One of the key bits of evidence on why the polls got it wrong has today popped into the public domain – the British Election Study face to face survey. The data itself is downloadable here if you have SPSS or Stata, and the BES team have written about it here and here. The BES has two elements – an online panel study, going back to the same people before, during and after the election campaign, and a post-election random face-to-face study, allowing comparison with similar samples going back to the 1964 BES. This is the latter part.

The f2f BES poll went into the field just after the election and fieldwork was conducted up until September (proper random face-to-face polls take a very long time). On the question of how people voted in the 2015 election the topline figures were CON 41%, LAB 33%, LDEM 7%, UKIP 11%, GRN 3%. These figures are, of course, still far from perfect – the Conservatives and Labour are both too high, UKIP too low, but the gap between Labour and Conservative – the problem that bedevilled all the pre-election polls, is much closer to reality.

This is a heavy pointer towards the make-up of samples having been a cause of the polling error. If the problems had been caused by people incorrectly reporting their voting intentions (“shy Tories”) or people saying they would when they did not then it is likely that exactly the same problems would have shown up in the British Election Study (indeed, given the interviewer effect those problems could have been worse). The difference between the BES f2f results and the pre-election polls suggests that the error is associated with the thing that makes the BES f2f so different from the pre-election polls – the way it is sampled.

As regular readers will know, most published opinion polls are not actually random. Most online polls are conducted using panels of volunteers, with respondents selected using demographic quotas to model the British public as closely as possible. Telephone polls are quasi-random, since they do at least select randomised numbers to call, but the fact that not everyone has a landline and that the overwhelming majority of people do not answer the call or agree to take part means the end results is not really close to a random sample. The British Election Study was a proper randomised study – it randomly picked consistencies, then addresses within in them, then a person at that address. The interviewer then repeatedly attempted to contact that specific person to take part (in a couple of cases up to 16 times!). The response rate was 56%.

Looking at Jon Mellon’s write up, this ties in well with the idea that polls were not including enough of the sort of people who don’t vote. One of the things that pollsters have flagged up in the investigations of what went wrong is that they found less of a gap in people’s reported likelihood of voting between young and old people than in the past, suggesting polls might no longer be correctly picking up the differential turnout between different social groups. The f2f BES poll did this far better. Another clue is in the comparison between whether people voted, and how difficult it was to get them to participate in the survey – amongst people who the BES managed to contact on their first attempt 77% said they had voted in the election, among those who took six or more goes only 74% voted. A small difference in the bigger scheme of things, but perhaps indicative.

This helps us diagnose the problem at the election – but it still leaves the question of how to solve it. I should pre-empt a couple of wrong conclusions that people will jump to. One is the idea polls should go back to face-to-face – this mixes up mode (whether a poll is done by phone, in person, or online) with sampling (how the people who take part in the poll are selected). The British Election Study poll appears to have got it right because of its sampling (because it was random), not because of its mode (because it was face-to-face). The two do not necessarily go hand-in-hand: when face-to-face polling used to be the norm in the 1980s it wasn’t done using random sampling, it was done using quota sampling. Rather than asking interviewers to contact a specific randomly selected person and to attempt contact time and again, interviewers were given a quota of, say, five middle-aged men, and any old middle-aged men would do.

That, of course, leads to the next obvious question of why don’t pollsters move to genuine random samples? The simple answers there are cost and time. I think most people in market research would agree a proper random sample like the BES is the ideal, but the cost is exponentially higher. This isn’t more expensive in the sense of “well, they should pay a bit if they want better results” type way – it’s more expensive as in a completely difference scale of expense, the difference between a couple of thousand and a couple of hundred thousand. No media outlet could ever justify the cost of a full scale random poll, it’s just not ever going to happen. It’s a shame, I for one would obviously be delighted were I to live in a world where people were willing to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds for polls, but such is life. Things like the BES only exist because of big funding grants from the ESRC (and at some elections that has need to be matched by grants from other charitable trusts).

The public opinion poll industry has always been about a finding a way of measuring public opinion that can combine accuracy with being affordable enough for people to actually buy and speedy enough to react to events, and whatever the solutions that emerge from the 2015 experience will have those same aims. Changing sampling techniques to make them resemble random sampling more could, of course, be one of the routes that companies look at. Or controlling their sampling and weighting in ways to better address shortcomings of the sampling. Or different ways of modelling turnout, like ComRes are looking at. Or something else yet unspeculated. Time will tell.

The other important bit of evidence we are still waiting for is the BES’s voter validation exercise (the large scale comparison of whether poll respondents’ claims on whether they voted or not actually match up against their individual records on the marked electoral register). That will help us understand a lot more about how well or badly the polls measured turnout, and how to predict individual respondents’ likelihood of voting.

Beyond that, the polling inquiry team have a meeting in January to announce their initial findings – we shall see what they come up with.

154 Responses to “What the BES face to face poll tells us about what went wrong”

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  1. COLIN

    I agree it is a waste of time looking at the polls headline figures but from the detailed questions on leadership and the economy you can accurately gauge who is going to win the election as i did this year. So the polls are not a total waste of time.

  2. It all pales into irrelevance this morning Howard.

  3. @ OldNat

    Yes, I think that regional polls probably would work better – for the EU referendum & the next GE. But things do change so it might be just a short-term feature of elections that will reverse itself out over time.

  4. Fascinating look at the polling disparities. While AW makes the sensible point that this wasn’t about methodology per se, but about the appropriateness of sampling, it may well be that the two issues are interlinked, in that certain methods could exacerbate the sampling issue. Lots for the polling industry to worry about, not least the point that definitively fixing sampling issues by proper randomised sampling just isn’t possible.

    On other matters;

    Very interesting to see the first signs that Merkel’s era may be coming to a close. On Thursday, Schauble talked of the immigration crisis being ‘like an avalanche set off by a careless skier’, with by inference, Merkel being the one going off piste. Her call in the summer that Germany would welcome everyone has proved disastrous, (although it is arguable that the crisis was going to happen anyway) as it has given a green light to anyone trying to get into the EU. Because there are open borders, Merkel had effectively unilaterally announced a new open door policy on behalf of all EU member states.

    The pressure is now on in Germany, as they struggle to absorbed 10,000 new migrants a day, and patience seems to be wearing thin. On top of this, we can be fairly sure that, rightly or wrongly, yesterday’s events in Paris will be used by some to build up the sense that Europe is under seige. A borderless union seems to be increasingly untenable, for security and population management reasons.

    If Merkel is about to fall, this could have substantial implications in the UK. Merkel has been Cameron’s greatest source of political cover for the forthcoming referendum, and were she to fall, it’s very unclear how amenable any successor might be to Cameron’s aims and political needs.

  5. Anthony,

    Has anyone tried “Banner Add” polling?

    Add are selected on the basis of relevance based on browser history…..all be it not that accurately at present.

    If who though a particular hard to reach demographic used Argos or Lidl then a quick “If there was an election tomorrow” on their web page might give you an idea of what those people thought.

    I am not sure what the cost would be compared to a panel but it might be a way to see if panel results might be skewed.

    I am not suggesting it as an alternative to panel or traditional polls just something extra!


  6. Alec

    I agree with your last paragraph but I do not see it as a threat to the UK. If she were to be replaced with somebody who failed to support Cameron and he is unable to get a package acceptable to the UK then I would expect the UK to vote to leave, and about time IMO.

  7. ALEC
    Unless memory fails me, Gernany has been planning to absorb about 500,000 migrants a year.

    The UK international migration figures (ONS August 2015) are:

    Net long-term international migration = +330,000 (up 94,000 from YE March 2014), in the year ending (YE) March 2015.
    Immigration = 636,000 (up 84,000), in the year ending (YE) March 2015.
    Emigration = 307,000 (down 9,000), in the year ending (YE) March 2015

    The current “10,,000 a day” avalanche to Gernany is generally reported as temporary, and has indeed overwhelmed immigration reception facilities. A drop to let’s say 2,000 to 3,000 a day may be what Germany anticipates happening over the next few months, and would be tolerable and what, I understand, Merkel thinks is needed to balance Germany’s labour needs and balance in its demography and age-dependence.

    Maybe you haven’t seen the last of the Market era.

  8. For comparison, a total of 1,465,000 people immigrated to Germany in 2014, and net immigration was 550,000.

    So, one has to assume that the crisis is in coping with an increase from say 4,000 to 10,000 people immigrants a day.

  9. These findings have been the logical answer from day one. The last polls including those on election day showed Lab and Con neck and neck but the exit poll came close to the actual result. This suggested the lack of a late swing explaining the variance, also why would people be more shy about voting intention to a pollster than they would to an exit poll? The thought of Shy Tories never really held much ground to me, especially given the fact that they were comfortable stating who they voted for in 2010. The results suggested an error in sample that did not exist in 2010 so what is behind the change? Is it that first time voters in 2015 are more engaged than those of 2010 and more Conservative? Did a large number of non voters in 2010 suddenly vote Conservative? Did a large number of Labour voters in 2010 suddenly not vote? The answer has to be one of these? Personally I was not surprised by the result, we could guess that UKIP would do well and LibDems badly, it did not follow that UKIP would pick up Con voters nor that LibDems would move to Lab. I think this showed up in the final results. The other aspect was that the impact of tactical voting unravelled and this is to the benefit of the Tories and means a larger swing that usual is required to bring Lab to power. I believe 2020 will be impacted by the EU referendum and how the various parties campaign. Do not write off UKIP as they could emerge from a losing Leave campaign as the new SNP.

  10. Wings has another Panelbase Full Scottish poll – results will come out over the next couple of days.

    So far –

    Scottish Independence – Yes 49% : No 51% (previous Panelbase polls in July & Sept were Yes 47% : No 53%).

    and “5.6% of general-election SNP voters are *considering* voting SNP+Labour for Holyrood.”

  11. John Regone

    “Do not write off UKIP as they could emerge from a losing Leave campaign as the new SNP.”

    While that is not impossible, UKIP have a harder task to be seen in that role. The SNP had won the two previous Holyrood elections, and had built a significant level of trust among the electorate.

    UKIP would need to break through under an FPTP system, with no demonstrable competence – even at council level.

    It took the SNP 40 years, from their initial jump forward in the 70s, to get to their current position.

    For a “new” party, a decade can be a bloody long time in politics! :-)

  12. I just got sight of a copy of Gallup’s British political opinions 1937-2000 from the reference desk of my local library, with “The 1975 referendum” (butler & kitzinger) and “full-hearted consent” (goodhart) on order as interlibrary loans. I’ll apply for a British Library reader card later tonight. I believe the phrase is “f*** yeah”…:-)

  13. The figures for turnout in the f2f are 77% and 74% but the actual turnout was 66% so we are 10% adrift before even looking at how someone voted. Isn’t this a massive and insurmountable discrepancy? How do you ‘adjust’ for that?

    Strangely, the gap between the two main parties has corrected itself. Does this mean that the people who lied about whether they might vote at election time have now switched their second lie about HOW they might vote (from “lab” to “con”)?

    Or are a whole new set of people, who were honest at election time and seemed unlikely to vote now lying about whether they voted… and are they leaning ‘con’?

  14. David Colby

    “Strangely, the gap between the two main parties has corrected itself”

    Doesn’t seem that strange. Polls which use recalled prior voting as a weighting factor now use 2015, rather than 2010, data.

  15. OLDNAT

    True, but we know from the 2015 figures that one in ten are lying.

  16. Wings Panelbase poll

    “Do you feel that you personally understand Labour’s position on Trident?”

    Yes, I understand – they OPPOSE renewing it: 12%
    Yes, I understand – they SUPPORT renewing it: 18%
    No, I don’t understand what their position is: 70%

    Yes, I understand – they OPPOSE renewing it: 18%
    Yes, I understand – they SUPPORT renewing it: 21%
    No, I don’t understand what their position is: 61%

  17. @ Old Nat

    It’s a shame they didn’t ask a salience question about Trident. Perhaps the high level of don’t-knows = don’t-cares.

  18. Why don’t you try to be a bit more polite?

  19. I actually stopped reading & commenting for a long time because of Old Nat’s partisan nonsense – quite a few people noticed I’d gone ‘missing’.

    I really like this site; it’s a gem & Anthony is amazing. But it’s ruined for me by Old Nat. :-(

  20. @ Amber

    I have really missed you and your insights. Take ON’s advice and ignore his less kindly posts. I do understand though. It can be really quite oppressive to have someone always jumping on your posts.

  21. OldNat

    You (and Stu) are being naughty (again). If you look at the actual question that was asked in the Panelbase poll:

    asking Do you feel that you personally understand Labour’s position on Trident?

    it came with an introduction of positively Wellsian length:

    Last month the UK Labour conference passed a motion committing the party to renewing the Trident nuclear weapons system. However, this month the Scottish Labour Party conference passed a motion committing the party to opposing the renewal.

    Scottish leader Kezia Dugdale and most of UK Labour’s shadow cabinet support renewal, while UK leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray oppose it.

    It’s not so much asking someone’s opinion as testing their English comprehension. Of course people are going to be confused about Labour’s position after reading that.

    Incidentally it’s probably also the time to make the point that UK Labour’s commitment to ‘renewing’ Trident isn’t as clear-cut as that. It was previous policy and was hidden away in a long general policy document that was approved, but it wasn’t debated or voted on as such and there’s no guarantee that renewal won’t be explicitly rejected at a future Conference.

    I suspect Corbyn and his backers were happy to avoid another big row so early on and give them time to square the Unions and maybe convince the public (polling on nuclear weapons is more ambiguous than some think). But for the ‘moderates’ to declare permanent and perpetual victory on this is a bit premature.

  22. Roger Mexico

    I doubt that Amber had seen the introduction. I certainly hadn’t.

    Thanks for the link.

    It would certainly have been interesting to have seen how people responded, without the intro (though it does seem to be accurate).

    The issue did get extensive coverage in the Scottish media – though how much of such coverage gets through to people is another matter.

    Amber’s question of salience still matters, however.

    That’s not just an issue of the importance of the issue itself, but to what degree the views of a particular party on it are deemed to be of importance.

  23. Roger Mexico

    Worth noting, however, that 39% of Labour voters DO understand the Labour position on Trident – they just don’t agree as to what it is.

  24. @ Old Nat

    I hadn’t realised you were so sensitive. political campaigning must be a constant trial for you.

    I don’t come here to campaign & neither should you.

    My best advice, to save you pain, is not to engage with those who have differing loyalties to yours, and just to ignore any posts from such folk.

    Nor do I come here to ignore people. What would be the point of that?
    Why can’t you just behave like the vast majority of long-term ‘members’ do & discuss the issues instead of always trying to score points off people?

  25. @ Syzygy

    Thank you :-)

  26. Amber

    We rarely agree, but on this issue I am at one with you.

  27. On balance, I’m with @Amberstar.

    @Oldnat’s post of 10.51pm was irrelevant, partisan, and with no point other than to irritate. It was the kind of post that spoils the site.

    In life, if you find you keep getting into the same kind of argument with lots of different people, it’s time to realise that it’s you that is doing something wrong, not everyone else. And this is from someone who rather likes @Oldnat.

  28. As ever, it is not the actual event that defines the politics of the future, but the reactions to those events.

    I suspect most people would agree that the west’s reaction to the 9/11 attacks can be characterised as falling somewhere between poor and utterly disastrous, and the immediate reactions to the Paris events seem to be pointing Europe towards a hardening of attitudes.

    The timing of this is critical, coming as it does, alongside the migrant crisis and the border issues that this has raised. Links are already being made between the humanitarian crisis and the EU response, and security. The DT reports that one of the killers came in on a false refugee passport via Greece – a perfect gift to the right wing thinkers who want to close down borders and cut Europe off.

    Beyond the knee jerk responses of sealing ourselves off, rounding up suspects and initiating more drone strikes and airborne bombing missions, no one seem to be talking about how we extracate ourselves from the mess that western policies have made in the Middle East, and how we manage our foreign relationships with those countries in a complex tangle of oil, ethnic and religious divides, and historic emnity.

    The response will be all important, but to date, there is little evidence that we are about to get something right.

  29. SYZYGY – “It can be really quite oppressive to have someone always jumping on your posts.”

    Exactly. This is one of things I struggle with the most in trying to encourage people of all political backgrounds to feel comfortable taking part – people who jump upon the comments of anyone with a viewpoint with which they disagree with annoying, niggley or sarcastic responses. Syzygy has described it better than I could.

    Can people please try and be welcoming to all, and try and keep to the SPIRIT of the site. If you are always popping up to have points that just happen to co-incide with a viewpoint of a particular party or cause, and reserve all your unpleasant or unwelcoming comments for people supporting a political party at odds with that you’re not really trying…

  30. ALEC

    @”The response will be all important, but to date, there is little evidence that we are about to get something right.”

    ………or that Iran, Iraq, Russia, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, Libya, Saudi Arabia, ………………….are “about to get something right”.???

    I remember watching with horror tv footage of Shia chastising themselves with chains to the point of bleeding.

    One sometimes feels as though , at times like this, we do the same-without the inconvenience of the chains.

    If that is all we continue to do then we might as well get the chains-we are going to require an awful lot of self chastising to atone for future dead at the hands of these people.

  31. Might another reason for the better accuracy of the BES be the fact that it is an academic study. Respondents are approached by folk from leading universities with ESRC funding. Perhaps respondents then are more likely to be truthful, minimising the shy Tory count?

  32. @Colin – For the avoidance of doubt, as they say, I’m not suggesting that ‘we’ in the west get things wrong while ‘they’ (everybody else) gets it right – far from it.

    My long held view, however, is that we in the west make claims to moral superiority through the appliance of a more or less secular form of justice, based on the rule of law, liberal values of human rights and tolerance, underpinned by a democratic system that aims to allow different opinions to be heard and decided upon by all citizens. It is never perfect, but as a set of ideals it beats the pants of any other system of living, in my view.

    Far too often we have ignored our own principles when dealing with external threats, and in doing so, I believe that we weaken ourselves.

    Sometimes we need to have the courage to stick to our principles, even if it might seem that this brings short term risks, as in the long run, the only true defence we have is to occupy and keep the moral high ground. If we do this, our system will prevail, and others crumble, but it isn’t always quick and it can be a painful process.

  33. @Colin/Alec

    There comes a time when the self-loathing has to stop and rather than continually chastise ourselves in the West for foreign policy errors that come back to haunt us, with some justification it is even argued by the extreme self-loathers, we need to reassess what’s going on here. There is a brand of extreme Islamism that festers a burning hatred of the secular and liberal way of life and the West embodies this for them. This hatred can be aggravated by social grievances, some genuine, some self-nurtured, but it’s essentially a religious and moral obsession for them. This provides both the hatred and the justification for the violence. How else could the killers in Paris on Friday have continued their slaughter so long after any vestige of humanity within them would have screamed at them to stop? It’s depravity and brutality off the scale and it’s easy to categorise it as madness, but there was a rationale behind what they did. A religious self-justification and a burning hatred.

    That is a frightening cocktail of motives that goes way beyond mere retaliation for Western bombing campaigns in Syria and Iraq. Those are proxy motivations for an evil that is abroad now. It’s out there, embedded and imported, in most Western societies and I have no idea how it can be dealt with.

    How the French people react to the horror visited upon them on Friday will be more important than how the politicians shape policy in the Middle East.

  34. ALEC

    If your final para. means what I think it means-eternal turning of the other cheek from our “moral high ground” , then I certainly can agree that it will be a “painful process”.

    And it will never end-because they don’t recognise our “moral high ground”. As you will see from their statement after Paris-they were killing decadent westerners in a capital city of vice. And mark this-not killing & running away, but Killing by Self Suicide.
    Waving our Moral High Ground at these people actually makes them MORE determined.

    IMO we need to destroy IS in Syria & Iraq by whatever means coalition military prescribe. We should demand that regional countries join the battle-or forever be identified with appeasement of the fanatics in their own religion.
    I recognise the conflict between our dislike of Assad’s war on his own people , and Russia’s recent intervention on his side.

    But first things first-and that means responding with overwhelming force against DAESH

  35. @Colin

    Terrorism evolves out of a combination of factors that feed it

    I think the approach you describe guarantees the source of terrorism would continually topped up, and there would be no end to it.

    We need to end the proxy wars in the Middle East – stopping Iran and Saudi Arabia funding groups outside their boundaries. The US and Russia need to keep their noses out, alongside other western nations.

    The region itself needs to fix it’s own problems. I have no doubt that ISIS will never stand down, so the region needs to eliminate by it’s own forces.

    A western enforced solution will never fix anything, only breed more hate and terrorism.

  36. @Colin

    By not getting involved we defend our citizens by default.

    If the electorate are keen to for us ‘to do something’ ie bomb/engage in warfare, our leaders need to remind voters this is road to hell.

  37. CATMAN

    Ah- appeasement .

    Has it ever offered protection from the Madman?

    ( A rhetorical question-I think we have reached the predictable crux of disagreement)

  38. Colin

    I totally support your stance on this. We are at war already so appeasement is not an option, nor is there a peace option, as these people have no interest in peace, until the whole World bows down to their awful ideology.

  39. @Spencer

    If only that were true! Social researchers would have a much easier life. In reality market researchers (and marketers pretending to be market researchers) have made life much more difficult by pissing off most of the public.

  40. You’re falling for the propaganda, frankly.

    Islamists hated the West and all it stood for hundreds of years ago, and never stopped. 9/11 wasn’t born out of Western Intervention. It was born out of the idea that having non-Muslims and urggh, women who aren’t slaves in a Muslim country is heresy.

    I sometimes think people need to re-check their calendars and remind themselves that Afghanistan and Iraq were a result of 9/11 and not the cause of it.

    Even if we pulled out every plane, every drone, every advisor, every heavy machine gun and every penny piece that we are currently using to “intervene” in the Middle East, none of this would stop. Even if Islamists were permitted to obliterate Israel and kill or deport every Jew, none of this would stop. Even if we successfully removed all forms of discrimination against Muslims living in the UK and they enjoyed equal opportunities, rights, respect and representation with all other groups here, none of this will stop.

    These people honestly believe that they have a moral duty under their religion to destroy everything in the world that doesn’t accord with their own interpretation of its tenets. That means killing every homosexual, every adulterer, every democrat, every non-Abrahamic religious believer, every apostate Muslim who doesn’t follow their version of “the Truth” . ON THE PLANET.

    This isn’t just about what goes on in the ME, and what our governments and armed forces get up to (or not). That is just window-dressing for a much deeper issue.

    The real battle is within Islam, not within the ME.

  41. @Catmanjeff
    “I think the approach you describe guarantees the source of terrorism would continually topped up, and there would be no end to it.”
    Isn’t Colin’s approach the one which had to be adopted to remove the idea of Aryan supremacy from the world? I don’t see that that idea has had much traction since.

  42. Colin – “IMO we need to destroy IS in Syria & Iraq by whatever means coalition military prescribe. We should demand that regional countries join the battle-or forever be identified with appeasement of the fanatics in their own religion.”

    Careful. The frontline jihadis might be religious nutjobs, but what is the agenda of those in control of them?

    They’re trying to provoke a bombing response. Why? Is it really to start the end-of-days-apocalypse/rapture predicted in their books? Or are they trying to spike the oil price?

    ISIS funds itself by selling oil from it’s captured fields at a discount, through middle-men in Turkey (the same ones used by Saddam to get round sanctions). At the start of last year the oil price was over $100, so even with a 15% discount, they’d have got $85 per barrel. Now it’s below $50. If your only revenue source has halved you are in trouble, especially if you are trying to form a state and hold territory.

    We also know from the Bush era that whenever there was military activity in the middle east, the markets took fright, and the oil price spiked. So they’re trying to create a spike. They may lose some territory temporarily in Syria, but the extra dosh they get will help them consolidate in Northern Iraq.

    I expect the Saudis and Qataris would quite like us to use our blood and treasure bombing Syria and spiking the oil price too.

    I think all Europeans should reinstall border checks. I think we should threaten Turkey with sanctions if they don’t clamp down on the middlemen selling ISIS oil.

    Above all we should be trying to drive the oil price further down. Osborne should raise fuel duty (he’ll get climate change brownie points and extra revenue for the treasury as a bonus). Obama should be offering cheap loans to his frackers to keep them going.

    We shouldn’t get drawn into a bombing campaign – it doesn’t work, as Afghanistan proved over a decade. The only thing that works is cutting off the money. Afghanistan is a mess because we couldn’t cut off the opium money. However we should have more luck with oil. The Soviet Union collapsed within a few years of the oil price dropping – because it was their only source of external revenue. ISIS is in a similar economic position. They can’t earn money any other way, and all their donors are oil dependent too.

    It’s hard taking the patient route, but it’s the only thing that works.

  43. I am actually in France right now (Nord Pas de Calais) with a mixture of French and English friends. There is virtually no sign of anything different or untoward that was not there before and people are about there business in a normal way. People are no more or less cheerful than usual.

  44. Well, we managed to hold off Godwin’s Law (with generous interpretations) for a good four hours of inconsistent posting – not bad I must say.

  45. @Candy

    “It’s hard taking the patient route, but it’s the only thing that works.”

    I don’t know if I agree with all of your analysis of the situation, but on this point I would substantively agree.

  46. I would be very surprised if Osborne is not rejigging his Autumn statement to increase the home office budget, possibly also with a nod to the possibility of extra defence expenditure should the need arise. This of course leaves even less room for changing his stance on welfare. Following the tragic events in France, people will want their government to keep them safe and I am sure the polls will reflect that.

  47. @Candy,

    I’m not advocating, but Western military intervention to deny ISIL the use of oil fields might get around your issue?

  48. My previous post should have read “their”. Damn phone.

    What is needed is some clear thought. You can get rid of the likes of Assad or you can rid of ISIS, but not both.

    If you have true democracy in Middle Eastern countries, they will elect religious conservatives like the Muslim Brotherhood. That is because the population are mostly religious conservatives. The same is true in non-Muslim religious conservative countries like India or the south of the USA.

    The sensible Western interest is stabilise the states, even if means that we di not have pro-Western leaders installed.

  49. @Anarchists Unite – “I don’t know if I agree with all of your analysis of the situation”

    Tacitus said Pecunia nervus belli – money drives wars. Nothing has changed in 2000 odd years.

    If you look at other conflicts, it was always a change in funding that brought resolution.

    Cuba for example was funded by the Soviet Union, and after it’s collapse by Venezuela. But suddenly this year there was a thawing of relations with the USA. Is it really because of the Pope’s help – or is it because the oil price has collapsed and Venezuela is no longer sending them money and they need another source?

    Vietnam was funded by China. Now that China is picking on them, they’ve rushed into America’s arms, signing the TPP that puts them under American regulatory control. Lyndon Johnson is probably thinking, damn, why didn’t I think of the trade angle. Money talks again.

    Iran has put out feelers to the Americans too. Is it a coincidence that the oil price has collapsed and they need to be able to have sanctions lifted to allow them to export other stuff (such as food)?

    Even the American war of revolution wouldn’t have happened without French funding. According to wiki the French spent 1.3 billion livres on war costs and it contributed to the collapse of the French economy.

    Finally – when the Russian rebels downed that plane over Ukraine killing over 200 Europeans, we didn’t bomb Russia, we applied sanctions. And that’s the correct response, because it’s squeezing Russian finances hard. We should take the same approach with this incident – look to squeeze the participants financially. And then wait for the collapse.

  50. CANDY

    I’m not thinking of bombing-at least not just bombing.

    I’m thinking of removing their lifeboat-their territory-sweeping them out of Syria & Iraq with an army ( and bombing).

    We know it can be done-the Kurds just did it in Sinjar with coalition air support.

    Now I know all the arguments on the geo-political front.
    If you let the Kurds do it, you upset Iraq & Turkey.
    If you let Shia Iran & Russia do it-you support ( de-facto) Assad.
    etc etc through the permutations.

    I heard some talking head this morning saying only Sunnis can clear them out-because IS is Sunni-so you don’t upset any other Muslim sects.

    Frankly I’m sick to death of watching this murderous schism in Islam take more & more innocent lives .

    They declared war in Paris & we should respond in support & in unison-preferably under a UN flag.-but their “caliphate” has to be removed.

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