The five trends that will shape British politics, revisited


9:01 am - July 16th 2012

by Leo Barasi    


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On New Year’s Day, I wrote about five trends, where public opinion last year shifted on issues that could change the political landscape.

It’s time now to revisit those questions to see where we are, half-way through the year.

1) More attention to growth
The international debate of the last few years has been about whether governments should prioritise deficit reduction or growth.

In the first few months of 2012, the deficit hawks were winning in the UK. But after the Budget, that lead was reversed, and since late April there was been a 6-11pt lead for those who say the government should prioritise growth.

See more on this question here

2) Speed of the cuts
Labour’s central criticism of the government’s economic programme is that the cuts are not only going too far, but also are too fast. Over 2011, the proportion who agreed that the government was cutting too quickly fell from 58% to 48%, suggesting trouble for Labour.

But this year, that trend has stopped. The proportion saying the cuts are too fast is about the same now as it was in autumn 2011.

3) Blame for the cuts
Views on who is to blame for the cuts showed little movement in 2011, with about 15pts more blaming Labour than the coalition.

This changed after the budget, when the gap fell to single figures. Since then, it has been between 5-10pts.

It’s interesting that the government appears now to be returning to the argument that they’re clearing up Labour’s mess, presumably in anticipation of making this central to their next election campaign. If so, this question will be increasingly important.

See more on this question here

4) An old and tired party

Last year, the question of which party was most seen as ‘old and tired’ moved (in Labour’s favour), when voting intention didn’t change.

Now, Labour have established a lead on being seen as less ‘old and tired’ for the first time since the election. Unlike voting intent, this view has strengthened in Labour’s favour over the last two months, with Labour now having a nine-point lead.

This is a problem for the government: being seen as worn out is dangerous territory for a party seeking re-election.

5) Britain and the EU
Britain’s desire to leave in the EU decreased towards the end of 2011, but this changed sharply after the turn of the year, with the anti-EU camp now 24pts ahead.

That said, I don’t think there’s a lot that can be read into this question now. The nature of a referendum would depend so much on the deal that was on offer – whether the PM could negotiate an ‘improved offer’ for Britain to agree to – that a straight in/out question at the moment really only tells us that people don’t like the current situation in Europe.

See more on this question here

Labour’s current standing
The first four trends here suggest good news for Labour. Recent polls have put them at between 7-11pts ahead of the Tories.

But as I argued after the May elections, and still think, what we are seeing mostly reflects unhappiness with the Tories rather than enthusiasm about Labour.

Having been an effective opposition on various issues, Labour have earned the opportunity to be heard by the public. But they has gained this primarily because they are the opposition to an increasingly unpopular government, and not because people are yet excited about electing a Labour government.

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About the author
Leo is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He manages communications for a small policy organisation, and writes about polling and info from public opinion surveys at Noise of the Crowd
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Economy

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Reader comments


Does anyone really see Miliband as a leader of this country, that’s the question can anyone really see Miliband coming ion TV to tell us well I’ve won, can you all go to the internetty thinggy and tell me what you want me to do, this is my new way of doing government and then if it goes wrong it’s you who I blame.

The bloke has said nothing about what he will do, he talks about what the Tories are doing wrong which is easy as they are so bloody bad, but telling us what the Tories are doing wrong without telling us what you would do is easy, but you cannot keep on doing this.

I’ve never seen governments of all sides so bloody poor they have nobody who has a real idea they just run around trying to save the banking industry telling the sick the disabled they are to blame.

Jesus if you were planning a p*ss up in a brewery free, you would not be asking anyone in government to do it for you.

@1 I think the Labour leadership is moving in the right direction. The bank reforms that they would like to see has been announced and the overall attitude towards what has been the economic consensus since 1992 has been questioned by the leadership and the people who are the thinkers such as Cruddas and Glasman are working on, I think strong ideas.
New policies and a new approach is not going to be seen over night, it is a slow process to change a party from what they have been used to for about 20 years.
As for Ed Miliband, looks and geekery as some people see it as is just superficial. Many of our past PM’s wouldn’t have been elected if we went on the assumption of charisma and looks to succeed. I don’t think Atlee would have been elected if this was the case.

2
I also think labour and Ed Milliband are moving in the right direction. Hopefully they won’t be derailed by the Blairites.

I can clearly remember bringing up a family under Mrs Thatcher. She was very unpopular with so many people that i was certain the tories would be out at the following election, but people voted them in again and again. The coalition do not enjoy the same loyalty that the tories once had with the people.

I think people will be more likely to vote for labour if they think that they have definately changed and become a real alternative to the coalition and their austerity cuts.

4. It doesn't add up...

Most people will choose jam today rather than jam tomorrow so long as they think it is safe to do so. Because we haven’t actually had a repeat of the sharper economic chill of 2008/9, most people think we’ve turned a corner even as the deficit stays high and debt mushrooms. I’m always very wary of public opinion as a guide to sound macroeconomic policy.

All that has happened so far is the can has been kicked down the road: cuts have barely started (and many may be rescinded). Politicians are playing chicken and hoping not to be in power when the real cuts HAVE to come in – cuts that will have to be all the deeper for ignoring the need for surgery now.

I’m not sure where that greater Lib Dem realism that saw Clegg call for a much bigger (though still inadequate) attack on the deficit during the 2010 TV debates – something that resonated with a public tired of being lied to – has evaporated.

IMHO, the figures regarding the British participation in the EU are shocking. Not because so many people question our membership, but because even when more than 50% of our [so called] democratic country disagree with something … it still doesn’t get addressed.

What this country needs is a modernised parliament, based more on the will of the people and less on the ideology of a few tired old political parties.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
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