Football: Fanatics and the rest of us

40% of us don't give a toss about football. Another 35% only care a bit.

Around four in ten English people describe themselves as "not a fan" of football, compared to just 24 per cent who describe themselves as "big fans", according a research note by the bank ING. Everyone else describes themselves as "slight fans", meaning that while football fans are still the majority, it is not as overwhelming as one might think.

The note, titled (ugh) "cup-o-nomics", also attempts to quantify how strong the average English person's desire to see their team winning Euro 2012 is. They asked how much people would be prepared to spend to guarantee an England victory; apparently the average amount is £167. That said, many English people, obviously, wouldn't be prepared to pay anything. Sadly, ING don't give the numbers for England, but Europe-wide, only 33 per cent of people would give money to get a victory, so it seems likely that the actual amount that people prepared to pay would give is probably two or three times the overall average.

But attitudes to money differ depending on how much of it you have. So ING also asked who'd be prepared to give 1 per cent of their income for victory, and found that it shrinks to a die-hard core of just 12 per cent of the country.

That 12 per cent are probably a subset of the fifth of English people who think that Euro 2012 (a contest involving one sport and 16 countries) is more important than the Olympics (a contest involving 26 sports and 204 nations, including the sport and all the countries from Euro 2012).

If you want to track down somewhere where people really don't care, you could to worse than heading to France. That's the only country in the competition where a majority of people – 60 per cent – don't give a toss. ING describes it as the "laggard" of Europe, but I prefer to think of it as a glorious torchbearer, showing the path ahead.

Bored children at a football match. WE KNOW YOUR PAIN. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win the Copeland by-election?

Labour face a tricky task in holding onto the seat. 

What’s the Copeland by-election about? That’s the question that will decide who wins it.

The Conservatives want it to be about the nuclear industry, which is the seat’s biggest employer, and Jeremy Corbyn’s long history of opposition to nuclear power.

Labour want it to be about the difficulties of the NHS in Cumbria in general and the future of West Cumberland Hospital in particular.

Who’s winning? Neither party is confident of victory but both sides think it will be close. That Theresa May has visited is a sign of the confidence in Conservative headquarters that, win or lose, Labour will not increase its majority from the six-point lead it held over the Conservatives in May 2015. (It’s always more instructive to talk about vote share rather than raw numbers, in by-elections in particular.)

But her visit may have been counterproductive. Yes, she is the most popular politician in Britain according to all the polls, but in visiting she has added fuel to the fire of Labour’s message that the Conservatives are keeping an anxious eye on the outcome.

Labour strategists feared that “the oxygen” would come out of the campaign if May used her visit to offer a guarantee about West Cumberland Hospital. Instead, she refused to answer, merely hyping up the issue further.

The party is nervous that opposition to Corbyn is going to supress turnout among their voters, but on the Conservative side, there is considerable irritation that May’s visit has made their task harder, too.

Voters know the difference between a by-election and a general election and my hunch is that people will get they can have a free hit on the health question without risking the future of the nuclear factory. That Corbyn has U-Turned on nuclear power only helps.

I said last week that if I knew what the local paper would look like between now and then I would be able to call the outcome. Today the West Cumbria News & Star leads with Downing Street’s refusal to answer questions about West Cumberland Hospital. All the signs favour Labour. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.