With the window for taking part in Labour leadership election closing and ballot papers going out there were several polls over the weekend asking about the leadership candidates, though no fresh polling of people voting in the actual contest. ComRes, Opinium and Survation all had polls asking about the general public’s perception of the candidates. While the polls weren’t presented that way, I’ve seen various people writing about them as evidence of which candidate would actually do better as leader. In particular the Survation poll had Jeremy Corbyn ahead among the public after they were shown video clips, so was taken as a sign that he may not be as damaging electorally as the commentariat widely assume.

Questions about how well different leadership candidates would do in a general election are always popular and sought after, but extremely difficult if not impossible to make meaningful. Asking the general public who they think would do better or worse is perfectly reasonable, but is a different question. Who people think would do better is not the same as who would do better, it’s just asking the public to answer the question for you and a poll is not a Magic 8 Ball. Asking the general public who they prefer doesn’t answer the question either, it contains the views of lots of committed Labour and Conservative voters who aren’t going to change their vote anyway, and preferring is not necessarily the same as changing your vote.

If you ask how people would vote with x, y or z as leader, or if people would be more or less likely to vote Labour with each candidate as leader then you are getting a little closer, but the problem is still that people are expected to answer a question about how they would vote with the candidates as leader when the general public know hardly anything about them. A fair old chunk won’t even know the candidates names or what they look like, the majority will have little real idea what policies they will put forward. None of us really know how they will work out as leader, what the public, press and political reaction will be, how they will really operate. How can respondents really judge how they would vote in a hypothetical situation with so little information? They can’t.

Some polls try to get round that by giving respondents a little more information about each candidate: a run down of their main policy positions perhaps, or in the case of the Survation poll a little video clip of each respondent so people could see what they looked and sounded like. This is better, but it’s still a long way from reality. It’s like the famous market research failure of New Coke – in market research tests people liked the taste, but release it out into the real world and people wanted their old Coke back. A video clip or a list of policies won’t factor in the way the media react, the way the new leader is reported, how they actually handle leading, the way their party and their opponents react. There is no really good way of answering the question because you’re asking respondents something they don’t actually know yet.

Is there anything polls can really tell us about how the leadership contenders would do? Well, firstly I think we can be reasonably confident in saying the polls don’t suggest any of the four candidates is any sort of electoral panacea, the most positive net rating in the ComRes poll is Andy Burnham and just 19% think he would improve Labour’s chances, 14% that he’d damage them (Corbyn gets more people saying he’d have a positive effect (21%) but much more saying he’d have a negative effect (31%). None of them have obvious election-winning magic like, say, Blair did in 1994.

They can also tell us some things about people’s first impressions of the candidates, something that shouldn’t be underestimated (people probably made their minds up pretty quickly that Ed Miliband didn’t look Prime Ministerial, for example, or that there was “something of the night” about Michael Howard. Those early impressions are hard to shift.). On that front the Survation poll is pretty positive about Jeremy Corbyn with people saying he came across as more trustworthy and in touch than his rivals (though such polls are always a bit tricky because of the choice of clips – Survation tried to iron out any potential biasing effect by having clips from each candidate being interviewed on the Marr show, so they were all interviews, all the same setting and same interviewer… but even then you ended up with two candidates defending their position on the welfare bill, one talking about the EU referendum and one talking about rail nationalisation. It’s almost impossible to do such things and have a truly level ground).

The argument against Corbyn isn’t about his personal image and manner though, it’s that he’d put the Labour party in a ideological and policy position that wouldn’t win votes, that the Labour party itself would risk ripping itself apart under a leader with little support among the Parliamentary party and a long history of rebellion. On individual policies I’ve seen Corbyn supporters taking succour from polls showing, for example, that a majority of the public support rail nationalisation or much higher taxes on the rich and drawing the conclusion that there is a public appetite for much more left wing policies. Be careful – look at this YouGov poll which shows a majority of people would support renationalisation of the utilities, increasing the minimum wage to £10 and the top rate of tax to 60%… but also a total ban on immigration and benefits for anyone who turns down a job, making life mean life with no parole in prison sentences and stopping all international aid. There are some policies to the left of mainstream public debate that are popular and some to the right that are popular, it no more means that the public are aching for a far-left political party than for a far-right one. Essentially you can pick a list of appealing sounding policies from almost any ideological stance, from far-left to far-right, and find the public agree with them. In reality though policies require trade-offs, they need to be paid for, they are attacked by opponents and the press. They are judged as a package. In terms of how well the Labour party would hang together under Jeremy Corbyn, polling of the public can’t really tell us – a poll of Labour MPs perhaps!

Bottom line? There is no way of doing a simple poll that will give you a ready packaged answer as to how well or badly a potential party leader will do, and the things that Jeremy Corbyn’s detractors worry about are not things that are easily tested in a poll anyway. My own guess is that those who think Jeremy Corbyn would struggle electorally are correct, though it does depend on whether the Conservatives also pull themselves to shreds after the EU referendum. I am a little wary about arguments about parties not winning because they are too left or too right. While putting yourself broadly where most voters are is sensible enough, those voters themselves don’t necessarily see things as ideologically left and right and specific policies aren’t really that important in driving votes. However, broad perceptions of a party, its perceived competence and the public’s views on how suitable its leader is to be Prime Minister are incredibly important. It will be an extremely hard task for Labour to succeed if it is seem as taking up a risky and radical route, if it’s trying to rebuild a lack of public confidence by selling an approach that is radically different from what a normally risk-averse public are used to, if it is seen as being riven by internal dissent and splits, if their leadership patently doesn’t have the support of its own MPs. Maybe he’ll surprise us, but I wouldn’t count on it.

On other matters, the ComRes poll also had voting intention, their first online VI figures since the election (rather to my surprise. Their online polls for the Independent on Sunday dried up during the election campaign itself and I’d wrongly assumed they’d come to halt as part of ComRes moving their phone contract from the Independent to the Daily Mail. I’m pleased to see I was wrong, and the ComRes/Indy on Sunday relationship continues!). Topline figures are CON 40%, LAB 29%, LDEM 8%, UKIP 13%, GRN 4%, and ComRes have adopted the same socio-economic based turnout model for their online polls that they have started using in their telephone polls.

922 Responses to “Can polls tell us how well Corbyn would do in a general election?”

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  1. CMJ

    I can see that you you are an advocate of Activist Power.

    I just like the the simple idea that MPs get voted in by millions of ordinary voters who have no party membership or even allegiance.

    I realise that a Party Machine is neccessary to mount a GE campaign on a national scale.

    But accepting that, and recognising that Party Activists have input and therefore a stake-I would put the balance of power with the MPs-because they have received the mandate from voters.

    I guess there are two reasons for felling that way:-
    1-I’m not a Party Member,-it never appealed to me.
    2-What Labour has been through in the past when zealots gain control didn’t seem like a good advert for “democracy” to me-on the contrary it looked like the reverse side of the McCarthy coin.

  2. DEZ

    @”However the Conservative Party is the most pragmatic ”

    I agree-it is its great strength, and given a Corbyn lead Labour with a dogmatic stance, it will have a great opportunity to exploit it.

  3. DEZ

    ………and I think Osborne will be the key figure in doing so.

    A 2020 GE campaign fought by Osborne vs Corbyn would ( ? will) be fascinating :-)

  4. Well, I saw a new anthology: Poets for Corbyn. I have found such a thing somewhat problematic even in the case of iosif Vissarionovich …

    But actually there are a few decent poems there (and some terrible). But I think it’s another new phenomenon in the UK or maybe just England.

  5. Jack Sheldon @Rivers10

    While you young folk debate your futures, remember that those with parents/grandparents, whose education and opportunities were state funded [1], have a significant advantage.

    As few of my generation voted when we were young, as in yours. However, we also have the advantage that modern politicians now reward those generations who vote with extensive bribes.

    We have done rather well out of the post-war UK, and can selectively pass those advantages onto our own genetic lines, and sod the rest.

    Welcome to Inequality UK!

    [1] Some of us also had lots of other advantages too, like inheriting houses from previous generations – the value of which significantly increased, not through home improvements, but through publicly funded infrastructure.

  6. Austerity affects different people in different ways. Many won’t see the affects until the motorway lights are switched off, they are forced to queue in hospital outpatients department for hours or they need a policeman and there isn’t one there. The cuts planned for the next 5 years will mean cracks won’t be so easy to paper over as in 2010/15

  7. Lazlo

    “But I think it’s another new phenomenon in the UK or maybe just England.”

    I suspect that Corbyn isn’t going to provoke a political/cultural outpouring in Scotland – but maybe that’s because it happened during the Referendum here with groups like National Collective.

    As with your assessment of the Corbyn poetry, some of it was good, and some rather dreadful – rather like most creative works in fact.

  8. Considering the purely ideological attack on public services. I can’t really see the practical conservative government’s – if you need any evidence consider those DWP leaflets.

  9. @OldNat

    “While you young folk debate your futures, remember that those with parents/grandparents, whose education and opportunities were state funded”

    In OAP style: ‘These young folks don’t know how good they’ve got it, having to pay £9,000 for their education and take out loans to fund themselves. In my day university education was paid for us and it was bloody horrible!’

  10. @ OldNat

    Hence my correction. There is also daily political poetry in Wales.

    Most of the poems in the book are about various aspects of the social life, and the selection of these is pretty good. It is also interesting to see what artistic movements they follow (closer or further). It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon reading (80 odd pages).

  11. @Laszlo

    “I can’t really see the practical conservative government’s – if you need any evidence consider those DWP leaflets.”

    Well, it’s not so much that they are pragmatic, just that they’re very good at portraying themselves as being pragmatic.

    Although the philosophical definition of pragmatism is ‘what is true is what is useful’; so perhaps they are pragmatic in a convoluted way: the doctrine of fiscal responsibility is ‘useful’ for reducing the size of the state and therefore ‘true’ ;)

  12. Liz H
    I certainly hope so. While I’d vote for Corbyn in an instant I’m still not totally convinced the public at large will. As I always say it depends on the circumstances, Corbyn can win, just as he can lose its FAR too early to tell in my mind.

  13. @Rivers10

    I am an eternal optimist because I believe most of the people want a fairer world and only a few people are selfish and want to just feather their own nests. An example: I was at a restaurant this evening and asked the waitress if she would get the tip if I left one and she was telling me that it is so nice how many customers are asking the same question since the revelations of the tipping scandal.

    If we vote for him, Corbyn will win. It is as simple as that. I just think I have to do my bit, not worry about other people. They will do their bit.

  14. Spearmint

    The Blairites really have been ‘waxing hysterical’, haven’t they? This is also from the Guardian article about Harman declaring the result will be ‘final’ (well how else would it be the result?):

    John Woodcock, the chairman of the Progress group and a supporter of Liz Kendall, has suggested there is a “highly organised” attempt to play up the idea that there has been a purge of voters on the left in order to pave the way for a purge of those on the right of the party if Corbyn wins.

    He said: “Councillors and MPs to whom I have spoken are concerned that the hard-left is crying foul about a purge now to prepare the ground for a mass deselection of elected representatives if it wins control. The false notion that the party’s process of vetting the electorate for supporters of other parties constitutes a purge is intended to muddy the waters for the genuine purge of longstanding councillors and MPs that is to come.”

    If nothing else it’s a classic example of how people accuse others of the sins they would like to commit themselves. They seem unable to point to anything from the Corbyn camp to justify their paranoia but they know what they’re thinking.

    Of course the joke is that there is quite a lot of evidence with which this lot could be expelled if anyone so desired. You may remember the unions having great fun by pointing out that the ‘Party within a Party’ rules drawn up to get rid of Militant could just as easily apply to Progress. That seems unlikely to happen given that Our Jezza is, whatever else you can say, fanatically inclusive (too much some might feel).

    But there is a very real ideological sense in which the Progress mob are a Party within a Party. The second part of the first YouGov poll tended to be ignored except by those who used it as more evidence to announce that Corbyn’s supporters Didn’t Want To Win. However it contained some interesting policy polling:


    They asked about “policies that the Leadership
    candidates might announce” and Kendall’s supporters responses often differed markedly from Labour leadership voters as a whole {Support – Oppose =} Kendall (All LLVs):

    Scrap Britain’s trident nuclear weapon system

    20 – 57 = -37 (53 – 21 = +32)

    Limit the amount a single family can claim in benefits to £23,000 per year in London and £20,000 a year outside London

    53 – 28 = +25 (25 – 47 = -22)

    Increase the top rate of taxation to 50% for people earning more than £150,000 a year

    68 – 18 = +50 (85 – 5 = +80)

    Bring Britain’s railways back into public ownership, even if this means increasing taxes to pay for it

    46 – 33 = +13 (76 – 8 = +66)

    Bring in a point-based system for immigration to control the number of people coming here from outside the EU

    66 – 17 = +49 (43 – 26 = +17)

    Scrap tuition fees for students attending university

    43 – 28 = +15 (65 – 12 = +53)

    Limit child tax credits to two children

    45 -29 = +16 (25 -58 = -33)

    Outlawing strikes where fewer than 50% of the relevant trade union members take part in a strike ballot

    18 – 61 = -43 (10 -75 = -65)

    It is extraordinary how much the Kendall supporters diverge from the Labour mean – and not just by a few random points but by many tens of them. On three topics they actually disagree overall with the the general opinions of LLVs, again by a wide margin.

    All candidates’ supporters are fairly consistent with Corbyn backers most to the ‘Left’ then Burnham, then Cooper then Kendall pretty consistently on most topics. The three establishment candidates may be seen as peas in a pod, but the Kendall and Corbyn voters were distinct, with Kendall supporters being at least as distant in opinion profile from Burnham and Cooper ones as Corbyn’s are from them. Of course Corbyn had more of them (43%) so the centre of the Party is far to the Left of Kendall’s comparatively small band (11%). They really are out on a limb.

    Of course not even all Kendall’s supporters will have these extreme (in Labour terms) beliefs and some people who think like this will be backing other candidates. However it suggests maybe 5-10% of Labour members follow this line – a fairly small percentage, massively over-represented it seems in the PLP and other upper reaches of the Party.

    So if they went or were pushed, it would certainly be noisy but there might not be enough to form a viable national Party. The SDP was mainly founded with people new to politics – often rather managerialist types. But such people would probably already have joined in the years of Blairite pomp and enthusiastic new participants in politics have had sequentially UKIP, SNP Green and now Labour surges in interest, not to mention the Lib Dems increasing by 50% after May. Even the Conservatives seem to have been on the rise. There really aren’t the people out there for them to attract and not that many who will come with them.

    (Spearmint – If you didn’t spot it a 3:21pm reply to you yesterday was eventually released from automod purgatory this morning)

  15. Anarchists Unite

    “In OAP language”

    Correct! In my young day we didn’t have Tequila Slammers like my own kids did – and pubs closed at 9pm. We was deprived!

    However, the generosity of Con & Lab Governments in the UK since then meant that we have done really well, and have been able to finance our own kids and grandkids.

    The whinging youth should have chosen their parents better! It’s all their own fault for selecting the wrong egg/sperm mix to be created from.

    Incidentally, the new RISE graphic appears to show sperm rising to the top. Not a good gender equality image.


  16. @ Colin,

    Anyone who wishes to seek a mandate only from the voters in their constituency is welcome to stand as an independent. If they wish to stand on a party ticket, with all the advantages that brings, they must first win the mandate of their constituency party/association.

    I have to say, I have zero sympathy for all the MPs whining about this. I understand how fraught things became for Labour MPs in the early 80s and I agree with the “representatives and not delegates” argument, but some degree of ideological conformity is one of the requirements to stand on a party ticket. If the good people of the Islington North Constituency Labour Party decide that in fact, they’d rather not have an MP who has voted with the Tories 500 times, I don’t see why a selection decision made by their predecessors in 1983 should be binding on them. No MP should have a job for life.

    If rightwing Labour MPs feel they have an important contribution to make despite disagreeing with their local activists on Trident renewal or whatever, that’s an argument they need to make and win in their local CLP and good politicians should have no trouble winning it. I doubt Stella Creasy or Ben Bradshaw are in any danger of deselection.

  17. @ Liz H,

    On the off chance that you have over-estimated the generosity of the British electorate and the breadth of Corbyn’s appeal, what evidence would be required to make you reconsider?

    In other words, how badly would Labour have to perform in the polls or in next year’s elections before you concluded the strategy wasn’t viable?

  18. @Spearmint

    I would give Corbyn all the time until the general election in 2020. I don’t think the local elections are necessarily decided by what is happening nationally. If the country then still elected a Tory government, I would opt out of politics because I don’t want to give my support to any right wing government be they Labour or Tory.

  19. Not sure if this has been picked up by anyone but the Corbyn campaign has probably received a bit of a boost with two big announcements.

    First 41 economists have endorsed Corbyn’s economic policy which might give some of the waverers the confidence to pick Corbyn.

    Second Corbyn announces a policy to try and get more working class people into parliament which will certainly be popular among the Labour membership.

  20. @ Roger Mexico,

    To be fair, the “party within a party” argument was dumb as a rock when it was used against Militant, too.

    There was one and only one good reason for expelling Militant, which is that the Labour Party seeks to achieve its goals through participation in the existing system of parliamentary democracy and any Trotskyite group that seeks a revolution is therefore incompatible with its aims and has no place within it.

    Progress’s commitment to democracy within the Labour Party seems… limited, to say the least… but if they have no ambitions to go all V for Vendetta on the Palace of Westminster then there are no grounds for expulsion and the rest of the Labour Party will just have to put up with them and their whinging and their heterodox views.

    As ever though, your analysis of the Kendallites was fascinating. (Also thanks for flagging up that post from yesterday- I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that Hyacinth Bucket line!)

  21. @LizH

    If the country then still elected a Tory government, I would opt out of politics because I don’t want to give my support to any right wing government be they Labour or Tory.

    There are parties outside Labour and the Conservatives you know……


    I am not totally convinced that Greens are a socialist Party and I don’t like the current leader Natalie Bennett. I thought they should have worked with Miliband at the last GE instead of working against him.


    And I have vowed never to support LibDems ever again so they are out of the question.

  24. @ Spearmint

    To be fair most of the Militant members didn’t know they were part of a Trotskyist organisation (shows you how well those speeches in meetings that held the man, whose death anniversary happened recently, high worked).

    Most were ordinary union members who were not happy with the main line of the LP, and found the language of the Tendency engaging (also, as housing was mentioned, Broad Left was pretty successful with that in Liverpool), and heard the words that they wanted to hear.

    One oddity with Liverpool: one of the reasons the council went to the Left was because Labour lost a local election due to council rate rises that they had to implement. The lesson they learnt was that they wouldn’t do it again, actually Labour was voted back in until it became completely shambolic. Then a little intermezzo with the LibDems running the city and now the Greens are the official opposition, but Labour more or less does what it wants. It is a very left wing on some issues and very pro business in other. Very pragmatic :-)

  25. Is Corbyn responsible for One Direction splitting – and why should a multiplicity of directions be a problem anyway?

  26. @LizH

    There is also TUSC and others.

    (Regarding Natalie, she will stand down next year and Caroline Lucas will be Leader again)

  27. @ Liz H

    If you want a socialist party, you probably have to create one. Without willing to bring OldNat’s correct storm on universal beliefs on my greying hair/head, it would be a hard push to describe JC a socialist.

    There is an interesting debate is going on about Syriza in Greece in which, for some reason various Irish parties feel necessary to contribute – some pretty good, the nature of socialism is being discussed. It is interesting, but not very fruitful.

  28. Lazlo

    “the nature of socialism is being discussed. It is interesting, but not very fruitful.”

    It seldom is – much like the nature of nationalism, liberalism or One Direction-ism.

    Still, such discussions entertain the Ismists.


    @” No MP should have a job for life.”

    We can agree on that.

    Their constituents decide their fate at Election time.

    Selection time doesn’t get them the job. It just allows a bunch of party activists to haggle over who to put in the shop window.

  30. Good evening Roland :-)

  31. @LASZLO

    OK maybe my description of socialism is wrong. Basically I want to live in a society which is more equal and we don’t have a huge gap between the richest and poorest in the society. That would be my number one priority when voting for someone.

    It is for the Greek people to decide what kind of government they want but I am quite interested to see what the outcome will be. I wonder if the LP leadership debates will have any influence in their decisions or if they are even aware of them.

  32. @ OldNat

    Very much so, but it has to be done – if for nothing else, legitimacy reasons. But of course legitimacy reasons don’t legitimise fruitless debates :-)

    I don’t feel joy about appraising Syriza correctly, but I feel a deep sadness of the inability of the Left to follow certain basic principles (known at least since 1848, reinforced in 1921 and so forth) and develop the necessary skills.

  33. @Catmanjeff

    I think TUSC will merge with Labour if Corbyn wins the leadership.

  34. Lazlo

    “I feel a deep sadness of the inability of the Left to follow certain basic principles”

    Agreed. We may not agree on which basic principles they should agree on, of course.

  35. @ LizH

    I certainly don’t want to prescribe to anyone what is socialism (even if I have my opinion about it).

    The humane society that you described is appealing to me too, but it won’t be done by politicians alone. One of the things that bothers me in JC is the deep quietness about the function of the people in his vision. He says what he wants, what politicians should do, how he would use the membership to press the MPs, but … Is it it? How would he change all those institutions and inertia that needs to be changes to implement policies without the people?

    The Greek debate is getting dirty, by the way – not too surprising as there will be elections in 4 weeks, and at least three parties compete for the same votes, and at least another two for another section of the votes. The positions are quite clear, but not very convincing and have been around at least for 40 years. The Irish involvement fascinates me more.

  36. @ OldNat

    OK, I risk it. Just three: we are representatives of people, and THEIR thoughts. While the primary thing is the long term interest of these people, we don’t ever forget their immediate needs. Thus, “the true stimulus in human life is tomorrow’s joy”. This requires the third thing: constant engagement people directly and through people who live (and work!) among them.

    Apologies for going off so much from polls, but after all, being leftist seems to be the thing that the LP leadership election revolves around, also in other places in Europe. And of course it is interpreted differently in the U.S.

  37. LIZH
    I think TUSC will merge with Labour if Corbyn wins the leadership

    Crikey for the past 5 years Labour (rightly so) tried to put clear water between them and the unions, now you’re talking of amalgamation’s!!

    I like Corby and he is standing up for some of the poorest people in our country but wouldn’t it be better if he was made a Labour minister if Labour ever won power before he pops it? that way he can (like ole Ming did) keep tabs on the government if they go too far with cuts.

    Amalgamating with the TUSC..who’s that going to appeal too?

  38. Lazlo

    I’ll go with those thoughts. :-)

    Mind you, They could also be the necessary mantras for other political traditions than socialism.

  39. Pete B

    There is a perfectly valid political argument that incomes should be more equal across the whole of humanity, and not just within the restricted income ranges that exist within particular political states.

    Such a situation would probably reduce the migration movement from poor to rich states.

    Somehow I find it difficult to believe that you are arguing for the consequences of what you seem to advocate.

    In any case, there are few (if any) examples of the rich (all of us) voluntarily transferring resources to the poor to the extent that would make the rich equally poor.

  40. @ Pete B

    In relative term the UK is one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. In absolute terms the mean income person lives much much better than the vast majority of the world population (partly as a result of it).

    So, the question whether the two can be reconciled.

    In 1984, the New Economic Order conference (UN) estimated that tilting the foreign trade and foreign direct investment in the favour of the periphery countries would actually increase the world GDP (the same calculations were done for the EU ten years ago).

    If it’s true or not …

  41. @ Colin,

    Selection time doesn’t get them the job. It just allows a bunch of party activists to haggle over who to put in the shop window.

    Yeah, but it’s their shop, and like any good capitalist I support the right of the petite bourgeoisie to put whatever they like in their shop windows. ;)

    Any MP who feels that he or she has the support of the wider electorate and therefore has no need of the party brand can always stand as an independent, so it’s not like the party activists are depriving the public of a fair choice by shuffling their mannequins around.

  42. Any news on contracts for opinion polls for this Parliament ?

  43. Pete B

    Thanks for the clarification.

    I agree that all of us in the “First World” are enormously wealthy compared with those in many communities.

    I’m not wholly enthused by those arguing that the undoubted benefits of greater equality within society should be restricted to each society only, and not for humanity as a whole.

    Still, people make comparisons with those they see around them. If you are poor compared to most others that you know of, then you are poor.

    It is hugely complicated! However, I stick to my position that in the UK (and elsewhere in the developed world) there has been a significant transfer of resources to my generation, and away from younger folk.

    That seems damn stupid to me.

  44. @Laszlo
    “In 1984, the New Economic Order conference (UN) estimated that tilting the foreign trade and foreign direct investment in the favour of the periphery countries would actually increase the world GDP (the same calculations were done for the EU ten years ago).”

    I don’t understand how that would work. What does ’tilting foreign trade and foreign direct investment in the favour of the periphery countries’ actually mean? If it means deliberately spending more for inferior goods from poor countries, it ain’t gonna happen in the real world.

  45. Oldnat
    “However, I stick to my position that in the UK (and elsewhere in the developed world) there has been a significant transfer of resources to my generation, and away from younger folk.”

    There’s no law against giving money to your children or other young folk if you don’t have any children. This is probably better done by old folks than by the young or government, because the latter two categories are not generally wise.

  46. Pete B

    “There’s no law against giving money to your children or other young folk if you don’t have any children”

    Quite true, but that doesn’t deal with the question of why “I have money to distribute”

    Many of my generation like to imagine that it is because we are really clever, hard-working people.

    In reality, I was a high earner because of a publicly funded higher education – with no debt.

    We inherited several properties, whose value had been increased because of publicly funded investment and/or government policy which concentrated employment, and therefore increased house prices in SE England.

    Our own property has increased in value because road improvements (that the public purse paid for) advantaged the site.

    My point was specifically that, because of the advantages that the public purse financed, we can (and do) advantage our children/grandchildren.

    When we die (as happened when pervious generations died) our children will inherit wealth that has been created by public expenditure.

    Do I want to maximise the benefit to my children/grandchildren in this very unequal society? Of course I do.

    Do I think that this system is essentially corrupt, and ensures the continuation of a privileged group in society? Yep. That too.

  47. Oldnat
    This is getting very philosophical, but here goes
    “When we die (as happened when pervious generations died) our children will inherit wealth that has been created by public expenditure.”
    To some extent perhaps, but public expenditure is funded by your taxes, and as a high earner you would have contributed more than most. In addition, many peopel do not manage their wealth correctly and gamble or waste it in other ways, so we deserve some credit for that. Also, we don’t have to wait till we die. I pass on as much as I can while I’m still around.

    “Do I think that this system is essentially corrupt, and ensures the continuation of a privileged group in society? Yep. That too.”
    I don’t see why passing on wealth to your descendants is corrupt when it is a natural human instinct. Can you define a non-corrupt system in your terms?

  48. @ Pete B

    This is why I said that I don’t know if it’s true or not. I can’t validate their assumption and thei model at a sufficient degree of certainty. I think they are right about certain things, and completely wrong about the others. Still, the thought has been around for 30 years (more if you include the not very great debates of the 1960s and 1970s on international business).

    One is for sure, there is still a massive resource redistribution from the developing world to the advanced economies. The real questions are: is it really inherent; what is the cost of the resistance of the advanced economies (which has been remarkably successful) against challenging it.

    The current international business system carries a huge waste (especially in human skills and productivity). There is no research into the waste of other solutions (only the benefits – globalisation and their discontented).

  49. Pete B

    The best politics is essentially philosophy!

    “Also, we don’t have to wait till we die. I pass on as much as I can while I’m still around.”

    Yep. We also passed on what we inherited to get the kids onto the property ladder.

    “as a high earner you would have contributed more than most” But the whole point of taxing the wealthy is to redistribute wealth!

    The wealthy have an argument that their wealth shouldn’t be redistributed. that’s why they vote Tory (or Lab in Scotland).

    However, you are ignoring the fact that building infrastructure at public expense doesn’t benefit everyone. While those with houses near HS1 stations may have opposed the line, they have made a huge wealth bonus as a result – public investment producing private profit is unwise. Taxing that unearned wealth bonus would not be unreasonable.

    I’m passing my resources on to my kin because I can (I agree it is a normal human motivation). Should I ascertain the degree of that due to other people’s taxes and pay that amount to charity/the state?

    Dream on!

    One of the purposes of the state is to modify normal personal selfishness and take resources to apply to the common good – though that may not be a principle of the UK state under recent Con/Lab governments.

  50. @OldNat

    I find myself in total agreement with you this evening.

    I am also heartened by the fact that – for once – you are dealing in a general issue of political philosophy rather than bending everything back to Scotland.

    Please keep it up :)

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