The monthly ComRes poll for the Independent is out tonight. Topline figures are CON 34%(+4), LAB 37%(+1), LDEM 10%(nc), UKIP 12%(-2). The three point Labour lead is the lowest ComRes have shown since last September, and the 34% for the Conservatives the highest since last November.

The drop in the Labour lead and the fading of UKIP support is very much in line with the pattern we’ve seen in the daily YouGov polls, in ICM’s poll this month and in line with the sort of figures Populus are now showing… though it’s worth noting that MORI and some of the new online companies aren’t yet picking up the same pattern.

As to why the polls are narrowing, the harsh truth is that we really can’t tell. There is always a temptation that I see people falling into to reach for the issue you personally care about and ascribing changes in the polls to that (or “why the change in the polls shows that politicians should do the thing I like”) the reality is we can’t tell*, all we can do is look for rough correlations in timing. Personally my best guess is that’s its the result of the ongoing improvement in economic optimism we have seen over the past few months, a rather more controlled Conservative message and the decreased level of publicity UKIP have been receiving.

(*Whenever I make a point like this someone makes the suggestion of asking people. Oh were it so easy! Firstly, if you ask people who gave a different answer 3 or 4 months ago if they’ve changed their mind many won’t realise they have. If you ask why to those who have consciously changed their mind you get lots of don’t knows, general grumbles and some reasons that may be genuine causes, or may be post-hoc rationalisations for complex decisions we probably don’t even understand ourselves.)


424 Responses to “ComRes/Indy – CON 34, LAB 37, LD 10, UKIP 12”

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  1. *but this goes for very senior public servants too*

  2. CHARLES

    THanks for the advice-but we really don’t need to “look more deeply” into these tragedies.

    They have all been looked at, in depth reported on, & pontificated about at length -all so that they don’t happen again.

    They all have the same central features-and the same awful outcomes.

  3. AMBIVALENT SUPPORTER.
    The issue, however, of child protection is huge, and there seems to be a ‘societal’ inability to solve issues of child cruelty, by parents, mainly, which is more common than we like to think.

    About one in ten children in any classroom is in danger. From parents.

  4. @ChrisLane,

    It is, and I totally share Colin’s frustrations regarding lack of accountability.

  5. STEVE

    I agree with your point-Corporate responsibility for a death should be a matter of legal sanction.

    But it is whataboutism to seek a level playing field of legal responsibility, when yet another vulnerable child is ignored by the state agencies paid to protect children.

  6. @Colin,

    I agree.

    My solution is simple; make both sectors more accountable because they are not nearly accountable enough in many cases. And this goes for organisations as much as individuals.

  7. Looks like I’ve rather missed the boat on this one, as there have been a lot of thoughtful and accurate comments from others (thanks Steve) that I support.

    I am one of those “hand-wringing” professionals, as a Child Abuse Investigator. Like Steve, I have also worked on child murder cases (in fact I was on a team that specialised in them).

    There are plenty of mistakes made in child protection, as in any other type of activity. The biggest errors are usually made by social workers and doctors, but none of us are immune. The two biggest contributors to failure are poor information-sharing (which in the case of the police is aggravated by extremely clumsy and difficult-to-interpret IT systems) and the “conspiracy of optimism”.

    After each death there is a Serious Case Review (there has to be, it’s the law) so the whole “Lessons must be learned to stop this happening again” malarkey is actually at the behest of the government. I absolutely agree that they are ineffective. One of the recommendations of the Climbie enquiry was that all entries written by doctors on notes should be legible, and should be clearly signed and dated with an identifiable name. Five years after that report I was investigating a suspicious death of a child who had been treated at Great Ormond Street (that great shining light of excellence) and came across an entry in his notes that nobody in the entire hospital could identify even after months of checking. Habits are habits and Serious Case Reviews rarely change them.

    Ultimately, there are probably ten thousand children in the UK, known to the authorities, who go home every night to a house where they might be killed. Of those 99.5% won’t be killed. There is really no definite way to identify one group from the other. We either remove them all (which means a return to the large scale children’s homes of the past, not to mention plenty of scope for unfairness) or we don’t. I don’t think we are ever going to remove them all, and so we are reliant on judgement calls about which ones are at most risk. I personally don’t see anything wrong with constantly looking at “what happened” and “what could have been done differently” to try and slightly improve our chances of finding the needles in the haystack.

    And of course, some of the children who die weren’t on our radar at all. Some of them perhaps should have been (and it’s good to try and work out why they weren’t- usually it’s because they around 2-3 years old and are not seen regularly by any professional) but some of them are completely “out of the blue”.

    Where I do agree with Colin is that saying “It must never happen again” is pointless and formulaic, but I think it is unfair to single out Child Protection for criticism. How often is it said about wars, accidents, medical blunders, political scandals, wasted government spending, misconduct by public servants and just about everything/anything else? It is just one of those bits of rhetorical furniture that people drop into their statements without thinking.

  8. AMBI

    I think I have vented my feelings sufficiently now.

    Accountability in these failed child protection cases involves understanding why the warning signs were missed/ignored , why the relevant state agencies & their staff did not liase/communicate , and why the child was not saved from harm-the story is always the same.

    And unless you can correct me on the point, accountability never ever seems to result in personal culbability & sanction.

  9. @Neil A,

    Thanks for that post.

  10. @Colin,

    I totally share your frustrations and agree with many of the points you have made.

  11. With both Labour and Tory supporters professing themselves to be equally happy with the polls it must be difficult for the more impartial observer to work out what is going on.

    The Tories point to the apparent slow slide in the Labour lead and the latter to -as they see it -the steady level in the Labour share of the vote. Labour supporters do however seem a bit rattled to me wanting to see things as they wish then to be rather than as they are which is probably an affliction common to ALL party affiliated contributors to this site!

    The reality is that the ‘good news’ summer which hopefully will be extended at Old Trafford today may peter out come the autumn and with it the Tory revival. Just as likely however is that it will continue. The current level of Labour support may -as we approach the election -become more affected by the ‘floating voter’ ( not just the don’t knows)coming down on one side or another. It is they who will determine the outcome and shift the share of the popular vote . They always do.

    At the moment an impartial observer would see more signs of a Tory led win than a Labour win if only because the government still control the narrative and unless Labour can wrest that away it will make the mountain that much harder to climb.

  12. NEILA

    @”I think it is unfair to single out Child Protection for criticism. How often is it said about wars, accidents, medical blunders, political scandals, wasted government spending, misconduct by public servants and just about everything/anything else? It is just one of those bits of rhetorical furniture that people drop into their statements without thinking.”

    This is mere whataboutism.

    I wasn’t “singling out” child protection . I was reacting to this mornings reports on the death of Daniel Pelka.

    Obfuscation and “ah yes but what about x” are part of the reason why we never seem to make progress.

    If a child is not on your radar, that is one thing-and prompts certain questions.

    If a child is known to all the agencies, his parents have a known record which puts the child at risk , the child’s death is followed by reports that he was seen to be ” a bag of bones” at school & hunting for food in bins etc etc- , then in my view the questions are screamingly obvious, and REAL accountability is necessity.

  13. Well, I have been at the receiving end of the social services, maybe they should have taken me into care, bit I’m still alive so maybe they made the right choice, but I feel any criticism of them is unjustified because it’s an insanely difficult job, almost impossible to get it right, from my perspective I’m glad there are people that care enough to take it on as an occupation and surprisingly they seem able to keep their sanity, god only knows how

  14. @Charles

    “I would doubt very much that the failure to respond would simply have been down to lack of interest.”

    I didn’t realise you were actually there Charles and therefore know better than my wife.

    So tell me what you thought about the case when the mother of a child that was being seen by my wife because he was missing school, looked underfed and generally not being cared for and whose brother was in prison for threatening their mother, rang up to say she was about to commit suicide and take her two children with her? My wife rang social services who said there was nothing they could do as the woman hadn’t asked them for help. So she and a colleague went round to the woman’s house immediately and persuaded her to come with them to hospital. She then rang social services again and told them what had happened and asked them to look after the children or find another family member to look after them while the mother was taken to hospital. Again, Social Services said it was nothing to do with them. So my wife had to contact the extended family herself. After the mother had been seen in hospital, given a psychiatric assessment and admitted, social services again said there was nothing they could do as the mother hadn’t asked for help herself.

    Incidentally, when my wife went to the house to see the mother there were rats actually in the kitchen.

    What was your take on this particular case at the time, Charles?

    There are other cases like this I could mention if you’d like. My wife is not the least bit surprised that cases like the one in the news surface from time to time.

  15. NORBOLD

    Thank you for telling that story.

  16. Steve

    “Beyond crass to imply”

    I take it your not sugggesting that because somebody cares, that’s some sort of excuse for incompetence that could have lead to the death of a child.

    Of course the people who actually killed the child are to blame, but if signs of abuse were ignored or not acted on, then those assigned to the case also bear some of the blame no matter how caring they may be.

    And the normal default position of underfunding, not enough resorces, inexperianced staff or overbearing supervisors and so on, although they may have had a bearing, should not be used as a get out of jail card every time this sort of thing happens.

    Nobody wants a witch hunt when this sort of thing happens, to reassure the public, instead of senseless platitudes about this must never happen again, as we all know it will.
    Why not have a representative say this is a appalling death of a child and there will be a full and independant enquiry into the part social services and police played and at the end of that enquiry if fault is found those responsible will be brought to task.

  17. “Nobody wants a witch hunt when this sort of thing happens”

    So why call for one?

  18. Neil A and Steve seem to me to be very fair minded and balanced about all this child protection stuff.

    Two points should perhaps be added.

    First, there is an asymmetry in the news. A child protection death is news and arouses very strong feelings all round. The many more numerous cases where children do not die, or even when things turn out very well are not reported.

    Second, it is usually the case that a very large number of professionals and others are involved in any case. In the Climbie one, for example, there were nurses, a child minder, numerous social workers, police, the French authorities, doctors and consultants, not to mention members of the public who may have seen that things were going on.

    In my view the key mistake was made by two consultants who on separate occasions misinterpreted the injuries and variously diagnosed scabies, a touch of attachment disorder etc. As the medical opinion was that she was not suffering non-accidental injury, it was very difficult for social workers to take legal steps on the grounds that she was. The inquiry, however, seemed to exonerate the consultants and blamed various other people, most of them in social services.

    All of which shows in my opinion how difficult and in many ways counterproductive it is to react to such situations with furious attempts to attribute culpability. As Neil has pointed out a lot of the problem is that numerous people don’t communicate with each other and inviting them to blame each other is not going to help, As Colin has wisely observed on another occasion revenge is a poor principle on which to base taxation. It’s similarly mistaken to rely on it here,

  19. RiN

    So because your personal experience of social services -and those of many one presumes-is a good one, we must absolve ALL social service staff of responsibility for deaths like those of Daniel Pelka, Victoria Climbie , Baby Peter, and all the others?

    What a ridiculous & dangerous idea.

    Glad to see that local MP Geoffery Robinson is calling for true accountability.

  20. CHARLES

    @” As Colin has wisely observed on another occasion revenge is a poor principle on which to base taxation. It’s similarly mistaken to rely on it here,”

    Please do not use that remark of mine to excuse accountability & culpability in failed child protection cases.

    These are not examples of “revenge”. If you are not prepared to have accountability i& reform n these cases, you condemn more children to death.

  21. @Norbold – I would have probably felt very much the same as your wife! (Or indeed as I did feel when we took in an untreated severely mentally ill homeless person and tried to get Social Services and the doctors to take an interest in him. Both services responded by saying that he would have to ask for help which as he saw them all as agents of darkness he was not willing to do. He did agree to see a dentist!).

    Anyway in terms of your particular story, it seems that your wife was in a position to sort things out and did so. From the point of view of social services this was a result of sorts, the children were not taken into care, a highly qualified professional did not get them to take responsibility for a case she was in the end prepared to carry and nothing very terrible happened. (I agree that rats are not too nice. I have also had them in my kitchen and it is difficult to get rid of them).

    From the point of view of your wife it was of course extremely annoying. And no doubt it would have been much better if she and whoever she spoke to in social services had agreed that they would work together on the case and that your wife who seems after all to have had a relationship with the woman had helped to get the thing set up so that all could go ahead on a voluntary basis. But they didn’t and in such situations there are normally two sides to the story.

    To give you an example the other way on, I have, as a lay person, been with someone who was threatening to commit suicide and clearly had the means to do so. On that occasion I rang and spoke to some psychiatrist who refused to come out. It was only when I managed to get his name and asked him to state that he would take responsibility if the suicide happened that he came out. So agreement in such high charged situations is not necessarily easy to come by,

  22. Colin

    No one ever has a good experience of social services, they will always get it wrong no matter what they do. I wouldn’t describe my experience as good by any means but what if social services had made other choices, would my life been better or worse? Who can say but the point iI’m making is that even as an “at risk child” I could see the impossible task they had

  23. @Colin OK Revenge may be the wrong word. But you clearly feel very strongly about all this. So does everyone else and particular details (e.g. the finding that a starved child has been eating its nappy) bite deep.. Nevertheless I do not think that these emotions necessarily ead to wise policies.

    For example, in the Climbie case, the inquiry suggested that no child should be discharged from hospital if there were any concerns that it might be abused and also that cases always had to be signed off at a very high management level. Both these recommendations reflected the wish that children should never be harmed. However, one recommendation would gum up the hospital works to the extent that it is very hard to see that it would ever be implemented. The other ignored the fact that higher up the chain decisions were taken in that particular case the worse they seemed to be.

    As I understand it, the NHS is trying to adopt a ‘near miss’ or some such term approach to things going wrong. The basic idea seems to be that it should be a learning organisation and people should fess up to their mistakes.

    Perhaps children’s services should do something similar.. In any event I am not sure that calls for heads rolling in children’s services is going to improve the situation. As it happens, heads have rolled in the past at a variety of levels. The effect is not to ‘encourager les autres’, quite the reverse it lowers morale among a workforce that are trying to do their best anyway. It is, however, a demand that will make those who utter it feel better and shift attention away from the things that do need to be done if the situation is to improve.

  24. @ Turk

    “Of course the people who actually killed the child are to blame, but if signs of abuse were ignored or not acted on, then those assigned to the case also bear some of the blame no matter how caring they may be.”

    I think the point Neil A made in an excellent post is that there are so many families that could fit the profile that sometimes judgments have to be made and, where there is lack of evidence, either from the child or elsewhere, things can and do slip through the net. Obviously in individual cases there may be people to blame who simply are not up to the job but there is a lot of firefighting going on and not enough people to do the job (in my opinion).

    Professionals probably have a good idea when there are serious concerns but cannot always judge when general neglect, alcoholism, drug abuse etc turns from being simply severe neglect to life threatening. If there is no physical evidence of abuse and no disclosure from the child they are very limited in what they can do.

    For example if you are a heroin addict this does not automatically get a child taken off you. It might even not warrant regular monitoring. I was horrified to find this was not the case but given this is an accepted benchmark then in my opinion anything is possible if you leave a heroin addict in charge of a child. This is not social worker judgments this is government and society judgments.

  25. CHARLES

    I will have to differ with you. It all sounds too much like excuse.

  26. @Colin – OK! Maybe we both have aspects of a complex truth, and maybe, hopefully (!), the next time this comes up we will be able to see where the truth lies. And now I must go out.

  27. @Colin,

    I think you need to set up a meeting with Camilla Cavendish from the Times, who dedicates every waking moment to arguing that social workers are inhuman zealouts who remove thousands of children from their parents without good cause.

    Between the two of you, perhaps you can come up with a nice, foolproof Child Protection system.

  28. NEIL A.
    I think nearly ten thousand children were removed from their parental home sin 2011-2012.

    Camilla has an article today about her children’s food .

    If PAUL CROFT is here, he may like to know that today is the day of Alphonsus of Liguori

  29. If today’s honours list doesn’t bring the system into disrepute, nothing will. The Queen should chuck it into the bin and ask them to start again.

  30. There are respectable people on it. Jenny Jones, Brian Paddick, Doreen Lawrence. It’s just problematic that there are lobbyists and such too.

    Speaking of which, if the LDs have their MPs cut in half, there’s going to need to be something to deal with their disproportionate number of peers.

  31. NEILA

    Your first observation is an all too familiar sidestep from the specific to the general, in order to avoid the difficulties of the former-that it includes an attempt to denigrate my views is a surprise ,coming from you I must say. Still -we live & learn.

    Your second observation is sadly of much more significance. That you think that the evidence of Daniel Pelka’s condition , let alone the known circumstances of his home life required some superhuman effort of detection & intervention is merely confirmation of the need for accountability & reform.

    []


  32. If PAUL CROFT is here, he may like to know that today is the day of Alphonsus of Liguori”

    Chris, I have just been celebrating with a cup of tea and a biscuit: a great man indeed.

    ”””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””””
    I do find a problem with the use of language as a sort of political tool. We all know what is meant by “hand-wringing” and “apologetic” could say the same thing without implying insincerity or inefficiency.

    Of course this is a dreadfully serious matter but it needs a dreadfully serious debate to match. We are told that BIG govt is over, cuts are criticised but only because they don’t go deeply enough and so on; so this also has to be part of the serious debate.

    How many social workers are complaining of being overstaffed? I know, through people I am close to, that given the extended hours and immense responsibility it is an incredibly demanding job and one that few would do for the low pay offered.

    None of this excuses some major and blatant poor liason and protection of the most vulnerable ,but insults – which I take “handwringing” to be – don’t help.

    After all I doubt if any of us would care to have our genuine concerns represented in such a way.

  33. Mr nameless

    Why would the disproportionate number of lib dem peers be a problem, the HOL is not a democratic body

  34. For that reason. It’s giving too much influence to parties unrepresentative of their popularity.

    My ideal system for the HoL, if we have to have one, is a non-partisan, technocratic second chamber made of experts in the different government departments and their jobs.

  35. Having had a look at the makeup of the HoL I can’t see that the number of lib dem peers is so disproportionate, but the number of Ukip peers is very much so

  36. CHRIS

    If you get two blokes who deserve a day named after tham – BUT IT’S THE SAME DAY – how do they decide?

    Is it who prayed most hours each day or do they just toss a coin?

  37. @ Mrnameless
    Shouldn’t we deal with the massive over representation of the Tories in the HoL first?

  38. Colin,

    Daniel was examined by a paediatrician three weeks before he died, who found no injuries and described him as “thin” but not “wasted”.

    Perhaps that doctor is blind, and didn’t see injuries that were plainly present. Perhaps the doctor saw them but is a liar and pretended they hadn’t. Perhaps the doctor is stupid or incompetent and cannot identify a clearly malnourished child. If any of those things are true, then sure let’s put that doctor out of their job. But perhaps the doctor was correct, things deteriorated sharply in the three weeks that followed, and the death could not have been anticipated.

    Either way, other agencies cannot remove a child when a paediatrician is saying that child has no injuries and is adequately fed.

    If I seem unpleasant (I don’t think I have been) perhaps it is because I field telephone calls every single day of my working life from teachers and social workers about child protection concerns. A couple of times a week I go out and visit a child with a bump or bruise, or who has made some odd comment about an adult. If I think there is abuse, I arrange an appointment with a paediatrician. If the paediatrician gives the all-clear, that’s the end of the matter. I’m not sure what else you expect me to do. There is nothing particularly unusual about Daniel’s case that makes it stand out from many others. Most of the best evidence against his killers came from their text messages to each other, which clearly wouldn’t have been available to professionals until after his death.

    I’m afraid your inherent dislike and distrust of public sector employees creates a prism through which you see issues such as this. We can all accept and agree that where serious wrongdoing has occurred amongst professionals this should be dealt with harshly, but I think you are far too ready to see misconduct wherever you look, because your starting point is to assume that public sector workers are lazy, stupid and dishonest.

  39. Fascinating by election today in Thetford W division of Norfolk CC. UKIP resignation. UKIP beat Lab by just 1 vote in May. Con/LD nowhere so appears to be straight Lab/UKIP fight. Interestingly was LD in last election 2009, their vote under 10% this year.

  40. “In any case, there are infinitely more low-paid private sector workers getting the sack than public sector workers like teachers. ”

    Really I thought private sector employment growth ( often low paid zero hours contracts) was one of the things the government says they have got right.

    There have been 660,000 job losses in the public sector over 60% women with another 150,000 planned. Including relevant to the above posts 30,000 front line police officers,6000 nurses and 12,000 social workers.

    In total 236,900 local authority jobs have gone in England and Wales since this Government came to office.

  41. AW

    Have reread the comments policy, and burned it into my memory, I will try not to cross the line again. Pre mod is hell!!

  42. I have to say I agree with Neil.

    Colin it does appear that you have reached a conclusion prior to seeing the evidence.

    While I don’t often agree with you I do normally find your arguments coherent and logical and I think this is rather below your normal standards.

  43. Neil A – “Perhaps that doctor is blind…”

    Or perhaps we’re just people on a website, some with some experience of the field in general, but none of us familiar with the specifics of the case, judging it on the normally rather sensationalised and partial reporting of the press, in an area where a lot of information will be kept confidential and never released to us.

    Pointless speculating when we know so little and are in no position to judge, especially when there will be a full proper inquiry in due course. From the information we’ve received it seems strange things were not escalated earlier, and obviously with such a heart rending story we all want to think they could and should have been… but time will tell. Perhaps the report will find somebody messed up and people will be sacked, or retrained or struck off or whatever. Perhaps it will find flawed systems that can be mended. Perhaps it will just find someone falling through the gaps in a system that can be no more perfect than any other system in the world. I think we can be fairly certain that we, with our healthy combination of perfect hindsight and total pig ignorance of the specifics, don’t have much to lend to the inquiry.

  44. The problem with social workers is not really about pay (they are quite well-paid, relatively speaking) but the pressure, workload, “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” criticism and the sheer difficulty of the job.

    I also personally believe there is a problem with the kind of people who are attracted to the profession. They tend towards the idealistic, middle-class and academic when I think sometimes the best candidates would be no-nonsense, “plain as the nose on your face” and cynical.

    There is also a problem, like with most public sector professions, of “Assistant Culture”. Teachers don’t teach, they supervise teaching assistants, police officers don’t police, they supervise “Community Support Officers” and social works don’t work with families, they supervise family support workers. This is a gross simplification/exaggeration of course, but I do think we are putting our actual “professionals” at slightly too much of a remove from the coalface.

  45. @Steve,

    How are redundancies and lay-offs as the result of government policy the same as sackings/disciplinary proceedings? You are going off at a complete tangent there. If you are talking about government policy regarding the public sector being wrong I’d totally agree with you….but it’s a completely different topic.

    Sounds like you have a deep-rooted thing against private sector workers – the kind of public v private sector debate and resentment Neil A has just touched on. It’s a pity as both sectors are equally valuable to our society…and the vast, vast majority of workers in both sectors are decent, hard-working people. And in only a very few cases are disciplinary proceedings or sackings warranted.

  46. @Neil A – I admire your posts on this child abuse issue – to my eyes they are wise, good tempered and balanced. Thank you.

  47. AW,

    I agree. I apologise for being overly defensive when Colin criticised me from switching from the specific to the general.

  48. @Neil A,

    Thanks again for your contributions on the subject.

    I think you’re right regarding the private v public sector resentment.

  49. PAUL CROFT.
    There is a universal calendar, a national calendar, and a diocesan calendar.
    LOL as they say.

    Pre reformation we used to have the big ones (about 100) as holy-days, days for feasting etc.
    Hence called feast days.
    On polling matters:
    I see the approval rating is getting less bad/improving.

    Labour List sent a pessimistic e mail about the low Lab poll leads.
    Hot here in Bournemouth by seaside

  50. AMBIVALENTSUPPORTER
    ———
    Perhaps I misunderstood your previous post it appeared to imply that more low paid workers in the private sector had loss their jobs than in the public. Which is manifestly untrue.

    Why would you imply I have anything against private sector workers with the exception of those senior CEO’s who cream off money which should better go to other employees of their organisations and share holders and the corporate greed and incompetence of bankers who have cost us all both private and public sector workers a fortune, nothing in any of my posts ever has criticised people for working for a living.

    After having my skull fractured, protecting the public as a public sector worker I have been self employed in the private sector for year myself.

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