1) The Labour lead narrowed

Labour’s lead has gradually eroded over 2013. We started the new year showing a Labour lead of around about ten points. It started falling in the spring as the economy improved, and continued over the summer. There appeared to be something of a reverse in the autumn, one assumes because of the impact of Labour’s energy pledge and the political narrative focusing on gas and electricity prices for a few weeks, but we still ended the year with an average Labour lead of six points, compared to ten. Note however, that the majority of this change came from Labour losing support, dropping from an average of 42% in the polls to 39% – there has been comparatively little increase in Tory support.

2) People got more optimistic about the economy

There has been a sharp increase in people’s view of where the economy is growing. Looking at the monthly questions MORI and NOP both ask on how people think the economy in general will perform in the twelve months ahead shows a sharp increase early this year, thought it has rather stagnated since September. Asked in a more narrative way, earlier this month YouGov found 43% of people now think the economy is showing signs of recovery or is well on the way to recovery, up from 37% in August and just 14% in April.

However, people are less optimistic about their own household finances. YouGov’s economic optimism tracker for the Sunday Times asks about people’s expectations of their own finances, rather than the economy in general, and while it has shown a similar rise the net figure is still much more negative. In November MORI asked the two questions in parallel – 42% expected the economy to improve in the year ahead, but only 23% expected their own finances to improve. In a similar vein YouGov found 35% of people thought the economy as a whole was growing, but only 22% thought it was growing in their own region. More and more people are thinking that the economy is growing, but people are not necessarily feeling in their own pockets yet.

3) The Conservatives have moved ahead on the economy

As the economy has improved, it has had an impact on political attitudes towards the economy. At the start of 2013 the Conservative and Labour parties were essentially neck and neck on the economy. As the year progressed the Conservatives gradually pulled ahead and established a consistent lead.

Other trackers have moved in the same direction. Since the end of 2010 YouGov’s fortnightly trackers on attitudes towards the cuts had consistently shown that while people thought the spending cuts were necessary, they thought they were bad for the economy. That reversed in September and now finds more people think that the cuts are good for the country’s economy, than think they are damaging. However, while preferences on who people trust to manage the economy are heading in the Conservatives direction, Labour still lead on their preferred ground of prices and living standards.

4) But people have started to care more about other issues

The two regular trackers of what people think are the most important issues facing the country (YouGov’s which offers a list and Ipsos MORI’s which is unprompted) have both had the economy as the number one issue for years, and it remains there at the moment. However, it’s dominance has begun to fade over 2013. Back in 2012 well over 50% of people consistently told MORI that the economy was one of the main issues facing the country, YouGov’s prompted question consistently found over 70% picking out the economy.

In 2013 both trackers have shown the proportion of people thinking the economy is one of the big issues facing the country falling, presumably as a result of people starting to think the economy is improving. In the case of MORI the proportion of people saying the economy is a big issue has fallen below 50%, and in their December poll down to 39%. On YouGov’s tracker the figure has fallen below 70%, and in their final December poll down to 58%. At the same time other issues have risen up the agenda, most notably that of immigration – in MORI and YouGov’s December polls they both found immigration the second most mentioned issue, in both cases just two percentage points behind the economy. Note also the increase in the number of people mentioning issues of inflation from Autumn, as Labour started to try and shift the agenda more towards cost of living.

5) UKIP have continued to gather strength

The advance of UKIP in the polls has continued, though perhaps hampered by the lack of any elections or by-elections in the second half of 2013. UKIP’s support so far this Parliament has been a series of spikes and plateaus, seeing sudden increases in their poll ratings on the back of election successes like Rotherham, Eastleigh and local elections and the ensuing publicity and then flattening out again until the next opportunity to demonstrate their support comes along. This has certainly been the pattern in 2013 – they started the year at just below 10% in the polls, enjoyed a big jump in national support following their successes in the county council elections and, since the publicity boost from the county elections faded have rather stagnated. They still end 2013 above where they started, and have the inevitable publicity boost of the European elections to come next year.

6) Ed Miliband’s ratings went down, and up, and down again


Ed Miliband’s miserable job approval questions have continued to go downwards, with one notable exception. Three companies do regular questions on what people think of the party leaders – MORI ask if people are satisfied or dissatisfied, Opinium if people approve or disapprove, YouGov if they are doing a good or bad job. Ed Miliband’s ratings have been on a downwards trend for most of the year, but he enjoyed a reverse after the party conference and his energy price pledge, briefly reversing some of the year so far’s decline. All three measures still showed him ending the year with lower approval ratings than he began with.


559 Responses to “Six public opinion trends from 2013”

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  1. GUYMONDE

    @”If business confidence is high and exchange rates still at a low which was unimaginable until 2008, why are businesses not investing?”

    Just starting to I think :-

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_347376.pdf

  2. I’m with MitM on the population density issue. I he is broadly correct that England officially has the second highest population density in Europe, with current statistics suggesting that we have recently overtaken the Netherlands to become the most dense, with the exception of Malta.

    It’s also worth noting that in effect, the population position in England is even worse than the stats suggest in many ways. The European countries up there alongside England in the rankings (mainly the Low Countries) tend to have relatively even balances of population throughout their territory. In England, there remain some significant upland areas, with many of these having low density populations.

    The largest and most sparsely population of these by some margin is the North Pennines. Remove this area and it’s population from the figures and the remaining English territory (c 97.5% of the total English land mass) sees it’s population density increase from 406/km2 to 415/km2.

    While some will argue that selecting areas to omit from the calculations is a means to introduce bias, I would argue that it is, but it still makes a relevant point. The vast majority of the English population lives in even more densely populated areas than the raw figures suggest, due to the presence of significant areas of unpopulated upland areas, which are not present in those European countries that we usually compare our population stats against. This is a significant factor that people see in their daily lives.

    I’ve noted over the years that there are repeated attempts to deny that we are a highly populated island, or that England is particularly densely populated. These arguments were always marginal, but in the case of England they are simply nonsense, especially now we see the English population density growing by 2.3/km2 every year.

    It would be far better for those on the left who may be anxious about the political issues around immigration to be straightforward and honest about basic population facts in England. If we can achieve that level of agreement on the basic facts, then we can start to address the more difficult issues of what we do about the problems, or indeed whether we have a problem.

    As ever, it seems that the willingness to deny the obvious doesn’t solve the issue or make the sense of frustration, go away. Instead, the pro immigration camp’s attitude of burying heads in the sand is actually counter productive for their own ends, and is, in my view, the single biggest factor in creating a sense of fear and panic regarding immigration.

    Honesty is required on all sides here.

  3. @COLIN

    “Just starting to I think”

    Up 1% on Q2 but still down on last year Q3 and 24% below 2007 Q3, so still abysmally low. If you look at graphs it fell off a cliff in the latter part of 2008 and has bumped along the bottom ever since (sounds familiar?)

    I’ve been looking for but failing to find international stats, because memory tells me UK business investment is well below comparable countries even in the good years. Anyone got some pointers?

  4. I think overall population densities are pretty meaningless. France may have a relatively low density because of its large rural areas with low populations but that has little relevance for towns and cities where immigrants tend to settle. Generally the UK’s urban areas are less densely populated than comparable continental places and countries such as Germany, Sweden and Spain have higher proportions of foreign-born residents (including, of course, many British).

  5. Alec

    I can’t disagree with what you say about the population density in England being high and also influenced by high tracts of uninhabited land.

    The question is though, how much is due to external immigration or population moves in the UK itself? We have seen, since the war, the magnetic attraction of the South East and no Government has dealt with that.

    Secondly, the poor use of high density housing and the cultural stigma of living in a flat rather than a house – coupled with the reduction of green spaces with cities and large towns.

    Finally, how much of the land is actually upland or rather land kept for other reasons – whether to protect the villages occupied by rich townies and only visited at the weekends or held by the building companies/supermarkets?

    As you say, honesty on all sides is needed but most of all by those with the power to do something about it

  6. @Alec

    I’d be careful if I were you mate. Acknowledging England is overcrowded can land you with the label of racist these days.

    I suppose Amber et al have a point, there’s plenty of room in the UK, you could easily fit 50 kids in a classroom if they all stand shoulder to shoulder.

    And when people complain about over crowded hospitals not having enough hospital beds, they are forgetting about all that space on the floor and in the hallway.

    As for housing, we can try and fit 4 or 5 families in 1 small single house like we did in the Victorian era.

    Problem solved. Open the flood gates I say, the more the merrier, anyone not happy being squashed in like sardines in a can is clearly a racist or a troll.

  7. “Open the flood gates I say, the more the merrier, anyone not happy being squashed in like sardines in a can is clearly a racist or a troll.”

    Somebody here certainly is.

  8. NickP with all due respect mate I don’t think you even understand what the term means.

    Trolls would be sending you death threats or insulting you or your family quite harshly. For example the people celebrating the death of Gary Barlows child on twitter were trolls, someone who merely has the audacity to disagree with your divine wisdom however, is not.

  9. MitM

    A rather poor post if I may say so. Pointless and immature

    The point people are trying to make is that the use of just population density is a poor measure.

    If we take London, there is a huge population density – as with all cities – and it is larger than a lot of other countries in the EU on its own. The reason that we have a problem is it is sucking the population towards it – not just immigrants but also people from the rest of the UK who find it is the only way to get a job – on their bikes as a certain Chingford Skinhead used to say.

    The situation is far more complex than just stopping ‘immigration’ per se and to pretend otherwise is disingenuous.

  10. I don’t think MitM is trolling, but it is a bit of a straw man argument.

    For instance, I agree that population growth now would be a bad idea, but immigration restrictions aren’t necessarily the solution. More effective (and environmentally sound as an added plus) is encouraging emigration (we have a common travel area, why not use it?) and widening access to contraception with a corresponding PR campaign.

    If you want to go more controversial, legalising voluntary euthanasia (obviously with heavy restrictions) frees up places in hospitals and removes a lot of cost to the NHS.

    Lowering the retirement age, although it raises the cost of pensions, would free up jobs that could be done by young people, who still have a very high unemployment rate.

    Immigration restrictions are hard to enforce without causing diplomatic incidents, and won’t necessarily solve the problem of overcrowding.

    I share the concerns of Alec and MitM about population density, I just question whether immigration really gets to the heart of the issue or whether it’s convenient and emotive enough to get people fired up without doing something overly controversial.

  11. Bcrombie

    When we’re already packed in, you can’t pack more in, it’s disingenuous to ignore overcrowding and to just dismiss it because it doesn’t fit in with your politics.

    This is why the main 3 are losing votes to parties like UKIP and the BNP because politicians who hold the same views as you and Nick are ignoring people’s real concerns and dismisses them, as racist.

    We have a finite number of resources and a finite number of space, stopping spreading them thinner and thinner.

  12. ALEC

    Agree entirely on population density.

  13. GUYMONDE

    Yep-its been flat for a while-but now seems to be increasing-which is a good thing.

    Lets see what more recent numbers show.

  14. MrNameless

    The truth is, our tiny island, 9th biggest in the world though it may be, does not have the resources to accommodate 65 million, ideally we need population to fall, however I don’t really see how we can do that, you can’t limit child birth like China does for there would be outrage, and even reducing net migration to 0, ie one out one in, wouldn’t solve the problem, although it’d stop the problem accelerating faster as the only population growth would be through the birth rate.

    However, none of our parties have the balls to even take the smallest step towards countering the problem, the left like to bury their heads and say there is no problem, while the Conservatives like to make token gestures such as propose a cap on EU migration they can’t enforce, or propose a cap on non-Eu migration, then exclude a large group from the statistic and go to their countries and invite them over.

    Was it Jack Straw who said he didnt mind if the population reached 70 million? Our politicians live very easy lives, they don’t care about the working class, as it’s not their jobs who will be put at risk by another 5 million residents. No MP is exactly struggling for resources.

  15. @RogerH – I disagree. Population density is a critical economic and social factor. Again, I’m not talking here specifically in relation to immigration, but to straightforward population management.

    UK homes are getting smaller, with the average house now around half the size of a home in the 1920’s (from a RIBA report). The same report also found UK homes are now the smallest in the EU, although I think this refers to new builds.

    Traffic congestion, noise pollution, the ability to construct major new infrastructure projects that could be essential for future economic growth, land price inflation – all of these are significantly affected by population density.

    I also think you are incorrect in your assertion that UK urban areas are less dense than comparable European population centres.

    According to the City Mayors website, England has four of the top ten most densely populated cities in Europe, with London (3rd) Leeds/Bradford (7th) Manchester (8th) and Birmingham (9th). The only other country to have more than 1 in the top ten is Spain, with Madrid (2nd) and Barcelona (4th).

    The English situation could actually be far worse than this, although I need to be careful here as I am mixing up data categories. I’ve looked at the ONS population density stats for UK ‘urban areas’ – not the same category as the cities listed by City Mayors, so perhaps not directly comparable. However, the stats are interesting.

    If we combine the ONS urban areas and the City Mayors list in order of population density, the picture begins to look really rather stark.

    In terms of European rankings, Greater London hits the number one spot. Athens is 2nd, Madrid 4th, and Barcelona 8th. The only other areas in the top 15 are all English towns and cities. (In order, Brighton & Hove, Luton, Slough, Medway, Eastbourne, Leicester, Oxford, York, Coventry, Thanet and Plymouth).

    While as I say, these figures are not strictly comparable, the fact that there are a host of English urban areas more densely populated that places like Warsaw and Naples, the 5th and 6th most densely populated cities in Europe, does tend to suggest that you are incorrect in asserting that UK urban areas are less dense that our European counterparts.

  16. @MitM – “I’d be careful if I were you mate. Acknowledging England is overcrowded can land you with the label of racist these days.”

    While I don’t support some elements of your recent posts, this sentence is actually quite an apt illustration of the point you and I are in agreement on.

    It really is pointless to try and deny there are very significant population pressures in England. Any attempt to continue to do so merely creates further alienation amongst a population who witness the spread of population and urban development on a daily basis.

    I think @Mrnameless is closest to the mark. Immigration is not necessarily the issue. In truth, if we are to address the population issue, we actually probably need more immigration. If we can control birth rates, the age structure of the population will alter, creating a short term need for a boost to the younger workforce. Temporary immigration is an ideal solution to this, as we work to reduce the population in the long term.

    The alternative would be the Japanese experience, where the crashing birthrate coupled with a refusal to accept large scale migrant labour has led to a seriously unbalance aging demographic and a myriad of social issues.

  17. To put things in perspective, net migration for the UK is under 250,000 p.a., i.e. about no more than 0.4% population increase p.a.

  18. The question is not whether we are overcrowded but whether public opinion thinks it is.

    A troll likes to provoke an emotional response. Mitm is a troll, it’s plain as day. Alec, plain as the proverbial pikestaff, ain’t. But both of them keep telling us that we are overcrowded (Alec at least tries to provide evidence) but I thought what we wanted to know is what opinion polls tell us.

    The problem with that is exactly as AW previously stated…variations on a question saying, “do you think we should stop more foreigners coming over here and taking all our houses and jobs” will get massive agreement, but doesn’t really tell us much at all.

  19. – about

  20. @RogerH – I don’t disagree – them’s the numbers, as they say.

    In twenty years time though, at current rates, net migration would have added 8% or 5m to the population. It’s also worth noting that the birth rate among (mainly younger age immigrant families) is around 25% greater than the host population at present, and that the host population birth rate is currently at a high point due to other demographic factors.

    These points mean that current net migration rates would have an even bigger positive impact on overall population levels over time.

    Again, I rather suspect you may be guilty of dismissing a potentially critical factor, because it’s only a 0.4% increase.

    In truth, if this were an annual compounded increase, that 0.4% would become a very, very substantial driver of population increase.

  21. @NikeP – “Alec, plain as the proverbial pikestaff, ain’t.” [a troll]

    How do you know?

    As it happens, I’m small, with long, spikey orange hair, and I’ve got a pencil shoved up my arse.

  22. But is it the pencil that makes you a troll?

  23. ALEC

    @” Immigration is not necessarily the issue”

    39% of the issue in year to June 2012.

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_320900.pdf

    ONS’ remark ( 3rd bullet point) about a 40 year high in birth rate rings a bell that I have seen stats showing an upward influence on birth rate from immigration.

  24. Interesting announcement from Labour on universal childcare today:

    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/dec/30/labour-free-universal-childcare-miliband

    Could play as well with public opinion as energy price fixing.

    Or could be used as a stick to beat them with/an example of labour ‘profligacy’.

    Time will tell…

  25. What has happened since the mid 1990s is placed in clear context in this chart:-

    http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/olympic-britain/population/natural-flourish/

    I don’t know the source of the forecast in the penultimate paragraph-but if it is accurate it makes the total effect of inward migration to UK a very significant one.

  26. Brighton & Hove, Medway, Eastbourne, Thanet?

    I’ve lived in one, and know the others well. “Fear and panic” inducing levels of population density? I don’t think so.

    Even in semi-rural areas within 30 miles of London you will find people who go to any lengths to avoid a trip to the capital – the thought of it does make them panic. Perhaps they got stuck in an interminable traffic jam one time, or an Oxford Street crush. I felt something similar in Delhi one time and thought about returning to my hotel room, I sat down in a doorway for a beather, then decided I could cope with it.

    For me, living in the inner post codes of central London induces no fear. Step off the tube at rush-hour, or the main thouroughfares, and you will find empty streets, open spaces.

    Finding yourself trapped in a small rural community can be a bit of a worry. The range of interests which city living provides may perhaps be compensated for by the massive density of wildlife that you can find in a metre of hedgerow… but you might find the limited range of people with whom to associate a bit scary.

  27. @Colin

    ROFL
    “Yep-its been flat for a while-but now seems to be increasing-which is a good thing.”

    Yes let’s wait and see. This is only the fifth quarter since the Condems came to power where you could say that investment ‘seems to be increasing’. Trouble is there have been 8 quarters where it ‘seems’ to have been reducing and the net effect is that it’s still the lowest third quarter investment since 1998 (when ONS figures start from) with the sole exception of 2009.

    Still it’s great to see this recovery.

  28. @” but you might find the limited range of people with whom to associate a bit scary.”

    What a weird remark.

    If you like rural life & all that it embodies-and you are able to live there-you do.

    If you like city life & all that it embodies -and you are able to live there-you do.

    If you have no choice where to live-you like it or lump it.

  29. GUYMONDE

    I don’t quite know what the source of your criticism is-we are talking about Private Sector Business Investment in the wake of a REcession which saw GDP fall by over 7%.

    If you are saying the sector would have increased investment sooner if bank credit had not been frozen-then hard to come by-I would agree with you.

    If you are saying-why didn’t they have more confidence , more quickly-then you need to say how much you would have invested/borrowed in those economic & commercial conditions -and why you would have been less cautious.

  30. Re: population density

    At last! A debate in which those living south of the River Trent show themselves capable of distinguishing between England and the UK. From my perspective, in not very overcrowded Argyll, it seems that, just as economic policy for the whole of the UK is usually driven by factors limited to reality as understood by those living within 100 miles of London, so too the immigration rules are to be defined by those who choose to live in the overcrowded south, with no thought of anywhere else. Roll on the September Referendum…..

  31. ‘Chingford Skinhead’

    LOL

  32. @Billy Bob – ““Fear and panic” inducing levels of population density? I don’t think so.”

    Be a little careful. What I actually said was “Instead, the pro immigration camp’s attitude of burying heads in the sand is actually counter productive for their own ends, and is, in my view, the single biggest factor in creating a sense of fear and panic regarding immigration.”

    My reference to ‘fear and panic’ was in relation to immigration, not population density. Reading the daily press, and it’s regular coverage of stories related to migration, as well as the polling evidence, I would argue that there is, indeed, an element of fear regarding immigration, and some of the responses could be described as panicky.

    On your other points, you mention “…empty streets, open spaces” close to rush hour tube stations. You clearly have a different meaning of empty and open to mine. Darkness, quiet, clean air – all qualities I relish, which I can’t find within 50 miles of London.

    You also commit the cardinal sin of misunderstanding urban and rural societies when you write “..but you might find the limited range of people with whom to associate a bit scary…”.

    I was born and raised in a large urban city, and have also lived in one of the England’s most remote areas for a considerable period of time. I found the urban existence ultimately boring.

    Apart from my own anecdotal experience, there is very solid social science research that demonstrates that social groups are more isolated and homogenous in cities, with far greater social mixing in rural areas.

    There is less racial diversity in most rural areas, on paper at least, but there is similarly far less ghettoising of populations where there is diversity. The reduced population density leads directly to greater social cohesion, as there are fewer choices that can be made regarding who you mix with and what circles you move in.

    I am constantly amused at how my urban friends think they are completely cosmopolitan, but in fact mostly display relentlessly boring and predictable views and habits, all drawn from the same, small well. As with recent research on internet browsing habits, the weight of numbers gives them a wide choice of activities, but the overwhelming tendency is to coagulate into like minded groups of sameness, rather than seeking out new and personally challenging contacts. There is far more social mixing in most rural areas.

    The area where I was most struck by this phenomena was is the impact on contact between age cohorts. Where I live, it’s perfectly normal to get into conversation with youngsters of different ages as an unrelated adult. I still find this very striking, as my urban upbringing was largely confined to my own school age cohort or family members.

    In point of fact, the ‘problems’ with rural life are the complete reverse. If you want to be anonymous – go to a city. If you get tired of everyone knowing your business, knocking on your door asking for favours, or stopping to chat about inane subjects or to invite you to something you have no interest in getting involved with – live in the countryside.

    It’s altogether much more socially challenging than the isolated group existence you often find in urban environment.

  33. @John B – “From my perspective, in not very overcrowded Argyll, it seems that, just as economic policy for the whole of the UK is usually driven by factors limited to reality as understood by those living within 100 miles of London,”

    Arguably one of the problems of democracy. In the US, I think I’m correct in saying that the Senate is comprised of two members from each state, regardless of size or population.

    Perhaps we need some part of our constitutional set to act as a buffer against regional domination of government, which is the net result of on person one vote.

  34. @ MrNameless

    slightly less tongue in cheek this time: the reduction of the retirement age would be an economic disaster as it would reduce the ability of many people to give employment to others. The longer people work, the more economically active they remain and the more likely they are to cause others to have jobs. They also die younger, thus reducing the pension bill……. ho hum………

  35. @Colin

    It wasn’t meant as a dig at rural folk.

    The countryside can be more claustophobic than the city, in terms of public space.

    Acres of private land fenced off from a narrow public right-of-way… hardly any pavements, and one short stretch of villiage high street with three shops. No problem if that is what you like, though in practice it tends to make people reliant on heavy car use to achieve a quality of life.

    But the high-density urban landscape often offers infinitely more public space (which admittedly could be better managed and cherished in some cases).

  36. @ COLIN

    My original point was, and remains…..

    If business confidence is so high, why isn’t business investing NOW.

    No matter how you spin it, business is not investing (or wasn’t in the 3rd quarter, and hasn’t throughout this parliament) at anything like the levels needed for expanded productive capacity to drive a recovery. What’s actually happening is that increases in nominal house prices are driving increased private sector debt which is dragging in imports, making a dire balance of trade position even worse, failing to rebalance the economy in any way that would support sustainable employment and in all probability heading us at ever-increasing speed towards the next crash.

    And I’m an optimist!

  37. @Billy Bob – “But the high-density urban landscape often offers infinitely more public space (which admittedly could be better managed and cherished in some cases).”

    Hmmm – perhaps you are forgetting about Open Access land? Tens of thousands of acres of open space, freely available to all?

    Sniping aside, I do understand the points you are making – they are valid in some cases, and each of us has our likes and frustrations with different lifestyle options.

    Incidentally, the right to roam legislation was, in my view, one of New Labour’s great and enduring achievements. Highly political, and contentious, but driven through carefully and with great thought, with stunning results.

    In terms of numbers of people benefiting, it’s probably one of their most significant reforms. It doesn’t get the coverage and credit it deserves, because rambling, and the outdoors in general, isn’t an issue given high prominence by the metropolitan elites who dominate the media.

  38. I think the problem of not investing and hoarding wealth instead of the opposites which are presumably, spending and sharing is what freezes up demand and causes the years long rattle along the bottom. it’s possible the freeing up is due to confidence and not just desparining borrowing for one last christmas, but unless we see investment and pay rises 9i assume also in the public sector) then the growth is not being shared or spread around and we will soon see another grind to a halt.

    Fracking might create some real wealth 9assuming we don’t destroy the country before MitM’s hoards can engulf it), otherwise it hard to see what we are going to export more of.

    Emigrants?

  39. GUYMONDE

    @”If business confidence is so high, why isn’t business investing NOW.”

    I suppose the answer is that there are lead times-business plan & credit facility/ board approval/ sourcing& building lead times -etc.

    As I say-I believe that the confidence now being expressed in forecasts will translate into an improvement in Business Investment next Year-an improvement we are just beginning to see.

    It is worth saying , in defence of the Private Sector , that it has retained workers when it might have got rid of them, and has more than soaked up the loss of public sector headcount by creating a substantial number of jobs.

    Yes those workers have forgone pay increases-yes Business Productivity has suffered-but the unemployment numbers are not as bad as many on the political left forecast.

    …and be careful what you wish for – there are reports of a significant skills gap in UK. This will not be fixed overnight-and until it is, an increase in Business Investment may see productivity increases which do not necessarily generate more jobs-at least not jobs for indigenous workers.

  40. BILLY BOB

    I love your perception of “the countryside”.

    I wouldn’t return to City living if you paid me to do it.

  41. @Alec – “Tens of thousands of acres of open space, freely available to all?”

    I love it… but I never seem to be able to find a decent latte! LoL.

  42. I agree with Nick ! The UK as a whole is not overpopulated, though the population is very unevenly distributed, and there are undoubtedly strains on schools, for example, in certain areas.

    Other areas, such as the fenlands of Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire are rather underpopulated, and are also some of the areas where UKIP support is higher.

    Some of the economic migrants are undoubtedly exploited, as they do work at low wages in many cases.

    There are consequences of long-term immigration, which probably include the ultimate loss of farmland to build more houses, and a more diverse population, and these will not be welcome to all.

    I think we should also be aware that pulling in young immigrants to do unattractive jobs is not a long-term strategy. Although they might not believe it, the young healthy workforce will one day need elderly care, and so yet more workers, or else higher tax per head, to support them.

    I don’t really have answer to all these questions, except perhaps to suggest that some of our under-populated areas could become centres of hi-tech jobs. Perhaps a (new?) government could attract some labour for example to Humberside including Hull, which I believe is due to become UK City of Culture 2017.

    Some prosperity would make this all more acceptable to swing voters, so the polls will certainly be interesting.

  43. @ Colin

    Just for the record, you don’t need to defend the private sector to me. It does what it has to do or what it is incented to do in support of what it’s there for – making a profit from doing stuff – and we desperately need it to thrive.
    The question is whether the better forecasts are causing them to back the future by investing rather than bunging their money into the housing market: at the moment there is no evidence that they are.
    As to the skills gap … I don’t think in Germany employers spend too much time blaming the government for lack of skills despite their school results being weaker than ours last time I looked. As in other matters, German industry recognises that skills development is a tripartite matter involving employers, government and unions and working together to common ends with mutual respect is a good way forward. This works in places here (Rolls Royce is a shining example I think) and there was a Conservative led initiative in 1964 called industrial training boards which was of direct benefit to me personally.
    But then ideology got in the way and most of these were closed down in the Thatcher era and have not been replaced.
    Throwing money which used to be spent on FE colleges at employers on the grounds that they know best – which seems to be the current idea – is not the same thing at all.

  44. Replying as I work my way through the thread, so apologies…want to keep it to one post.

    @Spearmint

    Great charts. We need some sort of ‘churn meter’, so we can tell what ratio of the VI changes are pure churn or direct switchers (not possible I assume, but always nice to dream).

    @R Huckle

    RE: Nick Clegg (popular or not) – I was never for the leadership debates. For a start they ignored other parties, and it was (imho) used by a PM in already dire straights. If we must have debates, we should have constituency ones, so voters can get a look at who they will be electing.

    @Alec

    Farage is just demonstrating to the non-UKIP voters that he’s not the evil man they think he is (whether rightly or for votes). If given the choice between some refugees and the economic migration referred to by Farage, the average anti-immigration voter would take the former.

    @AW

    “Either way, it’s a “would you support immigration if all the immigrants are nice and hard working and well behaved an integrate perfectly?””

    I took the quoted question and made an opposite question:

    “If Romanians and Bulgarians coming to Britain are lazy, tax dodging, separatist folk who refuse to learn English, we should not welcome them to the UK”

    Of course by the point that we discover their inclinations, it’s too late, and the same goes for the first question. We won’t know if they are hard-working, tax paying etc. until they have been here long enough to qualify for the ‘perks’ of being in the UK (generous welfare system and liberal legal system).

    In that sense, such questions are fairly pointless in polling. Yes they get an idea of how people think, but we know how they would think with such questions, as you say. Don’t you get worried about statements such as ‘integrate perfectly’? It’s all a little Borg-ish (party political) for me. :))

    @Spearmint

    “I’m sure they’re perfectly nice but we’re full up”

    (Assuming all nice) There we have the problem. Some would say the poorest should qualify first, while others would accept the millionaires and/or those able to generate the most tax. Personally I would favour those who make a net contribution financially and socially (aiming to be British, rather than not), regardless of their personal situation.

    @MitM

    “sure there’s tons of open space in desolate Scotland, but that’s not where the immigrants tend to go”

    @Martyn

    “The POTY is obviously Anthony Wells. Without him we’d have to get lives and speak to our families, and that’d never do…:-)”

    Well said.

    @RosieandDaisie

    Can we charge more to get in than out, and apply it to tourists for a double whammy (including UK tourists)? We might get more money for the turnstiles to be automated, and we can reduce the employment budget. :))

    @Alec

    Note the ‘birds to square kms’ graph:

    http://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/shared_documents/bbs/maps/robin-bbs-density-map-2009.png

    And as we all know that the population density of birds correlates directly to the population density of piss-heads.

    The only way to deal with the density issue is to do a “Logan’s Run” on the nation. So it’s going to happen, is the short answer, because it’s silly. In fairness to Logan’s Run, there was no pension fund required, no over-stretching of the NHS, and getting to B&Q was easier.

    Oh and… “As it happens, I’m small, with long, spikey orange hair, and I’ve got a pencil shoved up my arse.” – you are Danny Alexander and I claim my 11.9563 Euros.

    @John B

    “just as economic policy for the whole of the UK is usually driven by factors limited to reality as understood by those living within 100 miles of London, so too the immigration rules are to be defined by those who choose to live in the overcrowded south, with no thought of anywhere else”

    Indeed, but is separation the answer? I noticed that Stewart Maxwell is calling for E-Cigarette restrictions (only the crazies will restrict those over real ciggies). Most politicians seem to be all about laws, rules and restrictions, rather than freedom (FREEDOM!!!).

    @Alec

    “Perhaps we need some part of our constitutional set to act as a buffer against regional domination of government, which is the net result of on person one vote.”

    Agreed. Federalism (along the lines of the electoral regions) would be sufficient. Enough autonomy to ensure that local issues are prioritised over national ones, but with a safety net of collectivism built in. Devo-max perhaps?

  45. @AW…moderated post…again. Sigh.

  46. And @ Colin

    Yes, good news indeed – let’s hope it stays positive.

  47. Over-population

    There is room for three more on top in Barney and two people are moving to Darlington, so room for five more here.

    Great thing also is that its a long, long way from the metropolitan, elite, chattering classes like wot yooze hev got doon sooth in that Lundin – nah worrah mean layke?

    An’ in Darlow yeeve got lotsov of poond shops which is reet canny.

  48. @GUYMONDE

    According to Michael Burke –
    ‘The decline in business investment now amounts to £42bn and exceeds the total decline in GDP of £40bn…. The driving force of the slump remains the fall in investment, led by the fall in business investment. The fall in business investment alone more than accounts for the entirety of the prolonged crisis.’

    The Economist:

    ‘ In 2012 Britain was 159th out of 173 countries ranked by investment as a share of GDP. Of the 14 farther down the table, seven were in sub-Saharan Africa. The only advanced economies were Malta, Ireland, Cyprus and Greece. Mr Osborne should not be comfortable in this company. If Britain is to remain a G20 economy, it must start investing like one.’

    http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21580466-why-being-159th-best-investment-no-way-country-sustain-recovery-lets-try

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