New Coke, the sweeter reformulation of Coca-Cola that the company launched in the 1980s, is remembered as a failure of market research or at least, of the interpretation of market research. Surveys in advance, focus groups and taste tests preferred the new version of Coke. When it actually launched there was a negative backlash. People didn’t like their Coke being messed with and Coca-Cola eventually reversed and went back to the old formula. It’s a classic example of how a product that tests well in the artificial environment of a survey or taste test doesn’t necessarily perform the same way “in the wild”, when subject to the full chaotic system of public opinion.

This isn’t going to be a post about Coca-Cola market research strategy in the 1980s – I am sure it was far more complicated than the myths that have grown up about it – rather this polling from YouGov for the Times about NHS spending. At the weekend some of the papers reported that Labour were considering an increase in National Insurance contributions to help fund the NHS. YouGov asked people directly about this – would they like to see the basic level of National Insurance go up from 12p to 13p to help fund the NHS – indeed, people would, by 48% to 37%.

Politicians have in the past tended to use National Insurance as a rise that is less noticeable to the public than income tax, even though for salaried employees it is much the same thing (obviously it has different thresholds, but it’s still essentially an extra 1% of your salary deducted at source). I was a little cynical about that – did it really work, or do people treat it just the same? Or even, would people prefer the honesty of an income tax rise? YouGov asked the same question using a rise in the basic rate of income tax. Funded from income tax its the other way around, 34% support it, 51% are opposed. It looks as it the ruse works – if the extra 1% of people’s wages is labelled a NI rise, people support it. If it’s labelled an income tax rise, people oppose it.

Of course there are technical differences between NI and income tax (the way it affects the self-employed, or isn’t paid by pensioners, or is paid by people on lower pay than income tax is) and in theory they could contribute to the difference. I suspect most of the answer is simply that people are more aware of income tax and how it works and understand national insurance less well. Hence they are less supportive of a tax rise when they understand exactly how they’ll be paying it.

To bring it back to the New Coke analogy though, what does the question tell us about the policy? Would it be a popular thing for Labour to promise? Well, I think it tells us there’s a risk there. If support for a tax rise is conditional upon people not understanding it very well it does pose the question of what would happen if they had it explained to them, or even “misexplained” to them (remember how a National Insurance rise was packaged up as a “Labour jobs tax” by the Tories before the last election?). Essentially people like spending more on the NHS, they generally dislike paying more taxes (YouGov also asked if people would support keeping income tax, NI and health spending the same – people supported that too!). In the artificial scenario of a polling question you can link those two things and force people to consider them as one, you can use a form of tax people answering the question aren’t so familiar with. If it was an actual party policy, it would be out there being debated by parties, reported by the media, discussed in the pub. Would it be a discussion about how Labour are willing to make the hard but necessary decisions on providing the funding for the future of the NHS? Or would it be a discussion about how Labour would be putting up ordinary people’s taxes? Until a policy goes out into the wild that’s not an easy question to answer.

122 Responses to “But it is popular in real life?”

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  1. Very similar to the 50p tax issue I think… Popular at face value, but risks opening the general taxation can of worms. Time will tell…

  2. I’ve been struck over the years about the apparent inherent contradictions of people’s views on taxation and public expenditure, both expressed in polls and amongst audiences in political discussions I’ve witnessed. The example cited here of people being in favour of a National Insurance rise to fund increased spending on the NHS yet opposing an income tax rise to do the same thing, even though both measures are likely to financially effect them the same way, is typical of this ambivalence. More crudely and less scientifically, I’ve also seen studio audiences applaud politicians advocating tax reductions and then the same people applauding politicians bemoaning public expenditure cuts and their effect on services like the NHS. The expression, having ones cake and eating it spring to mind. A circle seemingly impossible to square.

    And yet, I wonder if the public are being as contrary and contradictory as it first appears. Nobody I’ve ever met has said they liked paying taxes and politicians who advocate lower taxes will always get a sympathetic hearing, but most people also recognise that the payment of tax is the price we all have to pay to live in a civilised society. If the taxes are fair, progressive and affordable and they clearly produce efficient public services that every citizen needs to make life worth living, then the democratic bargain is sealed. We’ll whinge, we’ll whine but we’ll pay and see the bigger picture. Polls still clearly show that where this democratic bargain is clearly explained, it’s only a very few ideologues who disagree. Social democracy, in a fairly woolly and undefined way, still holds the majority in its thrall.

    What has happened in the last 40 years, in my view, and the polls suggest this to be so, is that the left has been timid in arguing for this democratic bargain, too often defensive in the prosecution of the case and, sometimes, even tacitly accepting the countervailing neo-liberal economic view. In the face of this timidity, I’m both staggered and reassured when I see polls still showing majority support for our great public services and institutions and the place taxation has in ensuring their maintenance and continuity.

    The flame still flickers and I despair sometimes at Labours defensiveness; a persisting self-doubt that Anthony refers to all too tellingly in his commentary at the head of this discussion topic.

  3. Does the discrepancy take into account public sector workers, and more importantly NHS workers?

    When you begin to factor in the workers, their families and so on, there’s quite a few folk out there that might support pro-NHS taxation for reasons other than service improvements.

    Regarding the ‘will it work’ aspect, it will depend on the amount of ‘Stealth Tax’ rhetoric.

  4. Interesting Anthony.

    Re ” If it was an actual party policy, it would be out there being debated by parties, reported by the media, discussed in the pub. ”

    I am tempted to add …….”.and on tv during the GE Campaign” , believing as I do that this sort of scrutiny can change VI.
    …..but the last time I suggested such a thing you said the evidence was that GE Campaigns change nothing … :-)

    Coming back to the thread issue, I think Labour would have a more complex set of questions arising than the simple definition of a tax rise-eg how does this tax rise fit with the “cost of living crisis” & the “Squeezed middle”.platforms ?
    And Ann Clwyd’s outrage today is a reminder that the Welsh NHS is not a good advert for a Labour administration’s prescriptions on the NHS.

    Actually , the iconic status of the NHS , and its sensitivity for both Labour & Cons do no real service to the very neccessary debate which is required on the issue of funding the ever increasing demands & high internal inflation of this institution.

    No party dares to be honest about it.-and the third question in the YouGov Poll-which AW didn’t mention-perhaps indicates why.

    The largest net approval of the three questions was given for “Keeping income tax and national insurance at their current levels, and maintaining spending on the NHS at its current level”.

    Maintaining spending in the NHS at current levels is simply not possible if our demands upon it are to be met.

  5. I think it’s just a slightly illogical sense of paying for something from the “right” tax.

    I think people think that National Insurance is supposed to be the “welfare tax” and that if you’re going to pay more for the NHS that it is the correct vehicle. In the same way that I expect people would be more willing to support extra roads spending if it came from VEL and fuel duty than if it came from general taxation. For the majority, it makes no practical difference which particular sticky finger of the government takes the notes from their pocket, but in the quick-fire, pub quiz environment of an opinion poll, it may just be that some answers “sound about right” when others don’t.

  6. The Lib Dems used to advocate a straight-up 1% rise in income tax in order to fund (I think) education. It certainly didn’t do them much harm as they continued to gain seats at every election.

    In fact, the honesty and simplicity of the policy probably won them a few votes.

  7. As to the public perception of the need for tax rises, I think there is a danger of an unedifying show-and-tell.

    Public spending is so huge, and covers so many individual needs and services, that it will always be possible to find a hard-luck case where increased spending could have saved a life or prevented a hardship (or where not cutting would have done so – cf bedroom tax etc).

    But the counterpoint is that there will always be cases where public servants have wantonly wasted millions of pounds, that the “other side” can brandish in retaliation.

    What people want, of course, is that public servants do their jobs better, to spend as much money as they need to when it is justified, and to avoid spending money whenever it is possible to do so. But that isn’t really in the gift of party politics. Whatever system is introduced at Department level, the levers are generally pretty broken and the day to day service carries on regardless, for better or worse.

    It’s one of those perceptual dividing lines between left and right. We can all coalesce around the idea that spending is good when necessary and bad when unnecessary, but the left are programmed to see things as the former and the right are programmed to see things as the latter.

    Often the left will quote the views of the practitioners in support of the presumption that additional spending is necessary, and that’s often perfectly valid, but I think there is also some validity in the “Colin Prejudice” of assuming that any claim by public servants for additional funding will contain an element of self-advancement.

  8. Crossbat11

    “Nobody I’ve ever met has said they liked paying taxes …”

    I do not think that we have ever met, so your statement is not contradicted by my statement that I do like paying taxes! This operates on two levels.

    Firstly, I recognize that if I earn more, then I expect to pay more tax. Since a higher pay packet is generally regarded as a Good Thing, then so is the prospect of a consequently bigger tax bill.

    Secondly, I regard all taxes as a pool of which I own a share. The larger this pool, then the more I own. I felt richer in the 70s, when individual tax rates were higher, than I did in the 80s.

    This does not mean that I would voluntarily increase my personal tax rate; but as long as we are all taxed fairly, then I am in generally favour of higher taxes.

  9. @2612

    I think you’re new? In which case welcome.

    I’d just like to say that your post perfectly encapsulates for me the complete gulf between the left and right in how the relationship between the individual and the state is defined.

    Personally I see myself as a sovereign individual, completely distinct from (although I happen to be employed by) the state. My money is my money, the state’s money is the state’s money. I recognise the state’s right to take a share of my money, in return for certain obligations with respect to my protection and welfare. By I don’t see myself as a sub-unit of the state.

  10. NEILA

    I think that having a “Prejudice” coined in my name entitles me to a response.

    I suggest the “NEILA Prejudice”:-

    The Prejudice that Customer & Tax payer Interest in Public Service Funding is a “Prejudice” , but that Producer interest in it isn’t..


  11. @MrNameless

    “The Lib Dems used to advocate a straight-up 1% rise in income tax in order to fund (I think) education. It certainly didn’t do them much harm as they continued to gain seats at every election.”

    There is an argument to be made for hypothecated taxation, although I tend to agree with Neil A’s point about the dangers of this type of tax leading to an endless “show-and-tell” justification exercise. They do work in terms of the political simplicity of the message, though; “if you pay 1p more in income tax we’ll spend the “x” amount of revenue it generates on service “y”. A bit like the BBC licence fee, I suppose; you may not like what it pays for but you’re in no doubt where it goes!

    Of course, cynicism with politics in general mitigates against the ability to prosecute these difficult arguments. The drip-drip poison, sometimes self-dispensed, but more often than not promulgated by the media and the right, that all politicians are venal wasters, hell bent on taking money out of our hard-working pockets just for the sake of blowing it on pet and unwanted projects (see Farage for more detail on this line of attack), has had its debilitating effect on the credibility that politicians possess when it comes to trying to make the argument for taxation and public services. The fog of disdain and cynicism is sometimes impenetrable.

    Anthony in his commentary, rather depressingly but no doubt accurately, sums up the likely onslaught that any political party would face if it tried to argue for an increase in NI or income tax. Tax bombshells and Double Whammys would abound and more than likely frighten quite a few horses. One only has to think back to the Death Tax line of attack that more or less killed off any sensible debate and progress on the gigantic issue of care for the elderly.

    Fear is a potent weapon in politics and it’s a brave politician indeed who enters these toxic waters.

  12. @Colin

    I meant the word prejudice in its non-pejorative, technical sense.

    And I never said that producer interest in funding wasn’t a prejudice. I absolutely believe that it is.

    I don’t think it really deserves to be named after me, though. I don’t think you’ll find many police officers going around saying things like “Well, we were probably overpaid for what we do, especially compared to people like nurses, so it’s not surprising that we’d lose out from austerity”.

    I’m not the most representative (or popular) member of my profession, I can tell you!

  13. NEILA

    @”I meant the word prejudice in its non-pejorative, technical sense.”

    Fair enough- I don’t remember seeing it used in that context before-a first for me. !

    Pleased that we share the opinion in your second para. I would hasten to add however, that “Producer Interest” is something which customers , Taxpayers-or whoever is paying the bill-should most certainly be alert to -in the Public-or the Private Sector.

    It is a universal tendency.

  14. An interesting polling finding, and discussion. I think @neil A’s 3.03pm post is closest to the mark on this. National Insurance is, technically, the worst means to pay more tax in many ways. It unfairly concentrates the wage tax burden on working families, when the biggest group using the NHS are the elderly, self employed pay differently, low paid get hit harder than by income tax. High earners hit much less proportionately.

    These anomal!es wouldn’t matter so much if it really was an insurance policy, but of course it isn’t – it’s a current tax for current expenditure. It’s only ever claims as some form of future investment by people who think they have paid enough, or Scottish nationalists who think they’ve built up an entitlement to something post independence.

    Combining this lack of comprehension with the actual polling evidence brings us to a possible solution. Why not actually reinstate National Insurance as a dedicated tax scheme for the NHS? make everyone pay, but make it cover the full required cost for the NHS, care for the elderly, or whatever health and welfare measures you want to include in it.

    Total income tax (and possibly other taxes) should be cut to account for the switch from IT to NI, giving the chance to reform rates and thresholds, and you would broaden the tax base for NHS funding. I would expect to see an element of the new NI paid for by employers, as it is now, but again, with this directly funding the care services.

  15. @2612
    ” I regard all taxes as a pool of which I own a share. The larger this pool, then the more I own.” “I do like paying taxes!” “This does not mean that I would voluntarily increase my personal tax rate;”
    Hmmm …
    “as long as we are all taxed fairly, then I am in generally favour of higher taxes.” But who decides what is fair?

    It seems to me that 100% taxes and all benefits provided by the state is the logical conclusion?

  16. Despite being a wide-eyed Left-wing redistributionist myself I think strategically proposing a tax or NI rise by Labour is a real danger, indeed a gift to the Conservatives, even if the recipients of that rise were to be the NHS. The Tory press will always dig and find some “waste” somewhere within the NHS and hype that into “your money wasted by profligate Labour”.

    I think a really good dynamic tactic for Labour that would shift VI in their favour would be to promise a referendum on a 2% rise in NI to fund NHS spending stating before the referendum what will NOT be provided by the NHS if a referendum result is NO and thus publically “shame” the neo-liberal right-wingers who argue for NO. The public will think a referendum on such a rise is very consultative and democratic and MORE relevant than the referendum being promised by the Conservatives on boring old Europe – thus helping to “morally trump” any appeal of that promise?

  17. Don’t underestimate the differences between NI and Tax – NI starts at a much lower threshold than tax, is specifically a tax on earnings ( whereas income tax applies to almost all types of income ) and much lower on higher earners ( due to the Upper Earnings Limit ).
    So increasing NI is the last thing Labour should be advocating – much better to increase basic rate of tax by 1p.
    Unfortunately too many people still think NI is somehow linked to funding the NHS so makes it more popular ( or less unpopular ) than a tax increase – hence the temptation for politicians to advocate it.

  18. National Insurance is now significantly linked to State pensions with the number and value of contributions affecting subsequent pension entitlements. Contributions are curtailed in the same manner as benefits are curtailed. Pensioners do not pay NHI contributions once they have reached retirement age since their contributions are supposed to have created a fund to pay their pension. Generally speaking the lower paid get a higher proportion of what they contribute than the higher paid who partially subsidise them just as in the taxation system.

  19. It is to some extent an argument about human nature.

    If you give some public servants some tax money, will they use it wisely, or squander it? Will they use it for pet projects, or the greater good?

    In the polarised version, the left think they’ll use it for the greater good, the right think they will squander it.

    The right also think that competition and the profit motive in the private sector will fix the problem.

    The reality? The banking crash showed how reliable the profit motive is. As for squandering, it depends…

    Reality of human nature, is that one might consider it as a bit of a spectrum, sociopaths at one end, altruists at the other, rest of us somewhere in between.

    So you will get some wanting to serve themselves with pet projects, some wanting to do things right, some not much fussed either way. Some do the bare minimum, some do what they can within limits, some will flog themselves and burn out, whether for the greater good, or their own. And is the same in the private sector. To some, the customer is king, to others, someone to be milked as much as poss. And various states in between…

    Now, the interesting thing is that, things can be a bit fluid. People respond to situations, incentives, to what is made convenient, and are impressionable to some extent. And there is also the case of error, where things screw up not because of a lack of concern, or wilful self-serving, but because humans make errors. So one should try and design systems so as to both stack the incentives in the right direction, and also to try and obviate error.

    That’s what Weinberg did with Thorium. He designed the original reactors to serve a pressing need: service the power requirements of the military’s subs and carriers, and to produce nuclear material for weapons. Then he took another look at it to design an approach to obviate the drawbacks and get more from it. Political and private sector interests militated against pursuing it further… which ultimately puts the political system in the spotlight. There was little wrong with what the researchers did.

    If you take the NHS, some of the problem is that it is such a complicated thing, to manage the many differing healthcare needs on a budget. Hard to design an optimal system. Part of the problem though, is it is not always clear when things have effed up. In contrast with aviation, where it is pretty conspicuous when a plane falls out of the sky. Designing modern airliners, and managing an airline, are very complicated things, but they manage to shift large numbers of people efficiently with little incident.

    Thus it is no surprise the airline industry have been able to advise the NHS on improving their procedures. But then, the railways shifted large numbers with few incidents when in the public sector. It isn’t really a public-private thing. The Olympics… the military stepped in for G4S… the military tend to have good systems, ‘cos failure again can be conspicuous. When forced out of the comfort zone, perhaps politically, then we get Iraq etc.

    It’s the same in education. The best performing school in my era was not a private school, but Manchester Grammar. Their system won out: big catchment, super-selective etc., despite other systemic advantages of private schools: assets acquired over hundreds of years, big appeals, small class sizes permitting aggressive streaming and lots of homework etc.

  20. I don’t think we should rule out that support for increased National Insurance as opposed to tax could be linked to the myth, many people believe, that you pay in during your working life and get looked after when you retire.

    A surprising number of people believe that when they pay national insurance they are paying into a fund that generates income for them in the future rather than what they pay today paying for today’s pensions.

    It might all be part of the idea that national insurance is spent on nice things for nice people like them , the NHS and Pensions while income tax just gets wasted by the government!

    And o course they all know that all the VAT just goes to Brussels and they give it to lazy French farmers!!!


  21. NI is a poor choice for raising taxes for supposed left wingers. Used to pay NI when I wasn’t earning nearly enough for any income tax. It takes a healthy chunk out of the most pathetic pay packets.

    How about committing to ending all those scams multinationals use like licensing their own branding to themselves and ending the cosy relationship they seem to enjoy with HMRC, then maybe we can talk? Pretty certain that’d poll a lot better than making the working poor cough up as a first option.

  22. NI has 2 components – Employers & Employees. That’s possibly why people prefer it to tax; perhaps their expectation is that any extra they put into the NHS will be matched by their employer having to do the same. They might feel that their employer also contributing something makes it fairer.

  23. @MrNameless: “The Lib Dems used to advocate a straight-up 1% rise in income tax in order to fund (I think) education. It certainly didn’t do them much harm as they continued to gain seats at every election.”

    Safe in the knowledge they’d never be able to put any of their policies into effect, the cynic might suggest.

  24. Talking of Lib Dems , in real life, as it were , two seniors amongst them Lord Oakshot and Malcolm the Bruce have just been falling out on Channel 4 news, they really are up sh*t creek sans paddle. The public hate division within a party, and will punish it.

  25. Amber Star

    You make a good point there re Employers NI – on top of the disadvantages to NI that I pointed out, there is also the fact that higher employer NI increases the cost of employing people and has a detrimental effect on the supply side of the economy.

    The more you think about it, raising NI just gets worse and worse – I think even VAT is less bad ( and that’s saying something!)

  26. I believe that the increase in NI was a Frank Field suggestion and given the fate of many of his other suggestions, I will wait to see if this in fact becomes a LP proposal.

    However, I do not accept that taxation is required for any spending by a sovereign country which issues its own currency. Taxes are not ‘income’. They are a means of making the currency flow through the economy which can also be utilised to achieve desirable ends such preventing massive inequalities in wealth.

    Government investment in job creation and infrastructure is only limited by the potential of the UK to create ‘stuff ‘. (Spending which exceeds that potential will cause inflation but with the current levels of under and unemployment, government investment in the NHS is unlikely to be inflationary).

    Fundamentally, the LP could simply commit to funding the NHS adequately. The level or source of any collection of taxes is irrelevant to that funding… and any taxation policy purporting to fund the NHS would be a purely political decision.

  27. EL,

    Oakeshott is mates with Lembit in the “Loathes Clegg but stayed to fight the good fight” wing of the Lib Dems, a position to be respected I suppose. It does mean you’d expect it from him though.

    Really, I don’t think there’s much that will help or hinder the Lib Dems before the next election. They could promise chocolate coins for all and it would fall on deaf ears, and anyone who still says they’ll vote for them after this long is probably unlikely to be swayed.

  28. But what does “adequately” mean?

    An extra £10 bn a year? £20 bn? £50 bn?

  29. Remember that builder guy from the UKIP PPB? They hope you don’t:

    You’d have thought they’d at least try to screen the people they broadcast to the nation, especially after earlier incidents. No doubt Farage’s Ratchet will go to work though and it’ll win them a few more votes.

  30. Employees NI is a pretty regressive tax, since for most it’s paid at a hefty rate of 12% on earnings over about £8k only for this rate to drop to just 2% on marginal earnings over £42k.

    So the lower threshold means that it impacts more on the low paid than income tax and at the higher end it turns into something close to a poll tax.

    The big exception is that pensioners don’t pay, which tends to undermine the concept of hypothecating a rise in NI to the NHS, pensioners being the biggest users of the service.

  31. @Ewen Lightfoot

    “Talking of Lib Dems , in real life, as it were , two seniors amongst them Lord Oakshot and Malcolm the Bruce have just been falling out on Channel 4 news,”

    I’ve always thought Oakeshott to be one of the more interesting characters in an otherwise fairly colourless Lib Dem line-up. Ex-Charterhouse and Oxford University, he’s a former member of the Labour Party and, in the early 70s, was parliamentary assistant to none other than Roy Jenkins. He later followed his old mentor and master into the SDP and found his natural home in the House of Lords where, for over 10 years from 2000 onwards, he was the Treasury Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats. He resigned this post in 2011 following another bout of public criticism of Coalition policy, this time over their proposed banking reforms.

    In fact, he’s always been one of the more overtly reluctant Lib Dem hostages in the coalition with the Tories and, on his fairly frequent public appearances, never fails to register his discontent with a whole range of coalition policies. Like Farron, Cable and Huhne before he self-destructed, he’s the sort of Liberal Democrat who has managed to retain some semblance of political authenticity and this may well stand him in reasonable stead after what could well be a very unseemly reckoning for his party in May 2015.

    Whither the likes of Alexander, Laws, Davey, Browne and Clegg, I wonder, if it all goes pear-shaped for the Lib Dems next year? The people performing the post-mortems won’t be sympathetic, will they, and those persistent siren voices like Oakeshott will look like lost prophets, ready to be honoured in their own land once again.

    Canny old devil, I think.

  32. I see Danny Alexander was the UK Minister sent to Cornwall to officially say that the Cornish were finally to be recognised as a minority nation in the UK.

    Was that choice made to bolster the LD vote in Cornwall?

    I wonder if the fact that the Cornish are now the only officially recognised minority nation in the UK without devolved government will have any salience in the Euro elections. (They might compare themselves to their fellow constituents in Gibraltar).

  33. MrN

    Hmm, not sure I agree that the LDs can’t get much lower in the polls, politics is a dynamic system ,and if they lose badly in the Euro election and locally,this will pare away those last few ‘soft’ adherents.
    Anecdotal l know, but in the 4 council by-elections l have worked on since 2010 the LD vote has been driven down to 5%,or so. Remember they only thrive if they can present
    themselves as plausible.

  34. Crossbat

    Yes, old Oakeshott was certainly telling it straight tonight,although l doubt his prescription of leaving the Coalition yesterday if not sooner will impress Clegg and co.

  35. Crossbat

    Yes, old Oakeshott was certainly telling it straight tonight,although l doubt his prescription of leaving the Coalition yesterday if not sooner will impress Clegg and co.

  36. Whoops !

  37. Of course the really distinct group are the Orcadians and their fellow Island dwellers who have as much of a Scandinavian history as a Scottish one.

  38. Matthew Oakeshott complaining about the Coalition and the Cleggites is about as significant and surprising as Peter Bone complaining about the Coalition and the Cameroons, or [email protected] H0dges complaining about Miliband, or the sun rising.

    If it suddenly failed to happen you’d be baffled and concerned, but until then it’s unlikely to shift the polls.

  39. YouGov/Sun poll tonight – Labour lead up one to six points: CON 32%, LAB 38%, LD 8%, UKIP 14%

    Are Labour heading towards a double digit poll lead ?

  40. That’s probably the best poll for Labour in a while.

    If Farage beats Cameron on May 22nd I’ll bet we see at least a couple of 10+ leads as the right fights itself and the Lib Dems collapse further (if Ewen is to be believed).

  41. Good Evening All.
    The Tories will be picking up the shy blues, who in the polls seem to be hiding in the ever exaggerated Lib Dem numbers, IMO.

  42. @ R Huckle,

    My guess is no.

    I’ll do a proper churn analysis at the end of the month, but from a casual glance at the polls Lab retention and LD -> Lab switching still look terrible. Much like last April, their weak position is being masked by the Tories losing voters to Ukip in the run up to the may elections (except last spring that gave them an average lead of 10 points, and now it’s down to 5.)

    This may well sort itself out, either in the general election campaign or just over time, but I can’t see any reason why it would shift in the next week.

  43. Mr Beeswax

    You may be confusing Orcadians with Shetlanders – or maybe Hebrideans, ot those in the Isle of Man, or even many parts of mainland GB or Ireland.

    Since your grasp of geography may be a little suspect, so might be your political analysis.

    Anyway, what’s that got to do with the Euro elections in SW England & Gibraltar?

    Despite their physical link to Spain, so its not an island in the physical sense, surely Gibraltarians must be the “really distinct group” in the “UK Euro elections” given that they aren’t in the UK.

  44. @ Chris Lane,

    Would a “good” Lib Dem performance (however we define that) in the European elections falsify the “Lib Dems too high” theory?

  45. Why all his talk of tax rises. I want tax cuts to continue to boost growth. Tax cuts make employment and work more attractive. Period.

  46. Aye, there’s the rub – ‘adequately’

    The NHS is full of awkward or awful decisions – something in the news in the last couple of days about a breast cancer drug that costs £90,000 and extends life of a particular group of patients for up to 6 months.
    Of course, such decisions are present in any healthcare system, public or private. Our current system puts the decision in the hands of NICE (except for those with a spare £90K to spend privately) which is bound to attract criticism (bureaucrats playing God) but IMO is a whole lot better than the decisions being in the hands of Insurance Co bureaucrats who are incentivised – directly or indirectly – to avoid paying.

    There’s a lot of talk on the right about the NHS becoming ‘unsustainable’. Of course, when it comes down to it it’s a political decision whether it’s sustainable or not but frankly the alternative is too awful to contemplate.

    Colin talks of ‘ever-increasing demands’ which is I think unarguable as the very success of the damn thing helps us all live longer to an astonishing extent, and of ‘high internal inflation’ which sounds like a dig. Can he justify it? How does the ‘internal inflation’ compare with other healthcare systems?

    As for ‘Neil A’s prejudice’ I also think this is unarguable in any enterprise. An Apple employee thinks her very high price product offers fantastic value and every home should have one. She may genuinely believe it – actually I hope she does – but her opinion is tempered by the fact that if every home does have one it helps her keep her job, secure promotion, earn bonuses etc. Ultimately the market decides, perhaps not rationally but that’s another story and we have thriving companies or ‘creative destruction’.

    In the public sector some of the features are the same – the policeman or nurse or educator or planner – we hope – genuinely believe they are providing a valuable and competitive service, but thriving or destruction happens in a different way and requires some politician or high official to make a judgment on the value of a service ‘in loco marketis’ and this is fraught with all kinds of difficulties, value judgments and political factors. An excellent example of this is around proposed rationalisation of hospital services.

  47. “You may be confusing Orcadians with Shetlanders”

    Daisie confuses them with whale – but she’s oany won !!!!!


  48. R&D

    In these northern parts, suggesting that a female is “o[a]ny won” suggests a lack of discrimination in her choice of sexual partners.

    Surely Daisie is not yet plunging those depths of sexual depravity?

  49. @Mr N

    Suliminal psophology! The last YG Labour lead of 6% was 15-16 April, which is perhaps “a while ago” in calendar reckoning but is only 4 YGs ago, because of Easter. I detect strong signs of no trend at all!

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