Media doesn’t realise how right-wing Britons think Cameron is


by Sunny Hundal    
9:24 am - October 18th 2013

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This chart by Ipsos-Mori was published yesterday.

More Britons see David Cameron as being on the right than see Miliband as being on the left.

This may not seem extraordinary to the readers of this blog, but given how desperately the press have painted him as ‘Red Ed’ – this is surprising.

Also, being in the political centre doesn’t make you popular or more electable: just ask Nick Clegg.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


It’s not a case of don’t realise. It’s a case of wilfully ignore. In the minds of Murdoch, the Barclay brothers or Rothermere, Cameron is a filthy pinko communist.

They are completely and utterly out of touch with Britain. The great mystery is why a small number of people still buy their newspapers.

2. The Thought Gang

Clegg’s (lack of) popularity has nothing to do with his political leanings (real or perceived) and everything to do with the brutal hatchet-job done on him, and his party, by the media, the commenteriat, and swathes of the political left.

As for the difference between Cameron and Milliband.. it’s well inside the margin of error, and hardly worth a blog post. I could point out that more people think Ed is ‘proper’ left than think iDave is ‘proper’ right, but that’s in the margin too. I do think there’s a concerted effort in big parts of the media to paint Ed as a particularly left-wing leader, but that balances with a constant undercurrent of ‘right wing tory toff’ comment coming through just as loudly.

Some people claimed Nigel Farage is Left or Left of Centre?

Wha???

There’s an interesting comparison with where people perceived Tony Blair to be – very slightly on the
right of centre.

http://yougov.co.uk/news/2011/05/16/left-right-spectrum/

depends if people are voting on how they view someones politics or how they view the policies. Lets face it hitler had a couple of leftist ideas hardly makes him left leaning

6. Robin Levett

@TimJ #4:

There’s an interesting comparison with where people perceived Tony Blair to be – very slightly on the
right of centre.

“Very slightly”?

Ever since reading Hans Eysenck on: The Psychology of Politics (1954), I’ve been convinced that analysing political stances in only two dimensions of left versus right is for the intellectually challenged. For starters, that leads to the patentently daft conclusion that Communism and Fascism are fundamentally opposite whereas their similarities are greater than their differences – and which is why Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union could engage in a Friendship Treaty on 28 September 1939 when Britain and France were already at war with Nazi Germany.

Try this:

Political scientists have frequently noted that a single left-right axis is insufficient for describing the existing variation in political beliefs, and often include other axes. Though the descriptive words at polar opposites may vary, often in popular biaxial spectra the axes are split between cultural issues.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_spectrum

On an early attempt at assessing political positions in three dimensions, try Hans Eysenck: Sense and Nonsense in Psychology (Penguin Books 1957) chp.7 Politics and Personality. The book is available as a download at this link:
http://archive.org/details/sensenonsenseinpe98seyse

9. Richard Carey

@ Bob B,

I agree with you. The left/right spectrum is very reductive. It seems to dumb down debate, in the interests of the status quo, by fostering tribalistic thinking.

Good grief,

another instance of Sunny’s carelessness in interpreting poll data and titling pieces inaccurately.

You are using ‘right wing’ and ‘on the right’ interchangeably, whereas the research you refer to distinguishes between ‘right of centre’ and ‘right wing’.

And if you look at your own chart you will see that in fact MORE respondents (26%) actually consider Ed ‘left wing’ than consider Cameron ‘right wing’.

Cameron and Miliband are almost mirrors of each other on those charts. There is nothing really remarkable about them.

The trouble with Cameron’s “Big Society” notion is not that it is terribly “right wing” but that it is largely empty of substantive content and socially threatening because some of us are sufficiently gullible to believe that the mythical Big Society will take care of poorly and vulnerable people so government can deny responsibility and plough ahead with austerity cuts of public spending regardless.

Btw I thought Blair’s vision of the Third Way as also muddle headed. I suspect this attraction for silly notions is one of the reasons why turnout at recent elections is so low as compared with previous elections post-war:
http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm

Of course, another reason could be that in the last Parliament more than half the MPs were found guilty of overclaiming on election expenses. Public funds totalling £500 million a year are being spent on an army of at least 29,000 professional politicians in the UK – which compares with the British electorate of more than 44 million.

Left wing v right wing is convenient for Daily Wail readers so they will dump on Red Ed and vote Conservative.

The most tiresome thing is that Sunny never seems to learn from his car-crash handling of data and attention-grabbing but inaccurate headlines. He just goes a bit quiet and then comes back a day or so later with another inaccurate piece.

Repeatedly on this site, perfectly valid and possibly quite truthful positions are undermined, not helped, by accompanying ‘evidence’ that on even cursory examination is shown to be flawed or meaningless. The fact that you strongly feel something is generally true doesn’t make it okay to present weak, contradictory or irrelevant ‘evidence’ on its behalf. It’s not a case of the more the merrier.

@ Richard Carey

For a long time I have considered Left/Right as far too limited a descriptor too. It is one dimensional.

To me, there is also Authoritarian/Libertarian, and come to think of it Left/Right can itself be further split into Equalitarian/Darwinian and Progressive/Conservative. That is a 3 dimensional way of characterising how people think. The question is, how to define the people mentioned in this survey?

12 “The most tiresome thing is that Sunny never seems to learn from his car-crash handling of data and attention-grabbing but inaccurate headlines. He just goes a bit quiet and then comes back a day or so later with another inaccurate piece. ”

I suspect that Sunny is only doing what the tabloid papers tend to do – take a slightly extreme position to attract reader attention and generate comments. That is a good reason for following the Financial Times and The Economist where the readership doesn’t want to be sold a partisan line but wants straight, dependable reporting and solid analysis.

That is why the FT could take a consistently critical line on the technical merits of Osborne’s austerity policies with their expected impact on GDP growth and government borrowing and why The Economist could go on worrying about asset-price bubbles even if the recent Nobel laureate, Eugene Fama, felt impelled to resign his subscription in protest at such an outrageous rejection of the Efficient Market Hypothesis.

Three – or more – dimentional politics is more interesting but more challenging than the standard two dimentional stuff. Only tribal diehards and the tabloid press really believe in the left v right divide. Global issues and real policy challenges are more nuanced than that.

The Clinton presidential campaigns in America in the 1990s and then the New Labour campaign leading up to the 1997 election here used polling and focus groups to identify policies that would attract votes rather than campaign on behalf of previously set ideologically determined positions — hence popular accusations at the time that politics had become “unprincipled” and that “style” had taken precedence over “substance”.

As subsequent events unfolded, Blair lost 4 million votes between the 1997 and 2005 elections – but Clinton’s popularity ratings were still high when he left office in 2001.

@ Bob B

The Wikipedia link you provided was interesting, I also seem to remember you originally posting a link about a year or so ago to Political Compass which has 2 dimensions ie social and economic axes.

“Three – or more – dimentional politics is more interesting but more challenging than the standard two dimentional stuff. Only tribal diehards and the tabloid press really believe in the left v right divide. Global issues and real policy challenges are more nuanced than that.”

Agreed. The (usually tabloid driven) tribal diehards you mention can perhaps be characterised as Authoritarian, Equalitarian/Darwinian and Conservative!

IMO it’s worth checking out Eysenck’s early attempt at working with two axes in politics in his book: Sense and Nonsense in Psychology (1957) — the two axes there were: Tough v Tender Minded, and Radical v Conservative — and it’s especially worthwhile going through the “opinion statements” he uses to assign and compare positions on the axes.

By accounts, the political science literature on these themes has grown a lot since and while I know little of it, I’ve gathered that the dimensions, or number of axes, has increased significantly in later analysis.

Press reports at the time of the election of New Labour to government in May 1997 were saying how polling and focus groups had been used to shape Labour’s policies according to vote attracting potential while dropping ideological positions. By reports, some American advisers had come over from Clinton campaigns to advise New Labour.

Mind you, as this distant assessment in a research study by Mark Bevir of UC Berkeley on: New Labour: A Study in Ideology shows, over time Labour ideology has been influenced by a shifting variety of sources: Marxism was never a dominant influence.
http://escholarship.org/uc/item/1b56f79t#page-1

Predictably, many dislike this kind of analysis. In the 1970s as an elected member of an educational authority, I became embroiled in opposing a motion condemning some school teacher who had used the political opinion statements in Eysenck’s Sense and Nonsnese in class work evidently to get across the multi-dimentional character of politics.

This had apparently outraged some parents who got on to their local councillor who duly tabled a motion in council condemning the teacher. Of course, neither the councillor nor her constituents had ever heard of Eysenck or his book — whereas I was a kid at school when I had read Eysenck’s The Psychology of Politics (1954), the original source for his later popular text: Sense and Nonsense. Some folk get very excited at any suspicion that teachers have been introducing political topics into class work.

The politics in the tabloid press would become a bit impenetrable if they ever gave up two-dimensional right v left politics. For illumination, compare the headlines in Saturday’s The Sun and the Financial Times.

The Sun devotes several pages as well as its front page to the amazingly flat tummy of the Duchess of Cambridge.

OTOH The Financial Times leads on the Royal Mail being valued at £5 bn in June and then reports that the shares were launched at £3.3bn and massively oversubscribed.

@16. Bob B: “Press reports at the time of the election of New Labour to government in May 1997 were saying how polling and focus groups had been used to shape Labour’s policies according to vote attracting potential while dropping ideological positions.”

In 1987, I worked with market researchers who provided information to the Labour Party; names are mentioned in the electoral report by Kavanagh and Butler. I worked with market researchers who felt that it was dirty to get involved in politics, using their particular knowledge. Consequently, they did not abuse privilege.

What changed, ten years later? Or who changed?

Charlieman: “What changed, ten years later? Or who changed?”

The Clinton presidential campaign of 1992 changed the way of campaigning and New Labour got the message.

Clinton is an academically smart (and likeable) guy but he was a political upstart from an indisputably poor and non-establishment background when he unseated a sitting president – Republican George H Bush – in the 1992 elections after the Republicans had dominated the American presidency since Reagan’s election in 1980.

George H Bush was the son of a Republican senator – Prescott Bush – and George H Bush had been director of the CIA and then Reagan’s vice-president. He epitomised the American establishment whereas Clinton came from a single-parent family who had grown up in poverty but was bright enough to get to Yale Law School and then to a Rhodes scholarship at Oxford.

But see this:

“The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA) is a United States federal law considered to be a fundamental shift in both the method and goal of federal cash assistance to the poor. The bill added a workforce development component to welfare legislation, encouraging employment among the poor. The bill was a cornerstone of the Republican Contract with America and was introduced by Rep. E. Clay Shaw, Jr. (R-FL-22). Bill Clinton signed PRWORA into law on August 22, 1996, fulfilling his 1992 campaign promise to ‘end welfare as we have come to know it’.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_Responsibility_and_Work_Opportunity_Act

To get re-elected as president in 1996, Clinton realised he had to back welfare reform – which he did even though the Democrats were traditonally seen as the pro-welfare party.

@18. Bob B: “The Clinton presidential campaign of 1992 changed the way of campaigning and New Labour got the message.”

Perhaps. Blair was elected a few years later.

In UK politics, everything changed.

Charieman: “Blair was elected a few years later.”

New Labour was elected to government in May 1997. It is known that Mandelson had been over to America to observe the Clinton presidential campaign in the 1996 elections from the inside.

The use of focus groups by New Labour for the 1997 general election was widely reported at the time – and much criticised by ideological diehards in the party. The subsequent attachment to light-touch regulation of financial markets and Gordon Brown naive belief that he would abolish boom and bust date from around this time.

I think it’s a bit of a stretch to relate focus groups to light touch financial regulation, Bob. Both may have been mistakes but the latter probably didn’t stem from the former.

Well said lamia

23. Richard Carey

@ 13 Dissident,

“That is a 3 dimensional way of characterising how people think.”

Not everyone requires 3 dimensions :)

@ Richard Carey 12.05pm October 20

Fair enough – how many – 2,1,0 ;)

Lamia: “I think it’s a bit of a stretch to relate focus groups to light touch financial regulation, Bob.”

OK, I was taking a short-cut in the narrative. If you follow the news reports back in the early 1990s, Labour launched what some (less than friendly) journalists at the time dubbed a series of prawn cocktail offensives on personnel from the City and fincial services markets to neutralise what Labour perceived as hostility towards Labour.

I wasn’t at those hospitalities but suspect assurances about Labour government regulation of financial markets were given.

The abolition of the notorious Clause IV committing the Party in government to the “public ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange” was part of this. Labour leaders since Attlee had long since ceased to take Clause IV seriously: they just thought abolition would generate more trouble among Labour supporters than the benefits to be gained at electioins since many in the electorate didn’t know what Clause IV was until reminded.

The extent (and cost to party funds) of the prawn cocktail offensive, which went on for years – starting (I think) with John Smith before Blair became leader – only makes sense if Labour regarded sentiment in the City and financial services markets as a crucial barrier preventing Labour’s election to government. After all, these were the lingering memories to overcome of the debacle of 1976, when the then Labour government needed to seek a loan from the IMF to shore up the Pound in the foreign exchange markets.

@2: Clegg’s (lack of) popularity has nothing to do with his political leanings and everything to do with the brutal hatchet-job done on him, and his party, by the media, the commenteriat, and swathes of the political left.

No it’s because he reneged on his promises, e.g. on student fees.

27. Simon Whitten

Sunny, the politicians have plenty of professional spin-doctors to misrepresent data for them. They don’t need your cheap attempt.

The data just doesn’t justify the headline nor your annotations. The data shows that 26% consider Miliband to be “left wing” while only 24% consider Cameron to be “right wing”. A total of 54% consider Miliband to be “left wing” or “left of centre” while 57% consider Cameron to be “right wing” or “right of centre”.

The natural interpretation of this is that the public percieve each to be more or less equally left/right wing. If it tells us anything at all it’s that a slightly larger proportion of people consider Miliband to occupy a more exteme position on the left than they do Cameron on the right.

Further, even if the data had shown that far more people consider Cameron to be “right wing” it wouldn’t justify the claim that “[the] Media doesn’t realise how right-wing Britons think Cameron is.” That would require data to be collected on what answers journalists expected the public to give, so that a comparion could be made with the answers they actually gave.

# 25

Thanks for your clarification Bob – I agree about the prawn cocktail offensive, which I remember (reading about, not being a part of), and that securing the approval/truce of the City was seen as vital to Labour.

I had just thought you meant ordinary focus groups were talking in favour of financial deregulation.

One of the terrible mistakes of New Labour, in my view, was that with regard to the City, Labour tried to out-Tory the Tories – and they didn’t even know the terrain and its inhabitants as well as the Tories did. There were in fact Tories such as Peter Lilley who warned early on that Labour was going too far with deregulation, but Brown refused to listen and carried on regardless, as he always did.

28

Lamia: “One of the terrible mistakes of New Labour, in my view, was that with regard to the City, Labour tried to out-Tory the Tories – and they didn’t even know the terrain and its inhabitants as well as the Tories did. ”

Try Evan Davis and Greenspan (chairman of the US Federal Reserve Bank 1987-2006) on BBCR4 tonight (Wednesday) at 9.30pm.

Speaking to the Today programme’s Evan Davis, Greenspan said: “Everybody knew that there was a problem. This was the first time ever that markets were broken and could not fix themselves

“I would have said the probability of that happening at that particular time was extremely small.”

The crisis was entirely unexpected and governments and the monetary authorities in America and here hadn’t made prudential regulatory preparations on the scale needed to prevent a crisis materialising.

Alan Blinder (Greenspan’s deputy 1994-96) takes a rather different view. He is now saying: Six Reasons Why Another Financial Crisis Is (Still) Inevitable
http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenning/2013/09/12/alan-blinder-six-reasons-why-another-financial-crisis-is-still-inevitable/

Blinder’s book (After the Music Stopped: The Financial Crisis, the Response, and the Work Ahead (Penguin Press 2013)) argues that there were multiple causes of the crisis but I don’t think many at the time appreciated the scale of what was potentially wrong although there were warnings about Britain’s house-price bubble by Charles Goodhart and in The Economist going back to 2002. And Warren Buffett issued a clear warning about complex financial derivatives in 2003: “The rapidly growing trade in derivatives poses a ‘mega-catastrophic risk’ for the economy and most shares are still ‘too expensive’, legendary investor Warren Buffett has warned.” [BBC website] But no one listened.

Prior to the crisis, recall that the Conservatives were repeatedly calling for more and more deregulation, which doesn’t suggest they had much insight.

Where I do think Labour tried to out-do the Conservatives was in Blair’s wars. IMO Blair concluded that Mrs T’s success in winning elections was to the Falkland’s War and thought a Labour government could gain popularity by showing that it could run wars as well as the Conservatives.

Blair’s Third Way stuff indicates a lot of fuzzy thinking about economics.

On the financial crisis, try this: Evan Davis meets Alan Greenspan
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03h6w63

Try Martin Wolf on: Why the Bank of England must gamble on growth
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/a0b0892e-3bf4-11e3-9851-00144feab7de.html#axzz2ijpw9No5

@the Thought Gang

Which planet are you on? I’ve voted libdem every time I could in the past but never will again. It’s got nothing to do with a supposed “brutal hatchet-job done on him, and his party, by the media, the commenteriat, and swathes of the political left.” It’s to do with his utter betrayal of voters like myself. I could have tolerated much if he’d secured meaningful electoral reform. He didn’t and got thoroughly screwed by Camoron into the bargain. He’s killed the party for another 20 years and we’ll go being governed my the biggest minority no matter that the majority never voted for them.

Why does this poll include Nigel Farage and not Natalie Bennett, the leader of the Green Party?


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