Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast


8:30 am - September 14th 2010

by Sunder Katwala    


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Too soon, too deep, say majority of voters as coalition loses cuts debate is not a Times headline that will raise spirits in Downing Street.

The newspaper reports [£] three pieces of bad news for the government in a Populus poll.

* the government’s deficit reduction strategy is rejected by three out of four voters.

* the public is more gloomy about the economy than at any point since the summer of 2009 – with those expecting things to get worse up 8 points since June, to 33%.

* most people reject the idea that the Labour government is most to blame for the deficit.

The Times report suggests that the Coalition would be more likely to persuade the public that their cuts were necessary if they supported Labour’s approach to the timing and scale of deficit reduction:

Populus asked the public to identify which of three deficit reduction plans they agree with most, without identifying which party or group was advocating each position. Over a third of voters, 37 per cent, say they prefer Labour’s position to halve the deficit by the next election and deal with it over ten years.

The same number [37 per cent] say that protecting the vulnerable and keeping unemployment as low as possible should be bigger priorities than reducing the budget deficit.

Only one in five voters, 22 per cent, agree with the coalition plan to deal with the deficit by the next general election, in five years’ time.

The poll finds that 51 per cent of Conservative voters prefer the Labour deficit policy to that of the Coalition, which wins the support of 31 per cent of Tories.

Only 23 per cent of LibDem supporters back the government’s deficit reduction plan. Their most popular choice – with 42 per cent of LibDems – is prioritising unemployment and the vulnerable over deficit reduction, the argument of the TUC.

Nor is blaming it all on Labour resonating, says the paper:

In a second blow, the coalition is yet to win the argument that the spending cuts are the result of “Labour’s deficit legacy”. Asked who is responsible for Britain’s debt problems, voters name UK and US banks, the global recession and the Bank of England as more to blame for the current economic situation than the previous government.

However, The Times does report that 53 per cent say the Government is handling the economy well while 45 per cent say it is dealing with public spending cuts well. This would seem to suggest that the Coalition generally is more warmly regarded than its policy.

The Conservatives lead Labour by 39 per cent to 37 per cent with the LibDems on 14 per cent. Populus finds that 61% of those who voted LibDem in May say they would still have voted the same way if they had known what Coalition choice the party would make.

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About the author
Sunder Katwala is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He is the director of British Future, a think-tank addressing identity and integration, migration and opportunity. He was formerly secretary-general of the Fabian Society.
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Reader comments


“Over a third of voters, 37 per cent, say they prefer Labour’s position to halve the deficit by the next election and deal with it over ten years.”

Is that still Labour’s position?
I guess we will know that in a couple of weeks!

Very interesting results.

Woot!!

4. Sunder Katwala

The YouGov Labour leadership poll asked a different but broadly comparable ‘oppose cuts/reduce cuts/support coalition’ question of Labour party members and trade unionists. Comparing the polls suggests that their views are fairly similar to those of the general public, and may even be slightly more supportive of an approach to oppose the size and scale of cuts but accept the principle of some cuts.

Labour members split 25% on “oppose the cuts”; 56% on “reduce the cuts” and 18% on “accept the cuts”, and Labour-supporting trade unionists 26-48-23.

The (broadly comparable) Populus poll suggests the public split 37-37-22 between anti-cuts, reduced cuts and Coalition cuts options (though in that poll the “oppose cuts” option was slightly more moderately worded as ‘deprioritise the deficit’).

http://www.nextleft.org/2010/09/poll-labour-members-and-trade-unionists.html

Big lessons here for the left.

Conventional wisdom amongst the political class does not necessarily dictate public opinion. The public retains a surprising resiliance to the inevitable barrage of misinformation and propaganda on economic issues from the corporate-owned press and political parties.

There are those on the right of the Labour Party who would grovel to the conventional wisdom of the political class at every turn. They would say that we must accept the dominant narrative or lack “credibility”. They live in a world where politics is not about winning arguments. Even winnable ones. Even ones that must be won, or else millions will suffer grievously.

Well if public opinion is turning now then it is no thanks to those people. Its thanks to those inside and outside the party who have challenged the absurdities of the conventional wisdom, and to a public that apparently has a lot more good sense and economic literacy than a Labour right-wing which still, after May’s catastrophic defeat, deludes itself that it has the pulse of the nation.

And i suppose Labour will need a shadow chancellor who is thinking what they are thinking (to evoke Michael Howard); that quick fix deficit reduction and keeping unemployment as low as possible are ultimately at odds. The shadow chancellorship is steadfastly pointing to Mr Balls.

Of course the cuts are to hard to fast, but the Tories want to end this fast so they can work on giving people a better deal to vote for them, if it takes ten or twenty years of major cuts then it’s going to work against the Tories, Tory thinking is get it over quick

@5:

There are indeed lessons for Labour here, though I am not sure they are the ones you are drawing. The poll shows that voters favour the deficit reduction policy that Labour went into the May election with. The party lost *in spite of* that policy, it seems, which was preferred then, and is preferred now. But that isn’t translating into support for Labour. The fact that the party’s economic policy is more popular than the party implies that it is the Labour *brand* that needs rehabilitating.

@Carl – Take this together with the position set out in Balls’ Bloomberg speech and he appears to be the best shadow chancellor on offer. The problem is that David Miliband has left himself no wiggle room in his adherence to Darling’s austerity agenda, and so for him to appoint Balls would require one of them to perform a u-turn from the off. Those voting in the leadership election who want Balls as shadow chancellor will therefore have to think about how best to stop David Miliband, as well as how to boost their own man.

@SohoPolitico – I don’t believe your point contradicts mine. It may well complement it. I agree that Labour had lost the ability to communicate and that it needs to regain that.

Note however that the poll does not simply show that voters favour the deficit reduction policy that Labour went into the May election with. It shows that the majority is equally split between (a) Darling’s austerity plan, which is less bad than Osborne’s, but still wrong, and (b) making “protecting the vulnerable and keeping unemployment as low as possible” the priority over reducing the budget deficit. As big a proportion of people support that second view (37%) as the Conservatives received of votes cast in the election (being generous to the Tories and not factoring in turnout). And this is despite the fact that this view has gained almost no support from the media or the political parties, and has barely even been discussed.

This is why I make the point that Labour needs to stop grovelling to conventional wisdom, fretting about a misconveived notion of “credibility” and start making a persuasive political argument. How, if people aren’t listening to it?, you may ask. My response would be that I strongly suspect that by breaking decisively with New Labour, and demonstrating that it has actually listened to the voters that gave it such a kicking in May, Labour may well find that people then take the view that it has earnt the right to be listened to again.

Problem is, none of the contenders for the Labour leadership wish to recoup the money from the wealthy or implement the policies that would produce a more equal society. They pay lip service to the latter, but without the uncomfortable policies that would make them unpopular with the millionaire owners of the right-wing press, it’s just hot air.

The best we can hope for is Ed Milliband’s proposed private sector high pay commision, but in all honesty it just sounds like another toothless talking shop.

I hate to mention this, but this is the last battle – it is already lost. The coalition do not need public support for the cuts, and will face public judgement on them in a few years (if they are as unpopular as the poll suggests, then it pretty well guarantees a five year parliament wouldn’t you think? Give people time to get over it and bask in the recovery).

To continually fight on this basis, as Mr Balls for one seems to want, is to make the (apocraphyl) first world war general’s mistake and to concentrate on how to win the last war. By the time the next election comes around, it will be a question of whether to continue to reduce the defecit or increase spending, and how you undertake all of this. The actual scale of the cuts might attract voters, but will be in the past.

12. Luis Enrique

Mervyn thought the election winner, doing what was necessary to get the deficit under control, would be out of power for a generation. Presumably, doing far more than is necessary, perhaps to the point of being counter productive, Mervyn’s would strengthen his prediction.

If he’s right, at what point do lefties regard it as a good deal? (5 years of Cons, another 3-term left wing government afterwards).

The idea that the point might come where lefties would welcome the misery inflicted by Osborne because it helped Labour regain and keep power is a monstrous one. Anyone who thinks the suffering to come is a price worth paying for the fortunes of the Labour Party is not on the left by definition.

It was three terms of New Labour’s neo-liberal, non-regulated, hyperfinancialised, sub-Thatcherite economics that got us into this position to begin with.

14. Luis Enrique

calm yourself David,

If the deal is: 5 years of needless terrible suffering followed by 15 years of a Labour government much unchanged from the last one, then yes it could be “monstrous” to think that a good deal.

However, if the deal were: 5 years that will be not much worse then they’d be under any other government, followed by 15 years of left-wing utopia under a government conforming to the ideals of David Wearing, you might not think it so monstrous.

I asked: at what point do lefties regard it as a good deal? It was more of an idle thought: there is at least the possibility that the long-run outcome (Tories out of power of a generation) might be favorable

@David Wearing:

Note however that the poll does not simply show that voters favour the deficit reduction policy that Labour went into the May election with. It shows that the majority is equally split between (a) Darling’s austerity plan, which is less bad than Osborne’s, but still wrong, and (b) making “protecting the vulnerable and keeping unemployment as low as possible” the priority over reducing the budget deficit.

I don’t think you can draw that conclusion actually, because (b) could also be taken as describing the Darling/David Miliband plan, in virtue of the fact that it includes an escape valve in case of economic trouble. Only the Tories insist on breakneck deficit reduction come what may. More detail here:

http://www.sohopolitico.com/2010/09/does-timespopulus-poll-vindicate-balls.html

@SohoPolitico

The question then is the nature of the escape valve, a point on which you might be able to enlighten me. Is it linked to growth, social justice and employment levels? Or just growth?

It is entirely possible to deliver overall GDP growth alongside high unemployment and real social injustice. If, in that scenario, the Darling escape valve would not be triggered, then the Darling/Miliband position gives no comfort to the 37% of people who say that protecting the vulnerable and creating jobs is a bigger priority than tackling the deficit.

If on the other hand the escape valve is linked not just to growth, but also in a meaningful, substantive way to social justice outcomes and to employment levels, then that may well support your interpretation.

Personally, I think the idea that you could eliminate half the deficit in five years without triggering a second recession, or at least a profound slump, is pretty unpersuasive. And the idea that you could do so in a way that also protects the vulnerable and keeps unemployment low is one that really lacks credibility.

What Darling was proposing was itself a programme of savage, damaging and entirely unjust austerity. Osborne’s zealotry, though far worse, should not be allowed to disguise that.

Those dastardly cuts in full.

http://www.adamsmith.org/blog/tax-and-economy/those-savage-cuts-in-full/

Once the public realises what the *actual figures* look like, and that the amount of money *actually being spent* is not going to be cut, I suspect whatever opposition there is today will diminish.

Perhaps the coalition is doing a rather clever job of scare today, relief tomorrow?

“Once the public realises what the *actual figures* look like, and that the amount of money *actually being spent* is not going to be cut, I suspect whatever opposition there is today will diminish.”

You’re forgetting one thing; we have an extremely dishonest and innaccurate media, who are going to be very easy to manipulate (even the tory press). Remember the climate of 95/96/97? Even the Daily Mail would carry human interest stories on a daily basis of elderly war veterens left on NHS trollies to die, children in crumbling schools, and criminals roaming towns with no police stations. A daily diet of these helped Blair’s message of increased spending on services (but with no tax rises) appeal to middle england.

Once cuts bite (and they are going to be real cuts – the cuts watch blogs are full of examples of stuff being abandoned already) then expect every half competent organisation to be placing these stories in the media.

“Perhaps the coalition is doing a rather clever job of scare today, relief tomorrow?”

They are gambling that a double dip recession doesn’t happen, and the cuts to services aren’t going to effect the people that matter (marginal constituencies). In 2015 they are hoping to use an appeal along the lines of “we eliminated the deficit, cut spending by 25% with only a small reduction in the level of services (they’ll have to admit some damage to be credible). Now we’ve shown we are capable of doing the hard part, you can vote for us knowing the good times are coming back – we will split the proceeds of growth between restoring and investing in the services we need whilst ensuring the bloated bureacracy never happens again, and reducing the burden of tax on you. We’ve proved we can do it despite major unrest from the unions, and we will deliver it.”

In the news on Tuesday night:

“Ministers have let it be known they will not be swayed by ‘vested interests’ as they decide the scale of spending cuts they believe are needed – Ministers have been told to prepare plans for up to 40% cuts in budgets”
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11304427

Btw do the public count as a vested interest in public spending?

@5 David Wearing: “Conventional wisdom amongst the political class does not necessarily dictate public opinion.”

Correct on one point, at least. Conventional wisdom amongst the political class *often reflects* public opinion, but does not dictate it.

Conventional wisdom post year 2000 used to be that government spending could increase because GDP was increasing; that home owners could borrow against a property or mortgage without concern. That was the conventional wisdom of the last two Labour governments. Money was misjudgedly borrowed by government and citizens.

Others disagreed. Some of those nay sayer politicians are planning future government spending/cuts, and when supported by journalists and academics, their ideas become the new conventional wisdom.

Until they run out of steam.

Conventional wisdom is best consumed as a suppository.

“Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast”

…But do back the cuts. Labour wants to cut the deficit (or so it claimed), but the coalition wants tcut the state.

That is what people want and what the left simply don’t get. Yes the deficit needs sorting, but the public want the axe to fall on the bloated public sector and wasteful government spending. Then once the deficit is turned around adn the debt attacked, taxes can come down.

And the TUC and Crow will make this even more wanted. Classic Union reaction that will cause the classic public counter-reaction and already is.

So thanks Bob.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  2. earwicga

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  3. Little Metamorphic O

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  4. Adam White

    RT @libcon Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  5. Chris Woolfrey

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  6. Ellie Gellard

    RT @theday2day: RT @libcon Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  7. jennifer roberts

    RT @BevaniteEllie: RT @theday2day: RT @libcon Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  8. Fatbury

    RT @BevaniteEllie: RT @theday2day: RT @libcon Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  9. Tudor Evans

    “@libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE” a lot to build on here, I think.

  10. Liam Barrington-Bush

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  11. David Whewell

    RT @theday2day: RT @libcon Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  12. The Fact Compiler

    RT @AdamBienkov: RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE <<What cuts? All talk so far.

  13. Hannah M

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  14. sunny hundal

    Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  15. Democratic Society

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  16. Aled-Dilwyn Fisher

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  17. Andy Sutherland

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  18. Alec Speight

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  19. Nicholas Ripley

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  20. Rhos Lloyd

    A Times poll says Three-quarterss of voters think the ConDem Cuts are far too deep and too fast http://tiny.cc/mlggv #fightback #TUC

  21. dontplaymepayme

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  22. David Cameron esq.

    A Times poll says Three-quarterss of voters think the ConDem Cuts are far too deep and too fast http://tiny.cc/mlggv #fightback #TUC

  23. Wes Streeting

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  24. Lee Dent

    Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/YKoRX3g via @libcon

  25. Mark Martin

    RT @theday2day: RT @libcon Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  26. Paris Gourtsoyannis

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  27. Lee Petar

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  28. Lee Petar

    RT @sunny_hundal Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  29. Emma Ritch

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  30. Judy Smith

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  31. SMS PolicyWatch

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  32. Joss Garman

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  33. Shirley Summers

    RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE >& killing off jobs!

  34. Richard Wood

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  35. Yvonne Kay

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  36. Rosanna

    RT @sunny_hundal: Three-quarters of ppl think Coalition cuts are too deep & too fast according to a big poll today http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  37. gramsci99

    RT @BevaniteEllie RT @theday2day: RT @libcon Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  38. TUC: Harnessing Public Anger on the Cuts | Left Futures

    […] remains a view that cuts in general are necessary (though the Coalition’s cuts may be “too deep and too fast“). What differences there are between union leaders are about tactics not objectives – […]

  39. Hannah Blythyn

    RT @DanWhittle: Important poll today shows campaign against cuts will be a broad coalition: http://bit.ly/aJqLlE

  40. Is opinion turning on the cuts? | ToUChstone blog: A public policy blog from the TUC

    […] Sunder has a good summary at Liberal Conspiracy. As he notes: The poll finds that 51 per cent of Conservative voters prefer the Labour deficit […]

  41. Pamela Heywood

    Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://twurl.nl/et68x5

  42. andrew

    Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast | Liberal …: Is opinion turning on the cuts? | ToUChston… http://bit.ly/djnAVS

  43. Neil Young

    RT @AdamBienkov: RT @libcon: Three-quarters think the Cuts are too deep and too fast http://bit.ly/aJqLlE:

  44. sunny hundal

    @MikeSmithsonPB the last big Populus found most ppl didn't blame Labour http://bit.ly/aJqLlE – I believe YouGov doesn't veer too much either

  45. sunny hundal

    @dpjhodges you want evidence? here is the evidence people broadly on our side http://bit.ly/aJqLlE





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