Saturday’s Times had the latest YouGov voting intention results, which were CON 40%(nc), LAB 42%(+1), LDEM 8%(nc).

It also had results from a poll asking about the media allegations about Jeremy Corbyn having met a Czech spy in the 1980s, which clearly illustrated why such things make very little difference.

To start with, most people pay very little attention to the day-to-day soap opera of politics. 40% of people said they had been completely unaware of the story until taking the survey, a further 31% said they had noticed it, but hadn’t really paid it any attention. That leaves less than a third who had actually taken it in. Obviously things that no one notices have no real impact, especially since those people who do watch political news stories will disproportionately be those who are interested in politics and have firm political allegiances.

Asked if they thought the allegations were true, the results were as you’d expect. A large majority of Labour voters thought that Jeremy Corbyn probably had a perfectly innocent meeting with someone he thought was a diplomat, and that he probably didn’t give any information to any Czech agents. The only people who believed it were Conservatives. This is typical of such allegations: people view them through the prism of their existing political allegiences. If it’s an allegation against a party you support, you are likely to view it with scepticism and give the politician concerned the benefit of the doubt, if it’s an allegation against a party you dislike then it will confirm all the negative things you thought already.

Finally, YouGov asked if the spy allegations and the way Jeremy Corbyn had responded to them had changed people’s opinions of Jeremy Corbyn at all. Only 8% of people said it had made them think more negatively about him (and they were mostly Tories to begin with). 6% said it made them think better of Corbyn (and they were mostly Labour voters to begin with). A hearty 64% said it made no difference at all.

Full results for the voting intention are here, and the Corbyn results are here.

1,679 Responses to “Why the Corbyn spy allegations made no difference to public opinion”

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  1. An informative blog on mutual recognition, the EU and May’s negotiating strategy:

  2. Hireton

    I saw that earlier. A good legal analysis, I thought.

    However, many ardent Leavers will automatically dismiss the content as “from one of those damn Rem0aners” – as would many ardent Remainers dismiss a similarly well- argued legal case from a Brexiteer (though I haven’t seen such).
    Will it affect VI? Nope.
    Might it affect some of those in Parliament into whose grubby hands our future has been placed. Distinctly possible.

  3. NEILA

    Thanks for the reply Neil.

    I think the link is on the money for a lot of what I was hoping to discuss. If a woman’s nutrition is not optimal before she conceives none of the organs of the child will develop to its full potential. The trajectory a baby’s life will take can be determined before conception. Remember that, perhaps, every time you see a food bank.

    It is not just poverty though that accounts for health inequalities. The Westminster studies that includes Michael Marmot’s work shows that inequality is also a cause of health inequalities.

    It is not socialism that accounted for the improvement in health inequalities in the former Soviet countries. It was the great buzz of optimism caused by the end of the Wall.

    Your remarks about poverty and health and consistency and stability are interesting. You identify correctly the message that Sir Harry wants to convey. He does not dispute that poverty causes health inequalities. He thinks that there is a way to break the cycle by giving children the best start in life that is possible.

    Also, researchers in Scotland do not accept that Sir Harry’s approach to health inequalities will, by itself, solve the problem. They identify the fundamental drivers of health inequalities as the unequal distribution in the population of power, wealth and income and the remedy is the redistribution of power, wealth and income.

    If you wish I can provide links to more information about this subject. For example:

    ” As the World Health Organisation (WHO) Commission on the Social Determinants of health said, “the high burden of illness responsible for
    appalling premature loss of life arises in large part because of the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. In their turn, poor and unequal living conditions are the consequence of poor social policies and programmes, unfair economic arrangements, and bad politics”. The most important locus for actions on health inequality is therefore policies which determine the distribution of income,wealth and power.  

    You can see, perhaps, the interactions of poverty, chronic stress, raised cortisol levels and early deaths.

  4. I note that the pejorative “Rem0aners” (spelt properly) now triggers automod.

  5. Oldnat

    As a pure insult, so it should… as does ******* ******** when used to describe leavers.

  6. Alan

    I would NEVER use the first of those asterisk sets!

  7. Turk – Returning to an analysis of the polls rather than any sort of partisan view, I don’t think you need to worry just yet about the prospect of a Corbyn government, and certainly not one with any sort of working majority.

    We are now firmly in mid-term, and the Tories are back in the lead. This is almost unbelievable given the poor state of the party. With any other leader, Labour would and should be 15-20 points ahead – 25 if they want to be sure of winning the next GE decisively.

    Look at opinion polls leading up to the November 1974 GE which Labour won by a cat’s whisker. Look at the period before 1997, and look at 1992, 2010 and 2015 where opposition leads did not translate into victory.

    When we start seeing Corbyn leading by 12 points or more on a regular basis I may change my view, but I am willing to be that will never happen.

  8. TURK
    Hello to you; I agree that a Corbyn Labour Government would tend to head in a totalitarian manner.

    ANDREW MYERS: I think you are correct to say that an Opposition Party should be well ahead of the Government Party in mid term if it hopes to win power.
    In the build up to the Feb 74 GE (my first as a voter) I think Heath was ahead, but a late swing in the campaign, triggered by some statistical controversy over miners’ wages.
    In October 74 there was a late swing against Labour in the last week of that GE campaign, which greatly disappointed Harold Wilson.

  9. If this detailed analysis has been posted before –
    apologies – not much time for UKPR today
    If not seen before, may be of interest

  10. @OLDNAT

    “I would NEVER use the first of those asterisk sets!”

    The only person I can recall using both in this context was John Major (who strangely went to the same junior school as I).

  11. Maraan


  12. @Andrew Myers

    We are now firmly in mid-term, and the Tories are back in the lead

    One poll, with a change of +1/-1, can hardly be described as the Tories back in the lead.

    I give you neck and neck though ;-)

  13. Mid term less than 10 months in to 5 year term?

    Chris – that you think a Corbyn led Government would tend to head in a totalitarian direction is intriguing and surprising.

    Not sure what you have in mind, whether it is abusing Royal Prerogative or misleading the HOC like previous PMs or is it internal LP totalitarianism you are concerned about.

    Personally, I have more faith in the young.

  14. I see on Twitter, pictures of vans driving around London welcoming the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince.

    Anyone know who’s paying for this? Saudis? UK Government? Arms dealers? USA?

  15. New. Thread.

  16. We are 9 months into a 5 year parliament. It’s not a year in let alone midterm. May feel like more than a year in around here though!

  17. Chrislane1945 – I was only 4 in 1974 so too young to remember but my recent research suggests that the first election had echoes of last year’s in that the Tories were expected to win but were denied by a late surge to Labour.

    My first election in 1992 saw a significant lead for Labour with Kinnock seemingly celebrating a week before the GE only to be thwarted on the night.

    My gut feeling for the next one is that the Tories will cling on, with an exit poll showing them as the largest party but without a majority – I don’t know why but I have 320 seats in my mind. Whether May will fight that one, who knows!

    I also think that JC will step down at some point due to age, and my money would be on Kier Starmer as the next leader.

  18. @Sam

    As there is a new thread, I can probably get away with one more reply re: the links.

    Thanks for the WHO link. I’ve just read the whole thing and it’s fascinating. But I still don’t quite agree with your analysis between the two documents.

    Sir Harry’s lecture is primarily around chaotic lifestyles, the incidence of stressors such as abuse and addiction etc on the life chances of children. Whilst he links higher rates of those stressors to disadvantaged groups, he doesn’t actually make any link that I can see between poverty itself and cortisol levels. He makes no reference to malnourished mothers or any other “material” effects of poverty. It is the social pathologies linked to poverty (or at least more prevalent amongst those in poverty) that he blames for stress-related cortisol effects. Of course I accept some aspects of poverty, particularly in parts of the UK with very unaffordable housing, or a lack of secure jobs, produce stress in themselves, he specifically made the point that even those who have been subjected to terrible lives tend to thrive when they feel secure and receive consistent nurturing. I think he is tilting more at policies like Sure Start, life skills education etc than at a straight attack on income inequality.

    The WHO report is more explicit in its linkage of inequality and health outcomes, but it’s very much a World Health Organisation view – i.e. they are primarily looking at colossal inequality both between the richest nations and the poorest, and between the richest and poorest in nations that provide little or no safety net.

    When it turns its hand to the inequality in the developed world, the case is much shakier. For example, the chart at 3.2 I found interesting. It is a simple bar chart demonstrating “raw” relative poverty and “policy adjusted” relative poverty in a number of countries. It seems to be making the case that countries that have lower poverty have better health outcomes. But if you look at a simple metric like life expectancy, you’ll see only very small differences between the countries with lower relative poverty and the others. And in fact it doesn’t always correlate at all. Belgium’s policy adjusted poverty level is several percent lower than the UK’s and yet her life expectancy is lower than ours. Too much wheat beer and chips maybe.

    I don’t dispute that there are glaring inequalities between social classes / income levels. I also don’t dispute that some of what could be done about this isn’t done (part of the reason I am attracted to a UBI policy). But I still maintain that for many people, it is the bad decisions they make that create at least some of the stressors that negatively affect their and their children’s health. Addressing income inequality on its own is unlikely to have that much of an effect on health, in my opinion, although I accept that most people believe it is a desirable aim in itself.

  19. @Sam

    Thanks (again) for the McCartney link. I also read the paper by Link and Phelan that McCartney made his footnote 17, in the paragraph that contains the assertion that the fundamental causes of health inequality are inequalities in income, wealth and power. In my opinion the paper by Link and Phelan provides only weak direct causation (low income housing being nearer polluted areas, etc) to start with, and even then it doesn’t really provide the support McCartney is looking for.

    I don’t dispute that there is a clear statistical link between poverty and poorer health. What I remain convinced by is the idea that direct causation is the primary driver of this, rather than the divergent lifestyles between social groups. I accept that there is some direct causation, and I am completely in favour of action to address that (no child should sleep in a bedroom riddled with mould, etc). But the debate as I remember it originated in a discussion about the extent to which “choices” are a factor in ill-health. My view remains that a large part of the health gap is that different behaviours predominate in different social groups (in general terms).

    One thing I find truly bizarre is that both Sir Harry Burns and Dr McCartney refer to the research finding that health inequality is worse in Glasgow than it is in Liverpool and Manchester (which they describe as cities with similar income/levels of deprivation). They then completely fail to talk about this suprising finding and in fact (in McCartney’s case) make political points that are contradictory to it.

    There must surely be something special about the poor in Glasgow (the quoted “Glasgow Effect”). If income inequality and deprivation in Liverpool match that in Glasgow, then the difference can’t be poverty. And it can’t be the unfeeling Thatcherite attitude of the UK government compared to the Scottish government. So what is it? Could it be culturally-inherited behaviours of men in poverty in Glasgow. At a given level of poverty, are Glaswegian men more likely to drink, take drugs, get in fights, eat unhealthy food and take no exercise than Liverpudlians men or Mancunians? Sir Harry makes a convincing argument that these behaviours are transferred down the generations. Children of drinkers, drug-takers, fighters are more likely to do badly, because of the cortisol stress this causes. Could it be that the outcomes for Liverpudlian men are better than Glaswegian men are because those men experienced lower levels of stress from those behaviours? If so, is that not an argument that even with in a set level of deprivation, behaviour has a massive influence on outcomes?

    Finally you made some comments about me.

    It might be possible for a family to be in good health living all their lives in rented accommodation and living on the minimum wage. Yes, of course it is. Lots of people do it.

    It is a myopic view. I don’t think it is.

    Is the housing good or bad? That depends. There is a shortage of affordable, good quality housing, particularly in certain parts of the country. But there are also hundreds of thousands of decent affordable homes, many of them newly built or refurbished, with low-income families living in them.

    How much is the rent? More than it used to be. I had already agreed that housing costs are, in 21st century Britain, the main cause of poverty. But in most parts of the country a full time job on minimum wage, with Housing Benefit, is sufficient to afford the rent for a decent home.

    Is there stable employment that is not zero hours? Well, we have very low unemployment levels currently, and the role of zero-hours work in this is exaggerated (most new jobs are proper jobs, not zero-hours). In the Brexit debate I am constantly reminded how much we need unskilled migrants to do the many jobs that cannot be filled by UK workers. So on the whole I would say, “Yes”. Of course, it may be difficult to secure those jobs if you have addiction or mental health problems, or unspent convictions, or a driving ban – but that surely comes down to behaviours again?

    How many children are there? Well the TFR rate (children per woman) has dropped below 2. I can’t find any statistics for TFR based on income group, but let’s assume that the poor have more children than the wealthy. So let’s say the mother has 3 children, one of them a baby. She will have been adversely affected by the restriction of CTC and other benefits, but in most of the country she and her partner should be able to afford the average rent for a 3 bed property. I estimate total income after tax, if both are in full time minimum wage jobs, at around £2700 pcm including Tax Credits. Not great, but enough to rent a house and feed the children. If one of them stopped working completely, their income would drop by around £300 pcm. Even worse, but still not enough.

    Is your name Pollyanna? Nope, it is actually Neil.

    Where do you do your policing? Devon and Cornwall.

  20. *Tax Credits, not Housing Benefit, above.

    Two full time workers on minimum wage wouldn’t qualify for HB.

  21. *Enough, not “not enough”.

  22. NEIL A

    Good morning, Neil

    I would like to continue with this. First, I want to invite you to read these below.

    Also, keep in mind, please, that the fundamental causes of health inequalities are the unequal distributions of wealth, income and power. These may interact in different ways.

    Marmot’s “social gradient” shows that the middle class are also subject to health inequalities.

    The starting point is the recognition that socioeconomic circumstances are at the root. Not just poverty but inequality, too. Remember the Westminster studies and the “social gradient” among those working in Westminster.

  23. NEIL A

    Hello again Neil.

    I have been having trouble getting my reply to you on the board.

    Here is another article which traces the evolution of the research we have been discussing. I hope it is useful

  24. @Alan

    Can’t remember if I thanked you for the Mooc links. If not, thanks muchly. Haven’t had time to check them out yet, am busy checking out a Cinematic Sample bundle.

  25. Thanks Sam,

    Dealing with the links in turn.

    Scotting lung cancer study – This is interesting although as the report in your last link states, lung cancer is a difficult disease to assess because the link to smoking is so strong that it rather overpowers everything else.

    The study does suggest that although most of the differential between mortality for lung cancer is due to smoking and associated lung issues, there is another component which appears to lead to greater deaths in manual workers than non-manual. The report points out the largest missing ingredient, which is evidence in relation to diet. Although the research picture is mixed, there is some evidence that consumption of fruit, vegetables and other anti-oxidant rich foods is associated with lower rates of cancer, and that consumption varies with social class.

    The Lancet link takes me only to the summary. I don’t have a subscription and I presume you meant me only to read the summary? This is very brief, but I would argue that the findings are pointing conclusively to a link between social position and health, but not necessarily to direct causation between the two. The article itself might of course provide more evidence of causation.

    The IJE article is by far the best, I think, and has opened up a whole new world for me (I’d never heard of Jerry Morris, Black or Acheson). I think the most pertinent bit to our debate (and also strangely resonant with the Brexit debate that dominates these boards) is Macintyre’s categorisation of “Hard” and “Soft” views. The idea that it is entirely the physical circumstances in which people live is the “Hard” view. The idea that it is largely “psychosocial” is the “Soft” view. The author states. It is, nevertheless, worth distinguishing the effect of material conditions related to inadequate shelter, malnutrition, infectious diseases, and pollution of air and water from psychosocial factors that are shaped by where people are in the social hierarchy. University educated civil servants, in stable jobs with reasonable incomes have worse health than those above them in the hierarchy. One knows there are psychosocial differences between the grades, it is less easy to demonstrate differences in material conditions that could plausibly relate to differences in health.

    I think this is important. It is not a question of “poor people have terrible health and die early”. It’s a question of “the higher up the ladder you are, the healthier you are and the later you die”. This to me suggests that something much more subtle than a direct causative link between deprivation and health. In parts of the world where poor families cannot access clean water, sanitation, adequate calorie intake and shelter then there will clearly be a direct causation between poverty and mortality. I don’t deny that there is some direct causation in the UK for some people. I have mentioned poor quality accommodation as an example (damp, mouldy bedrooms are clearly capable of inflicting direct health damage on those that sleep in them, and reducing their life expectancy). But I am much more in the camp that, in the West, the link is largely associative rather than causative.

    I find the steady gradient all the way from bottom to top interesting too. The idea that rich, comfortable, well-housed individuals in rewarding occupations have a higher mortality than even richer, even more comfortable, even more well-housed indivuals in even better occupations tells us something. Essentially the only way to remove psychosocial health inequality would be to level down as well as up. It’s not a question of bringing the poor up to an “adequate” level. They’d still be much more likely to die than the rich.

    That brings us to the political crux of all this, which is that a crusade to eliminate health inequality completely is basically a rallying call for a deep and pure form of Communism. And experience has shown that once power is organised in that way, other social classes emerge. Technical equality may be enforced, but there will still be people in better jobs, with better lives, with better education, who live longer. So if you push it even further, you end up with the Khmer Rouge.

    I am completely in favour of eliminating absolute poverty. I am completely in favour of reforms to housing provision to ensure that decent, well-insulated homes are available (my personal recipe would be measures to limit population growth, combined with a programme of redevelopment of the UK’s poor quality, but not particularly dense, post-war housing estates). I support a free-at-the-point-of-use NHS. I support free education (I am even in favour of free university education – although I’d combine that with a reversal of the increase in undergraduate numbers). I agree with the reports in that efforts to improve health should be targeted more specifically at those people who have the most to gain – even if they don’t themselves always welcome it (see Jamie Oliver’s school meals, increases in tobacco taxes and minimum alcohol pricing).

    What I am not in favour of is using what I consider to be pretty weak evidence that lack of material wealth in itself makes you sick as an excuse to push left-wing policy agendas. The government has a responsibility to ensure that its citizens have their basic needs fulfilled. After that, improving one’s lot is for me the responsibility of the individual. My personal, anecdotal perception of the way the world works is that simply directing more money to people will not in itself help them. Directing more money at social housing, education etc may well help, but only up to a point. (A family of four has a right to access a 3-bedroom flat that is well-insulated, affordable, has the necessary facilities and is well-maintained – they don’t have a right to a 4-bedroom detached house with a large garden in an upmarket suburb- even if getting to live in it might improve their life-expectancy).

  26. NEIL A

    “that lack of material wealth in itself makes you sick as an excuse to push left-wing policy agendas.”

    This is an inaccurate piece of writing. I remind you of the Kilbrandon Lecture and the longitudinal studies of children. It did not matter what kind of adversity was suffered but enough adversity affected health in later life. There is adversity in poverty. As I think you must know. Poverty can make for all kinds of dysfunction in families. Drug abuse can cause poverty. What about an opposing causality? How would one know?

    It is simply unreasonable to attribute left wing views to all of the academic researchers who write on health inequalities. And to imply that it is their politics rather than academic inquiry that directs their approaches.

    If you are still willing to engage, you might be interested in this

  27. @Sam

    There is certainly adversity in poverty, and I don’t deny that being poor does have some direct health implications. You keep linking reports where the authors state there is a wealth of evidence that social status / income etc causes health inequalities. They are of course better qualified than me, but that doesn’t absolve them of the need to actually convince me with their evidence that the obvious correlation is actual one of causation.

    In simple terms, if children in small houses with cheap clothing and no pocket money are disproportionately obese, does it follow that moving them to bigger houses, giving their parents more money to cloth them and treat them will make them thinner?

    There is also almost no consideration given to the idea that the actions, attitude and behaviour of an individual can influence how well their life turns out. If a child from a middle-income background developes a rebellious streak, falls in with bad company and starts to take drugs, they will eventually end up “poor” and their children will be severely disadvantaged. If their sibling takes a different path, and ends up in a profession, with a fell-walking habit rather than a heroin one, they will eventually end up wealthy and their children will enjoy numerous benefits. There will be health inequality between the “poor” sibling and the “wealthy” sibling, and also between their children.

    Of course many people find poverty a terrible trap that is hard to escape from, and I am in no sense judging anyone else. But I am still waiting to see any truly concrete evidence that being in a lower income group (and I don’t mean absolute poverty, as I’ve already made clear) by itself makes you significantly more unhealthy.

    As for academia and politics, of course it too is a “chicken and egg” situation. The voting intention of acadamics in social sciences is, I expect, heavily skewed towards the left. I also expect that being attracted to those specialisms may correlate to some extent with political views.

    On the other hand, if having approached the statistics with a truly neutral and unbiased academic focus, a researcher reaches the inescapable conclusion that only the policy prescriptions of the left solve the problems they have identified, then one wouldn’t expect anything else than to lean towards that and noone could be criticised.

    Please don’t get me wrong, I am generally portrayed as something of a right-winger on UKPR because I (very narrowly) backed Leave, but I would characterise myself as mostly a sort of centrist liberal on most issues. I have no ingrained opposition to higher social spending, more provision of social housing etc. But I like to think for myself. If I see evidence that convinces me that a 20% increase in tax credits will save 1,000 children’s lives every year, then of course I will shift to a position of supporting that. So far am not convinced. I feel that certain factors that, from my subjective experience, are very important are being dismissed because they are uncomfortable to describe. I see high levels of welfare support as a double-edged sword, doing harm as well as good (although that doesn’t mean I think they do more harm than good). I want policy prescriptions that address the completely unvarnished truth. At the moment I don’t think I see that.

  28. Neil

    A number of my posts are moderated. Hence the brevity. Apologies

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