Talking of headaches for Dave, last night’s ICM/Guardian poll has UKIP on 18%, their highest ever rating and double their ICM rating for a month ago. Labour, the Tories and the LibDems all lost four points each, with Labour falling below Ed’s fabled 35% target. UKIP are up nine points. What was that about a referendum?
Seemingly the entire left-wing twitterati have been up in arms this week over analysis carried via LexisNexis showing that use of the word “scrounger” has rocketed in the British media since 2010. You might, if you subscribe to the Owen Jones thesis that there is a right-wing agenda cooked up in CCHQ to demonise “scroungers”, have expected it to appear more in the likes of the Mail or the Express than the ‘progressive’ metropolitan liberal press. The demonising is in reality coming from Owen Jones, who is relentless in trying to describe any reasonable attempt to reform welfare as an attack on the poor – he is desperate for a Cabinet Minister to use the term “scrounger” so that he can say to the 53% of the population that receives a welfare payment of some kind – including pensioners, war widows and the chronically disabled – that the government thinks you are scroungers. Not so. Guido has been crunching the numbers, and it turns out it is none other than the Guardian that uses the word most, followed by the Indy, where Owen has a column.
After carrying out a simple search of the word “scrounger” on each newspaper website for the period 2010 to date, the figures show that the Guardian used the word in 736 articles over the last three years. In second place is Owen Jones’ Indy, who – as he might say – “demonised the poor” 185 times over the period. Much further down come the right-wing tabloids: 76 for the Mail and 20 for the Express. Owen knows there is no public sympathy for people who abuse the welfare state, he also knows that the majority of the population, thanks to Gordon Brown, receives a welfare payment of some kind. Owen dogmatically refuses to countenance any welfare cut of any kind, that is why he is trying to encourage the likes of mothers who receive child benefit and deserving pensioners to align with those who are rightly losing benefits – fit people of working age who turn down jobs for example – he wants them to believe that welfare reformers think they are “scroungers”. That is why Owen and the unpopular progressive sections of the media use the emotive term more than anyone on the welfare-reforming right…
Methodology: Because neither Google or LexisNexis include all paywalled sites in their analysis, Guido used each newspaper website’s own internal search engine to determine in how many articles the word “scrounger” appeared between 2010 and today. The respective Sunday editions of the titles were included with the daily for the purposes of this research.
Tory strategists could be forgiven for worrying that after three years of little or no growth and a £120 billion spending black hole this year alone, Dave and George’s reliance on blaming Britain’s economic slump on the last Labour government might be wearing thin with voters. Apparently not.
A study by media agency OMD of over 2,000 adults from across the UK has found that 53% still blame the previous Labour government for Britain’s ongoing economic problems, compared with just 39% blaming the coalition. 39% say Gordon is the main culprit, with just 27% fingering Cameron and 23% Osborne. Numbers Downing Street will be clinging onto…
Hardly a surprise, but confirmation from Sajid Javid that the government projects billions more will be spent on tax credits over the next few years. The total spend on child tax and working tax credits has jumped from £24.1 billion in 2008-9 to £29.9 billion this year. The figure is projected to rise again to £32.5 billion by 2017-18. Austerity, what austerity?
Taking Polly Toynbee’s increasingly fact-free rants with a pinch of salt is generally good advice, but there is a difference between her standard spin and a complete falsehood. In a typical Gove-bashing piece for the Guardian today Polly asserts:
“Gove, calling for payment by results, cited Singapore’s high-achieving school system, “where expectations are higher”. What he didn’t say is that Singapore, like top performer Finland, is one of the most equal of developed nations. As his government drives up inequality, his schools face an ever tougher task compensating for the society they inhabit.”
Only Singapore isn’t one of the most equal developed nations. In fact, it is one of the most unequal. The country is currently dealing with one of the most severe income gaps in the world, indeed it has one of the highest Gini coefficients – the standard measure used to gauge inequality – of developed countries. But why let the facts get in the way of your see-through agenda, eh Polly?
One of Maggie’s many memorable memories from the House is her slap down of a young, snivelling Simon Hughes. Channel 4 FactCheck show that she was entirely right: wages went up across the whole spectrum, including for the poorest.
IFS figures show median earnings went up faster under Thatcher than under Major or during Blair’s second and third terms. Everyone got richer on Maggie’s Farm, including the poor. It comes down to this: would you rather be more equal but poorer, or less equal but better off?
In the Commons right now Ed Balls is giving George Osborne a kicking over his “failed austerity” programme. How does it compare with other austerity programmes?
Over the same period Britain has increased government spending by 3% in cash terms.
Liam Byrne calls it a “hated tax”, Jim Murphy says the government should “listen” to the public. Most damning of all, Owen Jones warns of the disastrous electoral consequences of the government’s changes to the spare room subsidy:
“A warning to Number 10. You calculate your attempt to demonise benefit claimants has paid off, removing all potential empathy. But – unfortunately for you – most are decent people. When the electorate realise you are inflicting misery not on “scroungers”, but on some of the most vulnerable in society, your campaign will fail. You bank on the suffering remaining below the radar, and you will be proved wrong. We will hammer you with the consequences, and, in time, you will be defeated.”
Apparently not content with peddling the bedroom “tax” lie, a YouGov poll shows Labour aren’t being entirely truthful about what the public think, either. Awkwardly, 49% of the public support the government’s reforms, compared to just 38% against. Even 34% of Labour voters support the policy. They won the battle on how the debate was framed in the media, but despite what Owen says the “decent people” he talks of recognise that the reforms make sense…
UPDATE: At least one Shadow minister is finally listening to the public:
Tory backbencher David Ruffley has placed a new advert for a research assistant in his Westminster office. Again.
The W4MP wesbite, which advertises job openings in parliament, often carries an advert for the Office of David Ruffley MP. Almost every month, in fact.
A Guidorama investigation can reveal that Ruffley has had at the very least 16 staffers over the last two years – a phenomenally high turnover for a backbench office. Frances Carlisle, Matthew Jupp, Hannah Lloyd, Emma Finch, Ben Rowe, Virginia Tuck, Madeleine Smart, Martin Smith, Katy Turner, Rachel Mawby, Michael Webb, Florence Cheek, Michael Horwood, George Rees, Harry Thomson and Nina Rosen have all been lucky enough to take part in the the hit series Westminster’s Toughest Job.
Ruffley’s man-management skills are the stuff of parliamentary folklore, and Guido hears reports of his “obnoxious” behaviour leading to bright-eyed hopefuls leaving his office in floods of tears, some binned after only days. Apparently, “to have been fired by Ruffers at some point is a rite of passage”. While no doubt some members of staff left for good reason, things have become so “shouty” recently that Ruffley has been reported to party whips over his behaviour. The job is still up for grabs – the closing date for applications is March 20th.
As Guido revealed in yesterday’s Sun column, there is some truth to the much-levelled charge that Downing Street is overrun with “kids”. The PM’s team is smaller and younger than at any point in the last ten years. The Prime Minister’s Office currently employs 181 staffers, almost 50 fewer than at the peak of Tony Blair’s government. Their average age is 39, lower than any point in the last ten years other than 2004/5, when it was the same. And they’ve been getting younger since Dave took office…
With the dividing lines for the next election seemingly drawn at PMQs, one of Ed’s main attack lines is the claim that the Tories are hurting the poor and helping the rich. But do the stats back him up? According to HMRC these are the average income tax rates across the pay scale comparing Labour between 2009-10 and the Coalition for 2012-13:
It is clear that lower earners paid more income tax under Labour than they do under the Coalition, while high earners are paying more now than they did back in 2009-10. This graph shows the relative percentage change in average income tax rates between Labour and the Coalition:
Guido isn’t too happy about the higher-earners end of things, believing that the rich have suffered enough already and we are beyond Laffer optimal tax rates, though you can bet the Conservatives are rather pleased they listened to the LibDems and raised the lower threshold. This should be hammered home by the Tories every single day until the election…
On the Today programme yesterday morning Ed Balls claimed Osborne has made a giant mistake and cuts in public spending are the same mistake made by Snowden in the 1930s. Balls is wrong, as a recent pamphlet from the Centre for Policy Studies by George Trefgarne shows. After the 1929-31 Wall Street Crash the British economy recovered rapidly in the 1930s:
If only we currently had a growth rate like they averaged in the thirties…
When Piers Morgan began his gig at CNN he told us: “judge me after a year”. Well time is up and the viewers have spoken, with ratings for his beleaguered talk show plummeting by over 50% after twelve months. Over the last month Piers averaged just 395,000 viewers, even hitting an axe-worthy all-time low of 39,000 in the crucial 25-54 age group. His Jubilee coverage this weekend may have given him an undeserved upward ratings blip. It was so cringe-making it was the butt of jokes from Jon Stewart.
And it isn’t just viewing figures that are cause for concern for Morgan and his bosses. With Jeremy Paxman royally landing him in it at Leveson last month it is expected that Piers will be recalled for a second chat with Brian and Mr Jay. This time he won’t get away with plugging his book via video-link.
A year ago Piers would never have thought he’d be fighting for his job on two fronts. Guido wonders whether it will be ratings or phone-hacking that forces CNN’s hand. Let’s judge it in a year’s time…
YouGov, who were the most accurate pollsters in London 4 years ago, have produced projections for the Greater London Assembly. The good news is they expect the BNP to be wiped out, the bad news is that London could be looking at a Red-Green majority in the assembly trying to thwart Boris on cost cutting. In Germany Red-Green governed cities have veered to the far left.
It is still close and with the Tories polling double digits behind Labour since the budget, Boris has to overcome a tough national polling deficit. Paddick, despite being a better candidate than he was in 2008, is not expected to poll in double digits and UKIP are projected to cement their claim to be the third party gaining two seats and equaling the LibDems. The graphic below shows how London became Boris Town in 2008:
The suburbs besieged inner London to take control of City Hall from Red Ken…
YouGov regularly asks respondents do they approve or disapprove of the party leaders. Subtracting disapproval from approval gives a net approval rating. Guido can’t recall public negativity towards politicians being higher.
Collectively it stands at -121, that is minus one hundred and twenty-one.[…] Read the rest