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.


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

Ukip's Nigel Farage and Paul Nuttall. Photo: Getty
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Is the general election 2017 the end of Ukip?

Ukip led the way to Brexit, but now the party is on less than 10 per cent in the polls. 

Ukip could be finished. Ukip has only ever had two MPs, but it held an outside influence on politics: without it, we’d probably never have had the EU referendum. But Brexit has turned Ukip into a single-issue party without an issue. Ukip’s sole remaining MP, Douglas Carswell, left the party in March 2017, and told Sky News’ Adam Boulton that there was “no point” to the party anymore. 

Not everyone in Ukip has given up, though: Nigel Farage told Peston on Sunday that Ukip “will survive”, and current leader Paul Nuttall will be contesting a seat this year. But Ukip is standing in fewer constituencies than last time thanks to a shortage of both money and people. Who benefits if Ukip is finished? It’s likely to be the Tories. 

Is Ukip finished? 

What are Ukip's poll ratings?

Ukip’s poll ratings peaked in June 2016 at 16 per cent. Since the leave campaign’s success, that has steadily declined so that Ukip is going into the 2017 general election on 4 per cent, according to the latest polls. If the polls can be trusted, that’s a serious collapse.

Can Ukip get anymore MPs?

In the 2015 general election Ukip contested nearly every seat and got 13 per cent of the vote, making it the third biggest party (although is only returned one MP). Now Ukip is reportedly struggling to find candidates and could stand in as few as 100 seats. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall will stand in Boston and Skegness, but both ex-leader Nigel Farage and donor Arron Banks have ruled themselves out of running this time.

How many members does Ukip have?

Ukip’s membership declined from 45,994 at the 2015 general election to 39,000 in 2016. That’s a worrying sign for any political party, which relies on grassroots memberships to put in the campaigning legwork.

What does Ukip's decline mean for Labour and the Conservatives? 

The rise of Ukip took votes from both the Conservatives and Labour, with a nationalist message that appealed to disaffected voters from both right and left. But the decline of Ukip only seems to be helping the Conservatives. Stephen Bush has written about how in Wales voting Ukip seems to have been a gateway drug for traditional Labour voters who are now backing the mainstream right; so the voters Ukip took from the Conservatives are reverting to the Conservatives, and the ones they took from Labour are transferring to the Conservatives too.

Ukip might be finished as an electoral force, but its influence on the rest of British politics will be felt for many years yet. 

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