if not for his privileged background. Now, it wasn’t automatic or guaranteed, he had to work very hard for what he acheived and he had to have natural smarts and talent to accomplish what he did.

    However, it’s a mistake to look at his story and say that any barrista working at minimum wage (or working for free) could become the top lawyer for this company (making a huge salary).

  17. @ Liz H

    And actually, there’s more to the story that should remind us that this gal who’s suing might be right to stand up for herself.

    So this guy as a barrista met the owner originally because the manager of the store fired him. Why did he fire him? He ordered the young man to clean the toilets. The young man refused, he pointed out that he was hired as a barrista and not as a janitor. The manager angrily fired him. Well the owner of the company heard about this and he called up the young barrista to find out what happenned. When he found out, he was incensed (despite being a CEO, he was very much a friend of workers). He explained the manager was wrong, apologized, and rehired his barrista on the spot. When he came up to the college town where the store was located, he took the barrista out to dinner. After having dinner with him, he realized this young man’s future potential.

    But ask yourself this. If this young barrista was required to support himself, would he have refused and simply cleaned the toilets anyway?

    I don’t fault this young lady for what she’s doing. She might not be right, she might not be on legally solid ground, but it’s not wrong of her to stand up for herself.

  18. Looking at the current UKPR polling average (to 20th Feb) it includes five YouGov polls and four others:

    Con 36/40/39/39/39/37/36/37/39 ave 38.00%
    Lab 36/39/40/39/38/41/37/39/38 ave 38.55%

    These polls are then weighted to Antony’s formula… and he updates as and when.

    The “as and when” is important because of the decay rate of the weighting.

    A more sophisticated approach would be to separate and compare the trend in each of the different polling companies, and then come to a judgement about methodology etc.

    As Anthony points out, the reason for excercise is that people demand (especially during an election campaign): a “poll of polls” and a projection – even though it can sometimes muddy the waters.

  19. @ Robin

    I think the 53 pound per week stipend for job seekers and requiring them to intern internships and attend job training is not a bad thing.

    Now, I say this as someone who opposes Republican attempts to require job training of people receiving unemployment insurance. I see a difference with this stipend system though.

    Take three hypothetical 22 year olds in Britain. One is from Kensington, has extremely wealthy parents, and was raised in privileged comfortable circumstances. One is from Hackney, had parents who are working poor, and had to work to support himself while he received a college education. The third one is from Croydon, had middle income parents (I would say “middle class” but that has a different connotation), and was raised in comfortable circumstances.

    Now let’s say all three went to the same school at Oxford, have the same degree, and have similar career aims. Let’s say some great employer has three positions open for new young college grads (which all three of these kids are). Here’s the rub. The position is a dream job for all three of these kids but before the work can start, the employer requires specialized training period for new hires. They don’t pay for the hires for this training period or they can only pay a stipend.

    Now, the wealthy kid is likely able to jump at the opportunity. The parents are likely paying for things anyway so it’s no big deal. The middle income kid might jump at the opportunity to but things will likely be tight during this training period. It will depend on how willing the parents are to support their kid. The one though who’s likely disadvantaged is the working poor kid who can’t afford to work for free.

    The 53 pound per week stipend is not very much but it does help alleviate the situation of unpaid internships and unpaid training programs being something that only the wealthy and the middle income with parents willing to sacrifice can take advantage of.

  20. @Graham

    You said “…Even Messrs Speer and Sauckel did not expect their ‘recruits’ to work for nothing…”

    In all seriousness, would you like to take a quiet moment to consider that remark, and then consider again Hooded Man’s response (“Good grief, that is one of the most crass comments I have ever seen on this site”)?

    @SoCalLib

    You said “…I’ll give you a story about a man who I admire a great deal. He worked as the lawyer to a California based competitor of Starbucks…”

    Quick guess: he’s your dad, right?… :-)

    Regards, Martyn

  21. @ Martyn

    “Quick guess: he’s your dad, right?… :)”

    There are plenty of people, including a lot of lawyers and lawyers I know personally, who I admire. And not all of them are my dad. I mean, this isn’t the Maury show! :)

  22. @ Martyn

    I realize the Maury show might be a cultural reference that doesn’t quite cross the Atlantic. It is a putrid daytime tv talk show that emphasizes and endorses a lot of values that deep down should offend and anger a Liberal (or liberal). The most offensive is probably the paternity test disputes they have.

    But this clip is legitimately funny:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGtWssdauME

    (I think the ridiculousness of this couple takes away from the awfulness of it all………the woman typically runs off the stage crying and screaming usually throwing a temper tantrum, the audience laughing at her, and the man berating the woman…..and if the purported baby daddy has brought on a new wife or girlfriend, there’s usually a Jerry Springer type fight).

    Anyway, this is why I’m glad Obama is requiring all insurance companies to provide contraception without any copay. If only the conservatives hadn’t gotten their way and blocked sex ed and we Liberals had gotten our way, there might be far fewer unwanted kids in this world with parents clueless about their own bodies. I don’t watch this show but it’s been on for over a decade so there are a LOT of people out there like this.

  23. @SoCalLib

    (You do realise you didn’t actually say “no”, right?)

    In the infrequent times I am in the States, I tend to prefer Wendy Williams: I was going to condemn the US for sending us Steve Wilkos, but I see we’ve now sent you Jeremy Kyle, so we’re even… :-)

    Regards, Martyn

  24. If I am allowed to post something on the banned subject, there was an odd bit of news today. While the SNP have been accused of wanting to hold the referendum a few months after the 700th anniversary of a notable Scottish victory (Bannockburn), Michael Moore has produced a timeline which would result in the referendum happening exactly in the same month as the 500th anniversary of a notable Scottish defeat (Flodden).

    While I doubt that any votes would be swayed by such historical coincidences, it seems somewhat strange that Moore should come up with such a precise month for his proposal.

    Beware politicians twisting history for their own purposes!

  25. @ Martyn

    “In the infrequent times I am in the States, I tend to prefer Wendy Williams: I was going to condemn the US for sending us Steve Wilkos, but I see we’ve now sent you Jeremy Kyle, so we’re even… :)”

    Lol. Wendy Williams. Do you ever watch those tv judges? They’re awful for the most part (there’s a reason they’re no longer on the bench…..they got sick of being frequently overturned by shocked appellate courts and negative ratings from judicial watchdog groups….and now they can make a lot more money screaming at weirdos on tv while conveniently ignoring actual principles of law). The only one who’s any good is Marilyn Millian, the current judge on the People’s Court.

    In fact, right before the Bar Exam, my brain turned to absolute mush and I was exhausted but I still needed to study. So what did I do? I turned on the People’s Court and issue spotted the cases (since much of the subject matter brought up in the People’s Court is subject matter tested on the Bar), running through the explanations, case law elements, and potential outcomes as the show went along.

    Was Maggie Thatcher a lawyer? I have a feeling that getting admitted to the British Bar is a lot harder than for those of us here.

  26. SoCalLiberal

    You are an American, so you are forgiven. You meant the English Bar, not the British Bar.

    The British Bar would best describe a place in the House of Commons where this is alleged to have taken place –

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2105180/Labour-MP-arrested-bar-brawl-inside-House-Commons.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

    I quite understand that Labour MPs from Scotland have little to do, as most of the constituency work that others have is done by MSPs

    Still, you would think that they might still find better things to do than hang around bars picking fights with people.

  27. @ Old Nat

    “Beware politicians twisting history for their own purposes!”

    You have heard of Newt Gingrich, the “historian,” haven’t you? :)

    “If I am allowed to post something on the banned subject, there was an odd bit of news today. While the SNP have been accused of wanting to hold the referendum a few months after the 700th anniversary of a notable Scottish victory (Bannockburn), Michael Moore has produced a timeline which would result in the referendum happening exactly in the same month as the 500th anniversary of a notable Scottish defeat (Flodden).”

    That seems like a bad idea….for both sides. The anniversary of a Scottish defeat might inspire Scots to vote for independence. The anniversary of a Scottish victory that’s 700 years old might make Scots think that this is a big waste of time. Who cares about refighting the battles of 700 years ago? (Sheesh, and I thought Republicans were nuts for wanting to party like it’s 1965).

    “While I doubt that any votes would be swayed by such historical coincidences, it seems somewhat strange that Moore should come up with such a precise month for his proposal.”

    It would be silly for Moore to do that since his argument isn’t one against Scots and of English superiority. His argument is that Scots are Brits and can equally embrace and love their Scottishness and their Britishness.

  28. @Graham

    You said “…Was Maggie Thatcher a lawyer? I have a feeling that getting admitted to the British Bar is a lot harder than for those of us here…”

    Leaving aside the confusion regarding the British Bar, I’ll leave the differences between “barrister”,[2] “solicitor” and “lawyer” in England and Wales[1] to those more expert than I.

    Surprisingly, Margaret Thatcher had a chemistry degree and worked as a research chemist prior to her political career. The 1964-1997 Prime Ministers (i.e. post-Hume, pre-Blair) had quite impressive careers. Nowadays, of coures, it’s public school->lawyer/intern->MP with…mixed results… :-)

    Regards, Martyn

    [1]: “England and Wales”[3] is not to be confused with “England” and “Wales”. “England and Wales” is a single jurisdiction, “Scotland” is another.
    [2]: h ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barristers_in_England_and_Wales
    [3]: h ttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England_and_Wales

  29. @ Old Nat

    “You are an American, so you are forgiven. You meant the English Bar, not the British Bar.”

    Yes, English Bar. I assume there’s a Scottish Bar too. Is there a seperate Welsh Bar as well?

    Even the best elected officials can get drunk and start fights sometimes. Like the late Hale Boggs (D-LA) , a top Congressional leader, who one night got drunk at a bar, physically threatened a Republican whip, shoved him, and then was cold cocked.

    Or, I thought this one was fantastic. My former Governor, Gropenfuhrer (R), in his infinite wisdom decided to show up at a Democratic Party event in San Francisco. Local Assemblyman and resident alcoholic, loudmouth old queen, Tom Ammiano (D-CA) was quite bothered by this. So publicly drunk on a weekday night, Ammiano began loudly heckling the Governor, screaming epiteths at him and interrupting his address. It got so bad that Arnold stormed off the stage while Ammiano, in celebratory mood, shouted at him “Kiss My Gay Ass!” So Gropenfuhrer was upset, and like the big strong tough man that he is, he went home and specifically vetoed a subsidy for Ammiano’s district (that he previously agreed to) and wrote a completely incoherent veto statement that was exactly 7 lines long with a space between the first 4 lines and the last 3, the first letters of each sentence spelled out f*ck you. An assuredly flattering moment for both men.

    My response was “REALLY?”

    “Still, you would think that they might still find better things to do than hang around bars picking fights with people.”

    Well, think about the bright side. At least they don’t sit around discussing the evils of birth control all day long.

  30. Both Bannockburn and Flodden do have resonance in Scotland. Although yours is a very young country, just think of the resonance that the Alamo has in the USA – as has Vietnam.

    We can probably agree that Moore is silly and that centuries old battles won’t change anyone’s mind, but my point was the strange coincidence between Moore’s choice of date as against the SNP’s.

    If one side is to be accused of using ancient battles as propaganda, then the other is equally (or more) guilty.

    There is a strange determination in the Unionist camp to shoot their own arguments in the foot. Presumably, their tendency to hop can be attributed to this.

  31. @ Martyn

    I take it that was addressed to me?

    I remember once meeting an elderly woman who was a big Hillary supporter and she was reminiscing about her experience in the 1940’s where she graduated with a chemical engineering degree but no one would hire her because she was a woman.

    I guess your explanation about there being a separate bar for England and Wales and a separate bar for Scotland answers my question to Old Nat.

  32. SOCALLIBERAL

    “Even the best elected officials can get drunk and start fights sometimes.”

    I doubt that anyone would describe Eric Joyce in such terms.

    As to your other point. in none of the countries in the UK is birth control a significant issue.

    We leave that to the ex colonies of the Empire.

  33. @ Old Nat

    “Both Bannockburn and Flodden do have resonance in Scotland. Although yours is a very young country, just think of the resonance that the Alamo has in the USA – as has Vietnam.

    We can probably agree that Moore is silly and that centuries old battles won’t change anyone’s mind, but my point was the strange coincidence between Moore’s choice of date as against the SNP’s.

    If one side is to be accused of using ancient battles as propaganda, then the other is equally (or more) guilty.”

    Well, a couple of months is a little bit different from the day of. I think the concept of holding the election to correspond to historic battles is just all around hokey.

    Both Michael Moores are pretty silly.

    I still say Jim Murphy is making a mistake to not go campaign against independence with David Cameron. It’s a great way for him to get tv time and gain name recognition and (if he’s clever about it) really annoy David Cameron.

  34. @ Old Nat

    “I doubt that anyone would describe Eric Joyce in such terms.

    As to your other point. in none of the countries in the UK is birth control a significant issue.

    We leave that to the ex colonies of the Empire.”

    Isn’t Eric Joyce an ex-soldier and the only military veteran MP in the Labour caucus until Dan Jarvis was elected?

    I don’t think politicians should be getting drunk and starting fights. I do find it pretty entertaining though when it happens.

    Birth control really isn’t an issue here. Even in 1965, when William O. Douglas authored Griswold v. Connecticut, only a few states actually banned contraception.

    The fact that it’s been made into an issue and turned into an issue is something that is infuriating a lot of people, especially women.

  35. @ Old Nat

    I just read the article. That sounds like a whole lot of stupidity and not at all entertaining. I mean, who does that anymore? Starts throwing punches at fellow lawmakers? (And randomly too).

    Like recently, a Republican State Senator in New York got into a drunken fight with a guy at a casino over something. But he didn’t attack his fellow colleagues.

    I find it entertaining when the public drunkeness events involve other stories and when they involve ridiculous stories, where the drinking is only part of the story. Like Roy Ashburn (R-CA). This ultra Conservative State Senator was for years the leading “moral crusader” in the Golden State and did everything possible to advance his homophobic agenda. That was until the night he got pulled over leaving Sacramento’s hottest gay club with his Latino hookup in the car (in addition to being homophobic, he was a leading crusader against the other evil infiltrating California, Latinos). He was several times the legal limit, driving a state owned vehicle, with a suspended licence.

    Or take former Congressman Vito Fossela (R-NY), another one moral crusader for the religious right. One night he was pulled over by Virginia state troopers for a DUI in which it was discovered he was having an affair and then that led to the discovery of his hidden secret second family. As Jay Leno said, “that’s a triple whammy.”

    But just getting drunk at your own Parliamentary Bar and attacking other members? I mean, where’s the creativity? Where’s the fun? Where’s the entertainment? Where’s the collegiality? I mean Come on!

  36. @ Old Nat

    Read the article and commented and my post was sent into moderation accordingly. But wow, that guy doesn’t come off very well. I think if he were an American, he’d get primaried or voters might vote for the opposite party, just to kick him out of office.

  37. SOCAL LIBERAL.
    Good Morning.
    Huge story over here in the Daily Telegraph about abortions taking place due to the gender of the foetus/baby.

    I cannot understand why ‘the right to choose’ shibboleth does not apply here, if women’s rights ‘over their own bodies’ are paramount.

    I also notice they keep referring to babies not foetii

  38. Last week I ‘predicted’ that slave labour woudl be an embarrassment for the gov, and it has turned out to be accurate.

    Now I predict a rising public clamour for tax reductions on car fuel, particularly in light of the rise in price of crude oil and also the decline in value of sterling caused in part by more QE. Perhaps GO will use any spare cash to ameliorate the impact?

  39. On this day last month we had TNS BMRB (Con 37%, Lab 40%, LD 10%), Angus Reid (35, 37, 11), Ipsos-MORI (38, 38, 12), Populus (37, 38, 13),and a YouGov (39, 40, 8).

    Will the Tories be back down to a more normal 33% on Angus Reid I wonder? ;)

  40. @Leetay

    ” appears your calculator isn’t working because the last 16 yougov polls have an average Labour lead of 1.5% with average figures of CON 38.5625% LAB 40.0625%.”

    What I was calculating wasn’t the running average of VI’s over the 16 polls, I was averaging the size of the respective leads when they occurred. So, for example, in the 11 polls where Labour led, their lead averaged 2.7%, and in the four where the Tories were in the lead, the margin averaged 1.25%. Moreover, if the you take the last 4 You Gov polls, where Labour has led in 3, with two of those leads being by 4%, the average lead has risen to 3.3%.

    We need more polls to see if the trend develops, but evidence of a slow drift to Labour in the last three week sseems to be mounting.

  41. An interesting report published in the British Medical Journal about a study of the NHS by health researchers led by Professor David Ingleby of Utrecht University in the Netherlands.

    Apparently, there is no need for the coaltion’s plans to reorganise the NHS.

    I’m ‘convinced’ that joe public will vote for a leader who carries on regardless with a policy and plan despite evidence that the policy is unnecessary and not wanted by vary large sections of the populace. Joe public doesn’t want u-turns. Joe public wants strong leadership… I implore DC not to change his mind on this issue.

  42. If there is any truth to this Sun article, perhaps he had read that Prescott was more popular after ‘connecting with people’. So who best to connect with, but a Tory MP with a ‘Glasgow kiss’.

    http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/4147965/Labour-MP-Eric-Joyce-arrested-for-decking-Tory-MP-Stuart-Andrew.html

  43. I was at school with Eric. He was known as somebody you didn’t pick a fight with. But he wasn’t a bully; he rarely started any trouble but he wouldn’t walk away once it had kicked off.
    8-)

  44. It would help me decide whether the Glasgow kiss was deserved if I knew who the Tory MP was. ;-)

  45. Looking again at the UKPR Polling average.

    Currently it represents the averaging of nine polls, from five different polling companies, over eight days up to Feb 20th.

    But the weighting… 0.97/0.9/0.92/0.63/0.76/0.4/0.2/0.03/0.3 means (can we say in some sense?) that we are getting the ‘import’ of data from 5.76 polls.

    While I don’t wish to denigrate the careful system of weighting devised by AW… he does point out that it is no substitute for the careful observation of wider trends… but would it be fair to say that the system is more suited to an election campaign when all the companies are polling frequently, and when it is possible that there may be appreciable fluctuations of VI every a few days?

  46. SoCalLiberal

    Margaret Thatcher did indeed train as a lawyer. She had studied chemistry at Oxford (she worked under the Nobel prize-winner Dorothy Hodgkin, which must have been an interesting clash, given Hodgkin’s Communist sympathies) and worked in food technology for four years until her marriage. She then qualified as a barrister in 1953 with the support of her wealthy husband (in those days it was difficult to become a barrister without a private income), though I don’t know how much she actually practiced before becoming an MP in 1959.

  47. @Mike N

    The MP being mentioned is Stuart Andrew, the Conservative MP for Pudsey.

    Seems an ‘interesting’ character. While he was a Conservative councillor in Wrexham he switched and joined Labour. But after lost his seat 2 years later he rejoined the Tories, moved to Leeds and became a city councillor before winning Pudsey in 2010. A man of principle :)

  48. @ChrisLane1945

    “I cannot understand why ‘the right to choose’ shibboleth does not apply here.”

    According to the “I don’t ask any questions” lady, it does. Unfortunately for her, the law disagrees.

  49. @Roger Mexico

    Thatcher “worked in food technology”

    And was partly responsible for giving us ‘Mr Whippy’ ice cream. Another reason to condemn her :)

    Although wiki states she got a second-class degree, I have heard one of her former tutors talking about her, saying “she got a third – and it was well merited”.

  50. On the subject of whether or not there has been a slight uptick in Miliband’s fortunes in recent weeks, it was interesting to read, admittedly in the newspaper of which we dare not speak, the report of yesterday’s PMQs by Simon Hoggart, the G*ar*i*n’s parliamentary sketch writer. Now, before the usual suspects scream “well, what the hell do you expect in a left wing rag like that”, Hoggart, as all who regularly read him will know, is an arch critic of Miliband and quite regularly rubbishes his parliamentary performances. Here is what he had to say about yesterday: –

    “It must have been sticky buns and soda pop in the leader of the opposition’s office on Wednesday lunchtime. For the first time I can recall, Ed Miliband wiped the floor with David Cameron.”

    Now, in the great scheme of things, one good PMQ session does not equate to ultimate political success, but it sort of plays into a growing sense that Miliband might have bottomed a month or so ago and is now slowly finding his feet. Or, to use Anthony’s rather apt metaphor, he’s clambering off the canvas.

    Lady Luck, that most precious political commodity of all, seems to be finally dealing him a few decent cards.

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