One of the most important things in understanding public opinion on politics is quite how little attention most people pay to it. I constantly see comments in here asking what effect a news event will have on voting intention. Most of the time the answer is none. This is should be evident from looking at the polls, which have had a steady Labour lead of 10 points or so for months, despite lots of “things” happening. The reasons are that firstly people aren’t watching anyway – most people don’t read broadsheet newspapers or pay much attention to the news, secondly, those that do normally interpret events and stories through their pre-existing political preferences, so they are more likely to re-inforce their existing views than change them.

If you are reading this website in the first place, you are probably a bit of a political anorak. At the very least you are interested in politics. Most people are not, and no matter how little attention you think people pay to political events, you are probably still *vastly* overestimating it. To illustrate it, think of something you care absolutely nothing for – celebrity magazines perhaps, soap operas you don’t watch, US baseball, whatever doesn’t float your boat. Do you know what the big story was in that field last week, how has it changed your opinion of the big players in that field, do you even know who the big players are? That’s most normal people’s attitude to what happened at PMQs this week.

The lack of public interest and awareness of what is going on in politics first really struck me looking at some Populus polling Lord Ashcroft did for his book “Smell the Coffee” back in 2005. It is easy to ask people if they have heard about a story, but it is not the best way – they may not want to look stupid, they may misremember having heard about the story*, the act of prompting people about the story may make people remember it when they’ve forgotten it and so on.

What Lord Ashcroft and Populus did was each day, between January 2005 and election day, ask 250 people if they recalled anything the Conservative party had done or said that week. There was no prompting, it was just what people recalled. Most of them noticed noting at all – sometimes up to 90% of people had noticed nothing (recall, this was just before an election was interest was at its height). The biggest score of anything was Michael Howard pledging to cut immigration, which peaked with 30% of people noticing it straight after Howard’s announcement. The key Conservative election pledges on things like cleaner hospitals, cutting taxes, more police were normally recalled by well under 5% of people. Never forget how little of politics gets through.

Anyway, seven years later and we have another bit of polling from Lord Ashcroft on a similar vein. He’s asked people to list what political news stories they have heard over the last few weeks, again unprompted. The most recalled, by far, is Andrew Mitchell and plebgate, which was recalled by 33% of people, followed by George Osborne not paying for a first class ticket which 13% of people recalled and 8% who recalled stories about the Scottish independence referendum. 7% recalled cuts to child benefit, 6% recalled the story about MPs “swapping flats” to claim more expenses. 5% recalled the increase in GDP figures and the row about prisoners voting, everything else was below 5%.

The second half of Ashcroft’s poll gave people a prompted list of stories and asked if they had heard of them, and also how important they were. The proportions of people claiming to have heard of a story were higher, but “plebgate” still came top (many of the other differences were timing related – in the unprompted question people cleared tended to give stories from the previous couple of days, when the prompted question included things from weeks or months back). People did tend to rate the solid policy stories as more important than the “political soap opera” stories, but the “soap opera” stories were more widely recalled.

What it shows, especially the unprompted question, is that people are more likely to pay attention to and remember the rather trivial but human stories that they think are unimportant than stories about policies and proposals. People may say they think it is comparatively unimportant that Mitchell called a policeman a pleb… but a third of people recalled it unprompted. Try getting a third of people to recall a party’s tax or economic policy unprompted. One might be seen as petty and one might be seen as important, but if people are only aware of the petty one is it going to inform their view of the party.

That’s different, however, from saying they necessarily make an impact. As I said at the start of this post, the reason most events don’t have any impact on voting intention or other trackers isn’t just that they aren’t noticed, it is also that people view them through the prism of their existing political views. So if a Labour MP does something awful, Conservative supporters will probably think it is disgusting and corrupt and must taint the whole of the Labour party… but they weren’t supporting Labour anyway. Labour supporters will probably tend to take a more charitable view, it was an understandable mistake, just one rogue MP and there are bad apples in all parties, the leadership acted strongly to punish them, etc (and of course, it works the other way round if a Conservative MP does something awful).

Even if they do have an effect, it is probably so subtle it is impossible to measure. No one is, in three years time, going to think “Well, the Conservatives have done well in government, I think David Cameron is the better leader, but one of their MP was a bit rude to a policeman three years ago so I’m voting Labour”. However, they might well think “the Conservatives are out of touch with ordinary people and look down on those less wealthy, they aren’t the party for me, I’m voting Labour”. Some of that view could have been contributed to, or reinforced by, a Conservative MP allegedly calling a policeman a pleb. Could we ever prove or disprove this through an opinion poll, not really, no. If we had polls tracking whether people thought the Conservatives were in touch or not from before and after the event we could infer it – but it is tricky to isolate an event, and most changes cannot be distinguished from margin of error variation.

In short, as I’ve said here before, there are three ways of understanding public opinion and its impact on people’s views. The first is crude support or opposition – do people approve or disapprove, like or dislike something. Very easy and straightforward to measure – they don’t like politicians swearing at policemen. The second is salience – is is important to them compared to other issues? Are they even away of it? This is trickier to measure, but in this case we know a significant proportion of people were aware of the Andrew Mitchell story, but also that most didn’t think it was that important. Thirdly, what impact does it have on their wider perception of the party – does it make them think the Conservatives are more out of touch, just reinforce existing views, or neither? We really can’t tell, and its not something that polling can easily tell us.

(*on people misremembering stories that they haven’t actually heard about, the Ashcroft poll today included two fake stories. 14% of people said they had heard at least something about Labour MP Audrey Cockburn using union funds to decorate her flat. Given neither she nor her flat exist, those 14% of people are wrong)

310 Responses to “On whether political trivia matters”

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  1. Sorry Andy, have a nice Sunday :)

  2. NICKP

    @”That would mean the issuer would pay the owner. The owner being the Treasury and the issuer being..?

    Ummmm……….to repeat once again……………

    Government needs cash.

    Treasury issues IOUs called Government Bonds or Gilts-repayable after a stated time of months or years ( depending on the Debt Management Office cash flow requirement)

    Purchasers of Gilts pay Treasury in exchange for promise to repay plus interest.

    At maturity, Treasury repays IOU by paying the current holder of the Gilt it’s face value .

    ……………Treasury now back to square one -needs cash-issues new gilts……….continually financing the National Debt by repeated borrowing over fixed terms.

  3. “Latest YouGov / The Sunday Times results 9 – 11th November – CON 32%, LAB 44%, LD 8%, UKIP 8%; APP -31”

    12 points on a Saturday! That must be wort over 15 in real money.

  4. YouGov –
    Con 32, Lab 44, Lib 8, UKIP 8
    Approval: -31

    CoE voters VI:
    Con 39, Lab 39, Lib 8, UKIP 11

    Believers in God:
    Con 36, Lab 42, Lib 9, UKIP 10
    Believers in some sort of higher power:
    Con 30, Lab 42, Lib 8, UKIP 10
    Con 24, Lab 52, Lib 9, UKIP 6

    What we can establish from these (WARNING: SUBSAMPLES) is that the more people believe in God, the more they back the Tories and the opposite for Labour – but that the LibDems appeal equally across all groups,
    This is probably largely demographic rather than ideological – older voters are more likely to believe and are more likely to vote Conservative.

    Consider yourself (Warning: Poor and Rich have small subsamples [1]):
    Poor (20%) –
    Con 24, Lab 54, Lib 8, UKIP 9
    Middle (73%)
    Con 33, Lab 42, Lib 9, UKIP 8
    Rich (7%)
    Con 24, Lab 54, Lib 8, UKIP 6
    Interesting that 73% of people consider themselves ‘somewhere in the middle’ in terms of wealth. I guess that’s the problem with fuzzy terms and shame attached to being poor.

    Net Approval:
    Cameron -16 (+3)
    Miliband -18 (+5)
    Clegg -55 (-2)
    No real change from the largely neck & neck position between Cameron and Miliband, but Clegg still trailing.

    Pure Approval:
    Cameron 39 (+1)
    Miliband 34 (+2)
    Clegg 18 (-1)
    This is a consistent pattern, even when Miliband is ahead – even though he is consistently behind Cameron on approval, he usually has smaller disapproval.

    Beliefs: (And with DKs removed)
    Belief in God: 37 (43)
    Spiritual Higher Power: 21 (24)
    No God or Power: 29 (33)
    IIRC When you ask people to self-identify as atheist/Christian/etc, the figures for Atheist are a lot lower than a third – but when you break the options down, a third of Brits are effectively atheist.

    Coalition managing the economy:
    Well – 31 (-2)
    Badly – 59 (+1)

    State of the economy:
    Good – 5 (-2)
    Bad – 69 (+1)

    Christmas spending:
    More this year – 6%
    Less this year – 50%
    About the same – 39%
    That doesn’t really bode well for the economic figures – but people may be really bad at telling how much they will spend, so the polling could be counter-intuitive and people actually spend more.

    Support/Oppose PCCs:
    Support – 20
    Oppose – 34
    DK – 46
    Really high DKs for a policy that’s going to be implemented fully after elections in less than a week.

    Future of Europe (Last asked Sep 2011):
    European Federalisation 2 (-1)
    More Integrated EU 7 (nc)
    How it is now 16 (+1)
    Less integrated EU 34 (+1)
    Complete British withdrawal 26 (-3)
    Interesting that if you ask people if they’d want to leave the EU, there’s a lot more support for it than if you ask all the options.

    Same Sex Marriage:
    Legalise – 51, Don’t – 38

    Con voters:
    Legalise – 40, Don’t – 52

    Legalise – 41, Don’t – 47

    God believers:
    Legalise – 36, Don’t – 53

    Legalise – 55, Don’t – 37

    Legalise – 84, Don’t – 4

    Obama’s re-election-
    Good for the US?
    Good – 72
    Bad – 6

    Good for Britain?
    Good – 52
    Bad – 4

    Who would have made the better president:
    Obama – 80
    Romney – 5

    DKs Removed:
    Obama – 94
    Romney – 6

    [1] These are from the weighted figures, so differ from the figures slightly further down the table.

  5. Colin.

    So the Treasury issues gilts, sells them for cash, then priints money and buys them back. The BoE hold them for them, and pay them interest on them(!). Then at maturity, the owners pay the holders the value of the Bonds (even though the holders paid the owners interest earlier).

    Sounds mad to me, even if later as Amber suggests the money goes back to the Treasury.

    What a way to run a country.

  6. @TF

    Thanks for the analysis.

    73% of people think they are middle income.
    Ed M continues to address ‘the squeezed middle’ —
    maybe he’s onto something there !


  7. NICK

    No-BoE creates the new electronic money with which to buy the GIilts.

    THe BoE ( owner of the Gilts) receives interest from the TReasury -it is the issuer of the Gilts- The Treasury , which pays the interest.

    (It has now been agreed that BoE will refund this interest to the TReasury-depending on which reports you believe this policy follows practice in Japan & USA-or as suggested by Amber Star on UKPR)

    At maturity the owners of all Gilts ( including BoE for their asset purchases) are repayed by the issuer ( The TReasury)

    …………..I have often wondered which Civil Service department you work in-itsn’t the Treasury is it?

    …please say “no” :-)

  8. NICK

    I refer you to this & the links contained therein:-

  9. But the owners of the gilts are the Treasury, surely? They paid for them (with funny money).

    What you are saying is that the Treasury paid for them, but the BoE own them. But later the BoE might refund the interest (and presumably the whole value at maturity) dependent upon what somebody or another decides.


    I do not work for the Treasury, and I assume you have never worked in Communications of any sort, especially of policy.

  10. aha!

    Looking at your link, the Cancellor “authorises” the printing of money by the BoE to buy gilts which are retained by the BoE.

    Funnily enough the decision to print money is taken and voted upon the the BoE committee. I assume the Chancellor then rubber stamps the decision. So in fact fiscal policy is being decided as I suspected by Mervyn King.

    It’s clear to me the “independence” of the boE is a complete sham. But I’m not sure whether that is a good thing or a bad thing.

  11. @Raf

    I don’t know if you caught this clip of West quoting de Tocqueville:


    How is he reading de Tocqueville? The inference seems to be that democracy is a contingent, rather than a neccessary state of affairs. West strikes me as the sort of person who sees political office as a means to an end – ie to get into a position where it’s possible, due to some unforseen emergency, that one has the authority to declare “I’m in control now”.

    Let’s hope the votes are counted properly. There really shouldn’t be the scope for these kind of situations. Rove trying to bamboozle Fox News into changing their calling of Ohio was funny in a way, but no doubt if it had been close every trick in the book would have been tried to get ballots thrown out.


    I wasn’t really too pessimistic this time (except at the last moment about Ruiz), however, I have woken up too many times to the prospect of four years of a Nixon, a Reagan (x2) or a Bush (x3) in the White House not to have a certain amout of dread on election night.

    Btw, about the Blixseth party that really was celebrity trash gossip, I shouldn’t have mentioned it, But the Young Turks did consider it newsworthy at the time because Blixseth was a donor, and there were some questions about bank loans/property deals. As far as I am aware, the Ruiz campaign did not stoop so low as to dredge it up, but apparently it was a tabloid “scandal” of some kind back in January 2011 and might have stuck in some voter’s minds (therefore it does qualify as politics and may be of some interest):


  12. Good Morning All.

    TINGED FRINGE: Thanks for the analysis!

    I hope Crossbat11 is ok…

    Beautiful day and poll today.

  13. NICK

    @”But the owners of the gilts are the Treasury, surely? They paid for them (with funny money).”

    THe Gilts ( let’s call them IOUs-it helps visualise their nature) are issued by the Treasury & bought by the purchaser-who may hold to maturity or trade in the market ( they are marketable commodities )

    “What you are saying is that the Treasury paid for them, but the BoE own them. ”

    No…..the Treasury ISSUED the IOUs in exchange for cash. THe purchasers SUBSEQUENTLY sold them on to BoE under the QE programme, in exchange for cash ( well an electronic credit balance with BoE) to the tune of £375bn

    @”But later the BoE might refund the interest (and presumably the whole value at maturity) ”

    It appears that MK & GO have agreed that the interest paid on BoE’s holding of Gilts may be repaid to the TReasury-yes. I am very uncomfortable with this policy.

    That it will be used to reduce Debt , and not Deficit is semantic sophistry. Debt is the sum of all Deficits. Deficits include Sovereign Debt interest. THerefore reduction of Total Debt by refunded QE interest is merely a jump over the relevant years of deficit & avoiding restating them.

    Re THe whole value at maturity-as I said-Treasury must repay the holder on demand. BoE will thus receive the face value at maturity. THis will have the effect of removing the extra liquidity from the market ( because Treasury will re-finance with new gilts in the market) which BoE created when they bought them.

    I think you are looking for a point at which the QE holdings are cancelled-ie they never get repaid by the TReasury. The signal for this would be if ONS suddenly announce that Total Government Debt has fallen by £375 bn ( unrelated to annual fiscal outcome) .

    At that point we would become Zimbabwe.

    I will be on the look out Nick :-)

  14. Chaos at the BBC.

    How long before Fatty Pang does the honourable thing too?

    Entwhistle was his appointment.

    The failed management structure is his responsibility.

    A wholesale clearout & restructure is needed.

  15. What is so sad & unforgiveable is the use, by BBC, of a witness who has been so terribly damaged by abuse, and whose previous testimony was so fraught-without any sensitivity or care.

    TM warned everyone in HoC ( well Tom Watson really) that just this sort of thing-accusations made in privileged places , without evidence or due process) would have the effect of compromising the prosecution of the guilty.

    BBC did not heed that warning.

    I hope the damage to due process is not critical.

  16. COLIN.
    Good Morning to you.

    Chris Patten needs to go, I agree.

    The senior managers should also go, I believe.

    There was a very good discussion on Marr, with Max Hastings. They pointed out that there were lots of cuts to the journalism budget, and yet not to the admin and management budgets.

  17. FT reports on the EU Budget talks :-

    “Hours after the meeting began, the parties had not even begun to discuss the 2013 budget, according to people familiar with the discussions, because they were still feuding over how to deal with at least €9bn in unpaid bills from this year.
    Janusz Lewandowski, the EU budget commissioner, had requested an €8.9bn amending budget to cover the shortfall.”


    You wouldn’t run a chip shop like this



    Cuts is nothing to do with it.

    The management structure needs flattening out so the DG ( AND Editor in Chief ! ) is in touch & has real responsibility & accountability.

    At present he operates in an ivory tower with a whole column of panjandums beneath him.

    The Three Wise Monkeys in one form.

    The relationship with the Trust needs looking at too.

    Looks like more blood on the carpet to come-some of these people will hardly have had time to switch to PAYE & start paying tax !

  19. Hurmmm

    A witness changing his mind, not leaned on in any way? This is getting more Belgian all the time

  20. @Tinted Fringe

    Have you noticed the regional leadership ratings and how they don’t seem to affect the UK leadership ratings?

    UK -16 (+3)
    Lon -2 (+19)
    RoS -2 (+10)
    Mid -18 (-4)
    North -36 (-4)
    Scot -25 (-2)

    UK -18 (+5)
    Lon -25 (-18)
    RoS -24 (+6)
    Mid -9 (+15)
    North -5 (+12)
    Scot -35 (-12)

    NC – No major changes

    What’s going on in there then?

  21. @ Colin

    I agree with your analysis of the QE issue above. The BOE is run at arms length by the Treasury. I suspect that the BOE could have told Osborne that they wanted to keep the interest on the gilts bought, to build up their reserves. But Osborne may then have said that he would then ask parliament to pass an SI to require the BOE to pay the Treasury the interest. As the SI would have gone through, I suspect that the BOE just agreed to repay any interest to the Treasury it received from them.

    If the interest received on the BOE purchased gilts is used to reduce the deficit in the coming years, it does mean that the Treasury will then have less debt to fund by issuing new gilts. So it sort of makes sense. But if further QE or some other central bank action is required, it would mean the BOE would have to print new money and not have the reserves to use.

    Apparently the audit commission and OBR will be looking at this, to decide how this will be reported. It is something new to them, although there are international precedents.

  22. “I think you are looking for a point at which the QE holdings are cancelled-ie they never get repaid by the TReasury. The signal for this would be if ONS suddenly announce that Total Government Debt has fallen by £375 bn ( unrelated to annual fiscal outcome) .

    At that point we would become Zimbabwe.”

    That seems like sophistry to me. If we became Zimbabwe at all, it would be when we printed the money. It is not dependent upon whether we later cancel the new money by tearing up the gilts. In fact if we don’t cancel the gilts without redeeming them, by your argument we remain Zimbabwe.

    Personally I don’t think we become Zimbabwe either way. But it is silly to pretend that in some esoteric sleight-of-hand way QE is not printing money. It is the attempts to hide that fact that lead to the blurry line between who holds and who owns the gilts that have been bought with printed money.

  23. @Colin

    “How long before Fatty Pang does the honourable thing too?”

    It won’t surprise you to know that I’m no great admirer of Chris Patten myself, but your obvious antipathy towards the man is surprising. Mastermind of Major’s 1992 electoral triumph, a widely admired former Governor of Hong Kong at a seminal moment in the old colony’s history and much else besides in public life. Whatever you thought of his time as a leading Tory politician, and I didn’t think much of it if I’m being honest, it’s a record to earn at least respect, isn’t it, and he certainly doesn’t deserve the attribution of puerile nicknames. By the way, I think “Fatty Pang” was the insulting name that the Chinese Communist Party gave him during his time in Hong Kong. A strange source of inspiration for a man of your political views, I have to say.

    I saw Patten’s interview with Marr this morning and I thought he acquitted himself quite well, fully understanding the gravity of the crisis while still recognising and re-affirming the crucial role that the BBC plays in our public life. I thought he was quite right not to make knee-jerk and public-pleasing announcements about further heads rolling and the axing of Newsnight; a magnificent current affairs programme with a proud history that has made one dreadful editorial mistake. Many a newspaper has survived a poor edition, and Newsnight should be cut some slack. It’s earned it over its many years of fine journalism.

    That said, these are very dangerous days for the BBC and the knives are well and truly out. I commend Jonathan Dimbleby’s wise words on Marr this morning and in today’s Observer. It’s time for the BBC’s defenders to get the tin-hats and sandbags out, I think.

    But where are these defenders to be found? I’d be very interested to hear Mr Clegg’s views, for example.

  24. NICKP

    mmm-so we became Zimbabwe on 5 March 2009 eh? :-)

  25. Nick p

    What they are trying to hide is how money comes into existence in the first place. QE has got people asking questions. As for Zimbabwe, everyone should look at a graph of the money supply since the 60s and wonder what the ell is going on. Cos money supply was reasonably stable until 1972 the started rising faster and really took off in the 80s and has been growing exponentially since then. Interestingly even with the massive amounts of QE the money supply has been falling since 2008. So where is the money coming from and where is it going?

  26. CB11

    I have never liked him.

    I had understood that Fatty Pang was a Chinese nickname of endearment.

    I saw his interview on Sky. He appears to think the whole thing is a “Murdoch” plot.

    If he isn’t going to resign himself, he has a lot of work to do-if he can fit it in between sessions at high table in Oxford.

  27. Sorry that was the wrong graph but still a good one, ill hunt down the right one

  28. R HUCKLE

    @”Apparently the audit commission and OBR will be looking at this, to decide how this will be reported. ”

    And so they should.

  29. RiN

    Yes, agreed. banks create money all the time, and that’s basically what all this debt is, funny money come home to roost.

    QE is the ultimate state intervention! Good to see that socialist Osborne intervening directly into the market.

  30. Colin

    “mmm-so we became Zimbabwe on 5 March 2009 eh?”

    what sort of straw man is that? You are the one claiming that it is not QE that makes us like Zimbabwe, it’s what ultimately happens to the gilts bought with the funny money.

    The funny money is either in circulation now or the banks have used it to offset bad sebt. Either way it ain’t disappearing.

  31. Good Morning again everyone.

    Very powerful Mass for the Dead at my wife’s boarding school today.

    We thundered out ‘Abide with Me’ at the end.

    Requiescant in pace.

  32. NICK

    You said “If we became Zimbabwe at all, it would be when we printed the money. ”

    I was gently reminding you when QE ( or what you think is money printing) started , and who started it.

    As you know , like MK , I do not believe QE is money printing-it is an Asset Purchase programme to increase liquidity in the banking sector.


    Taking the interest on BoE Gilt purchases back from them & reducing Government Debt by so doing is, in my view a very unwelcome step in the DIRECTION of monetising State Debt.

    Given that, I do not believe that there is any likelihood whatsoever , that BoEs Gilt holdings will not be repaid by the TReasury. Cancelling those Bonds & formally reducing Government Total Debt by £375 bn would be unthinkable & lead to total collapse of confidence in government fiscal policy , BoE integrity , & Sterling.

  33. All this technical talk about QE is missing the point. It is funny money which makes the affects of QE totally down to what the markets decide.

    The technical effect of QE is that if you print more money (electronically) then the Pound should be worth less in exchange rate because there are more of them a day later than there are of DM’s, Dollars etc. However because other countries are in the same boat (USA certainly and the Euro in different ways) the markets have decided this does not affect the exchange rate and may even have discounted it as being good for the economy so putting the total value of the economy in a better position. Additionally some would argue a lower exchange rate is good for the country while others would say it increases inflation.

    Even the affect on pension funds and bonds values are difficult to work out because the government bonds become safer and money still has to find somewhere to invest itself if it doesn’t like the bond rates (which may well be shares). I tend to believe pensions have been affected but there is certainly no hard and fast rule.

    No-one knows at what point QE may spook the markets, either more of it or cancelling the debt so in my humble opinion everything to do with QE is guesswork but, just like house prices rising too high, my gut feeling is that QE is not a good thing and is storing up problems for the future so knocking out the interest seems just an additional backdoor QE.


    Ed Miliband’s approval ratings in Scotland are worse than his ratings in every other part of the UK?

    In fact David Cameron is more popular in Scotland than Ed!! Am I reading this right?

  35. Old News to some but anyway….
    President Barack Obama has won Florida’s 29 electoral votes, further fattening his substantial margin of victory over Mitt Romney in what had been predicted to be a close White House race.

    The Sunshine State was the last to report its tally from the November 6 election, in which Obama won a second term, defeating his Republican rival Romney.

    With Florida’s electoral college votes now in the Democratic incumbent’s column, the final total was 332 for Obama, against 206 for Romney.

    Obama earned 50 percent of the vote to Romney’s 49.1 percent — about 74,000 more votes among more than eight million ballots cast, according to county tallies provided to the state before a noon (1700 GMT) Saturday deadline

    Well done Obama!! :)

  36. @AW

    The yougov figures you have used for 7th November are wrong, and it seems to be skewing the UKPR average!

    Thanks for updating the figure for us though, its a great help to let us see the trends.


  37. Shevii

    Everyone’s missing the point, it’s all funny money. It doesn’t matter if the BoE prints it electrically or if private banks print it electrically, its still funny money, but even the paper notes have no real value, they are just pretty peices of paper.

  38. @CL 45

    I was moved by the number of young people out at rememberance services today — I guess they maybe know people of the same age who are actually serving on the front-line.

    I’m pleased you enjoyed your requiem — we had Saint-Saens Solemn Mass of Requiem at St Barts. Brighton.

    @Gracie — the sun is shining here at the seaside Hope you have a nice day too!


  39. @CrossBat11

    You said “…Newsnight; a magnificent current affairs programme with a proud history that has made one dreadful editorial mistake…”

    A gossip shop where talking heads congregate to pontificate on current events, sometimes remarkably badly, whilst Paxman is imposes the metropolitan middle-class viewpoint by being pointlessly rude[1] to somebody.

    On its bad days its PBS, on its good days it’s Jon Stewart. And there is a place for it: some of its correspondents are well-informed and interesting. So as long as it sticks to its knitting and does summary and analysis, it’s OK. But it really hasn’t got the stones nor the brains for investigative journalism. It was badly out of its league with Savile et al, and it showed.

    Regards, Martyn

    [1] It wasn’t just OldNat who was appalled by Paxman’s rudery to Salmond: I was looking at it and thinking “My God, this is pantomime”

  40. Back to the US… Fivethirtyeight has released it’s estimates on polling company performance, and astoundingly Rasmussen is beaten to the coveted “Most Republican Bias” award by Gallup – 7.4 points more Republican than reality on average.

    YouGov lands about in the middle.

  41. @Colin

    It’s not that Amber, NickP et al disbelieve you. You’ve taken the time and effort to explain carefully that the extra liquidity(?) will be removed from the system eventually (“sterilization”?) and that this is important because otherwise the debt will be monetised and badness occurs. And thank you for this: I am genuinely interested in the process and it’s kind of you to explain so well. But it’s just that we either don’t think it’s going to work, or that some of the necessary steps will be omitted, or that the fact it’s taking place at all is wrong.

    Regards, Martyn

  42. Ann in Wales
    Sorry for the late reply but to answer your question, when i was helping in Corby the Tories had approx twice the manpower on the ground as Labour. They are fighting very hard to retain the seat because they do not want Labour to gain their first seat since 1997.
    So take it from me do not believe what you read or hear from the media

  43. Colin

    I saw [Patten’s] interview on Sky. He appears to think the whole thing is a “Murdoch” plot

    Well duh! Of course it is. Not the misreporting, but the attempt to turn the Saville revelations and their aftermath into a scandal all about the BBC. You must have missed the ST poll a couple of weeks back when they got YouGov to ask 16 questions about it – a day after they had asked another 22. Anthony’s commentary was rather terse that week.

    You’ve obviously also missed most of the press coverage in the last few weeks, but as you have recently outed yourself as member of the Chinese Communist Party, I suppose you’ve been busy what with the Party Congress and that.

    Part of the reasons for the attacks on the BBC from NewsCorp and its allies is just the usual monopolist positioning to eliminate all rivals and it’s partly because the BBC acts as a marker that keeps the standards of the other British news channels high[1]. There is also the general tabloid attitude that, because they’re down in the gutter[2], everyone else has to be dragged down with them, even if all they’ve done is put their shoe slightly over the edge of the pavement.

    But the main reason for the war on the Beeb is that phone-hacking threatens the Murdochs, News Corp and its management with a whole range of dangers (and not just in the UK): regulation, imprisonment, corporate dismemberment, closer examination of tax positions and loss of influence. Having something that can act as a distraction and divert investigative attention is a godsend and has to be bigged-up as much as possible.

    It’s not helped of course by the tendency of the BBC to go in for weeks-long orgies of self-criticism. Which is actually a good thing in principle, but can slip over into self-obsession which is both boring and, worse, means that other aspects of these stories get less attention than they should.

    Entwhistle had to go not because he should take “responsibility” for some piece of misreporting at a low level[3], but because the whole affair showed him to outstandingly useless. His claim to be unaware that there would be a ‘revelation’ on the Newsnight in question[4] (he obviously doesn’t read UKPR) meant that he was either lying, willfully ignorant, or shouldn’t be sent out without his mittens tied to his wrists. When someone is known as a “safe pair of hands” it’s usually a give-away that they’ve done nothing else in their career except avoid blame.

    [1] Not only does this mean such channels can’t be used for political influence (compare SkyNews with Fox which are both in the Murdoch stable) it’s also expensive.

    [2] Though they’re not looking at the stars just up their skirts. Obviously when I say ‘stars’ I mean someone we’ve never heard of, from a programme no one watches.

    [3] In which case you presumably believe that principle should also apply to the editors of newspapers and, if you want Patten to go, to the heads of the companies that run them and are supposed to oversee them.

    [4] One odd aspect of the whole affair was the belief that a young teenager would be expected to be able to identify a member of the the Conservative hierarchy by sight so easily that the identify wasn’t even worth checking. It illustrates the way in which the media bubble operates and the limited backgrounds of those in it – they assume their obsessions are everyone else’s too. As it happens the witness had clearly been misinformed by the police – who I suspect also leaked the name at some point as it was already widely known. But that no one thought to get check or indeed investigate further is very revealing.

  44. @ Martyn

    “But it’s just that we either don’t think [QE] it’s going to work,”

    It has worked to the extent that is has done both the ‘jobs’ it was used for. There has been no banking collapse; & the UK has not defaulted on any debts.

    “or that some of the necessary steps will be omitted,”

    Presumably you mean cancelling both the phoney interest & the principle. It won’t be cancelled (despite Colin’s belief that it should/ will be). There was never any intention to cancel it nor is there a mechanism to do so. The Chancellor has considered kicking the can 100years down the road but that would be a deferral, it would not change the substance of the transaction. The reduction in state debt is a fait accompli; it cannot be undone. If either you or Colin would like me to explain why, I will be happy to do so.

    “or that the fact it’s taking place at all is wrong.”

    It isn’t wrong, in the circumstances; it was necessary. Again, I’ll be happy to explain why, if anybody cares.

  45. Amber

    I care!!

    But then I am a economic train spotter

  46. Amber

    There is no doubt that QE did prevent a depression and the consequences of this. It put a certain amount of money into the system, which prevented a total collapse of the financial sector.

    But the £375bn of government debt purchased under QE is enough, as it represents about a fifth of government debt. The financial sector has now got to start to perform properly and I guess to do that, it needs people to behave normally. So companies and people have got to start spending money again, moving house etc etc. At the moment there is too much fear out there. Also incomes have go to start to rise again, so they keep pace with the cost of living.

    I fear that the government does not have a proper economic policy and is just waiting for the world to work its way out of a slump. Yes Europe is in a mess, but it is not going to get any better, if they just continue with austerity, without any proper plans for growth. Austerity in the way it is being done, will just bring the economies to their knees, as companies close, due to amount of unemployed who have little spend or to pay their debts.

    The issue with QE that Colin and other is concerned about, is the affect on pension values. I suppose if the banks had collapsed it would have been worse.


    Is the QE affect on pension temporary ?

    If your are retiring in the near future you will be hit, but perhaps in 20 years time, the pension funds would have made up any loss.

  48. @ The Sheep

    “YouGov lands about in the middle.”

    YouGov was the second most accurate pollster of the whole election. Considering that their polls are all conducted by email, that’s mighty impressive. Job well done!

  49. The Sheep
    Nate S commented that the Gallop was historically all over the place, which is why he moderated their input on the national vote in his overall model calculations. Thus, I assume, it was almost inevitable that if any one would be way out, it would be Gallop.

    Of course it was his needle sharp analysis of the state polls that was so impressive and why, as i wrote while MitM was still pondering, that the latter’s was a safe bet.
    Don’t spend it all at once MitM!

  50. Socal
    I don’t know if you picked up my congrats. I was impressed that the ‘nice’ Ruiz beat the ‘nasty’ Bono Mack because i thought he was ‘too nice’ but perhaps voters just thought she was…. well you know the rest.!

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