The other contentious (and rather more high profile) Commons vote this week is on the Education Bill. YouGov have carried out a poll of Labour party members asking their opinions of the proposals in the Bill, and their opinions seem to be closer to the Labour rebels than the Government.

Only 5% agree with the original contents of the Education Bill which proposed that all new schools would be foundation schools run by independent trusts, and the government’s compromise – that local authorities should still be able to set up community schools, but with the Secretary of State having the power of veto – is supported by only 25% of party members. 60% think that local authorities should be entirely free to set up new schools. 64% also believe that local authorites should have power over whether or not schools are allowed to expand.

Asked about foundation schools there is strong opposition to sponsors having too much influence over the schools they fund – 80% disagree that “it is reasonable that [external sponsors] have some influence over what children are taught there.” There is correspondending high level of support for local elected governors and elected parent governors on school governing bodies.

Finally, on admissions, the majority (56%) of Labour party members want responsibility for admissions to remain with local authorities, with 36% thinking that schools themselves should manage admissions under a code of practice enforcing equal access, and only 4% supporting giving schools complete freedom over admissions. On the 160 or so existing grammar schools, 51% of Labour party members think they too should be prevented from selecting by ability, although of those respondents, 79% think that other reforms are more urgent. Interestingly, 14% of Labour party members would like to see the government encourage more selective grammar schools.

(For analysis of the actual backbench rebellion, and no doubt the vote on docking dogs’ tails, see www.revolts.co.uk)


Puppy Dogs’ Tails

The Animal Welfare Bill comes before the Commons on Tuesday. MPs are due to have free votes on two amendments – one banning all docking of dogs’ tails, the other banning docking dogs’ tails, except for working dogs such as rescue dogs, police dogs and gun dogs. As seems to be the norm with questions of animal welfare, the respective lobbying groups have entered the fray with their own commissioned polls – a MORI poll for the RSPCA, and an ORB poll by the Countryside Alliance.

Both polls show overwhelming support for a ban on docking tails for cosmetic reasons – MORI asked if respondents supported or opposed the practice, 75% opposed it with only 8% supporting it. ORB specifically asked about whether it should be banned – 70% (including those who wanted a ban on all docking) thought docking for cosmetic reasons should be banned, 30% did not (the higher figure is presumably because most of those who neither opposed nor supported cosmetic docking opposed a ban).

The more controversial question is whether docking should be banned for working dogs. The ORB survey found that only 39% of people would support banning docking for working dogs. Supporters of the ban have questioned the finding because the ORB question said that docking of working dogs was “to prevent serious tail injuries to them”, when organisations like the RSPCA (who support the ban) question the contribution docking does make to preventing injury. The question should probably have said that “supporters claimed that” docking was to reduce injury, rather that stating it as a fact. That said, it is unlikely to have had a huge effect on people’s answers.

As I write I also notice another poll on the Bill – another proposed amendment would ban all but permitted animals from travelling circuses. No sign of exactly where the government would draw the line on which animals were permitted, but Zippos Circus are clearly worried about being allowed to keep horses – they’ve comissioned a MORI poll that found 43% of people think it is acceptable to have equestrian displays in circuses, while 39% think it is unacceptable.


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Ipsos-MORI have released a new poll for the Associated Press on the trial of Saddam Hussein, conducted across 9 different countries.

While other polls have consistently shown support for the war in Iraq declining in the UK, people continue to believe that Iraq is better off that it would have been under Saddam – 52% think the people of Iraq are now better off, while only 29% think they are worse off. These views seems to be somewhat unusual in the rest of Europe though. While opinion in Canada is almost identical to the UK, and in the USA 68% of people think Iraq is better off without Saddam, across the rest of Europe people tend to think that Iraq was better off with Saddam: in France 32% think Iraq is now better off, 41% worse off; in Germany 38% think Iraq is better off, 42% worse off; in Spain only 18% think Iraq is better off, with 47% thinking it is worse off. Italy is the is other exception, where 43% think Iraq is better off and 25% think it is worse off.

Britons, Americans, Canadians and Italians are also the most confident that Saddam Hussein is receiving a fair trial – 62% of British people think Saddam is being fairly tried, compared to 24% who think he is not. People are less confident in France and Germany (44% and 51% respectively think the trial is fair) and the Spanish are the least confident of the European countries – only 27% think Saddam is receiving a fair trial compared to 36% who think he is receiving an unfair trial. Respondents in South Korea and Mexico, the other two countries polled, were also more likely to think that Saddam was receiving an unfair trial.

Finally Ipsos asked whether Saddam should receive the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty. America was the only country where a majority (57%) supported the death penalty, in Britain, Canada and France 38% supported the death penalty for Saddam, 34% in Germany, 26% in Mexico, 25% in South Korea, 20% in Italy and 14% in Spain.


The full details of Populus’s monthly poll are now available on their website here. The poll also included some questions on people’s perceptions of the party leaders.

As in previous polls, David Cameron comes out ahead of Gordon Brown on questions of likeability and charisma – 44% think Cameron is charismatic compared to 29% for Brown, 52% think Cameron is likeable, compared to 46% for Brown – but Brown comes out ahead of Cameron when asked which leaders are strong, straight-talking and “has the qualities needed to be a good Prime Minister”. The two politicians are almost identical in terms of the number of people who think they care about the problems of ordinary people (as indeed is Tony Blair).

Ming Campbell trails Cameron and Brown on every measure – 41% think he is likeable, 23% think him charismatic, 33% strong, 37% straight-talking, 25% think he has the qualities of a good Prime Minister and 40% think he cares about the problems of ordinary people. it is likely though that the structure of the question puts Campbell at rather a disadvantage since people couldn’t answer don’t know – we know that 37% think he is straight-talking, but that doesn’t mean that 63% think he isn’t, as a brand new party leader the chances are most of them simply didn’t know. The same is probably true of David Cameron, who is still recording high “don’t know” scores on approval questions. We won’t know what people really think of Ming Campbell and David Cameron until people have had time to make their minds up about them.


A new ICM poll for the BBC, conducted as part of BBC Scotland’s Energy Week, suggests there is wide – but perhaps shallow – opposition to nuclear energy in Scotland. Asked what their perferred method of meeting Scotland’s energy demands is, the majority (52%) of Scots prefer renewable sources such as tidal, solar or wind power, followed by gas on 21%, nuclear on 15% and coal on only 6%. When asked to rank the four potential energy sources, 39% of Scots put nuclear last, behind coal.

33% of Scots say they would support building more nuclear power stations in Scotland with 51% opposed, and those opposed tend to have stronger feelings – only 14% “strongly support” building nuclear power stations while 35% “strongly oppose” it. Opinion doesn’t seem to be firmly entrenched though, when asked if they “support or oppose building new nuclear power stations in Scotland if they helped to avoid us being dependent on energy imported from overseas?”, support increases to 54% and opposition falls to only 34%. People’s gut instincts may oppose nuclear energy but they do seem to be open to argument.

Opinions are far more one-sided when it comes to nuclear waste – only 14% of Scots supported nuclear waste being stored or disposed of in Scotland, with 80% of people opposed.

A report in the Herald tries to wheedle some figures on party political support out of the poll – this is a mistake. As the Herald says ICM’s figures are for party allegiance, not voting intention and while there is an obvious relation between the two figures, they are actually very different things. Specifically the proportion of people who identify with a political party who say they idenfity as Labour party supporters is a far higher figure than the proportion of people who actually vote Labour, as many Labour supporters don’t actually vote or, at the last election, voted Lib Dem. Once you add in those people who do not identify with a political party, but do vote, it becomes impossible to extrapolate voting intentions from questions on party ID.