In this period Miliband’s total “likeability”, according to the pollsters, was the same as Michael Howard’s in April 2008.
Over the period between October 2010 and February 2011 the proportion of the public who were dissatisfied with Ed almost doubled from 22% to 43%.
Furthermore, the polls picked up a lower “don’t know” percentage than is typical of an opposition leader. This means that many more people have an opinion on the leader of the opposition, today, and according to polls it has been negatively placed.
YouGov, for the Sunday Times, have today revealed another uncomfortable figure that shows Ed Miliband’s “well figure” of 26% equaling the lowest he’s seen.
The percentages for David Cameron have increased by 2% while Ed has dropped 4%. And yet, this month’s ComRes online poll for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror shows Labour to be leading the Tories by 4% – signalling no change for Labour, but a drop of 2% for the Tories.
The perception of Ed Miliband has changed very little over the year. While the Labour party tops polls, particularly now the cuts are starting to bite (despite the majority of the public, according to other polls, saying they agree with the Coalition’s economic policy – though whether they agree with this being frontloaded onto the frontline remains to be seen), Ed Miliband himself is not being trusted by the public.
More disagree today that Ed Miliband would be better protecting jobs than they did in April and January this year, and less agree today than they did in January and April.
On other points of note, most people agree that there is a class system today, while fewer see themselves as working class. Ipsos MORI made a damning statement looking at the Labour party vote in the last election saying a “working class” party, given the percentage of people who identify as such, and the percentage of those people who vote, is not feasible anymore. So perhaps the squeezed middle strategy was right, and so too the appeal against predatory capitalism?
Whatever your thoughts, it is not working for Ed, the figurehead of these moves.
Nothing other than concern can be said for these results. We cannot believe everything we read in polls, but they are the best indicator we have, and they are often very close to correct. We are where Gordon Brown was coming up to the election of 2010 a year later, even with a new leader, and a government doing unimaginable things without mandate. This is greatly worrying.
Before the Liberal Democrats were kingmakers in the UK political landscape, they were no saints. They were, however, haunted by their aversion to Toryism. The only reason the social market policies of David Steel were not set about in manifesto was because internal critics felt the language looked a bit Thatcher-lite. The reason David Laws’ Singapore-style plans for the NHS were not taken up as policy was because it would give Labour a free ride to say LibDems were the party willing to sell hospitals in local elections – where the activists tended to be more to the left.
The Liberals have never been angels, but they have always been weak.
Though it’s possible that without them, Blair’s reforms for the public sector would never have happened. While the Tories were always geared towards favouring the market, the Liberals made their policies look like they were the ones in tune to the turning consensus that state regulation of market productivity was self-defeating.
But though there was universal fear of Blair among the political elite, now that the consensus is that his politics are finished, it has left a gaping hole in the soul of the Labour Party.
The Liberals have, as part of their inheritance, Liberalism. Whether they heed to that inheritance or not doesn’t matter, it still stirs their core audience. The Conservatives have conservatism as their inheritance, and they rarely heed to that, but that is almost beyond the point.
Labour have socialism, but are terribly embarrassed to admit so.
No amount of ideas will take away from the fact that Labour deny their own inheritance. And with this, the party jeopardises having any sort of ideal of which to aim. Like the Liberals and the Conservatives alike, Labour needs to be more than just a party of means, it needs to return to being a party of ends. Otherwise it will find itself in the same position as the Liberals did in the 70s, 80s and 90s, cautious not to announce what it really stands for on the grounds that it will look too assertive.
And as Owen Jones recently put it: “We need to talk about Socialism”.
Paul said it better than I ever could earlier:
It’s a pity … Sean Woodward doesn’t read Though Cowards Flinch regularly. We’d be a lot further forward if he did.
The reason being is Though Cowards Flinch blog was wise to the fact the Tories were pushing rightwards yonks ago.
Here I’ll point out why we knew that.
In 2009 a study was carried out by Political Quarterly around the time of Cameron’s successful leadership election. It showed that in 2005, of the 198 sitting Tory MPs 91% were Eurosceptics, 81% were economically “dry” and 73% were “conservative” on social, sexual and moral issues. According to Edward Turner (doc), it seems uncertain that the Tory party has shifted its Thatcherism, despite having tried to re-paint the image of the party in light of Thatcherism’s toxicity.
But Cameron did not create compassionate conservatism – big society and broken Britain were two attempts in the mold of the Etonian’s predecessors.
William Hague told the Tory party conference in 1997 that “compassion is not an bolt-on extra to conservatism but is at its very core”. This was when Hague was floating the idea of equalising the age of consent for homosexuals. Only 16 Tory MPs voted for this and Hague was forced to retain section 28 (needless to say there were those recent smears – undoubtedly residual pro-inequality seeping through).
When Hague was forced to take his party back to the Right, Ivan Massow complained of the “tabloidification” of the Conservatives and that regarding certain activists “theirs is the politics of the taxi driver” (pdf).
And so it remains.
Cameron is an image spinner, PR savvy, too. He had a lot of authorship over the 2005 manifesto which focused on immigration and asylum (are you thinking what we’re thinking?) but also led a party that tried to remove its brand of Thatcherism to the public – despite its politics still being prevalent with party activists.
Cameron’s game is to hide what remains – he has recognised that his party’s politics are out of kilter with the public mood, and has tried to pull the wool over our eyes – and I worry that this may have worked on the Labour Party. But no more – we can see the inner Thatcher, and it’s disgusting.
Update: Here’s a thing: Ivan Massow left the Conservative Party at the same time as Shaun Woodward did, both defecting to Labour.
Unfortunately, today’s growth figures act as a Rorschach test; the coalition government and its supporters see growth at 0.8% in the third quarter of 2010, and growth for the last six months at 2%. What the opposition will see is a drop of 0.4% when between April and June growth was positioned at 1.2%.
Since growth was forecasted far lower than expected, many – such as Vince Cable, who was said to have a big smile on his face this morning, possibly after finding out the data – are probably just pleased to see a higher figure, not because it is necessarily a good sign for the economy, but simply because it will make for easy smoke and mirrors. Look we can cut and grow, it’s easy.
Others may note that the worst of the cuts have not been factored into the figures yet. It’s important to note that cuts will have been factored in already; the squeeze for many councils started a while ago, redundancies are a reality now, and small and medium businesses (SMEs) are already checking their books with a grimace.
Construction was the real winner with contributions of 4% (p. 3), compared with an increase of 9.5% in the previous quarter, and 11% since Q3 2009 and Q3 2010.
Read in a certain way, today’s figures will prove politically opportune for the Tory/Lib Dem government, which may set back Labour’s current lead in the polls. But it is not mere politicking to point out that the severity of the cuts, spelt out in the CSR last week, have not been entirely factored in, and that growth really needs to be sustained and sustainable.
There is even tension within the government about the road to growth. Vince Cable has recently slammed David Cameron’s optimism, saying that the “sunlit uplands” strategy will not necessarily be the case. If he has any sense about him, Cable’s supposed smile this morning will be matched by caution.
In Cameron’s “new economic dynaims” vision, he wants to “make sure we have a banking sector that is really focused on small business lending … rather than the banks thinking how [they] can become bigger and bigger investment banks.”
Cameron hopes to get those banks which the government has a stakeholder share of, to start lending again and fuelling a private sector revolution.
According to a recent NEF report entitled Where did our money go? the 2009 budget noted that RBS needed to lend an additional £25bn (£9bn – mortgage / £16bn – business); Lloyds an additional £14bn (£3bn – mortgage / £11bn – business); Northern Rock an additional £5bn in 2009 / £3-9bn from 2010 onwards.
After the bailout, there was disappointment that the banks were increasing the bonus pot without actually kickstarting small businesses with money. In an ongoing discussion I had with an acquaintance, I was reminded that the bailout was paid in order to cover liabilities at the time, but the reason behind doing so, and not allowing them to fail, was so they could start lending again – for this is the reason why those banks are too big to fail.
The leaking of some 90,000 military files, detailing US and coalition prosecution of the war in Afghanistan, presents a stark lesson in the extent to which our government is not accountable for its actions.
Reading the Guardian this morning, there were several key points that contributed to this. The capricious treatment of the relatives of civilians killed by coalition forces is high on my list.
The war logs document that occasionally relatives would be paid some sort of compensation for the death of a family member; in other cases they were ignored or bullied into silence.
Assassination as a tactic employed by our government should also concern us. The matter of its legality to one side, it puts an enormous amount of power into the hands of people who aren’t accountable. It’s done in secret. The only reason we’re finding out about it – or finding out about the number of spectacularly botched attempts at it, often with the cost of many civilian lives – is because someone broke the law to bring us this information.
How can we talk about democracy and accountability when we’re killing people in secret?
Exposé after exposé has documented how the intelligence and PR arms of the military have tried to control the flow of information. The clear evidence of misinformation provided by the activities of US Task Force 373 (and a lesser UK equivalent) surely raises questions about how the people of this country can make an informed decision on the war, which is (according to the democratic theory) supposed to filter out through elections.
It is my firm belief that we cannot trust our government to wage any war – and that therefore we should never go to war so long as government and its executive arms are the preserve of a narrow clique, hedged around with secrecy.
As Duncan points out yesterday, as regards the death of Ian Tomlinson at the hands of the police (and as is the case in deaths-in-custody or deaths during police restraints too), our media and politicians are all too ready to offer justification and explain away official mistakes, to dismiss the idea of blame and accountability. It’s no different in war abroad than in the policing of political dissent at home.
One of the Trotskyist reasons for opposing an endorsement of Chamberlain’s government and its participation in World War II was that Trotsky and others believed that the British ruling class would capitulate if they could get terms favourable to British imperialism and capitalism. The bottom line was that, despite all the rhetoric about ‘national unity’, the ruling class was out for its own interests and would interpret the national interest however it liked.
We haven’t moved on terribly far from that position.
There’s no doubt that our armed forces are propping up an oppressive, dictatorial, nepotistic regime in Afghanistan; talk of peace with the Taliban surely provides the last kick in the teeth to anyone who genuinely believed the US-UK coalition were invading for truth, justice and the American way. They’re ignoring civilian deaths, condoning assassination and deliberately misinforming domestic media.
Faced with a gap between reality and rhetoric, our governments (whether Democratic or Republican in the US, Labour or Conservative in the UK) have chosen to interpret their original mission statement to suit their immediate needs. Bugger democracy, or women’s rights; a puppet government of whatever political orientation will do nicely. Never mind not moving on from World War II, we haven’t moved on from Lord Auckland.
Whether one thinks in terms of class, cliques, power elites or another system of sociological division, the government is self-interested. Labour quite happily sat on most of these secrets and the Conservatives have, in a stunning display of political cowardice, refused to comment. William Hague simply stayed on message: “We are working hard with our allies in Afghanistan on improving security on the ground, in increasing the capacity of the Afghan government.”
This makes sense. Answering questions about these problems highlights that actually the Tories have been behind the invasions from day one, and might open the door to more serious questions about what the hell we’re doing in Afghanistan at all. Apart from letting Pakistan’s intelligence service try and play the Taliban off against India, or destabilising northern Pakistan and extending the reach of Islamic extremism in Central Asia.
And what can we do about any of this? The answer is not a lot – and that enrages me.
Foreign policy news stories – whether about the use of chemical weapons at Fallujah in Iraq, about the assassination of trades unionists by groups supplied by the coalition, the oppression of women by the same groups or the brazen incompetence of the armed wings of the pro-coalition Afghan government – arrive, have an effect on opinion polls and then leave. Their practical effect is essentially zero.
NGOs like Human Rights Watch will appear in the newspapers to denounce the behaviour of the coalition armed forces. Opinion pieces will be fielded by the political Right to the effect that we’re fighting against an enemy that’s much worse (as though moral relativism is any justification). The majority of people will quietly be disgusted, David Cameron will make some platitudinous remark about troops coming home and the status quo will continue.
Disempowerment doesn’t get much more complete than that.
Although it is uncouth for a political blogger to say so, I admit the argument over the voting system has failed to get me too excited, though sometimes someone will turn out something that’ll perk my ears up on the subject.
Take Andrew Rawnsley recently for example, when he noted:
The prime minister must also be asking himself how exactly he would justify opposing this reform. He could claim that AV is a little more likely to produce indecisive, weak coalitions. That was his argument during the election campaign. But there’s a bit of problem with that now, isn’t there? The self-same David Cameron is king of a coalition which he hails as strong and resolute. Lovers of political paradox are going to be in heaven.
The most important thing for Cameron before the 2015 election – taking for granted that the coalition government will last this long, which it will – is running an effective campaign for the Tories as a separate party to the Liberal Democrats. By this time the country will probably have an existing AV system, and it will be interesting to see whether Cameron campaigns on the anti-AV ticket as he did before, or as an AV convert – which apparently Tories ought not be worried about anyway, since, according to one law scholar, it will apparently:
be likely to win the second preference votes of most UKIP voters, a large slice of the Liberal Democrat vote and a surprisingly large number of green voters. AV may well be one of the pillars of 21st Century Conservative political success
There is another thing I identify in the debate that drives me to frustration, and that’s the concern the BNP will gain as a consequence of AV.
One Professor Ted Cantle, who is the executive chair of Coventry University’s Institute of Community Cohesion, mentions that “In 2001 the BNP picked up 47,000 votes, in 2005 it had grown to 192,000. This year it was 563,000 … Under a proportional representation system the BNP would have picked up12 seats for the BNP.”
For me, proportionality is nothing without representation, and for all that the former will do for the parliamentary system, we have only known a severe lack in the latter. But the argument presented by some politicians that we should abandon the move towards proportionality on the grounds that it may benefit the far right seems like just another way to deflect responsibility for its rise in the first place.
Tory MP for Totnes Sarah Wollaston, for example:
[w]hile welcoming the chance for voters to have a say on replacing first-past-the-post Westminster elections with the Alternative Vote in a referendum to be held on May 5 next year … argued it would give “a second bite of the cherry” to minority parties such as the BNP.
Nick Clegg, whose reason for being at the moment is the AV referendum, said that if AV “were susceptible to such dangers [as the far right and extremist politics entering the mainstream as a consequence of the AV system, then] I would be as concerned as she is.”
Not a full and rigid answer by any stretch of the imagination, but even Clegg, who, one might speculate, only chose to form a government with the Tories to get this one issue through, has admitted that his concerns about it would be raised if it appeared to favour the BNP.
It is this model, of trying to ignore the BNP, that has engendered where we are with them today. They increase their support where they can convince people they offer the alternative to the mainstream parties, who have perhaps neglected them. And it is a shameful testimony of how much the BNP increased their vote under a Labour government.
But not only should we avoid putting a more proportional system into jeopardy because unpalatable parties might reap some of the benefits, we should attempt to address some of the reasons as to why the BNP are a concern in the first place; rather than trying to identify the legal mechanisms with which to utilise to keep the BNP out, all three main parties should ask themselves why so many people have felt the need to offer the BNP a vote.
From a Labour perspective, I embrace the AV system for the simple reason that Labour since Blair (in particular, though I’m aware people think it goes further back) have taken for granted the working class vote, while it has done more to pander ideologically to the well-heeled and those who benefit the most from a neo-liberal agenda.
In the knowledge that third party/protest party votes will count for more, Labour ought to feel this pinch and reorganise its agenda to return to the grassroots (though I worry about the will to do so).
Some people might argue this frees up the centre ground to a wider range of parties ( – the argument that suggests while Labour court the centre, the Tories are forced right, which in turn suppresses the UKIP vote – it’s out their believe me) but in addition to curbing those opportunistic left wing parties who inevitably will see room to manoeuvre with a more proportional system, carving up the left vote even further, it will force the party to be more appealing to those who feel, or potentially feel, disillusioned by Labour; and have acted upon that – for though we can pretend the BNP is so extreme their vote was never Labour’s vote anyway, to look at Professor Ted Cantle’s results above, it cannot be a coincidence that the increase in BNP vote has massively increased under Labour’s watch.
Though the British government is protesting that they’ve been completely forthcoming as regards their aiding and abetting the development of US anti-ballistic missile technology, I can’t help but feel that there’s plenty that has simply passed by the public.
Some things the public may not know: the US has formally withdrawn from the 1972 ABM Treaty with Russia. The strategic offensive reduction treaty or SORT signed in its place in 2001 (in force from 2002 until 2012) requires no verification, no decommissioning of weapons and is basically a “peace in our time” type of document.
Since that withdrawal, the Russians have been engaged in building their own anti-ballistic missile technology – which went active around Moscow in February of 2007. The Americans have not only been building and augmenting their ABM technology, they’ve roped the UK into acting as a base for the advanced radars and such which operate that technology.
As I understand it, ABM weapons would only (possibly) stop a limited number of incoming ICBMs – the most likely candidates being the miniscule arsenals of North Korea or Iran, should the latter ever finally acquire nuclear warheads.
Still, what are we doing? We are effectively now engaged in a new nuclear arms race. In 2003 news was leaked by senior scientists that meetings were being held to discuss building new nuclear weapons – more ‘usable’ nuclear weapons that could perhaps neutralise the arsenal of smaller states without requiring the activation of the titanic 5,500 ICBM arsenal of the US.
The UK has now extended the crime of developing defences to our own home territory – and no one except the Russians can even reach us should they have nuclear or chemical-armed missiles.
Why is it a crime? Because all it does is force China and Russia to give consideration to spending on ABMs and to developing better, more effective nuclear arsenals to offset the advantage the US has in its ABM network.
I have no real opposition to ABM; my concern is that, when lined up beside the renewal of Trident, it just goes to show how opposed our government is to the international disarmament process. The Bush administration is continuing Clinton’s advances in reducing the number of nuclear missiles the USA has, yet we’re building more nuclear weapons.
If the UK disarmed totally – unilaterally even – it would not matter a damn to the balance of nuclear power. Having all the nuclear weapons and missile defences in the world is not going to stop a dirty bomb going off in the centre of London.
Nor would unilateral disarmament even be unique! South Africa disarmed entirely in the mid-1990′s. It’s nuclear arsenal was small and not armed to the tip of rockets, but that is a step forward. Of the former Soviet Republics, the Ukraine was actually given command and control of some of the Russian nuclear arsenal – but voluntarily disarmed, decommissioned the weapons and gave them to the Russians to store.
I see no reason whatsoever not to thank the Americans for their help during the Cold War and follow the precedent of the Ukraine. It can do nothing but free up money better spent on other things.