Coffee House

Expect the unexpected

13 December 2010

Peter Kellner has an interesting comment piece up on the YouGov site about how we are in the unusual position of having three relatively unpopular party leaders. Nick Clegg’s approval rating is down at minus 29 but that hasn’t helped Ed Miliband who is at minus 15. David Cameron does have a positive rating, but only just. His approval rating is plus one. As Kellner points out, normally when one political leader is unpopular another benefits. But that hasn’t happened this time: a sign of how strong a hold anti-politics has on the public consciousness.

This discontent is mirrored by how all three parties are having quite serious debates about what they should be. Labour is trying to answer the question of what the purpose of the party is when there’s no money left to spend. The Conservatives are debating whether they want to be ‘mainstream Conservatives’ with robust positions on tax, Europe and immigration or liberal Conservatives who try and hold the perceived centre. For their part, the Liberal Democrats are having an existential crisis about who they are which might end up splitting the party.  Add to this mix a hardcore of thugs who want to hijack demos against the cuts to try and show that Britain is ungovernable and you have a particularly unpredictable political environment.

A year ago the idea that Nick Clegg would being burnt in effigy and that the Home Secretary would be being questioned on whether water cannon will be used on protestors would have seemed fanciful, the kind of far-fetched predictions that columnists produce to fill newspapers between Christmas and New Year. So I would rule little out for next year.

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Show comments
  • Fergus Pickering

    In what way is Cameron like Chamberlain? I can’t think of any way at all. Except that you think they are both shit, but that’s not really enough. I could say Red Ed is Lenin or Stalin even, but the comparison would not be illuminating.

  • Verity

    I think Vulture’s calling it correctly, once again.

  • Commentator

    Libertarian, I suspect that Tiberius, Mad Trev and the ever-so-superior David DP can’t wake up amd smell the coffee because they are too busy inhaling other stronger substances which have befuddled the limited judgment they had in the first place. All “liberal Conservatism” is is an attempt to use the corpse of the Tory Party to relaunch the SDP. Hence Cameron’s programme of asset-stripping the middle classes (especially the under-35’s) to keep most of Labour’s bloated failed state intact. This is the reality of the famous “cuts” which are so savage that they still leave us in 2015 with Labour’s levels of spending in 2007.

  • Tiberius

    Libertarian: is it axiomatic that levels of party membership equate to GE success? Was not the Tory membership higher in 2001?

    I think you need a new percolator.

  • alastair harris

    Cameron has bashed the middle classes and upset the lefties, and he still has a positive rating – the man must be a political genius!

  • libertarian

    @Simon Stephenson,

    Not for the first time, nail hit firmly on head. Thank you.

  • libertarian

    @Tiberius and DavidDP

    There’s none so blind as wont see. The Conservative Party membership is down to an all time low of 170,000 people ( mostly over 60’s) and still plummeting.

    There are 27 million voters in the UK.

    After probably the worst government in the history of this country the Conservatives FAILED to win an outright mandate. I think you guys need to wake up and smell the coffee

  • Vulture

    The Conservative tragedy is that Cameron is a Chamberlain when we need a Churchill, and a Heath when we need a Thatcher.

    80% of Tories can’t stand the jelloid-faced one’s liberalism, and that goes for many of the party’s younger and newly-elected MPs.
    The Coalition will come apart at the seams in 2011, Dave’s pal Nick will be ejected by his party, and Dave’s wheels will come off with it – probably after the loss of the AV referendum.

  • Chris lancashire

    Cameron continues to do an excellent job in near impossible circumstances – the latest, much-needed local govt cuts being just the latest steps towards fiscal sanity. Until and unless the Defecit is sorted, all other issues are subsidiary. Amazing therefore that he retains a positive rating.
    Milliband, inadequate, weak and geeky, unsurprisingly in negative territory. Clegg, perceived to be a serial pledge breaker currently wildly unpopular will make his way steadily back.

  • The Bellman

    Given the striking similarities between the three ‘leaders’, and the ever-widening gulf between the political class and those they presume to represent in parliament, I don’t think it’s at all surprising that they are held in near-universal disdain. I am surprised only that this disdain hasn’t given way to full-blown steamed loathing and some kind of JG Ballard-style middle class uprising.

  • Liz Brown

    A year ago no-one knew or cared who either Nick Clegg or Ed Milliband were – Clegg came to prominence through the Leaders’ Debates and the Millipede is still not recognised even tho he is Liebour’s Leader – so You Gov’s findings are not entirely surprising.

  • Frank Sutton

    Don’t suppose Kelner has anything to say about the popularity of his Missus – the highest paid woman politician in the world, the unelected Lady Europe?

  • normanc

    Simon Stephenson @8:51 already won the thread so no need to comment on the article, but RKing, you do realise that there are no real cuts planned until 2014? And even then they are ameliorated by a planned massive rise in the tax take (£170bn over this Parliament)?

    Whether you believe that cuts will happen the year before an election, or that above trend growth will happen in an economy where the government is increasing taxes, is one of the major fears those of us with right of centre views have about the coalition and its direction.

  • Colin Cumner

    While people are still utterly disenchanted with Labour, particularly after its disastrous last term in office under Brown, this so-called ‘coalition’ Government is not exactly coming up smelling of roses either. It’s not so much because of the few really tough decisions it has handed down but rather the constant ‘U-turns’ it has made on other vital policies. I always suspected Cameron of being a vacillater with no real backbone -now I am convinced of it. Thatcher had her faults but one thing she has to be admired for during her tenure at Number Ten – she stuck to her guns on nearly all policy matters and that is why the Tories were so successful at the polls back then. ‘Wishy-washy’ politics never does go down well with the electorate but that is mostly what it has been getting recently. Get it through your seemingly thick skulls, Mr. Cameron and Mr. Clegg, the vast majority of decent, law abiding and hard working British people are fed up with the current economic and social state of their country Labour bestowed upon it and now want firm and decisive action from their leaders.

  • Major Plonquer 1

    TD: Please. Tim Montgomerie is not ‘talking a load of total bollocks’. He’s not capable of that. He’s talking a lot of half-arsed bollocks which is the best the boy can do.

    There are many journalists who are perfectly capable of writing total bollocks. Montgomerie is not one of them. But he tries hard.

  • Verity

    Boudicca – I agree with you about Nigel Farage and have always felt that he would be PM one day. He is one of those rare people who gives you 100% of his attention, and responds to what you have actually said, rather than what he supposes you said. And seeing him on Utube, he is certainly fluent in duffing up his fellow members of the EU “Parliament”. I like watching their faces narrowing with petty anger when he’s attacking them.

  • tankus

    They all lied to us before the elections . Red Ed is suffering from Gordons lies, because his hand is up his backside.

    “ah gottle of gear”

    Surprised they are hated ….nah !

  • RKing

    I cannot seem to get so excited by these “stunning revelations” by Peter Kellner when there is about four and a half years to go before the next election.
    Its about as relevant as the effect of the snow on politics.
    Relax James why do you think Cameron has made it clear when the next vote will be and why do you think he’s getting all of the nasty but necessary cuts out of the way early on.

  • TrevorsDen

    labour are unpopular because they created the mess.
    Tories are inevitably unpopular because they are having to pick the mess up.
    LibDems are unpopular because they are actually having to do something.

    Pardon me but just what is this ‘mainstream conservatism’ as opposed to ‘liberal conservatism’? Where is the debate?
    This coalition – stuffed with Liberal democrats has just cut the local authority allocation being by between 4 and 8 percent.

    Is that mainstream or liberal?

    Or is Montgomerie yet again talking a load of total bollocks.

  • PuppetMaster

    ‘a mix of hardcore thugs hijacking demos’ are not doing as much harm as unethical,thieving banksters along with an unaccountable political set up.
    If we don’t have a society which holds bankers and politicians responsible for driving mad asset bubbles, debauching the currency with money printing and excess credit creation, then we will be completely ruined.
    People may not understand the intricacies of the mess we are in, but they do realise that we are in a mess. they also realise that nobody has been punished for getting us there. So they aren’t going to respect their leaders, this is a dangerous situation. If mob violence explodes, we could condemn it, but we can’t say we don’t know why it happened.

  • Boudicca

    The plain-speaking Mr Farage, who talks in the language of the common man and voices what a majority of British people believe – that Britain should leave the EU – is becoming far more visible and effective.

    The best Prime Minister Britain hasn’t got.

  • Edward McLaughlin

    There is nothing relative about it. All mainstream parties are unpopular, for the simple reason that they do not articulate the wishes of a massive section of the voting public.

    Get used to it.

  • Woodbine

    The first party to appear frugal and fair wins the poisoned chalice.

  • Verity

    It’s not how “strong the hold anti-politics” has, James. It is how much the electorate despises the government.

    Put in Eric Pickles as PM and watch the approval ratings climb.

  • Simon Stephenson

    “a sign of how strong a hold anti-politics has on the public consciousness”

    Not correct, I reckon. What has a strong hold on the public consciousness is that there is no politics taking place amongst the politicians. All that’s being discussed are meaningless abstractions, because no one can bring themselves to talk about realities.

    The public are not anti-politics, they’re anti-politician, because the politicians are not engaging in politics. Scrambling round to jump on the horse with the longest legs is not what they’re put in parliament to do.

  • DavidDP

    I see Tim Montgomerie’s attempt to label any Conservative who doesn’t share his particular world view as an outsider is going great guns.

  • Ex-Tory voter

    “The Conservatives are debating whether they want to be ‘mainstream Conservatives’ with robust positions on tax, Europe and immigration or liberal Conservatives who try and hold the perceived centre.” Surely that should be ‘they are debating whether they want to reflect the views of those not in the Westminster village or lose their core vote’?

  • Tiberius

    That’s rather loose terminology about the Conservatives, James.

    That debate was held in 2005. What we are seeing now is another bout of the periodic moaning by the elements of the party who cannot accept the nature of the voting British public.

    For Mainstream, read Brechtian.

  • charles hercock

    The Tories do not need to question themselves,just hold their nerve and ensure the public ire continues to be vented on the Liberals

    Boys doing good

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