Just a quick post on Monday’s regular polls from Lord Ashcroft and Populus. The twice-weekly online poll from Populus has topline figures of CON 32%, LAB 37%, LDEM 9%, UKIP 13%, GRN 3%. Tabs here.

Lord Ashcroft’s weekly telephone poll has topline figures of CON 28%(-1), LAB 33%(-2), LDEM 9%(+1), UKIP 17%(+2), GRN 7% (tabs here).

In my post yesterday I touched on issues of party image – of how the Conservatives lead on competence, but Labour are more likely to be seen as having it’s heart in the right place. Today’s Ashcroft poll has a much bigger section on party image but you can see the same pattern. The Conservative party are more likely to be seen as being “competent and capable”, “having clear ideas to deal with Britain’s problems” and being “willing to take tough decisions for the long term”. However Labour lead on perceptions that are more about values – so they are ahead on “shares my values”, “on the side of people like me” and have big leads on having its “heart in the right place” and “stands for fairness”.

As a general view, I’d say that gap there is what prevents the Conservatives doing much better. The Tories have a leader who rates far more positively than the opposition leader; they now have a consistent lead on the economy, the big issue facing the country. The thing that holds them back is that people do still see them as a party of the rich (and a party of the white) and don’t trust their motives, whereas whatever Labour’s other failings are (and they have their own image problems), the public do at least still see them as having their heart in the right place and caring about fairness.

496 Responses to “Latest Populus and Ashcroft polls”

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  1. I may have missed it but has anybody commented on the number of high profile cases where not guilty is the verdict.
    has anybody the slightest idea of the trauma innocent people go through when in court for month after month after waiting for an age to get there.
    no one cares a less for them because in this sick society we still harbour the ‘no smoke without fire principle’.
    what do the police or prosecution care. the short answer is that they don’t. they are never held to account for their mistakes in ruining people’s lives. the system and those running it stink.

  2. @ROGERH

    “…I did look on their site but couldn’t see anything similar. The questions were all political – of leaders, parties and policies. Also included question on the candidates in my own constituency, who I’d vote for and which party I expected to win…”


  3. @Maura

    I acknowledged that not all subjects had exams, and indeed that selection processes can vary.

    I disagree that the interview process is necessarily so impossible though. You give people increasingly challenging problems to solve and that can differentiate between those who can do the harder stuff and those who can’t.

    It’s just another exam really, only open-ended so you can keep upping the challenge, and observe their methods.

    As for how common it is, we can’t prove that, because there isn’t the data. Obviously we discussed interview experiences at Oxford so I know for myself it’s a fairly typical approach, that’s pretty obvious really, but without the data I can’t prive it.

  4. Or prove it, even…

  5. “and there is a lot of evidence that recruiters, in all walks of life, tend to favour certain types of candidates (these may be different for different jobs/courses but the bias is there)”


    Yes but this isn’t a job interview Maura!! The pricess is a bit different!

  6. @Graham

    Some Colleges have other specialisms, like Teddy Hall was big on sport so they might admit some on the basis of some sporting prowess.

    Also, people may not do as well at A levels as expected owing to unfortunate incidents in their lives at the time, so may nonetheless take the Oxbridge exams. Unless you did well enough on those though you’d be unlikely to be asked to interview.

  7. At our school, in my day, the cut-off point for considering staying on to take Oxbridge seemed to be around three Bs at “A” level, which was in itself considered rather hopeful…

  8. Debt Statistics June 2014

    Outstanding personal debt stood at £1.443 trillion at the end of April 2014. This is up from £1.424 trillion at the end of April 2013.

    Outstanding unsecured (consumer credit) lending stood at £160.2 billion* at the end of April 2014. This is up from £156.1 billion at the end of April 2013

    Average consumer borrowing (including credit cards, motor and retail finance deals, overdrafts and unsecured loans) per UK adult was £3,192 in Apri


    Unsecured debt is creeping up month by month, it is not back to the record level yet, but it is getting there.

    *in July 2011 consumer debt was reported by the Bank of England as 209bn, there was then a methodology change and consumer debt was revised down to 165bn for the same month, 44bn of debt was removed due to mis-reporting by 2 banks. therefore when you read about 200bn+ consumer debt in the late 00’s, that is before the adjustment

  9. @FV

    So was the 2011 (adjusted) figure of 165Bnfor unsecured lending the record? And if I’m reading it right, we’re only about 5Bn short of that record figure now?…

  10. @carfrew

    I think it got up to 215bn unadjusted or 171bn adjusted in 2008, – 11bn to go – the BOE says unsecured lending is rising by about 5% a year, so about 18 months should do it

    But 160bn is ridulously high as it is – each personal on average has over £3,000 over consumer debt!. and then if you add mortgage debt.

    the BOE financial position of households report 2013 says:

    “households are seemingly both spending more and
    saving more in bank accounts (because) unsecured borrowing,which has increased over the past year, is helping to finance spending”

    This seems likely, to me anyway

  11. Latest YouGov / The Sun results 24th June
    Lab 36%, Con 33%, UKIP 15%, LD 8%, Greens 4% Nats 4% Others 1% APP -20

  12. David Englehart,

    “what do the police or prosecution care. the short answer is that they don’t. they are never held to account for their mistakes in ruining people’s lives.”

    Try Googling ” UK false arrest” or “UK malicious prosecution”.

    They can, and are, held to account.

  13. @Newhouset

    Or try googling Gerry Conlon. They frequently aren’t held to account.

    Having said that, there is a difference between malicious prosecutions and ones where there is a case to answer, but where the accused is not guilty. In the latter case there is precious little compensation for those who are pulled into the justice system.


    “Using one example to make a sweeping conclusion is worthy of idiots like The Mail and should have no place here.”

    That looks like a sweeping statement to me.

  15. Crossbat11

    “Of course, I did flick over to the early evening news bulletins too. How could you not watch the news tonight?”

    I did, I just knew how boring it would be.

    Agree about the cricket though and yes Ali’s innings was the stuff of legend for one so new to the team

  16. @Carfrew

    My friend admitted to Teddy Hall was certainly not into sport at all. I suppose 2Bs and a D from 1972 would certainly be at least the equivalent of 2 As and a B today though.

  17. Crossbat11

    My post to you does not read clearly. To be absolutely clear I did not watch the early evening news or any other news yesterday.

  18. For those who think the Daily Mail is a supporter of DC and the Government they should try reading it today. The Mail has its pet hates and will go after them regardless of political affiliation.

  19. there are remedies available for wrongful arrest or malicious prosecution but the mental state of a person whose life has been turned upside down is to try and forget.
    also the police can and do hint that there are other matters they could look into but they wont. a heavy hint of accept your luck or you will go through this again. there should be an independent review of a selected number of not guilty cases to ascertain the standards applied by the CPS and the nature of the prosecution evidence. they are a law unto themselves at the moment.

  20. Well my view of the Legal system is less about “Twelve men honest and true” and more “Who has the deepest pockets”.

    I think who has the most money tends to have more and better lawyers and that let’s them create “Reasonable Doubt” by burying the jury for days under mountains of paper.

    The higher the profile the less likely the conviction as every scrap of evidence is scrutinised in a way that it isn’t in lesser cases.


  21. peter
    you are right but there are many cases where the defendant is clearly not guilty but the prosecution go on a flyer to see and should know that the reason they have no clear evidence is because he or she is not guilty.
    the innocent are badly let down and not everybody can afford top lawyers.

  22. @TOH

    “All generalisations are dangerous, even this one.” (Alexandre Dumas)

  23. ROGERH

    Nice quote.

  24. I’m on a website about polling and am a professional statistician. Of course I know that “the plural of anecdote is not data” and so on. But I thought you might like to hear some quirky anecdotes nonetheless. Apparently I was wrong – so sue me!

  25. @Graham

    Well it depends if ordinarily he would have been expected to do better at “A” level, and how he did at Oxbridge exams/interview. (They might overlook lacklustre performance at the workaday rote learning stuff if sufficient flair is shown elsewhere.)


    On the matter of over-representation of public school vs state school at Oxbridge.

    There’s a need to bear in mind that typically public schools operate a process of selection. You usually have to take the Common Entrance exams to get in, usually aged 13.

    For me this meant sitting papers in History, Latin, French, Geography, English, Science, and two papers in Maths plus the optional harder third paper. 

    When you factor in as well that many were the sons of doctors and lawyers and so forth, then you can see that we are not dealing with a representative sample of the population here. 

    It’s not like my school had to cater much for special needs and stuff either. Contrast this with the Primary School on a council estate I started out at… I recently read an Ofsted report that said that it has more than 50% Special Needs.

    So you might expect public schools to secure more places at Oxford and Cambridge compared to the State sector, without any bias in selection by Oxford or Cambridge.

    This is before considering educational advantages at Public Schools. Of course, Oxbridge can seek to counter this by preferring state school kids who they think have underperformed compared to their potential, but this is tricky.

    I mean, if it involves denying a place to someone from public school who actually performed better, to give it instead to someone from state school who may not have performed as well, but you think with comparable schooling etc. would have done better. And now you have to gauge that potential…

    So whatever one thinks about the merits or otherwise of the public school system, it’s not necessarily trivial for Oxbridge to counter its effects when selecting students.

  26. Shame that none of the contributors Here have mentioned our most successful and most inclusive university by far. The OU

    The Open University does not appear in the University League Table because its students are distant learners and so a lot of data is not available.

    However, when user ratings are used and average pay of graduates it ranks right at the top.

    Here is the link comparing it to Oxford.


    With 10 Times the Number of Students as Oxford and half the fee levels of traditional universities and with no formal entry requirements.

    I would urge all parents with teenage children to seriously consider it as an alternative. The same payment arrangements with a Student Loan are available for the OU as any other University

    My Daughter is now Half way through Her OU degree heading for a First and will finish with a Credit balance in Her Bank account sufficient to pay the £15,000 in total fee.

  27. (So you might expect public schools to secure PROPORTIONALLY more places at Oxford and Cambridge compared to the State sector…)


    “I’m on a website about polling and am a professional statistician.”


    You coulda been the guy who invented the T-test and it’d make little difference!!…

  29. I’d advise being very, very careful about assumptions reached from the prevalence of innocent verdicts reached in recent court cases.

    My closest friend is a judge who specialises in sexual abuse cases, especially those that involve children. It is a tragic fact that, even in our enlightened country, around 90% of sexual assaults go unprosecuted for lack of independent evidence, and the conviction rate for those that DO go forward is less than 30%.

    Having worked with under-age girls who have been raped I found it unbelievably depressing to listen to middle aged women on the train home who were convinced that girls raising complaints against a well-known celebrity were ‘tarts who were in it for the money’ – purely because they liked the soap opera in question. The trauma of going to court for a witness (usually young, often vulnerable and frequently poorly educated) is inconceivable if you haven’t been there – no-one does that for twenty grand.

    Don’t kid yourself – pretty much every abuse case that goes for prosecution has involved some level of abuse. If the CPS weren’t sure of that then it would be one of the 90% of assaults that do not go to prosecution. The question is whether that abuse is demonstrably illegal and has been proven beyond reasonable doubt to have occurred.

    Unfortunately our level of innate prejudice means that this bar is set exceptionally high, especially when it comes to celebrities. And it is the vulnerable who suffer as a result – I am personally aware of two teenage girls who have killed themselves after their alleged abusers walked free from court. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that in both cases those individuals raped those children.

    Apologies for the rant, but – due to personal experience in this field – I feel very strongly about this.

  30. Carfrew

    Well argued piece on why the public schools get proportionally more places at Oxford and Cambridge.

  31. @Martyn – “The Luxembourg Compromise… this one may work”

    One commentator I heard was saying that the “L-bomb” strategy would only work with the French President on side… perhaps this is why Cameron has been courting François Hollande so assiduously over the years? :)

    Compromise seems to be at the heart of this tangled history though, with counties like Belguim and Luxembourg determined to bend over backwards to accommodate the conflicting demands of say Germany and Italy on the one hand or France, Denmark and UK on the other.

    Perhaps the commentator had this passage from the Wikipedia page in mind:

    “This attitude [of the UK in 1982] provoked a sufficient majority of Member States – including France – to take part in a vote openly putting Britain in a minority, and adopting the package. This was possible because the “bottom line”, constitutionally, was the treaty provision for majority voting in this area, rather than the political understanding (and a disputed one at that) of the Luxembourg Compromise.”

    My quess is that a legal challenge would work only if the Lisbon Treaty could be shown to require unanimity in the council rather than a simple parliamentary majority for this appointment to go through.

  32. @Steve – “average pay of graduates it ranks right at the top.”

    That figure is a bit skewed as OU attracts a very different target market, but yes, the Open University is one of the great achievements of the modern British state, alongside the NHS.

  33. @Carfrew – “You coulda been the guy who invented the T-test and it’d make little difference!!…”

    Funny you should mention that, because he was famously a Student too.(/statsjoke)

  34. I have done undergraduate degrees at both Oxbridge (1980s) and non-Oxbridge (1990s). I’ve also done a module with the OU. My own experience (as anecdotal as anyone else’s):

    Oxbridge: Hard to get into. But staying in was relatively easy. Work was demanded, but if you didn’t do it nothing much happened. Everything ultimately depended on some long exams at the end of three years. Some of the lecturing was appalling; the supervision was intense (1:1 or 1:2) and good. I did a science subject here. Results: difficult to know if Oxbridge marks harder. I saw a lot of variety even between subjects (eg maths were evenly done so that top 25% got first, bottom 25% third; my subject top 10% got first, bottom 10% got third).
    Incidentally, the separate entrance exam was abandoned by Cambridge as being unfair to state pupils who weren’t tutored for it (I don’t know if they have since reintroduced it).

    Non-Oxbridge: more demanding day to day. The course was modular, so work was required consistently through the final two years. Assessment was by essay and exam (I think essays are infinitely fairer, but that’s another debate). Standard of lecturing was higher; tutorial ratios were also higher though.

    I enjoyed both. Incidentally, the OU module was incredibly professionally taught, probably the best of the three comparisons.

  35. “So whatever one thinks about the merits or otherwise of the public school system, it’s not necessarily trivial for Oxbridge to counter its effects when selecting students.”
    I don’t think anyone would suggest it was (nor that the responsibility for remedying these inequalities of opportunity could or should fall only on the universities). Chris Green would have us believe that the latter are just innocent victims rather than participants in the system.


  36. Not only that but it seems that if they want the best students they should really be discriminating in favour of state schools:


  37. And finally,

    “Just five schools in England sent more pupils to Oxford and Cambridge over three years than nearly 2,000 others combined, researchers have found.”


  38. On the matter of standards at Oxford and Cambridge vs other Institutions, even if one feels there is a vague on the public school state thing, nonetheless they are preferentially selecting candidates who at the least have done rather better than the norm in “A” levels etc. 

    Which in turn allows them to start the degree syllabus a bit further along and maintain a higher pace throughout. 

    Whereas in the redbrick I was on about, they required rather lower grades for entry and so would have to limit the course to suit those getting in on the lower grades.

    Even if you are determined to believe that Oxford would not raise the standard to suit their intake, consider that they have to differentiate when it comes to exams so have to set harder questions to suit the more able, or mark more stringently…

  39. @Peter Cairns.

    The non-wealthy also don’t tend to get the “arrest by prearranged appointment” treatment, and thus have less opportunity to secrete the *ahem* p0rn stash behind the bins.

  40. ROGERH
    And finally,
    “Just five schools in England sent more pupils to Oxford and Cambridge over three years than nearly 2,000 others combined, researchers have found.”


    Yes but the entry requirements for those schools are rather stringent!!!!!


    They tend to perform in the top ten nationally in “A” levels too.

    In my day tbe best of all was Manchester Grammar who were super-selective. You can bet they got a lot into Oxford and Cambridge too.

  41. BigFatRon
    “listen to middle aged women on the train home who were convinced that girls raising complaints against a well-known celebrity were ‘tarts who were in it for the money’ – purely because they liked the soap opera in question.”

    I’m quite sure there is likely to be a fair few men as well as women that think like that – more fool them I say.

    I hope you weren’t impl1ng that men were less likely to think that of young women – after all, how often have we heard men say that a woman must have been “asking for it” because she wore a skirt that was very short.

  42. @RogerH – “if they want the best students they should really be discriminating in favour of state schools”

    This is one of the points that people have been trying to make to you: that relative to underyling ability, private schools tend on average to get better grades for their students. This leads to two factors. Number one, that means that there are many more private school students with the sufficient grades relative to their number, and in an accountable, transparent system grades have to be the primary determinant. Number two, that average benefit disguises a huge amount of variance, and as Carfrew says, it’s not trivial to gauge what that amount was for an individual student, which is the level at which all of these decisions are made. And that is prior to the pre-selection that goes into letting students into private schools to begin with.

    There simply isn’t much more that Oxbridge can do to get more state school students in while still being fair to the talent and effort of private school students. Yes, let’s talk about ending the financial apartheid of private education. But Oxbridge is not a part of that problem, merely an institution that is affected by it, as are so many other institutions.

    For example, UK sports (other than football) are heavily dominated by private school alumni. So what should the sporting authorities do when selecting the national cricket team – refuse to select the best players they can, because they have already reached their private school quota? It’s not realistic and not fair to institutions to expect that kind of self-harming behaviour. Instead society should face up to the cause, not blame the symptoms.

  43. @ROGERH
    “Not only that but it seems that if they want the best students they should really be discriminating in favour of state schools:”


    That article says that public school pupils do 9% better than state school pupils at getting into Oxbridge for the same grades.

    This should not really be a surprise when at elite, highly selective institutions they can take you way beyond “A” level. Or way beyond where you might normally be at any point in time.

    I was put in for my maths “O” level aged 14 and got an A. Took French too. It’s a bit more commonplace to take exams earlier now, but the acceleration didn’t stop there.

    The more salient data is that which suggests state school pupils might perform data whilst at University. I can believe it, because frankly after years of being couped up at boarding school, many were ready to let their hair down rather more…

  44. (Perform data = perform better)

  45. @Carfrew – I like the idea of data becoming one of the performing arts.

  46. @RogerH – one of those 5 schools is state funded….

  47. @Bramley

    Barristers defending sexual cases prefer women on the jury because, in general, they are less likely to convict.

    While the vast majority of sexual assaults are carried out by men it is factually correct to say that men – as a category – are statistically less likely to impute blame for sexual assaults on the victim than women are.

    I find this bizarre, but it is true and well known amongst those who work in the field.

  48. @BigFatRon – Why do you find that bizarre?

  49. My observation from a grandson with an Oxford place if he gets his grades :-

    There are three things which will have got him to Oxford –

    1) Himself-his intellect, determination & application, and whatever it was which got him through the Oxford interview.

    2) His Parents-their encouragement, support & provision of a stimulating home environment .

    3) His 6th Form teacher.

    “School” per se-was not a factor.
    If it had been, he wouldn’t have made it to Oxford because he lives in an area of very poor schools.

    This one inspirational man , himself an Oxford graduate, was available by email & text out of school hours to continue a very personal dialogue of encouragement & advice ,which raised the A level study period to an entirely different level to the uninspiring “teaching” which preceded it.

  50. @ BFR, Chris Green, Bramley

    One would hope that women would show some solidarity.

    Sadly, that is not always what they do. However, I hope that women taking more powerful roles in society will increase the number of influential women who can send the message that it is always the perpetrator, not the victim, who is to blame for violence against women.

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