Do you approve?

Yesterday's YouGov/<i>Sun</i> poll is the best snapshot of the mood of the British public. So how ar

I like opinion polls. I go to YouGov's interesting website most days to get a sense of the changing mood of the nation. Today, it had some interesting results that are worth discussing, especially on the economy, in the YouGov/Sun poll taken between the 5 and 6 September.

First, after some recent evidence that the Labour Party's lead over the Tories was narrowing, it has widened again to 6 points: Labour 43 per cent, Tories 37 per cent and the Lib Dems 9 per cent.

Plus, there were some striking findings on the economy that make interesting reading. The government looks to be in trouble on the economy.

Question 1 Do you approve or disapprove of the government's record to date? (per cent)

Approve 30; Disapprove 55; Don't know 15.

Question 2 Thinking about the way the government is cutting spending to reduce the government's deficit, do you think this is . . . (per cent)

a) Good for the economy 35; Bad for the economy 49; Don't know 16.
b) Being done fairly 27; Being done unfairly 59; Don't know 14.
c) Necessary 57; Unnecessary 31; Don't know 12.
d) Too deep 47; Too shallow 9; About right 27; Don't know 17.
e) Being done too quickly 52, Too slowly 8; About right 28; Don't know 12.
f) Having an impact on my life 68; Not having an impact on my life 23; Don't know 9.

Question 3 Thinking about the next two or three years, how worried are you that people like you will . . . (per cent)

a) Not have enough money to live comfortably? -- Worried 70; Not worried 27; Don't know 3.
b) Suffer directly from cuts in spending on public services, such as health, education and welfare? -- Worried 71; Not worried 26; Don't know 3.
c) Lose their job/have difficulty finding work? -- Worried 64; Not worried 32; Don't know 4.
d) Lose their home? -- Worried 43; Not worried 53; Don't know 4.

So, Britons think that cuts are necessary but are being done unfairly; are bad for the economy; are too deep; are being done too quickly and are having an impact on their lives; they are worried about the future impact of the cuts and losing their jobs, and they disapprove of the government's track record. I agree, of course. I suspect the lack of support for the coalition's economic policy is going to spread as the economy slows further in the second half of the year. I will keep you posted.

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

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Theresa May gambles that the EU will blink first

In her Brexit speech, the Prime Minister raised the stakes by declaring that "no deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain". 

It was at Lancaster House in 1988 that Margaret Thatcher delivered a speech heralding British membership of the single market. Twenty eight years later, at the same venue, Theresa May confirmed the UK’s retreat.

As had been clear ever since her Brexit speech in October, May recognises that her primary objective of controlling immigration is incompatible with continued membership. Inside the single market, she noted, the UK would still have to accept free movement and the rulings of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). “It would to all intents and purposes mean not leaving the EU at all,” May surmised.

The Prime Minister also confirmed, as anticipated, that the UK would no longer remain a full member of the Customs Union. “We want to get out into the wider world, to trade and do business all around the globe,” May declared.

But she also recognises that a substantial proportion of this will continue to be with Europe (the destination for half of current UK exports). Her ambition, she declared, was “a new, comprehensive, bold and ambitious Free Trade Agreement”. May added that she wanted either “a completely new customs agreement” or associate membership of the Customs Union.

Though the Prime Minister has long ruled out free movement and the acceptance of ECJ jurisdiction, she has not pledged to end budget contributions. But in her speech she diminished this potential concession, warning that the days when the UK provided “vast” amounts were over.

Having signalled what she wanted to take from the EU, what did May have to give? She struck a notably more conciliatory tone, emphasising that it was “overwhelmingly and compellingly in Britain’s national interest that the EU should succeed”. The day after Donald Trump gleefully predicted the institution’s demise, her words were in marked contrast to those of the president-elect.

In an age of Isis and Russian revanchism, May also emphasised the UK’s “unique intelligence capabilities” which would help to keep “people in Europe safe from terrorism”. She added: “At a time when there is growing concern about European security, Britain’s servicemen and women, based in European countries including Estonia, Poland and Romania, will continue to do their duty. We are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe.”

The EU’s defining political objective is to ensure that others do not follow the UK out of the club. The rise of nationalists such as Marine Le Pen, Alternative für Deutschland and the Dutch Partij voor de Vrijheid (Party for Freedom) has made Europe less, rather than more, amenable to British demands. In this hazardous climate, the UK cannot be seen to enjoy a cost-free Brexit.

May’s wager is that the price will not be excessive. She warned that a “punitive deal that punishes Britain” would be “an act of calamitous self-harm”. But as Greece can testify, economic self-interest does not always trump politics.

Unlike David Cameron, however, who merely stated that he “ruled nothing out” during his EU renegotiation, May signalled that she was prepared to walk away. “No deal for Britain is better than a bad deal for Britain,” she declared. Such an outcome would prove economically calamitous for the UK, forcing it to accept punitively high tariffs. But in this face-off, May’s gamble is that Brussels will blink first.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.