How long can the Tories continue to blame Labour for the country's ills?

If the polls are accurate, the British people are already turning against them.

The question of how support for the coalition and its economic policies is holding up is important right now, three weeks before the so-called growth Budget. The latest survey results from YouGov over the past few days suggest that it is not strong and is starting to deteriorate fairly rapidly. The changes may not be statistically significant but they are certainly politically significant.

Below, I report a number of balances from two surveys conducted on successive days last week. In the latest poll, taken on 3-4 March, the Labour Party had 43 per cent of the vote, with the Tories on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 10 per cent. The remaining parties were on 12 per cent.

First, it appears that David Cameron's support is low and may even be slipping, although his support is still higher than that of Nick Clegg (25 per cent well and 67 per cent badly) or Ed Miliband (33 per cent well and 47 per cent badly). Even before his speech in Cardiff today, where he declared public-sector workers to be "enemies", the majority of voters thought that Cameron was doing a bad job.

1. Do you think David Cameron is doing well or badly as prime minister?

2-3 March - well = 44 per cent; badly = 50 per cent; don't know = 6 per cent

3-4 March - well = 41 per cent; badly = 52 per cent; don't know = 6 per cent

Second, the majority of respondents also think the coalition is handling the economy badly.

 

2. Do you think the coalition government is managing the economy well or badly?

2-3 March - well = 36 per cent; badly = 54 per cent; don't know = 10 per cent

3-4 March - well = 35 per cent; badly = 56 per cent; don't know = 9 per cent

Finally, the majority of respondents expect their financial situations to worsen.

 

3. How do you think the financial situation of your household will change over the next 12 months?

2-3 March - better = 9 per cent; worse = 61 per cent; don't know = 5 per cent

3-4 March - better = 9 per cent; worse = 64 per cent; don't know = 4 per cent

This finding is consistent with recent survey conducted by the EU in February, which also found that people expect their financial situation to worsen over the next 12 months. Worryingly, that survey has collapsed since the coalition took power in May 2010, whereas it improved under Labour. Here, a negative number is worse. The score is approaching the numbers last seen in the depths of the recession.

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It doesn't appear that blaming the previous Labour government for everything that is wrong with the economy is working. The time has come for this government to start taking responsibility for its actions before the British people really start to turn against it. Based on this evidence, it appears they already have.

David Blanchflower is economics editor of the New Statesman and professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire

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Labour is a pioneer in fighting sexism. That doesn't mean there's no sexism in Labour

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

I’m in the Labour party to fight for equality. I cheered when Labour announced that one of its three Budget tests was ensuring the burden of cuts didn’t fall on women. I celebrated the party’s record of winning rights for women on International Women’s Day. And I marched with Labour women to end male violence against women and girls.

I’m proud of the work we’re doing for women across the country. But, as the Labour party fights for me to feel safer in society, I still feel unsafe in the Labour party.

These problems are not unique to the Labour party; misogyny is everywhere in politics. You just have to look on Twitter to see women MPs – and any woman who speaks out – receiving rape and death threats. Women at political events are subject to threatening behaviour and sexual harassment. Sexism and violence against women at its heart is about power and control. And, as we all know, nowhere is power more highly-prized and sought-after than in politics.

While we campaign against misogyny, we must not fall into the trap of thinking Labour is above it; doing so lets women members down and puts the party in danger of not taking them seriously when they report incidents. 

The House of Commons’ women and equalities committee recently stated that political parties should have robust procedures in place to prevent intimidation, bullying or sexual harassment. The committee looked at this thanks to the work of Gavin Shuker, who has helped in taking up this issue since we first started highlighting it. Labour should follow this advice, put its values into action and change its structures and culture if we are to make our party safe for women.

We need thorough and enforced codes of conduct: online, offline and at all levels of the party, from branches to the parliamentary Labour party. These should be made clear to everyone upon joining, include reminders at the start of meetings and be up in every campaign office in the country.

Too many members – particularly new and young members – say they don’t know how to report incidents or what will happen if they do. This information should be given to all members, made easily available on the website and circulated to all local parties.

Too many people – including MPs and local party leaders – still say they wouldn’t know what to do if a local member told them they had been sexually harassed. All staff members and people in positions of responsibility should be given training, so they can support members and feel comfortable responding to issues.

Having a third party organisation or individual to deal with complaints of this nature would be a huge help too. Their contact details should be easy to find on the website. This organisation should, crucially, be independent of influence from elsewhere in the party. This would allow them to perform their role without political pressures or bias. We need a system that gives members confidence that they will be treated fairly, not one where members are worried about reporting incidents because the man in question holds power, has certain political allies or is a friend or colleague of the person you are supposed to complain to.

Giving this third party the resources and access they need to identify issues within our party and recommend further changes to the NEC would help to begin a continuous process of improving both our structures and culture.

Labour should champion a more open culture, where people feel able to report incidents and don't have to worry about ruining their career or facing political repercussions if they do so. Problems should not be brushed under the carpet. It takes bravery to admit your faults. But, until these problems are faced head-on, they will not go away.

Being the party of equality does not mean Labour is immune to misogyny and sexual harassment, but it does mean it should lead the way on tackling it.

Now is the time for Labour to practice what it preaches and prove it is serious about women’s equality.

Bex Bailey was on Labour’s national executive committee from 2014 to 2016.