TNS-BMRB have a new poll out tonight, apparently back on the weekly rota. Topline figures with changes from a week ago are CON 27%(+3), LAB 36%(-1), LDEM 8%(-2), UKIP 19%(nc). Full tabs are here. We are also due the monthly ICM poll for the Guardian, although Tom Clark tells me it’s more likely to make its appearance tomorrow.

Also out tonight is some YouGov polling for Huffington Post on security services intercepting emails, showing a narrow majority in favour. 38% oppose police and security services being given access to mobile and internet records, 43% support the idea and 8% would go further and allow security services to access the content of emails. There is a commentary on the results by Peter Kellner on the Huffington Post website here.


84 Responses to “TNS-BMRB – CON 27, LAB 36, LD 8, UKIP 19”

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  1. ‘Perhaps also to mention that the intervention in the Civil War in Afghanistan was a response to 9/11 , following the Taleban refusal to extradite Bin Laden.’

    Am I wrong but I have a memory of Mullah Omar being prepared to allow Bin Laden to be extradited and tried in a Muslim Country court – I think the UAE was mentioned. But that wasn’t good enough for Bush / Blair and the other warmongers…. £35 billion pounds could have been saved and untold thousands of lives ….

  2. @Colin – I’m having no difficulty in understanding @Lefty’s point about risk mitigation.

    All he is saying is that we don’t begin our assessment of risk mitigation from a single starting point, which is to assess the level of risk in each different activity, and then allocate resources to those activities where the benefits are greatest in terms of lives saved per £ spent. It’s really a very simple concept.

    Of course, this does mean leaving some risks unmitigated, but I think @Lefty is saying that this is what we do anyway – it’s just that media attention forces us to focus on certain risks, but not others, that can be of far greater consequence.

    Again, I’m speaking for someone else here, so I may be wrong, but my understanding of @Lefty’s point is that he is saying that the deaths caused by terrorism have led to a massive net cash expenditure, which would have saved far more lives if it had been diverted to mitigating other, more risky activities.

    We lose more people each year to gas explosions and CO asphyxiation than terrorism, and far, far more people to road traffic accidents, but we all accept these risks as ‘normal’.

    With certain other risk factors, we demand total safety and seem unwilling to accept any level of risk, regardless of the costs required to get to that state, and the fact that to imagine we have achieved such a state is, in fact, delusional, as there are always risks remaining.

    Veering slightly away from the topic in hand, as a Green, I’m also somewhat critical of the oft cited ‘precautionary principle’. This is often used as a demand to avoid or cease some kind of activity with an unproven or debated risk level.

    However, campaigners only ever use the precautionary principle in terms of opposing something, whereas in reality it applies to doing, or not doing, everything. In other words, if we assume that there is some benefit from an activity, but a perception of risk associate with it, campaigners will call for it to cease under the PP, but actually ceasing a beneficial activity also carries risks, and it could justifiably be argued that we must continue doing it under the very same PP.

    The PP is, in many ways, responsible for the inability to coherently deal with risk, in the way that @Lefty points out. It leads people to think that there is a ‘safe’ option, rather than the reality, which is that nothing is completely safe, and that everything is a balance of risk and reward.

  3. Interesting figures from the ONS regarding industrial output. The April figures show a very small increase of 0.1%, a much slower rate of improvement on the previous month. However, this was almost entirely due to a big improvement in oil and gas output as maintenance shutdowns came to and end. Factory output fell by 0.2%, a major reversal on previous months.

    This is a bit odd, and runs somewhat counter to the Markit/CIPs PMI data. I’ve commented previously on the divergence between the PMI surveys and hard data from the ONS, and it looks like it’s happening again.

    I wonder whether PMI managers are picking up on reports of rising confidence and are therefore responding more confidently. In the past, they have been more negative that the actual output data, when the media was reporting much more negatively.

    I’ve no idea whether this was the case, but manufacturing was meant to have expanded in April, so this is an odd finding.

  4. a christie

    “Having Ed and Ed running the country would be like having Laurel and Hardy running it.

    Another fine mess you got us into!!”

    How someone so young can write such brilliant posts is beyond me…. and to make then two exclamation marks funny at the same time……

    It is truly remarkable writing.

  5. Colin.

    Don’t get me started on the 5psi business. That is utter, unscientific nonsense. I’ll give you a lecture on it, and where it came from if you like!

    The issue is that there was no assessment of the risk or the cost associated with either changing, not changing or changing in a different way the Building Regs following Ronan Point. The changes were just imposed because there had been such a public outcry after Ronan Point. There was actually a relatively low risk of a series of major catastrophes occurring, and the changes to the Building Regs actually made things more dangerous in some respects. And the majority of panel-built tower blocks were demolished because they were of appalling quality to live in, rather than because of any real or perceived concerns about their structural integrity.

    The point is that the change to the Building Regs was a response to an irrational public fear. I fully understand where the fear comes from – we don’t expect our buildings to fall down. But it is irrational nevertheless.

    There was a quiet excellent discussion in the profession at the time of Ronan Point. One leading engineer posed the question explicitly:
    “If a large aircraft hits a building……. causing stresses well in excess of the normal, and yet the building does not fall down, should we as Engineers feel proud of our achievement, or should we feel deeply ashamed at the waste of society’s resources?”

    That gets to the core of the issue. Unfortunately, it is an approach that is brushed aside in the irrational response to a highly visible perceived threat.

    We routinely consider lives lost in a spectacular fashion to be of more monetary value than those lost in a humdrum manner. That is the only possible explanation for the fact that we spend enormous sums keeping us safe from quantitatively minor hazards, and vice versa. I accept that there is an issue of public confidence implicit in these issues. But that in itself is an indication of the irrationality of the public perception of risk. What were the figures in the poll the other day? 10% reckon that there is a significant chance of them or a friend or family member being the victim of a terrorist attack? And nearly 20% of UKIP supporters. And a further 28% think that the risk is only “fairly” low.

    This level of ignorance is quite breathtaking. And we do little as a society to address it. Cui bono?

    Alec. You explained it far more neatly than I did and I agree with every word.

  6. @The Sheep

    Very interesting article that. It would be interesting to see one of the ww2 military, post war CIA and skull & bones membership (for the conspiracy theorists).

  7. @Lefty

    Whether we like it or not, our rule makers and protectors spend a disproportionate amount of effort trying to minimise their reputational risk.

    Public sector bodies are no different. I’m sure there will be an over-reaction by hospital staff, patients and relatives if more than a few people shout ‘Tuberculosis’, while there might be a greater real demand for a better ambulance response strategy.

    The latter will go to hell if public will not allow themselves to visit the hospital due to the fears over the former. Equally, politicians can afford to allow a couple of thousand road deaths each year, but can’t afford more than one successful terrorist or gun-related massacre in their tenure.

    In addition to the politicians’ personal popularity through the successful management of reputational risk issues (media hot potatoes), there’s also the nation’s safety factor, which impacts on business, investment and tourism. Why don’t we holiday in Afghanistan?

  8. Statgeek

    I fully appreciate what you are saying. But it’s an attitude that we need to be aware of when politicians and security services are demanding powers to protect us. There’s a grown-up debate to be had.

  9. LEFTY

    Well I’m not going to cross swords with an Engineer on the causes of Ronan Point, or the degree of risk to “LPS build” residents.

    And I am certainly glad not to have had the task of telling those residents that their fears were “irrational”.

    I don’t think I agree with “We routinely consider lives lost in a spectacular fashion to be of more monetary value than those lost in a humdrum manner. “.
    It is a very sweeping statement & I suspect eminently challengeable.

    I think your statement that we “spend enormous sums keeping us safe from quantitatively minor hazards, ” might be flawed , if you are trying in some way to draw universal principals from Ronan Point & Islamist terrorism.

    In the case of Ronan Point , whatever degree of risk was present would not have increased if nothing had been done. The engineering fault was presumably replicated in every block-leaving chance alone to apply the trigger which would chrystalised it.

    In the case of Islamist terrorism, the degree of risk increases if you do nothing, because the agent of risk is not an inanimate piece of engineering-it is a human being trying to maximise the chance of killing his chosen targets.

    So we have a scale to deal with on terrorism-doing nothing special ; all the way up to doing something which is both too expensive & too restrictive of individual freedoms .

    It is the job of our Security Services , & their political masters to judge where they intervene on that spectrum. As I have already said, I am happy to leave it to them-and relieved that they are thinking about what is the right balance.

  10. Colin

    It was 3 skyscrapers, the first two defy the laws of physics and the third not only defies the laws of physics but of common sense as well

  11. Richard

    You will need to decode that before I understand it.

    Off to bowls-risk assessment form in hand.

  12. @Colin – “In the case of Islamist terrorism, the degree of risk increases if you do nothing….”

    In your own words, this statement ‘might be flawed’.

    It’s universally recognised within the international security forces that the botched wars and aftermath in Iraq and Afghanistan have served as potent recruiting influences for anti western terror groups. Arguably, we would have been safer had we indeed done nothing, or at least taken much more passive defensive measures rather than expensive overseas wars.

  13. ALEC

    @”Arguably, we would have been safer had we indeed done nothing, ”

    You can argue that till the cows come home.

    I don’t buy it.

    They started to attack the west well before Afghanistan & 9/11

    When we leave Afghanistan you will see how the vacuum is filled there. Whether it was a mistake on our part to go there ( I think not)-or to stay there overlong ( I think so) will make no difference to the Islamists’ objectives for that country . It will be another failed State & another base for their global ambitions.

    Staying behind our own borders would not have helped us.

  14. “It is a very sweeping statement & I suspect eminently challengeable.”

    —————

    So you say. All opinion etc.

    So all that’s required to challenge it is to explain why leftie’s point – that it’s not entirely rational to spend twenty million to save a life in a tower block while neglecting to spend a grand to save a life with safer bottles – is somehow flawed.

  15. Jack: “Am I wrong but I have a memory of Mullah Omar being prepared to allow Bin Laden to be extradited and tried in a Muslim Country court “

    The Taliban demanded that any trial should be in an Afghan court….

  16. @Colin – “When we leave Afghanistan you will see how the vacuum is filled there. Whether it was a mistake on our part to go there ( I think not)-or to stay there overlong ( I think so) will make no difference to the Islamists’ objectives for that country . It will be another failed State & another base for their global ambitions.

    Staying behind our own borders would not have helped us.”

    This statement contains a very glaring anomaly. You clearly think the invasion was justified, but equally clearly think that Afghanistan will remain as a base for terrorists in the future.

    I completely agree with half this statement. We appear to both recognise that the mission will fail, which is my central point – lots of people have died pointlessly.

    The final sentence in your quote also belies a misunderstanding of what I believe our approach to security should be. There are ways of combating crime and terrorism beyond our borders that do not required massive military invasions. We now have far less resource to devote to these, as we’ve spent billions on the physical invasion force, which we both seem to agree is futile in the long run.

    Therefore, invading Afghanistan has made us less safe, as the cost of the invasion has a high opportunity cost attached to it.

  17. paulcroft

    a christie

    “Having Ed and Ed running the country would be like having Laurel and Hardy running it.

    Another fine mess you got us into!!”

    How someone so young can write such brilliant posts is beyond me…. and to make then two exclamation marks funny at the same time……

    It is truly remarkable writing
    ___________

    Thanks for that Paul but please remember Labour are not beyond criticism.

    Have a guid day chuck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. A few days ago I recommended the book “Thinking, fast and slow” by Daniel Kahneman published by Penguin books.

    Amongst other things it has a chapter on ‘risk’ and how often/usually politicians implement policies in response to issues which have caught the attention of the public but which really do not warrant any action whatsoever as the risk is minimal. Of course, these issues are often those inflamed by the media and blown up out of all proportion.

  19. Colin

    Interesting discussion.

    I don’t think I agree with “We routinely consider lives lost in a spectacular fashion to be of more monetary value than those lost in a humdrum manner. “.
    It is a very sweeping statement & I suspect eminently challengeable.”

    There is lots of evidence on this, safety of buildings being an excellent example. The risk of dying through being in a building that collpase is several orders of magnitude less than the risk of dying from most other day-to-day human activities. We COULD save billions, many billions of pounds across the world if we reduced safety factors in building design, whilst still leaving the statistical chance of death from a building collapse as vanishingly small. We could, for example, use that money to improve hospital facilities. Or to build footbridges over roads. We choose not to do because there would be outrage if more buildings collapsed and a few hundred people a year died as a result.

    “In the case of Ronan Point , whatever degree of risk was present would not have increased if nothing had been done. The engineering fault was presumably replicated in every block-leaving chance alone to apply the trigger which would chrystalised it.

    In the case of Islamist terrorism, the degree of risk increases if you do nothing, because the agent of risk is not an inanimate piece of engineering-it is a human being trying to maximise the chance of killing his chosen targets.”

    There is a big issue in the logic here. Given a fixed number of people prepared and able to commit atrocities, and ignoring all other issues, the risk of atrocities occurring remains exactly the same if we take no action.

    Perhaps if we take no action, then the number of people prepared to commit atrocities increases because they think that there is more likelihood of their action coming to fruition. I can accept that. But there is an equally powerful argument that taking action also increases the number of people prepared to commit atrocities.

    “It is the job of our Security Services , & their political masters to judge where they intervene on that spectrum. As I have already said, I am happy to leave it to them-and relieved that they are thinking about what is the right balance.”

    John Le Carre had interesting observations on this theme throughout his career, and specifically in a recent interview in The Times. I’ll see if I can dig it out.

  20. What;s the chances of us having a discussion like this on the day that this poll emerges?

    http://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/rss-kings-ipsos-mori-trust-in-statistics-topline.pdf

    As some of the Twitterati have noted, Q14b is a bit embarrassing. 1/10,000=0.1%?

  21. Mike N.

    Thanks for the heads up. I’ll have a gander at that book.

  22. colin

    “It is the job of our Security Services , & their political masters to judge where they intervene on that spectrum. As I have already said, I am happy to leave it to them-and relieved that they are thinking about what is the right balance.”

    hmmm

    That seems to me staggeringly naive, optimistic and trusting, all at the same time. Every bit of evidence in the public domain suggests that people with access to secrets will use them to further their own agendas. There needs to be some consensus on what the “right balance” is…otherwise they’ll just decide that it is wahtever makes their own lives either easier or richer.

    People locked up indefinitely using secret evidence in secret courts with public safety cited as the reason for the secrecy? What happened to liberal society? The most open Government ever?

  23. Lefty – I think you’ll enjoy the book – it’s well worth a read for many reasons.

  24. a christie

    “Thanks for that Paul but please remember Labour are not beyond criticism”

    Och aye the noo young alan: but its rarely done with such original wit and depth of analysis – especially by one not yet in his teens.

  25. I thought “it’s” had to have a ‘ between the t and the s…..

  26. Good discussion re risk and the need for proper CBA.

    Cheeky question what is the risk to our country of lowering over 10 years or so defense spending to the EU average.

    It could be seen as a paradox that the EU nation with the largest defense budget has been less safe than many who spend half as much or less of their GDP.

    I do wish we would try to stop ‘punching above our weight’ and accept our place in the world, same applies to France with our vainglorious permanent places on the security council….imo.

  27. I thought “it’s” had to have a ‘ between the t and the s…..

    Not if you can’t be assed.

  28. New Thread Monitors failing again – sigh!!

  29. LEFTY

    @”Perhaps if we take no action, then the number of people prepared to commit atrocities increases because they think that there is more likelihood of their action coming to fruition. ”

    Perhaps-but what I had in ind was the increased chance of success if we take no action to detect the threat & eliminate it before it crystalises.

  30. COLIN
    In the case of Islamist terrorism, the degree of risk increases if you do nothing, because the agent of risk is not an inanimate piece of engineering-it is a human being trying to maximise the chance of killing his chosen targets. …
    It is the job of our Security Services , & their political masters to judge where they intervene on that spectrum. As I have already said, I am happy to leave it to them-and relieved that they are thinking about what is the right balance.

    On the first point above, terrorism is not definable as “a human being, etc” It is institutionalised, defines a cause, and it uses resources and needs a locus: militarising the response to terrorism provides all these. On the second, the track record of the Security Services, whether the UK or the American services, whether in Iraq or in Afghanistan does not justify your confidence.

    On a wider aspect of this debate, it would be worth looking at the development aid project approach to risk, which couples the management of risk with “important assumptions” in project analysis or logical framework analysis. This means, for example, that the risk of flooding to your building or agricultural project is assumed to be managed by institutions and investments which are in the hands of others who are equipped and resourced to do the job, generally public sector and overall government or sometimes international institutions and ongoing investments. Safe fund transfers, done on the assumption of the policing of money laundering, would be another example.
    The link with your second assumption of the competence of the security services, relevant to their role in advising on say, the arming of the Taliban in the 1980s to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, or on the presence of WMDs in Iraq, are specific instances of a part of our governmental apparatus and that of the US which don’t justify the assumption that they are competent; specifically that they provide a sound basis for dealing with the origins of or support for terrorism in South Asia or the Middle East, or of the deployment of the military to deal with it. I

  31. COLIN
    “the case of Islamist terrorism, the degree of risk increases if you do nothing, because the agent of risk is not an inanimate piece of engineering-it is a human being trying to maximise the chance of killing his chosen targets. …
    It is the job of our Security Services , & their political masters to judge where they intervene on that spectrum. As I have already said, I am happy to leave it to them-and relieved that they are thinking about what is the right balance.”

    On the first point above, terrorism is not definable as “a human being, etc” It is institutionalised, defines a cause, and it uses resources and needs a locus: militarising the response to terrorism provides all these. On the second, the track record of the Security Services, whether the UK or the American services, whether in Iraq or in Afghanistan does not justify your confidence.
    On a wider aspect of this debate, it would be worth looking at the development aid project approach to risk, which couples the management of risk with “important assumptions” in project analysis or” logical framework analysis”. This means, for example, that the risk of flooding to your building or agricultural project is assumed to be managed by institutions and investments which are in the hands of others who are equipped and resourced to do the job, generally public sector and governmental or sometimes international institutions and ongoing investments. Safe fund transfers, done on the assumption of the policing of money laundering, would be another example.
    The link with your second assumption of the competence of the security services, relevant to their role in advising on say, the arming of the Taliban in the 1980s to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, or on the presence of WMDs in Iraq, are specific instances of a part of our governmental apparatus and that of the US which don’t justify the assumption that they are competent; specifically that they provide a sound basis for dealing with the origins of or support for terrorism in South Asia or the Middle East, or of the deployment of the military to deal with it.
    It is a governmental matter, but the assumption that it is well managed or can be left to those who know and have access to the facts and so should be allowed to advise on the deployment of armed forces, on interventions, has been shown to be false. A basic error is the assumption that terrorism is warfare; it isn’t. it is criminality.

  32. AW
    Sorry for double post, the first one of 11.03 from lap top misbehaviour. Can you take it out please? Thank you/

  33. Referring back to the previous thread:

    An initial analysis of the ICM/Guardian poll indicated that 8% of the UK electorate were preparing to vote for the SNP. This was always unlikely – see::

    http://scotgoespop.blogspot.co.uk/?m=0

    The tables are now up on the ICM website.

    It seems that 30 voters in the ‘North’ are planning to vote SNP!!! (See page 6)

    On the other hand, there are also 30 voters in Scotland who want to vote for the SNP. I suspect that somewhere in their analysis, their geography has become confused. Easy to do in the mindset of someone who thinks of Scotland as somewhere remote ‘up North’.

  34. James – the “North” category in ICM’s polls is actually “Scotland, NW, NE and Yorkshire and Humber” – a common cause of confusion!

    It’s because ICM used to just have South, Midlands, North on their tables, before they added Scotland and Wales breaks. The Scotland and Wales breaks are additional, separate breaks though – Scotland and Wales are still included within North and Midlands respectively.

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