Polling can be good for you


¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Mr Andrew Cooper’s arrival at Downing Street has brought an admirable wish to speak truth to power to the centre of the government.Tthe results of some¬†of the polling lies behind¬† the recent decisions to change policy. The polls did not just do for some¬†of the more¬†hotly contested¬†changes to the NHS, but also have warned the government not to go soft on sentencing, and to take controlling immigration very seriously.

        A good pollster can warn a government off doing things which are currently unpopular. This may often be the best advice, as they may be unpopular for a good reason. Their unpopularity might grow if you persevere with the policy Рas past governments discovered with the ERM, the Community Charge, the Iraq war and political correctness agenda of Labour. The politicians in receipt of the polling also need to avoid killing off projects that are unpoppular in prospect, but which may well be in the national interest. Sometimes political leaders have to stand and argue their case. If they are right, the public will come round to support them. Some of the important reforms put through in the 1980s that have stood the test of time and are now accepted would have polled very badly at the time.

            There are a number of policies that Conservatives would love to see submitted to the polling test. How much support is there for EU bail outs? How popular are the climate change policies and carbon taxes?   How much support would there be for a less intrusive relationship with the EU, and for asking the UK people what they think of that relationship?

             Bring on the polling. It could make politics more exciting, and make the government more popular, if used intelligently. What would you like to be submitted to the poll test?


  1. norman
    June 28, 2011

    Do you think the government adding 85p to every litre of petrol you pump is a ‘fair share’?

  2. lifelogic
    June 28, 2011

    Perhaps start with:

    The The EU – free trade and democracy or non democratic rule from Brussels?
    Should we pay three times as much for the “renewable” energy nonsense and let out elderly freeze to death?
    Should the private sector have pensions at least equal to the state sector?
    Should we reduce the size of the state to half?
    Where should we cap state sector pay and pensions £80K perhaps? :
    Should we halve tax rates?
    Should we get the NHS and Education system to the stop failing?
    Should we stop pointless bailouts?
    Should the BBC stop pushing their green pro-EU big state agenda at our expense?
    Should we stop our school pushing the “green”, lefty big state agenda?

    The again perhaps just do what is sensible now for once.

    1. lifelogic
      June 28, 2011

      Perhaps also the individual should be allowed to counter claim when he has suffered inconvenience due to negligence, incompetence or failure to provide services properly due from the NHS, schools/university system, the court system, the local authority or by any other part of the state sector. Then to offset this against their tax bill as they would if dealing with any other incompetent organisation.

      Would any tax be actually due for most I wonder?

    2. lifelogic
      June 28, 2011

      Then again polling the public gets a lot of things very wrong.
      If you ask “should there be much more regulation to control Landlords and protect tenants?” or “should we use nuclear power in preference to “clean” wind/wave/solar?

      You get predictable answers resulting in fewer properties to rent higher rents and much higher priced energy as the public do not know the numbers or think it all through. That is the job of the government – to think for once what is best for all.

      1. Bazman
        June 28, 2011

        Ever heard of a character called Peter Rachman? Maybe he just got bad press. C4 Dispatches is looking at the Landlords from hell next week. Of course you will say it is all propaganda.

        1. lifelogic
          June 28, 2011

          No it is the staple product of the BBC – endless demands for government over regulation and licencing of virtually everything – up to and probably including breathing and going to the loo.

          1. lifelogic
            June 28, 2011

            And the best protection for tenants is plenty of choice of other properties. Not limiting supply and pushing up cost by endless landlord over regulation.

          2. Bazman
            June 29, 2011

            Who mentioned the BBC? You just come out with it don’t you?
            There will always be more tenants than properties Exploitation is not the answer. Its like saying doing away with all employment regulation and the minimum wage will remove all unemployment and bad employers. Clearly not true. A race to the bottom will never work, but like many contributors on here you should make clear that it is a race to the bottom that you want and not hide under a stone.

          3. lifelogic
            July 2, 2011

            You keep going on about a race to the bottom. My method is a race to the top through being competitive and efficient and free and not subsumed by a large parasitic state – yours surely is the race to the bottom trying to pull yourselves off the floor by pulling your shoe laces with endless government minimum wage and employment regulation. It is more good jobs that are needed not more silly regulations.

        2. alan jutson
          June 29, 2011


          Yes certainly heard of Mr Rachman.

          Yes there are evil landlords.
          Yes there are evil tenants as well.

          But are you aware that the government (taxpayer) funds both !.

          High rents paid/claimed with housing benefit.
          Housing benefit now paid to the tenant (not the landlord direct), who never passes it onto the landlord, and then walks away after months of free occupation, leaving the property a wreck.

          No I am not a landlord, but have in the past refurbished houses previously run by poor landlords, and others wrecked by tenants.

          1. Bazman
            June 29, 2011

            Some tenants are not fit to live on a rubbish tip. The idea of moving them to a vandal proof converted container on a site with other like minded people is a good idea in my book. A large electric fence and guards with dog would be a good use of taxpayers money too. I would pay money to throw rubbish over the fence.

      2. Alison Granger
        June 28, 2011

        If we’re relying on government to think for us we are truly beyond help or hope.

  3. Duyfken
    June 28, 2011

    Polling of whom? There are so many permutations available that the results from varying polling methods may be spun to suit most requirements. True random polls of national opinion must be useful (and of course EU issues should be top of the list), the more so were the results to be published.

    However I suggest the government might separately poll the membership and officers of Tory constituency associations to ascertain their wishes and expectations, and whether or not they feel their own MP is doing the job he or she was asked to do. Many Tory MPs may presently be circumspect about challenging government direction and they could show more courage were they to be given a bit of stick from the grass-roots.

  4. Mike Stallard
    June 28, 2011

    Down here in the Fens, I can tell you the things that get people are these: immigration. A second thing is immigration. Then a third thing is immigration. Not much else is considered. the EU is simply not there. Then there is immigration. Oh yes, the decay of the Comprehensive is another thing. And a general feeling of not being given a chance and the whole town falling to bits. Finally, there is immigration.

    1. APL
      June 28, 2011

      Mike Stallard: “immigration”

      Sorry to say, but immigration is an EU competence, neither Mr Redwood nor Mr Cameron (even supposing he cared to take any notice) are in a position to influence the issue.

      So that means your top three issues are the EU, the EU and the EU.

      1. Mike Collins
        June 28, 2011


        Immigration is not the EU problem MIGRATION is. Many UK citizens place the wrong terminology on the word, including members of the Government . Migration is, as the EEC place it, “the free movement of EU citrizens across members borders for work, retirement etc etc.” Immigration is an entirely different kettle of fish and has all the implications of the problems you so rightly bring to notice on this site, with the influx of many persons seeking to live in UK from outside the EU.

        1. APL
          June 28, 2011

          Mike Collins: “rightly bring to notice on this site, with the influx of many persons seeking to live in UK from outside the EU.”

          Not correct!

          The fact of the matter is anyone who washes up in Italy, Spain, or any of the other EU countries and is given EU citizenship** is then ‘entitled’ to move throughout the EU.

          With our welfare system, that often means they end up in the UK.

          Split hairs between migration or immigration, the fact remains that too many people who have made no contribution to the UK in terms of working life and paying taxes can turn up and claim benefits.

          **This is a tactic employed by Italy and Spain and pretty much any of the border EU countries in order to push their immigration onto other EU members.

        2. lojolondon
          June 29, 2011

          Well, calling immigration ‘migration’ doesn’t change the point – if you phrased it that way, then the people in the fens would be worried about ‘migration, migration, migration. Non-EU immigrants used to be useful to our economy, until Liebour came up with Human Rights laws and intentionally changed the voting dynamic forever by bringing in (various groups of people not popular with the blogger-ed) What the people of Britain are sick of is everyone who comes here and does not pull their weight, and people who use legal aid to milk the system etc.

    2. lifelogic
      June 28, 2011

      The EU is the cause of much of these problems.

    3. Bazman
      June 28, 2011

      How will the farmers pick their crops in the Fens without a cheap supply of labour? Who will do a lot of the work in Britain the work for the low wages other than desperate young East Europeans living in the most sparse conditions?
      In many cases skilled work now pays the same as non skilled and only immigrants from poor countries will work for this. The bottom has been reached and the locals quite rightly refuse to work for these rates.

      1. APL
        June 29, 2011

        Bazman: “Who will do a lot of the work in Britain the work for the low wages other than desperate young East Europeans living in the most sparse conditions?”

        You’d think the people who the British state education system has failed – 20% are turned out after fifteen years at school illiterate and innumerate – would be able to pick fruit and vegetables in the fields, wouldn’t you?

        But they prefer to live on benefits and are actually paid by the State not to work. When the benefits system pays more than the lowly unskilled labour we now import migrant labour to carry out. You know something is wrong somewhere!!

        1. Bazman
          June 30, 2011

          Your point being that youth of today are not desperate enough or bone idle? They would rather play computer games at their parents house than work in some muddy field, assuming they would even be employed to do this work. Waste of an employers time and money for sure.
          Unskilled rates for skilled work is another thing altogether. Employers dream since time began.

          1. APL
            July 2, 2011

            Bazman: “Your point being .. ”

            That the 20% of the population failed by the State education system are then incentivised to live an idle life by the same state apparatus that failed them in the first instance.

            That seems to me, to be imoral.

    4. Tim
      June 28, 2011

      Good post. Its immigration …… here in the South West, then the EU, its ridiculous undemocratic rule and costs (get us out), Human Rights Act for criminals, foreign aid (totally ridiculous). His polls must be telling him that!!
      Action is what we want not feable words.

  5. Boudicca
    June 28, 2011

    Apart from the EU – when the polling should be a simple do you want IN or OUT – there is the ‘green energy’ scam – when it is at the very least contributing to a 30% increase in energy costs this year alone; the HRA/ECHR.

  6. Julian
    June 28, 2011

    Should the UK start an orderly process to leave the EU by date 20xx?

    1. APL
      June 28, 2011

      Julian: “Should the UK start an orderly process to leave the EU by date 20xx?”

      Why orderly?

      Here is what we know. A treaty is a contract between states. A treaty there fore has performance goals that each party should attain.

      According to popular press, the idea of bailing out one or another country is expressly forbidden in the European treaties, yet we have all been drawn into bailing out the Greece, Ireland and Portugal.

      Now that means that one party to the treaty has willfully failed to perform to its obligation under the treaty and thus the treaty is non performing (like a contract ) and consequently void.

      We are out, it’s just our treacherous political class that keeps us in the EU.

      That largely means the Tory Party. We have to do something about them to do something about the EU!!

  7. Tony E
    June 28, 2011

    There’s only one poll I want to see : A referendum on the EU – Stay or Leave.

    I want to see it legislated in the UK that we have such a referendum every 20 years maximum for the entire duration of our membership, so that each generation gets a say in its own future.

    Of course, if they let us vote, I imagine the 20 year clause would never need to be used.

    1. Andrew Shakespeare
      June 28, 2011

      Sorry mate, but you’re not getting it. Not as long as Cameron’s running the show. He’s holding out for a cushy Euro-non-job after he’s done a few years running this pathetic little island.

      Then he’ll have a genuinely aristocratic lifestyle: a truly lavish salary for doing really not much, a grace-and-favour mansion, teams of scurrying servants, kow-towing lackeys, hob-nobbing with heads of state, limousines, private jets — it’s what a good Eton boy was born to have, don’t you know?

      And he wouldn’t want to risk all that by rocking the Euro-boat now, would he? Obviously, in the Tory party, he has to make Eurosceptic noises — that’s expected of him, in the same way that he’s expected to wear a blue tie at election time. But he never had the slightest intention of putting any of that nonsense into practice.

      1. Jon Burgess
        June 28, 2011

        With an estimated (substantial -ed) personal fortune , Cameron has all of this already, so I doubt if he’s in it for the money alone. No, he’s got that look of someone with an absolute faith in his own opinions but no real political ideology on which to base it all on. Green conservitism? Just another Blair style snake oil salesman, I’m afraid who hasn’t had to do a real job before narrowly squeezing into Downing Street.

    2. Denis Cooper
      June 28, 2011

      Good idea, provided the legislation was entrenched against easy repeal.

      Notably there’s no attempt to entrench the “referendum lock” in the European Union Bill:


      Which means that a future government could even bounce us into the euro without a referendum, whatever that party may or may not have said in its general election manifesto.

      It would only have to put words like “notwithstanding any provision of the European Union Act 2011” into the Bill to join the euro, and that would remove the “referendum lock”.

      1. norman
        June 28, 2011

        My memory is fuzzy but didn’t Bill Cash introduce an amendment that would have made the Bill more meaningful?

        Again my memory may be faulty but I recall that Labour didn’t vote on and only 30-40 Tory MP’s rebelled against the Party whip and actually voted to have a meaningful Bill, exposing the lie that the Tory Party really are Eurosceptics straining at the leash but held back by the Labour / Lib Dem vote in Parliament.

        1. Denis Cooper
          June 28, 2011

          Bill Cash proposed so many amendments, many of which weren’t debated, but off the cuff I don’t recall one where there was a vote and it went like that.

          It certainly happened with an amendment proposed by Bernard Jenkin about justice and home affairs – Division No 183 at Column 401 here:


          It’s worth reading what he had to say, starting at Column 394, about the opportunity for the UK to opt-out of a whole chunk of very bad provisions introduced with the Lisbon Treaty:

          “In order to make the Lisbon treaty, which establishes the European Union’s authority over criminal and civil law, more palatable, there was an arrangement that the United Kingdom could opt out at a later date.”

          “The Bill pretends that there is no decision to be made between now and 2014 about this momentous change to our criminal justice system and the way the law is conducted in this country.”

          And his suggestion that the decision should be made by a national referendum with the question:

          “Do you want the criminal justice system of this country to be controlled by the European Union?”

          In the event only 28 MPs supported his amendment, and some of them were Labour MPs, while 315 MPs, on a quick glance all Tories and LibDems, voted against it.

  8. Bill
    June 28, 2011

    The Human Rights Act

  9. John Page
    June 28, 2011

    I’d be happy with John’s list. Of course.

    But why do we think ministers would take any more notice of internal polling than they have of external polls?

  10. APL
    June 28, 2011

    JR: “Bring on the polling. It could make politics more exciting, and make the government more popular, if used intelligently”

    Then why don’t you go the whole hog, and introduce regular referendums? After all, we know the government can do it when it wants to!

    We elect MPs to intermediate between us and the government.

    MPs largely have preferred to use their position to ingratiate themselves with the executive in Westminster or in the case of the Lords and (some-ed one name removed) people (join) the other government in Brussels and feather their own nests, for example: dipping their hands into liberal amounts of public money under the pretense of claiming expences, building extensive property empires at the public expense, returning hugely unjustified public funded pensions, again at the public expense.

    The political class enriching itself at the public expense has coincided with the steady decline of UK PLC.

    So let’s go the whole hog! Let’s dis-intermediate the government of the country, let us introduce a fully referendum based government. Get rid of MPs altogether, after all, they have largely abrogated their duties to Brussels.

    Refererism – rolling referendums along the Swiss style in the UK. I am with Dr North on this one. I want the opportunity to vote directly on the finance bill each year.

    By the way, Belgium still hasn’t got a functioning elected government after a year. The state is still ticking over quite well there.

  11. Nick
    June 28, 2011

    The problem comes down to telling the truth. Something that all politicians don’t do.

    For example, what are the government debts in the UK? A trillion they might tell you.

    However, that’s a lie. That’s just what they have borrowed. If you believe them, they don’t owe you a state pension, a state second pension, civil servants aren’t owed a penny, ….

    1. foundavoice
      June 29, 2011

      You’re confusing ‘debt’ and ‘liability’.

      So you may be getting a weasal answer, but it is likely correct (notwithstanding off balance sheet debts).

  12. alan jutson
    June 28, 2011

    Only two types of polls really matter.

    Referendums and General elections.

    What you are suggesting is in depth market research for feedback.

    With today’s technology good feedback can be had quite cheaply, and surely not difficult to set up. Clearly the input would need to be monitored, verified and an allowance perhaps made for the more politically active. In depth market research could then be completed on the subjects which gained most comments.

    You get feedback from this site John, because you are prepared to put in the effort of posting on a wholerange of subjects each day, that feed back may come from perhaps a particular section of the public, who are more likely to be in some way supporters of your views, or are perhaps more politically active than some, but feed back you get none the less.

    The important aspect of yur site, which should not be overlooked, is that the public at least can feel some sort of involvement with politics, because they can communicate directly with you. The fact that you give replies, confirms and is evidence that you read posts made, and do not simply file them away unread.

    It makes the effort of blogging on your site worth the effort. Shame more Mps do not follow your example.

    Thank you.

  13. Elliot Kane
    June 28, 2011

    I think there’s only one poll that matters to most people: whether or not to leave the EU.

    Most other issues are simply a matter of common sense. You don’t need polls to tell you the majority would personally prefer to pay less tax, that less red tape is a good thing, that people want less govt interference in their lives, or that mass waves of non-integrating immigrants are a bad thing.

    So, yeah: EU: IN or OUT? is what it comes down to, I think.

  14. Robert K
    June 28, 2011

    1) Cameron promised a referendum on the euro and Clegg one on continued EU membership. Let’s have both.
    2) Ban governments from borrowing.
    3) Reduce tax rates by half.
    4) Target state spending as a percentage of GDP to halve in the space of a Parliament.
    5) A Great Repeal Bill.

  15. Richard1
    June 28, 2011

    Why don’t you & other backbench MPs start commissioning polling on such issues – perhaps funded by direct appeal to party members and / or the public, if costs can’t be met by normal Parliamentary expenses? The problem with Mr Cooper’s polling – also with polls commissioned by, eg, the BBC, is they are very unlikely ever to ask about such issues as climate change and the relationship with the EU. The Govt and much of the media just don’t want any debate on such issues.

  16. Javelin
    June 28, 2011

    And if used well would ensure another party would fnid it very difficult to get back into power. I never understood why politicans don’t do it.

    What would an opposition say – “We’ll stop the polling and stop giving you a choice.”, or “We will stop the polling because we think the public is stupid.”

    Like the posters say Human Rights, the EU the Bailouts, Immigration etc could be polled. But the questions needs to be more sophisticated – what to replace the Human Rights Act with, what to replace EU membership with etc need to be asked.

    I dont think the polling should be whether the Government should tax more and spend more – because people will justtvote for free money.

  17. davidb
    June 28, 2011

    I suspect this is just a recipe for Blair style focus group dictatorship.

    I favour the Swiss democratic style myself. Our politicians could be bypassed by the voters then. However I’m sure lots of lobbying would go on of the public. Look already at the BBC opinion manipulation. I understand that in California people vote for contradictory positions – cut taxes keep services eg.

    Then there is the question setting manipulation we have seen in the UK already when we have been asked our opinion. We were asked to join a free trade organisation and ended up being foisted with a supranational government that is unaccountable to us. In Scotland a question was asked about tax raising powers – should we have the right to vary income tax by 3 pence – two thirds of those eligible to vote did not pay that tax.

    I suspect there is no ideal system. Polling may be useful as a gauge of public opinion, but since that opinion is so often so ill informed I would be concerned at any administration elevating its status.

  18. Winston Smith
    June 28, 2011

    Shame Cameron and co ignored those polls before the 2010 GE. You might be part of a Conservative Govt, rather than in coalition. Immigration is the top of everyone’s list of issues that I speak to. I don’t expect any changes, just more vacuous rhetoric from Dave.

    Incidentally, what makes you think this Govt or even Cameron’s Conservative’s are any less politically correct than Labour. Equality Act?

  19. English Pensioner
    June 28, 2011

    How much support is there for foreign aid?
    My poll shows there is very little indeed, and even less when some of the details become public.

  20. Lindsay McDougall
    June 28, 2011

    The Lisbon ‘Treaty’ of course.

  21. Amanda
    June 28, 2011

    John, do you mean a poll or a focus group? I had heard the information was coming from focus groups – a qualitative technique for establishing a range of opinion (if done correctly) not for measuring it. A poll is a quantitative research method with measures how many and how much, but, as with all such techniques it is only as good as the question quality and the unbiased nature and size of the sample. A poll is open to abuse and to misuse – just look at the difficulties of getting voting intentions right.

    But, you are right, a good manager needs good information to make the right decisions, particularly when the manager is a politician and supposed to be working on behalf of his constituents. So, doesn’t the use of polls in No 10, firstly show a naive attitude to good governance, and secondly isn’t our democracy built on the best decision making research of all (if run properly)? Each MP establishes the views of his constituents, in their local context, and then represents these views in parliament – not has to be whipped through the right voting chamber!!! So, it is each MP who needs to set up a selection of action research techniques to make sure he has his ear to the ground – no reason why a poll should not be just ONE of those techniques. But, no good intelligence uses single sources, and neither should the MP or PM for that matter. The PM should then listen to MP’s

    Isn’t it local democracy and the common wealth network that is broken and needs to be restored? Polls are not a substitute for that – I want to feel I am represented in parliament: I don’t want to think that on an odd occasion I might be asked my opinion in a poll.

    That being said, I am all for referendum on large issues: we need one on the EU, Human Rights Act, Immigration – but that also needs unbiased information to educate people on the situation so they an make an informed decision. And that means bringing the BBC to heel in no uncertain terms. ( Cameron/Hunt has truly flunked the last one – as they get worse and worse). Also, raising the standard of education with subjects like history, philosophy, religion and and critical thinking in schools.

    But, if we have to start somewhere, let’s start with proper representation from MP’s and get them to ensure they truly do have a local ear and are given a free vote . Isn’t that a key feature of a Big Society?

    Reply: I keep in touch with voters views in a variety of ways, so polling does not normally come as a shock to me. However, if polling is going to be used to help shape policy, it is important that a good range of questions are asked.

  22. forthurst
    June 28, 2011

    There is a problem with public polling which is that unless people have become aware of an issue in their daily lives, they may well hold an opinion which is as a result of the Cultural Marxist grooming by the BBC or of the Frankfurt school through the education system. Most people are pretty clear in their opinions on immigration since most now have had the misfortune to suffer from the negative effects of it through their daily lives and those of their children; people, however may not be aware as to the extent of how the law and the BBC and other media have been used ruthlessly by the enemy within to turn this country into what it sadly has become, However, here goes:-

    Do you think that all ‘thought crime’ laws should be repealed such that only common law protections would apply?
    Do you think that all laws on discrimination should be abolished?
    Do you think that we need new much stronger treason laws (to punish people who undermine the country and its armed forces -ed)?
    Do you believe that only those of ancestral British stock should be allowed to emigrate to this country?
    Do you think that using the media, particularly the BBC, or the public education system to promote opinions or beliefs rather than providing information based upon rock solid indisputable hard fact should be made a serious criminal offence?
    Should the use of Drama and Childrens’ broadcasting to promote unsubstatiable beliefs about groups or historical events be made a serious criminal offence?

    Do you think that the Queen should continue to be responsible for the opinions of +Rowan Cantuar?

  23. oldtimer
    June 28, 2011

    You have alreadt named three key issues: EU bail outs, the consequences of the Climate Change Act and Carbon Plan to implement it (fundamentally about the cost and reliability of the UK`s future energy resources) and the UK`s relationship with the EU.

    As with all polls, much depends on the actual question asked, how it is phrased and the objective to be achieved. If Mr Cooper is indeed seeking to “speak truth to power” and not seeking to confirm the wisdom and rightness of current policies, then it could be beneficial.

    The political class inhabits an ivory tower, seemingly with few windows or even a parapet from which to observe the outside world. It seems that Mr Cooper has been retained to investigate the surrounding countryside and is returning with news that the natives are restless. How long will it be, I wonder, before the decision is taken to shoot the messenger?

  24. Acorn
    June 28, 2011

    I did not have you down as a “Populist” or a supporter of the Populist system of government. Appealing to the crudest hopes and fears of the masses may get you re-elected though. Populist systems end up with the peoples’ charismatic leader running a totalitarian dictatorship; remind you of any North African / Middle East countries currently? A few names come to mind in Europe in the last century.

    Mind you, you may have a point. The Republicans have just lost a seat in a New York by-election, they had held for four decades. They campaigned to cut back Medicare (NHS in the UK).

    The US and the UK are now heavily socialised culturally. Welfarism does that to a nation over time. Populism or government by focus groups and popular polling in an electorate so socialised, is a recipe for economic disaster.

    If I were editing this site, I may have accidentally replaced the word “polling” with “referendum”. Alas, the result would be the same, but the voters get a better chance of finding out what the question was.

  25. peejos
    June 28, 2011

    The snag with all polls, apart from the obvious one of carefully wording the question to get a particular answer, is that of education. Virtually the entire population gets its opinions from the MSM and so responds to the latest emotional outpourings, very few even begin to glean further information and background and so form an opinion of their own. In consequence a carefully prepared flow of stories to ensure that the bulk of the populace accept a certain view point, which of course is what happens now, over a long enough time scale will provide the answers that those initiating the poll require.

  26. sm
    June 28, 2011

    So the polls hopefully give the wily politicians the ability to pick popular fig-leaf policies which can be managed within the overall pre-ordained plan – they are imposing either carelessly or uncaringly because they know best.

    Picking the popular policies is not wrong but leaving out substantive concerns because they create er ‘ difficult legal problems’ (read EU or foreign court decides otherwise) is a recipe for long term problems. It may be someones idea of democracy but not mine – move to more legally binding referenda – call it Swiss-Lite.

    This will break the EU, party power structure and probably careers so how will it happen. Financial meltdown will be the trigger i reckon.

    In my opinion -no system is perfect but the EU/UK/ devolution setup is rather like banking , probably the closest to the worst we have come.

  27. Caterpillar
    June 28, 2011

    1. “take controlling immigration very seriously”

    Do we know the efffect of vast changes in exchange rates on patterns of inward and outward migration? such second order effects are clearly political and yet the decisions from which they originate are made by the MPC/BoE

    2. Once strategic dirtection is rationally worked then polling to compare tactical directions may be reasonable, and of course serve as part of the social diffusion of ideas. htere may of course be other ways of doing the latter, and perhaps this could have been considered before the impending collision with the public sector. The reason one might not poll up front for strategic direction is that the ‘dumbness of crowds’ as well as the ‘wisdom of crowds’ exists. If the probability of any individual knowing the ‘correct’ answer is slightly greater than 0.5 then the ‘wisdom’ is found, if the probability is less than 0.5 the the ‘dumbness’ is uncovered.
    (I guess there are also fundamental problems with things like Arrow’s theorem).


    3. Sp although I diagree wth the generla logic the bees in my bonnet are:T

    (a) Should the tax payer or universities bear the risk for non-payment of student loans? (I would vote for the universities to focus thier minds)
    (b) Should pensions be linked to changes in nominal GDP per capita or CPI (triple this that and the other)? (I would vote for nominal GDP per capita – all the other contribution, final/average etc should be worked but under this assumption, so that pensions just move along with the economy)
    (c) Should High Wycombe be host a new international airport? (I would note yes but then I don’t live there – but come on lets get another airport built)
    (d) Should work on the HS2 begin immediately (I would vote yes – just get on with it)
    (e) Should England have a separate assembly? (I would grudgingly vote yes – the West Loathian question remains irritating. But I would want the commons hugely shrank with four principality assemblies.)
    (f) Should we build much more nuclear ?(I would vote yes)
    (g) Should the independence of the BoE with trespect to interest rates be stopped?
    (I would vote YES, there is no accountability to the electorate for the stupidity of the MPC’s performance. Secondly if there are clear options to act on the remit but they are not taken for other reasons then this should retun to the Chancellor and be debated in the Commons (this is an apalling situation). Thirdly interest raes policy gives a transparent opportunity for Chancellors to meddle before elctions, better this than hidden opportunities!)

  28. startledcod
    June 28, 2011

    Pretty good selection above. I would add ‘should Council Tax be replaced by locally collected VAT?’ which I think happens to be an idea whose time has come. Tax competition in a small country would benefit everyone.

  29. lojolondon
    June 28, 2011


  30. Bob
    June 28, 2011

    “Some of the important reforms put through in the 1980s that have stood the test of time and are now accepted would have polled very badly at the time.”

    Is this because our politicians are smarter than us?

  31. Javelin
    June 28, 2011

    I am neither pro- nor anti- Europe. However, I do understand there are possible and impossible implementations of a European Union.

    Monetary union has never been possible without the breadth of fiscal and political union. Just like hole dug in loose soil, its breath determines its maximum depth. Today like any poorly constructed hole entropy is causing it to collapse in on itself.

    You don’t need to poll – rioters on the streets in Athens. Swastikas on Eu Flags. 40% youth unemployment. How is this a better Europe?

  32. Neil Craig
    June 28, 2011

    When you say that Conservatives would welcome a test of public opinion on certain subjects like the hundreds of billions being thrown at “catastrophic global warming” and windmills I assume you are not counting cast iron Dave as a Consevative.

  33. John Ward
    June 28, 2011

    Popularity as a criterion for whether a policy is good or bad seems an odd one to choose.
    Newscorp’s policy of lowest common denominator journalism, for example, is popular.
    (Expresses general hostility to Murdoch press lines ed)

  34. Martin
    June 28, 2011

    Polling can give you almost any answer you want depending on the question.

    Do you want a warm dry summer?
    Do want a drought ?

    Do you want a white christmas?
    Do you want the road to the sales blocked by snow on boxing day?

    Apart from that polling is reactive.

    Politicians have to lead and not just follow.

  35. Kenneth Morton
    June 28, 2011

    I agree with very much that has been contributed so far but my own priority would be defence expenditure. How can this be made to reflect our country’s interests more directly?

    Failing schools and failing examination regimes can be turned around in a matter of years, three or four years if the right people are in place and the correct policies are in place.

    Changes in defence policies must be measured in decades especially with the MoD budget defecit bequeathed by Labour. Tony Blair has left the country with so many problems with his policy of acting as the world’s policeman, cynically understanding that he would not be around to be responsible for paying off the bills.

    In my opinion our focus should be on Fortress Britain and all that this entails over the next twenty years or so. Protection for British fishing vessels for when the Common Fisheries policy fails; protection for Gibraltar and the Falkland Islands; the next generation of nuclear weapons, planning for the possible withdrawal of forces from Scotland if the Scottish people gain independence from the United Kingdom.

    I am sure that somewhere in Whitehall there are plans for all these eventualities gathering dust but they should be brought out into the open and discussed. Defence expenditure is so large and so important and some polling is a kick start of a ten to twenty year process.

  36. Phil
    June 28, 2011

    Very easy this one – The E.U! We need a referendum on this and I for one want us out ASAP!

  37. Chris
    June 28, 2011

    I agree with your comments, Mr Redwood, regarding issue that the government need to take soundings on and to listen. The relationship with the EU needs fundamental revision, with the UK needing to reclaim the powers over its own affairs. Immigration, or rather very strict controls on it, are of paramount importance to so many. A new Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights quagmire. A radical revision of approach to climate issues, green policies and carbon taxes – the science has to be rigorously scrutinised, and the bandwagon of AGW abandoned – we need to conserve resources/use resources responsibly and protect the environment, but balance has to be found so that we are not pursuing policies in the UK which represent economic suicide. Get the science right first, factor in responsibility and accountability re resources and environment, and go for what is financially viable.

  38. WitteringWitney
    June 28, 2011

    “It could make politics more exciting, and make the government more popular, if used intelligently.”

    Actually Mr. Redwood all that the people need is a few elected representatives (please note use of the word representatives, rather than delegates) to safeguard our nation militarily and to deal with our foreign relations, subject of course to our approval. We will govern ourselves, locally and decide amongst our selves the laws by which we wish to live, coupled with a liberal use of referenda both nationally and locally.

    No need for government, no need for 650 MPs, no need for polling – a win/win situation for the people who matter – which is us, not the political elite!

  39. BobE
    June 28, 2011

    1. No civil servant or council person should be allowed to earn more than the PM.
    2. Cap all government pensions to 80k per annum. Any more is simply returned to the treasury.

  40. ferdinand
    June 28, 2011

    Should we extend the successful experiment in Suffolk that removing road markings reduced vehicle speeds and accidents ?

  41. GoodnightVienna
    June 28, 2011

    We’ve had a poll – it’s called a General Election. Thereafter governments shouldn’t create policy on the hoof with a short-term view to popularity. Ideally, they should carry out what their manifesto pledges but… they don’t and that’s why we end up with blog-posts like this, from you of all people.

    Soundings are fine and can help keep a govt on track but as a means of creating policy it’s a definite no-no. We need *real* democracy now. We don’t need pollsters and government surveys; we need those we elected to do the work they promised to do if we elected them.

    It obviously isn’t working so the system needs to be changed, radically.

  42. Bazman
    June 28, 2011

    How about the cutting of state benefits for all and the restoration of the death penalty?

    1. lifelogic
      July 2, 2011

      You are right with the first one.

  43. StevenL
    June 28, 2011

    Suitable punishments for child sex killers, violent thugs, thieves, fraudsters, MP’s who fiddle expenses etc.

  44. Jon Burgess
    June 28, 2011

    Needing to refer to polls in order to check the pulse of the nation barely 12 months after an election and after a demoralising 13 years of statist tax and spend Labour government smacks a bit of desperation and a lack of conviction. You’re still a conservative, Mr Redwood? What would you do to put this country back on a sound footing?

    Leave the EU. Then and only then could you re-establish UK borders and limit inward migration from all countries
    Re establish selection by ability in education
    Cut taxes
    Really, no really, put police back on the beat
    Repeal the Police & Criminal Evidence Act
    Make divorce harder
    Start favouring marriage in the tax system again
    Build some new nuclear power stations
    Make convicted criminals serve their full sentence
    re-introduce an austere, drug free regime in prisons where the authorities are in charge, not the inmates
    re-introduce some level of juror qualification
    invest in the armed forces
    re-nationalise the railways
    re-introduce the death penalty for premeditated murder (and do away with majority verdicts in these cases)

    That’s a start. Come back to me when you’ve done that lot and I’ll think of something else.

  45. electro-kevin
    June 29, 2011

    I don’t want to play this game.

    The polls have said for years to get tough on crime and uncontrolled immigration and yet have been ignored.

    In fact why do politicians need polls in order to know this ? The truth is that they don’t. They certainly shouldn’t need further polls – especially the Conservatives after they lost the last general election (another poll) despite the worst PM in history an open goal.

    A poll is what I undertake in my role as union rep when there’s an issue I don’t want to take responsibility for and when I want to prevaricate.

  46. uanime5
    July 5, 2011

    Didn’t we used to have a way to poll what people thought of various ideas? I remember know it was the E-Petitions website. What ever happened to that? Oh that’s right the Conservatives closed it down because it was an easy way for the public to voice their disapproval with the Government.

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