This morning’s YouGov/Sun poll has got a lot of attention because it shows an extreme – CON 30%, LAB 45%, LDEM 11%, UKIP 9% – the biggest Labour lead since YouGov started doing their regular polls in 2002. Usual caveats apply – the polls that show striking figures normally end up being outliers, it’s the underlying trend that counts. Even there though, it certainly looks as though the Conservative bounce from the referendum pledge has unwound and Labour are back into a comfortable double-figure lead.

More enlightening are the other figures from YouGov today. As usual a majority of people support the introduction of gay marriage (54% to 38%), and as I wrote on Sunday, the issue itself is not one that has particular salience or will move many voters come the general election in two years time. However, the damage that prolonged coverage of Conservative infighting (on gay marriage, and presumably the leadership plot rumours) is clear – 71% of people see the Conservatives as a divided party, only 10% see them as a united party. This is a question YouGov have been asking since 2003, and this is the highest ever proportion of people who have seen them as divided – more than during the 2005 leadership challenge, or just before IDS was defenestrated.

439 Responses to “71% see the Conservatives as divided”

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  1. Nurses are perhaps getting a little bit of the treatment that is universally handed out to the police.

    If something bad happens involving a police officer, then the traditional turn of phrase is to blame it on “the police”. (Stuart Lawrence was harassed by “the police”, Blair Peach and Iain Tomlinson were killed by “the police”, “the police” allowed people to die at Hillsborough).

    Previously if something went wrong on a hospital ward, it was uncommon for it to be blamed on “the nurses”.

    I don’t think it’s fair, but I do think that nurses (like everyone else) are of very variable quality. There has been a tendency where there are failings in nursing care to defend “the nurses” in every ditch, which I think in the long run is actually against the interests of the profession.

    I have seen an awful lot of great nursing in my life, but I have also seen absolutely inexcusable examples of nurses ignoring the needs of patients. Not because they were “busy doing paperwork” or “chasing targets” but because they were sitting down chatting to a mate and eating biscuits and didn’t give a monkeys.

    I think Colin has very strong views about public servants generally, which I don’t share, but I do rather hope that somewhere in the response to Mid-Staffs we arrive at a more balanced and critical (in the true sense of the word) view of the “caring professions”.

    It seems a bit churlish to blame the RCN for defending and promoting the interests of nurses when that is one of their primary roles. However it doesn’t stop people from slating the Police Federation when they do the same for police officers.

  2. Adam

    I couldn’t agree more. The controlling culture of targets and metrics is crippling the public sector. It was introduced with the best of intentions, to provide transparent and fair means of assessment and thereby, incentive. But it has led to a perversion of core values. It is perhaps inevitable that aspirational public sector managers will put target meeting ahead of the woolier, unquantifiable, but genuinely important “qualities” in their area.

    I saw it coming in when I was in Higher Education. The corrosive effect of citation scores pushing highly able researchers to be immediately productive in buzz-areas, militating against the genius mavericks who REALLY divide the paradigm shift. And the importance of student assessment of courses, resulting in expectation management by managers, with genuinely formative teaching removed because it was bloody hard to summatively assess performance in a consistent way.

    I’m seeing it at my kids’ primary school, where the Head has slashed the library budget to focus on “literacy” targets. That is a focus on the quantifiable mechanics of reading to hit targets, rather than fostering a love of reading.

    I don’t know how we get out of this, but there are few more important issues for us to address as a nation. We need to foster genuine quality rather than an easily measurable substitute.

    As Einstein said, “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts”. We have had a generation and a half concentrating on the countable and forgetting what counts.

  3. neil a
    Blimey. I concur!

  4. @Lefty,

    For some time now I have wondered whether it would be better for the public sector to switch completely to a very rigorous and well-resourced “dip sampling” regime.

    Rather than looking at standards statistically as now, we should be trying to create incentives for staff to act properly in every single situation they deal with. The knowledge that inspectors would be randomly selecting cases for thorough review might be a better way of doing that than using mathematics, as there are several different ways to “achieve” the right result from that equation.

    I would like to see a regime which says “Right, today we are going to examine every aspect of the care of Doris Wheatley, aged 89, who came into A&E yesterday after a call at her care home”. Similarly in the police I would welcome a regime says “Today we are going to review Neil A’s investigation of the allegations made by Chelsey Babcock that she had been punched by her mother’s boyfriend”.

    In essence, apply the same approach at random that we currently employ when there is a complaint or a catastrophe. As well as discouraging target chasing, this is also a much more nuanced and subjective assessment. So rather than ticking a box that says “Was the child’s parent informed of the outcome of the investigation?”, the inspectors would instead speak to the parent and ask them how they were informed and what they thought of the officer who informed them.

  5. @NickP,

    Crikey, I think we both need a lie-down!!

  6. The trouble is that a good proportion of nurses act as though they have been dropped by god.

    They are lazy and act like helping people is the least important part of their job, as another poster said a large part of their time is spent eating biscuits and drinking tea.

    They are paid to do a job and some are just not very good at it.

    Would like to point out that the above does not apply to all nurses, just the ones i have come across.

  7. “Neil A


    Crikey, I think we both need a lie-down!! ”

    Could we be looking at the first UKPR same sex marriage ? Should I be saving for a new hat ?

  8. Personally, I think the idea behind targets was quite reasonable.

    1) Provided public sector bodies are doing a good job, they should be left to get on with the job rather than be micromanaged by Whitehall. Fair enough.

    2) But there is an important point: How do you define a “good job” in a manner that’s consistent and fair across to whole country? Good question.

    3) Hence the introduction of targets: supposedly a fair impartial system to show that schools and hospitals and everything are doing their job.

    Unfortunately, this well-intentioned idea underestimates just how far many public bodies are prepared to go to fiddle the system. There’s now too many managers who don’t care how poor the service is that they’re providing provide they find a way of presenting the figures so that it meets the targets. The worst example I heard of was a hospital (can’t remember which) that told its staff to take the wheels of trolleys so that they could be counted towards the number of patients in beds. (I also suspect this is how Haringey Social Services was operating in the run-up to Baby P.)

    When you’re up against that, it’s hard to see how targets can ever be made to work. But would managers who behave that way try and harder without targets? I’m honestly not sure what the answer is, just that the current system seems just as unworkable as all the alternatives.

  9. @Neil A – I’m also in complete agreement, and I find you 9.53am post fascinating.

    In my own way, I’ve been campaigning for just such a system in the field of grant applications. I deal with a lot of competitive grant applications in my line of work, and a very loud complaint from the third sector is the onerous complexity of both the application process, but very often also the audit requirements. These are worse for central government funding, but awesomely bad for anything funded from the EU.

    The result is that many organisations have to divert time and money from actually doing the good things, to covering the management and audit functions, often with the result that 20% of the funding goes on the basic administration required by the funders.

    I have often suggested a simplified system where there is a far more lenient process of applying and signing off grants, on the understanding that perhaps 1 in 20 projects will be called in for a full inspection. Should there be any evidence of malpractice, that organisation and it’s directors could easily be punished by never getting funding again, but the entire system would be much more efficient and easy to run, with little prospect of widespread malpractice.

    I got the idea from income tax self assessment. After HMRC moved over to self assessment, they found that the tax take rose, as people were fundamentally honest and were declaring income the revenue hadn’t previously known about. Most tax returns are not checked, but occasionally you have to supply all the documentation. It’s this possibility that keeps people honest, rather than a complex monitoring system.

  10. @R Huckle.

    I don’t see why not. I think restricting Same Sex Marriage to just homosexuals is discrimination.

    I shall have to speak to the current Mrs A about it.

  11. @Alec,

    We have two similar systems already in operation, in my force at least.

    Firstly we have “Transaction Monitoring”, which basically means that every time an employee accesses a computer record (PNC, crime report, log, custody record etc) there is a tiny chance that they will be contacted and asked to justify their action under the DPA. Usually this is simplicity itself (because of course mostly we are honest and professional). My last two requests related to a custody record over Christmas (my reply was “I was the officer dealing with that prisoner”) and a “nominal” record for a child (my reply was that I was on the duty desk when the referral arrived from the social worker and was researching the boy prior to a colleague going out to visit). Total loss of time per Transaction? Probably 5 minutes for me and 90 seconds for my supervisor.

    The other system we have is for expense claims. Previously we filled these out on complex paper forms and sent them, with receipts, for payment.

    Now we fill them in electronically and email them, on the understanding that we personally store all receipts for 3 years. Every now and again a claim will be randomly picked for scrutiny and the officer asked to provide a report and their receipts.

    Both these systems are straightforward, and I expect both are very effective at preventing abuse. Having a crystal clear understanding of how wrongdoing “could” be found out is a real incentive not to stray (even though statistically the chances of capture are tiny).

  12. CROSSBAT11 and Neil A

    Spot on the RCN’s position is entirely in agreement with everything you both said.

    Dr Peter Carter, the Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: “The RCN welcomes this powerful and monumental report which puts patients at the heart of NHS care. It delivers key recommendations which we support and have been calling for, including the registration and regulation of health care assistants. We welcome moves for overarching standards which enshrine what patients deserve from the NHS and from those who work for it.”

    Dr Carter added: “Appalling care cannot be tolerated and everything should be done to ensure that it does not happen again.”

  13. Neil

    Incidentally I am a retired Police Officer and a Registered Nurse, married to a nurse who is also an RCN steward so I know exactly where you are coming from regarding the the Police

  14. If you think about it the very idea of a ‘target’ in any form of service (public or private) is weird. It’s a complete confusion of means and ends. While meaningful statistics need to be kept and monitored and externally analysed, they should be about seeing how well the service is being delivered, not an end in themselves. The fact that they are explicitly called ‘targets’ is in itself revealing and worrying and there is no one else who should take the blame for that but the politicians.

    Of course politicians have always bandied (carefully selected) statistics about, but in the past these have been about ends – jobs created, houses built and so on. But the idea of targets and the ‘league tables’ that often result from them has only developed over the last few decades, which each government even more dedicated to them than its predecessor.

  15. CB 11

    Thanks for your thoughtful post addressed to me .

    I didn’t see Newsnight last night sadly.

    RE ” chronic mismanagement had led in systemic failure”

    clearly the Enquiry report indicates the former was present in spades-from the top.

    However, I do not accept quite so readily as you, that such failure-in a hospital-is sufficent explanation for the fatal failure on the wards which lead to so many unnecessary deaths.
    It clearly produced a corrosive culture-but it should not , imo, have produced the attitudes & conduct in nurses & doctors -on the wards- which caused the suffering & death which was the factor which gave rise to the enquiry.

    I am happy to declare an interest in this matter which you may not share:-

    I am what is known in today’s NHS as “old”.

  16. Re: targets

    They have their place. Crossbat11 quotes a good example from Alan Johnson

    Problem is that a lot of “quality” does not fit into objectively measurable statistics. Its not just about “fiddling the system” – though that happens.

    Example: we all had good and bad teachers. Good ones had qualities such as the ability to use humour and the air of authority that controls a class without having to shout. How do you measure that on a form? You can only observe it. Or you can try to measure something else that those qualities feed into, such as exam results. But the exam results are subject to so many other variables – including “fiddles” – that you can’t easily tell if those qualities are present or not.

    You can’t easily measure if a nurse actually cares about patients, you can only try to measure something else, such as whether the sheets are changed on time etc. Which could be down to a stack of other issues e.g. lack of resources. But spend 15 minutes in a hospital ward and you can see if people care or not.

    Mid-Staffs may be exceptional but complaints that [some] NHS staff don’t respond when patients need them aren’t rare – in fact I’ve not met anyone who went in to hospital who CAN’T cite an example.

    I think Chris Neville-Smith is right that govt – politicians and civil servants – have sought something that would allow them to butt out with a clear conscience, an honourable aim, but its a chimera.

    Then you have the other issue of the amount of time it takes to collect the data. R4 Today quoted a hospital where staff complained to the Audit Commission that most of the pressure they felt was not down to the job itself but the 50 audits they were subject to. The Audit Commission allegedly offered to audit the number of audits.

  17. Polls demonstrate that if voters think a public service is bad or good, they may think the opposite when confronted with the reality (anecdotal experience of others also plays a role).

    If the NHS service was universally experienced as poor and was private, then it would go bust, as Woolworths did.

    With public services that cannot be allowed to go bust, some other mechanism has to be found.

    However wonderful these systems are, or otherwise, the anecdotal and propaganda experience will rule. As an example, in the case of the EU, unless you are a NFU spokesman or some other person with an EU agenda, it will be just the propaganda that will form opinion. I have never, ever, read or heard a positive piece of news about the EU from our news media. It is an absolute amazement to me that EU opinion is evenly divided among voters.

    My own experience of care for the elderly ( most of the people the NHS and SSs have to deal with are elderly people) is appalling, whether at home or in hospital. However I can see what is appalling, and nothing much can be done about it.

    This situation is simply brought about by our own unwillingness to ‘deal with the bedpans’ ourselves; it’s as simple as that, coupled with the fact that the starched and obedient staff no longer exist.

    My mother and her washerwoman neighbour looked after my elderly and then later dying grandmother themselves. Why was the washerwoman involved? Because my mother was out to office work, something her mother did not do, as a young widow in 1924, left with five young children. Her mother had lived with us because the other siblings had died of TB or had emigrated. My grandmother had not a penny in the world and I suppose other than for my mother, would have ended up in a home (just say workhouse, effectively). I am talking 1956 here.

    So we see in microcosm how the world has changed, at least here. No such elderly care service is available in poor countries.

    My estimation of what would be needed to look after our elderly and infirm people is probably not affordable, and neither are the staff available, unless voters are prepared to change their view on immigration.

    Sorry for the depressing viewpoint and aware that like me, we baby-boomers on this site can only look forward to worse care.

  18. I’ve never understood Anthony’s rejection of the idea that this site is about debate: it quite clearly is in part and today has seen some excellent, thoughtful contributions, for which much thanks

  19. CB11

    @” You only have to look at some of the appalling cases that have emerged recently in privately run care homes for the elderly.”

    Of course-but this is not a public sector/private sector comparison.

    It is about the appropriate standards of care for people in hospital & care homes , and the means of ensuring their delivery by doctors & nurses.

    If-as so many here seem to feel- this is a primarily matter of process, and management systems then I fear for patients everywhere-particularly the old & vulnerable.

    The objective in any occupation declaring itself a “profession” is to ensure standards of quality & care for clients’ interest which transcend the context & circumstances in which they are delivered . Professional standards are those which the practitioner is responsible for providing -as an individual. It is this commitment & guarantee ; ensured by professional training , and the compliance enforcement of the profession , which gives the client confidence at a personal level.

    It was my understanding that the medical occupations considered themselves to be “professions”.

    As a patient I certainly wish to know that my doctor & nurse are bound by standards which they believe in & which their professions enforce -regardless of the management processes with which they happen to work.

    It was my understanding that the Royal Colleges were so designated in order to indicate that they are professional bodies of the type I have described.

    It seems that in the case of the RCN I am wrong.

    Reading through the Francis Report recommendations -including such things as “codes of conduct” & a “focus on compassion” , perhaps helps to explain the increasing wariness amongst my generation , when faced with admission to hospital

  20. @ Howard:

    I don’t dispute any of what you say per se, but none of it justifies what NeilA refers to as “sitting eating biscuits” while ignoring the needs of patients , which many [?most] of us have seen with our own eyes. Though my experience is that in any seriously oversubscribed service people start to become more callous simply because so many problems are insoluble and you get worn down

    And going back to the starting point, part of the problem is the resource/expectation issue you highlight, part is the need for sanctions and safeguards of the sort Francis recommends. But part is a less reductive approach to quality control. And that is not just an issue for the NHS, it’s widespread.

  21. @Colin
    I think you raise an important generational point.

    Once professions were respected and trusted. The quality control was largely though professional standards.

    With there end of deference that trust has gone, possibly correctly if we look at the reality of what happened in some professions. Process and systems have been introduced as a substitute and professional bodies which objected were attacked as obstructive, opposed to change, “merely a trade union” etc. Its a bit late now to complain that the professional bodies have opted out.

  22. new threrad

  23. ADAM

    Could you tell me when any body representing doctors or nurses objected that employers’ process & systems were
    being “substituted” for their professional standards.

    I don’t think “deference” is a factor at all. Clients of professionals should not defer to their professional advisers-they should question them rigorously on the advice they receive from them-in the knowledge that that advice emanates from professional training & standards & is given objectively.

    Deference & fear were factors at work in Stafford-fatally so for too many elderly people.

  24. should have left it to the monitors! thread not threrad

  25. @CB11

    May I applause your post of 9.42am ? A thoughtful response to the awful situation that happened at Mid-Staffs yet careful to observe that this was indeed an unusual situation and that the vast majority of the NHS is nothing at all like that.

    I have lung cancer and if it were not for the NHS, I would have been dead long before now.

    The chap you referred to on Newsnight was Gerry Robinson and he did an OU piece entitled ‘Can Gerry Robinson fix the NHS’ and his task was to reduce waiting times within 6 months and no money in one NHS hospital.

  26. NEW THREAD!!!

  27. I love this site for the quality of comments and this morning the deabte about Mid Staffs, which happens to be one of my Local Hospitals. I normally lurkbut letme get out of the shadows.

    @Niel A so true what you say.

    as that private sector guy and the Dr on Newsnight pointed out last night the organisational culture and behaviour is set from the top. If management set the tone where bad practice was not tolorated then this would not have happened. Apparently faced with the poor indicators, rather than analyse what was driving them the baord commissioned someone to show that they were not reliable, and they selected someone who had written a report criticising the targets/indicators.

    A personal anectode from me. My wife, a senior nurse went for a job at this Stafford and was shocked at the way the whole recruitment process was handled she turned the job down. The people interviewing her did not have any nursing background in her field!

    My daughter recently had major open heart suregery to correct a potentially fatal congenital defect at Birmigham Children’s Hospital. The care there was so superb I can’t start to articulate how good it was, right from the porters, cleaners, dinner ladies, play therapists, nurses and surgeons.

    So mid staffs should not be used as a stick to beat the NHS.

    Good day folks

  28. statgeek

    You know, it just occurred to me. When calculating MoE, I have tended to use the population of the nation, or region concerned.

    I should be using the registered voting population (or do non-registered people get canvassed for polls?).

    There’s a very reassuring answer to this: It Doesn’t Matter. The important thing in calculating MoE is sample size. Providing the population is a reasonable size – tens of thousands say – there is very little subsequent increase in MoE as population goes up.

    You can test this by playing about with a Margin of Error calculator, leaving the sample side the same and altering the population. Even if you increase from say 100,000 to 1,000,000 it won’t change much. So a difference between say 5 and 4 million will be negligible.

    Incidentally I would suggest that you use a MoE calculator that also allows you to vary the ‘percentage’ (ie the approximate percentage that you expect the variable to be). The ComRes one assumes a value of 50%, which will always give you the maximum value for MoE, but you could use one where you can alter the figure such as this one:

    Use the second of the two forms – what they call ‘Confidence Interval’ (confusingly I feel) is MoE. Again playing about with different figures of Percentage for fixed Sample and Population you will notice that there is not much variation between the default 50% and Labour (40% plus) or Conservative (30% plus) levels. However MoE does decrease quite a bit when you work it out for Lib Dem or UKIP figures around 10%.

    Apologies for taking so long to reply to you on this topic.

  29. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    [Missing exclamation marks from Amber Alert]

  30. SKAMAN

    @”So mid staffs should not be used as a stick to beat the NHS.”

    Who on earth is doing so?

    Don’t you understand the issue ?-the issue is how to ensure that hospital patients do not die in their beds as a result of neglect by their doctors & nurses.

    A number of other hospitals are being looked at as a result of the disaster at Stafford.

    This is a GOOD thing-it may save lives.

  31. @TintedFringe

    “Statgeek (wherever you are)
    Are your graphs all up to date? I’d be interested in seeing the Lib MAD graph of recent times.”

    They are, in that I now update on Sundays only (generally). The spreadsheet is updated daily, and all the daily data goes into the MAD, and other charts. The date on any dated charts should be the most recent Sunday. If the previous, hit refresh (F5) on your browser.

    I’m so busy, and will be for the next 6-12 months, and since things don’t change too much from day to day (and if they do, it takes 3-5 days to establish the reason), I see little point in daily updates unless there’s an election on.

    The three month graph since Sunday has changed little for the LDs in RoS, and is up just under one point in the UK.

    Remember you can see the three-month changes for each party (the LDs are up across the board).

    Since you asked, see the VI and MAD for Jan 2nd to today:

  32. @ Colin

    Don’t know if you’re reading this as new thread has started, but no I can’t give any such examples re medical bodies, as its not a field I’ve worked in. I have worked in legal aid and can tell you that their process and systems were insisted on by the LSC as the only valid considerations regarding standards. Ipso facto they were in place of the professional standards of the Law Society and other professional bodies. I can’t quote you occasions the Law Society protested but I can assure you they were deeply unhappy.

    Sorry, but deference is an issue. Rightly or wrongly, people did defer to professionals over their professional opinion, and do so less now. Further, professional standards are not and were not maintained mainly by enforcement action of the professional bodies any more than driving standards are enforced by the police; these are last resorts. In most cases they depend on the willing acceptance of certain values by individuals, who self-police.

    Quite possibly rightly, government no longer accepts that as being adequate ands uses process and system as a substitute.

  33. “BLUEBOB: The trouble is that a good proportion of nurses act as though they have been dropped by god.
    They are lazy and act like helping people is the least important part of their job, as another poster said a large part of their time is spent eating biscuits and drinking tea.”

    Thanks for the carefully considered input replete with data. Utter nonsense and highly offensive.

    I’ve got an incurable disease, I go into UCLH every week at the moment. I’ve never had anything but the highest quality treatment and care.

  34. @Lefty

    “I’m seeing it at my kids’ primary school, where the Head has slashed the library budget to focus on “literacy” targets. That is a focus on the quantifiable mechanics of reading to hit targets, rather than fostering a love of reading.”

    Our primary school didn’t have a library. We had children’s book clubs and parents bought books. Some did not read, as some always do not read. It almost always comes back to whether or not the parents encourage their children to read.

  35. @Chris-N-S

    “When you’re up against that, it’s hard to see how targets can ever be made to work. But would managers who behave that way try and harder without targets? I’m honestly not sure what the answer is, just that the current system seems just as unworkable as all the alternatives.”

    A robust audit department, backed fully by the board of directors for a given trust (or similar body) should weed out the worst of the bureaucratic fiddling. The problems start when the audit department is discouraged by the lack of support from the board. They start to lose their independence.

    I’m more in favour of an external audit board. Under no public sector umbrella, separated and fully independent. Yes, the people would experience resistance, but that’s part of an auditor’s skill-set; that they ride the resistance and get to the facts. By and large, a group with little to hide will offer little resistance, accept that audit is a natural part of the working process, and use it to their advantage to discover their own weaknesses.

    Is there scope for pay reductions, with bonuses for cleanliness, care, and professionalism? Or is that completely unfair, no matter how logical? :)

  36. CROSSBAT11
    “It is about the appropriate standards of care for people in hospital & care homes , and the means of ensuring their delivery by doctors & nurses.
    In hospital and care homes , yes, but the debate should also be about preventive care systems and investment, keeping people and caring for them in the community, and particularly about sheltered housing, and accompanying IT surveyance and access. Systems for keeping people independent or marginally dependent on wardens, kin and neighbours have been favoured by Age Concern and others, for reasons of independence of old people, and of cost. They are important and admirably run in two Districts I have lived in, Midlothian and Mendip, but have perhaps never received the level of investment and continuity they have merited.

  37. @Roger

    “Apologies for taking so long to reply to you on this topic.”

    Not at all. Of course the MoE hardly changes if the sample size remains the same. I forgot about that when I made the post. Doh!

    Regarding confidence intervals/MoE. Do regional variations in turnout get factored in at all when assessing MoE? I don’t plan to do anything, btw, I’m just curious.

  38. Academic

    Highly offensive?

    What is highly offensive is watching your grandmother die in agony due to a simple bout of constipation.

    Her insides were rupturing and no matter how much we told the nurses something was wrong all they could come up with was two paracetamol.

    So there is your data.

  39. ADAM

    All I can tell you on professional standards is from my own professional body-ICAEW.

    THey rigorously enforce compliance & their continuing professional standards requirements extend beyond working life to retirement if one provides professional services then.

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