The weekly YouGov/Sunday Times results are now online here. Voting intention is CON 31%, LAB 39%, LDEM 10%, UKIP 13%. The leader ratings are Cameron minus 18 (up from minus 25 last week, and his best rating for a couple of months – perhaps on the back of statesmanlike coverage at the G8), Miliband minus 33 (from minus 35 last week) and Clegg minus 52 (unchanged). The rest of the poll largely covered the NHS and education.

58% of people don’t trust the NHS much, if at all, to be to open about its standards, a drop from last weekend as cover-up stories continue to come out. Neither are people confident that the rules will be changed to stop future cover ups.There is widespread support for the sacking of staff found to be involved in cover ups (88%), their criminal prosecution (71%), and slightly less so for stripping them of their pensions (54%).

Labour continue to have a narrow lead as the most trusted party on education, 26% to the Tories’s 22%. Michael Gove’s approval rating stands at minus 27%, and his flagship policy of free schools is supported by only 29% of people (38% are opposed and 33% don’t know). The balance of opinion is that British schools are worse than those in other western countries, and that standards have dropped over the last three years. In contrast most people think our universities are equal (33%) or better (31%) than those in other western countries, though a majority (63%) think that tuition fees do not represent value for money.

179 Responses to “YouGov/Sunday Times – CON 31, LAB 39, LD 10, UKIP 13”

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  1. Ya well ye English have to debate Govey vs Twiggy on schools – a sad choice IMHO. Electorally and educationally useless policy of allowign a total, b*****s muddle announced by Twiggy last week. Reminds me of when I found myself leafletting a Council estate on behalf of the Sandinistas for Labour in the 1987 GE. About 1% of Labour voters have a clue of what you are on about, Twiggs. Here in Wales we are simple souls. No Academies. No Free Schools. Welsh Assembly Government attempting belatedly to reverse the damage caused by deliberate fragmentation of local education capacity by John Redwood, who thought it was more important for the Tories to run a few rural Councils in Wales than to maintain viable education authorities, which 20 years ago propelled Wales near to top place in the school education leagues….
    Labour need to rid themselves of the Blairite nonsense of Academies and fragmentation. It is the Blues’ tune. Labour should stick to equal opportunities for all children, everywhere. Unfashionable but right in the end. And actually what the majority of voters want.


    I agree.

    Further up the page Alec suggested the idea that the Council buy land without planning permission, grant such permission and then sell it (possibly to developers).

    What the hell is wrong with the council building housing it needs itself? They wouldn’t need to hope or encourage, they could just get it done.

    The acceptance of the post-Thatcher “consensus” is depressing. Nobody has seriously offered an alternative except ol Salmond…and look how popular heis party is now.

  3. @NickP – my suggestion not only gets houses built, but also enables councils to grab large amounts of funding for other services.

  4. @Alec

    Better still do what the Green Party used to recommend and bring disused / derelict housing back to use. Why build new when there are 750 000 empty houses already?
    don’t think we need the doctor’s surgeries – more allotments please.

  5. As a former Councillor I would be extremely concerned about the implications of the “Buy and Build” idea.

    Councils and Councillors are and should be neutral parties in the planning process. It is vital under the current system that it is clear and transparent and that when allocating Land for change of use be it for housing or anything else the Council shows no favour.

    The rules are designed to prevent Councils or individual members favouring any particular Land owner or developer over another for their own benefit.

    This proposal turns that on it’s head and effectively creates one where the Councils neutrality is abandoned.

    An auction of potential development land could lead to one where development is permitted not on the most suitable land for development but the cheapest in order to maximise the Councils return.

    In the current system (certainly in Scotland) Planners look at need for housing and then try to identify suitable available land.

    Part of the process is to discuss with Land owners whether they would be willing to see land developed as there is no point in designating Land for Housing if the Land owner isn’t prepared to sell it.

    Councils could of course be given the power to purchase it against the owners wishes for the “greater good” but I am not sure we really want that kind of power for Councils.

    We would also have to look at the equivalence principle in that owners are entitled to the value that land would have if it was developed rather than the current use.

    Being able to compulsory purchase land at current use value might well increase development as anyone land banking would have to look over their shoulder as if they didn’t develop the council could buy the land for the undeveloped price.

    That power along might speed development even without being actually invoked.

    Planning is Alchemy, you take base metal like rough grazing and turn it into gold, prime housing land.

    Another option would be to plan on the basis of large over allocation. If a town needs 200 houses over the next ten year plan period a Council could allocate land for 1,000 creating far more opportunity than needed and pushing land and development prices down.

    Who got to build under over allocation would be first come first served, so rather than whoever got planning for the 200 needed having a monopoly and being able to build to their own timetable and release housing slower than demand to keep prices high they would have to compete for others.

    The danger would be stop go development with a rush to build at the start of the plan period and then years of no building for years.

    The difficulty for all of these measure is that communities by and large don’t like new housing. most major developments are unpopular with existing residents and local Councillors are beholden to these people.

    I am not sure how buy and build gets over the problem that if Councils buy the Land and then sell it to developers at a profit the may well be attacked as corrupt and not get re-elected.

    Until people can show how this would allow unpopular planning decisions to be made and those who make them not thrown out by the voters I will remain skeptical.


  6. problem is, under this new scheme of yours, Alec, if I owned a plot of land with no planning permission and the council offered me some loot for it, i’d decline and apply for permission to develop it.

    My legal team would lick their lips if the council dared refuse the application.

    The whole scheme is basically “selling” planning permission. Holding the owner to ransom in fact…let us buy it because we sure as hell will never give you permissin to build on it.

    Complusory purchase of derelict land if left unused for a set period of time and a bit of central planning and building.

    Like buying bombed out building after the war.

  7. Actually, on reflection, my comment (in moderation) is too partisan, and excessively unfair to Elizabeth I. Please don’t publish it, Anthony.

    The non-partisan bit was that I think that Alec’s planning proposal is a terrible, terrible idea. the idea of the state (a) setting up laws, (b) breaking those laws, and (c) debauching itself by selling the proceeds is a foul idea.

    If planning laws stop land, which should be used for building houses, from being used to build houses, then there’s something wrong with those planning laws. The soluation is not to abandon the rule of law.

    The decline of the high-street can be seen as a possible positive development, since it can free up space that could be used for flats. It must be possible to find ways of converting unused shop-space into residential zones.

  8. According to the ONS, revised figures indicate that the Government spent more than it took in in 2012/13 than 2011/12 after all.

    So despite “Austerity”, borrowing went up.

    So depending upon your point of view, he didn’t cut enough or he should have borrowed more to stimulate the economy or he should have cut less or he should have have different things and spent on different things.

    But we are all agreed that the mortgage guarantee thingy was the most wrong-headed idea we have seen since the South Sea Bubble.

  9. @Bill Patrick

    Once you’ve changed the use from commercial to residential you will probably never get it back. This is fine if you’ve decided that you are going to abandon your town centres, but it is a one way process. There is also a real issue with commercial space being basically unsuited to residential use!

    Of course the decisions on planning should be removed from Councils – they should set up the local rules (UDPs etc), and then allow a judicial process to make the actual decision. It’s well known that in the current situation large companies simply threaten to appeal the decisions of councils – in the knowledge that most councils can’t afford the cost of defending decisions…

  10. Allan Christie
    Clegg is part Dutch and speaks the language fluently. He will not be impressed with the Dutch list PR system though, as it is tailor made for ‘buggins turn’ type politics, even more than our ‘safe seat’ syndrome (see Osborne and Blair as examples). It is PR though, so would be acceptable to those like me who want that.

    I wonder if Osborne ever knew where Hatton was before he got the seat or when was the last time Blair visited Sedgefield? I can’t think of any LD safe seats (Thurso with its ‘noblesse oblige’ Member?) .

  11. @ Howard – I think you mean Tatton!

  12. Is it possible to have a rationale debate on government borrowing ? Today several newspapers have articles and reader comments on Ed Balls saying that Labour might borrow to spend on infrastructure projects. This is met with complete ridicule, saying how mad it would be for Labour to borrow even more.

    But this is actually not a truthful debate on borrowing, as any party in government after 2015 will be borrowing at a level they can only currently estimate. If one party spends more on infrastructure projects and benefits from growth/increased tax revenues, they may end up borrowing less. Borrowing is mainly necessary because the economy is underperforming. In terms of department spending, I think Labour and Tories would have roughly similar overall plans.

  13. @Howard

    Osborne’s seat is “Tatton”, and I should know. A very agreeable part of Cheshire, but probably a bit too far from Westminster to be wholly comfortable for GO.

    Orkney and Shetland is a very safe LD seat,

  14. @ R Huckle

    “Is it possible to have a rationale debate on government borrowing?”

    No, it isn’t. Borrowing alone is a resultant of different processes, however, it ends up in unfalsifiable claims.

    There is no a priori way to decide whether more borrowing for infrastructure (or for anything else) would increase borrowing on a medium term (whatever that means).

    “Borrowing is mainly necessary because the economy is underperforming”

    “Underperforming” needs to be verified. Compared to what and is the comparison meaningful.

    “In terms of department spending, I think Labour and Tories would have roughly similar overall plans.”

    Very likely.

    Discussions about borrowing is a very lazy way of assessing the economy, so it suits to many.

  15. @ R Huckle

    My last sentence in the previous post was not directed at you, but journalists, politicians and some people in the finance industry.

  16. @RHuckle

    Borrowing is mainly due to Government spending too much. If Government spending was reduced significantly there would be no need to borrow and the economy would defintely improve dramatically

  17. The Sheep,

    If local people don’t like their town centres enough to shop there, then the people have spoken and it’s time for change. I am aware of the argument, put forward by one Labour MP at a select committee on the issue, that “Not everything should be left to market forces”. But if the high street isn’t a place for market forces, then where DO they belong?

    A lot of commercial space doesn’t make for very good residential space, but we live in an age of undersupply and so there will be plenty of people willing to buy it at some price.

  18. @Howard
    Osborne’s seat is “Tatton”, and I should know. A very agreeable part of Cheshire, but probably a bit too far from Westminster to be wholly comfortable for GO.

    -Not far enough

  19. TOH

    If you cut all government spending on for example the NHS you could “save” £120 Billion a year . You would of course make 1.25 Million unemployed by doing so and lose in excess of £10 Billion in PAYE ,NIC and Pension contributions.

    A comparable standard of private health care would cost in the region of £200 Billion a year to provide. With senior executives raking in salaries 50+ times those of senior NHS mangers and much of the excess disappearing off to whatever tax haven these businesses choose to register in.

    So I think your argument might have a teeny weeny great big hole in the middle of it

  20. Borrowing is necessary because without borrowing there is no money, literally no money, all money is lent into existence if no one borrows there is no money and the economy freezes

  21. Thanks all, it was a psychological typo (think jewish style ‘hatton, tatton, fratton’) which inadvertently makes my point for me. I didn’t know where either were until the Hamiltons and Blair appeared on the scene and that bloke in the cream suit.

    On the thread subject, i wonder if people know that faith schools include C of E, for instance. I suspect that the journalists have managed to cook up an image of faith schoolsin the public mind as those where the teachers have beards and no moustaches and the children sit all day in front of a strange book swaying backwards and forwards. If I didn’t know better i would think a ‘free school’ was one of these places like Montessori that we used to think were those where children didn’t have to study if they didn’t feel like it.

    It’s the issue of whether the polled person has the faintest notion of what you are asking about, as a pollster, that gives uncertainty to the results as YouGov have polled.

  22. steve

    It’s the simplistic truism that hides a lie. What does “spending too much” mean? Too much for what?

    Police cuts risk a rise in costs elsewhere. welfare alos.

    For instance, cuts in maternity support have led to a fall in the number of brestfed babies (another victory for market forces). Who knows what medium or longterm effects on other budgets from health to everything else?

    Cutting is not simple. Every wage freeze reduces demand in the economy. Every job lost does the same and adds to welfare costs too.

    Cuts will never create growth. Krugman reckons certain cuts when the economy is thriving would be an excellent idea. But cuts ongoing in a credit crunch creates a depression, ever deeper and deeper.

    Doesn’t matter how aften the Other Howard insists more and deeper cuts are the answer, all cuts give you is less economic activity and more costs elsewhere in either welfare, hospitals, police and prisons.

  23. @NICKP – basically its two quite different Political Ideals – one you and the Labour Party believe in and the other the Conservatives believe in.
    Twas always like that and always will be.
    Perhaps a ‘happy’ medium would be best but niether main party will sign up to it.
    Stubborn or just a strong belief.
    Each one believes they are right of course and the other is wrong!

  24. If your home finances were deep in the mire – would you go out and seek yet another loan to pay off your debts or tighten your belt a little and perhaps do without a holiday or buying a new car or having an extension built etc
    It really is quite simple.
    But yet again you could have two completely different views on this – BUT you have to decide which is the most sensible!!!!

  25. The trick is finding and agreeing which areas of government spending result in a significant benefit to society and which could be trimmed with minimal effect on services.

    Government investing in infrastructure that improves the UK’s competitiveness and efficiency will pnositively impact the deficit; so too will services where spending in one area (e.g. youth training) reduces the need for spending elsewhere (e.g. police and justice).

    One problem is that such debates are often hijacked by ideology – training schemes for youth offenders are ‘going soft on crime’ if you are a Daily Mail reader, and so ripe for cutting back under a right of centre government, despite their proven effectiveness.

    However it does not make any sense to provide jobs from government for the sake of it – we have to recognise that many public service departments include some jobs that are the equivalent of 1930’s ditch-digging. You can be 100% sure that there are many, many government functions where the office is deserted at 5:05 and where they could function just as well with 10-20% less staff if only the employees spent less time shopping on line and nattering in the kitchen area.

    The left need to concede that many public sector functions are over-staffed and highly inefficient; the right need to accept that these functions are none-the-less necessary and that some key functions (crime prevention, probation service, drug rehabilitation, midwifery to name just a few) are woefully under-funded and could add a lot of value if properly supported. Then we can have a meaningful discussion on priorities.

    Unfortunately any discussion of public spending tends to degenerate into a ‘public service good’ / ‘public sector bad’, soundbite-based slanging match in most newspapers and media outlets.

  26. @ Sine Nomine

    The government don’t skip a holiday to tighten their own belt. They choose which groups of people are to forcibly have their belts tightened.

    Good luck with ‘simply’ telling all your neighbours that they must to tighten their belts & pointing out which items they must forego. I think most will not be pleased by your ‘simplicity’ & you may well find that you are the least popular person in your neighbourhood for a while.

  27. bigfatron

    “we have to recognise that many public service departments include some jobs that are the equivalent of 1930?s ditch-digging. You can be 100% sure that there are many, many government functions where the office is deserted at 5:05 and where they could function just as well with 10-20% less staff if only the employees spent less time shopping on line and nattering in the kitchen area.”

    Not sure I recognise this description of most public services. Sounds more like the private sector to me.

  28. @ Sine nomine

    But that is a false parallel; the question is not whether you spend money but on what:

    – you could spend money on buying some kit that could help you do more work and earn some money – say a decent laptop and internet (analogous to government investment spending)

    – you could employ someone to do the small jobs in your house to allow you to work harder at your day job and earn more money (analogous to value add current spending)

    – you could pretend you are better off by selling your car, paying off a loan at 5% but taking on an HP contract for a new car at 10% (analogous to PFI)

    – you could carry on spending money at your local
    restaurant in the hope that they will then be able to afford your services designing a new website (a stretched analogy(!) to keeping up unnecessary current spending in the hope that it some how keeps revenue receipts higher).

    If you are left wing you generally want to do all four without much discrimination, if you are right wing you object (at least, until recently) to 1,2 & 4 but – bizarrely – seem quite keen on 3, and if you’re me you’re very keen 1 & 2 and think 3 & 4 are totally daft.

    The distinctions are pretty vital to any meaningful debate IMHO…

  29. sine nomine

    “If your home finances were deep in the mire – would you go out and seek yet another loan to pay off your debts or tighten your belt a little and perhaps do without a holiday or buying a new car or having an extension built etc”

    But surely the comprison should be not with domestic finances but business? For a big business saving on cars, advertising, wages may well be counterproductive if it means unreliable transport, poor and demoralised staff and low retention, no stock and no orders?

  30. The left need to concede that many public sector functions are over-staffed and highly inefficient;

    Big Fat Ron

    Despite what you might read in the media or hear from the Government the UK actually has One of the Smaller Public Sectors of developed Western Economy ,considerably smaller as a percentage than for example Germany or France or the Scandinavian Countries.

    Also despite a few years at the turn of the century when average pay in the public sector was slightly higher than in the private for 40 out of the last 50 Years it has been the other way round.

    You might like also to consider that the top 20 Public Sector Executives (excluding Banking and the BBC) earn less combined than a Single CEO averages in a FTSE 100 listed Company.

    So if you don’t mind I won’t concede anything of the sort.

  31. If my home finances were deep in the mire I would go out and Rob a bank, would it work for the nation’s finances as well?

  32. @ the above – You have just basically proved what I said to be correct.
    No real meaningful discussion just a belief that you are right and ‘others’ are totally wrong!
    So go on you left wingers – IF you win the 2015 GE carry on as before and spend, borrow, spend, borrow spend – and it takes us right back to square one if not worse!

  33. @NickP
    Therein lies the problem – you think this is never the case in the public sector, right wingers would think it is everywhere the case.

    I would argue that the reality lies in the middle- public sector productivity growth lies well behind the equivalent private sector productivity growth for service industries, yet both do essentially similar things. There have to be opportunities to improve. That picture is also very fragmented; it masks hugely different stories for – say – NHS trust hospitals versus council planning departments.

    Hence we have a sterile right/left ‘debate’, instead of a productive discussion trying to isolate areas and means for improvement where required, and also areas that warrant protection where efficiency is good and/or further spending can deliver net benefits.

  34. @Steve
    None of what you refer to speaks to the relative efficiency of public v private sectors – higher top exec salaries, while interesting, are not relevant, nor is the UK’s spend relative to other western economies. Nor is public sector pay v private sector pay.

    What is at question is how much work the average public sector employee gets through in a day v their private sector equivalent, and how their efficiency can be improved.

    Most (not all, I grant you) private sector companies have been driving efficiency up remorselessly, year after year – in my industry 10%+ per year, every year, has been the norm since the mid 90’s. Public service has been on the same path for far less time,

    Also the option of poor customer service remains open to monopoly public sector providers where it would result in the closure of a private company – so the drivers to improve are less intense.

    I’m not making a right wing partisan point here; I would be equally as vocal defending value-add services like youth offending or drug rehabilitation against Daily Mail style attack…

  35. @ Sine Nomine

    It’s for you to prove that the government foregoing a holiday would put the nations’s finances back on track; send me the proof & I will personally write to Osborne, Cable & Balls recommending a policy of cancelling all government holidays until the UK is back in the black.
    As part of the proof, please tell me how long you think this policy would take to be effective. ;-)

  36. @Steve

    Interesting statement. Do you have any figures on that? Northern Ireland has 28% employed in government – how does that compare with other countries?

  37. I think all the above answers R Huckle’s question. There is no possibility for a meaningful discussion on borrowing (and probably quite unnecessary too).

    Inefficiencies are all over the place in both private and public sectors. All the examples above are all obsessed (apart from ideologies) with local optima, isolated examples or just the opposite, completely “boundary-less”. Any organisation where everybody is constantly busy and doing thing is the most inefficient of all.

  38. bigfatron

    “Most (not all, I grant you) private sector companies have been driving efficiency up remorselessly, year after year – in my industry 10%+ per year, every year, has been the norm since the mid 90?s.”

    And there was me thinking the big private sector companies were going offshore to where they could pay slave wages and operate unsafe conditions.

    At what point does remorseless efficiency drives become dehumanising?


    While I understand what you are saying and in general it is true that efficiencies go up in the UK industry&service, yet it becomes less and less competitive as a whole (on the other hand there are many firms where competitiveness has radically improved yet traditional measures of efficiencies go down).

    In the public sector, certainly in the NHS, the constant efficiency drives destroy performance.

  40. @Sine Nomine
    “It really is quite simple.”
    Perhaps it is if you take the view that all expenditure is wasteful and produces no benefits. By the same logic do you have a mortgage? Do tell.
    Or did you decide that borrowing was wrong and instead you decided save up for however long and buy a home for cash?

  41. @ Laszlo
    No – a fully-optimised business is the most efficient (by definition), but it is also the least flexible (which is a far more serious problem in almost any business or service).

    This is precisely the argument I had – and lost – with the directors at my last company. They now have a highly efficient and totally unresponsive infrastructure, and are now sitting in a darkened room saying ‘Oh heck’ to each other.

  42. @ NickP

    “At what point does remorseless efficiency drives become dehumanising?”

    Just the opposite. Constant improvement of the economic system as a whole is the most humane. The question is the distribution of the gains of these efficiencies (resources for free time especially, but I don’t have objections to higher or better consumption either)

  43. @ BigFatRon

    Yes, that’s one side of the coin, I don’t know how many firms and how many times I told managers that they need slack – sometimes succeeded though.

    The other side is that there is always a bottleneck, consequently other resources have over capacity, so if they are fully utilised, they reduce efficiency (there is always a bottleneck, if nothing else, then the market and here comes in flexibility in a big way).

  44. @ Nick P

    At what point does remorseless efficiency drives become dehumanising?
    Isn’t the $64billion question: At what points do remorseless efficiency drives become inefficient (i.e. counter-productive)?

  45. @ Laszlo

    I fully agree with you about the NHS – surely this is the industry where flexibility is most essential?

    On the other hand I have had some recent experience with local council service departments, and – truly – it was like stepping back into the mid 90’s in terms of private sector efficiency and the basic understanding of process, control and exception handling.

    In fact it was really frustrating that I couldn’t get my hands on it for a few months – I seriously reckon I could have taken half the headcount out AND improved the service.

    I guess the distinction between efficiency and competitiveness is that one is absolute whereas the other is relative – it implies that other countries are even better at improving efficiency than we are. Certainly my anecdotal experience is that we are good at process but not so good at automation, but I don’t know if that is the answer.

  46. Laszlo

    Maximum efficiency is one person doing the same task over and over again, how is that not dehumanizing, I recently saw a Video of a mega Chinese poultry processing factory, I wasn’t sure which I felt more sorry for, the chickens or the workers, at least for the chickens their misery was short lived

  47. And it’s nice for me to see that Laszlo & BFR agree that organisations (private & public) which get the efficient/ effective balance wrong will – sooner or later – be penalised for their mistakes.

  48. @ RiN

    That was my point. Consider: you do the same thing and it’s forced on you. So, not really freedom. Now, imagine: you improve efficiency by 10% and you have 10% less hours to work with no effect on your salary (I know it’s far too simplistic, but this is the core of why I said it’s humane).

  49. Bill P

    Re High Street and Market Forces.

    I guess it depends whether you see city centres as having the sole purpose of facilitating commercial transactions, or whether you see them as being, in part, communal civic spaces.

    I’ll give you the Sheffield Heart of the City redevelopment as an example. 20 years ago, the centre of Sheffield was a repulsive place. And commercially, it was hammered by the giant Meadowhall centre 3 miles down the Don Valley (the latter being in the perfect “market” location, on a mainline rail line, having its own light rail terminal and being 200m from a junction of the M1).

    The Heart of the City project astutely combined private and public money to produce a renaissance in the Sheffield city centre, which both provided some of the finest civic space in provincial England. This included redevelopment of cultural centres (opening of the Showroom cinema, the redevelopment of the Crucible and Lyceum theatres, building of the Winter Garden and Millennium Galleries) and redevelopment of public spaces (station concourse, Peace Gardens, Tudor Square) all of which were grim places in the early 90s. And, crucially, making the city centre an attractive place to live, work and shop boosted the city centre housing, retail and office markets.

    This PDF gives a bit of a feel of the transformation.

    It’s not ALL about the Market. Even on the High Street.

  50. @ BigFatRon

    I can imagine the problem. I’m quite convinced that in many cases employees are under conflicting measurements (both explicit and implied) and they simply game it with negative consequences to everyone (but I don’t know if this has an influence in councils – it has in banking, manufacturing and the NHS).

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