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Friday, July 13, 2012

Those post-budget blues

I don't normally pay attention to opinion polls and that applies whether the Liberal Democrats are on 10% or 20%. As I have said on a number of occasions, what matters is the trends and of course how people actually vote in a real election.

However, sometimes there are some truths that are worth harvesting from behind the headline figures of which party people say they will support at the precise and artificial moment in time that they are accosted by a canvasser. How accurate these truths are is another matter, but those reported by today's Independent certainly seem to reinforce what I am being told by my constituents and others that I speak to.

They say that fewer people believe Britain's economic problems are caused by cutting "too far, too fast" than blame a financial crisis caused by banks; the eurozone turmoil; excessive borrowing by Labour and the banks not lending.

John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University, who compiled the figures says that the March Budget, on which George Osborne has made a string of U-turns, has had "more than an ephemeral effect on the public mood. He added: "The Conservatives have evidently paid a price for the mistakes and reverses of Conservative ministers in recent months."

The significance of this is that Labour's mantra on the economy for the last two years is failing to stick. This is partly because people can see European economies who have not engaged in austerity struggling, but also because they are not blind to the fact that Alistair Darling's last budget for the previous Labour Government, projected cuts and savings on a par with those being implemented now, but without the tax cuts for the lower paid.
I think it's wrong to conflate silly cac-handedness with U turns. As far as I know, no political party entered the last election with a pasty tax policy or a sell off of forestry commission land in England. Stupidity, policy on-the-hoof, and cock-ups by the UK cabinet does not necessarily indicate a change in party loyalty of the electorate. The only major U turn by the Westminster government coalition is the failure to implement the banking reforms proposed by the LibDems, and failure to stop NHS privatisation in England. It is issues such as this that will come to the fore in 'real elections'.
My impression is that the NHS reforms in England are being misrepresented and what will sway people on the NHS is the quality of services and their accessibility. As for banking reform, that is being implemented.
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