Source: Getty Images
Show Hide image

The British public backs Francois Hollande, a new YouGov poll suggests

The new poll contains some pretty bad news for the austerity junkies.

A YouGov poll out today, and commissioned by the new trade-union-backed thinktank, Class, reveals that the British public strongly favours the anti-austerity policies championed by the new Socialist President of France, Francois Hollande, including:

  • establishing a publicly-owned bank that will lend to small and medium businesses (74 per cent strongly support or tend to support)
  • introducing a 75 per cent top rate of income tax for those earning over £1 million per year (56 per cent strongly support or tend to support)
  • providing more financial support for young people from low income families, so they can better afford to go to college or university (73 per cent strongly support or tend to support) 
  • a national programme of building 500,000 extra homes a year, including 150,000 new council houses (64 per cent strongly support or tend to support)
  • bringing in a new tax on financial transactions by investment banks (61 per cent strongly support or tend to support).

Do you want to know what the new "centre ground" on the economy looks like? Well, this is it.

As Unite's Steve Hart, the chair of Class, argues over at Left Foot Forward:

Except on the income tax proposal – the Tories split 42-51% on that – all these policies were backed by supporters of all parties. The proposal for a publically owned bank to lend to small and medium business had the support of 74% of those polled. Even 72% of Tory voters supported it.

He adds:

Labour’s tentative proposal for a British Investment Bank must surely now become a strong pledge.

What on earth are the two Eds waiting for?

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

PMQs review: Jeremy Corbyn prompts Tory outrage as he blames Grenfell Tower fire on austerity

To Conservative cries of "shame on you!", the Labour leader warned that "we all pay a price in public safety" for spending cuts.

A fortnight after the Grenfell Tower fire erupted, the tragedy continues to cast a shadow over British politics. Rather than probing Theresa May on the DUP deal, Jeremy Corbyn asked a series of forensic questions on the incident, in which at least 79 people are confirmed to have died.

In the first PMQs of the new parliament, May revealed that the number of buildings that had failed fire safety tests had risen to 120 (a 100 per cent failure rate) and that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower was "non-compliant" with building regulations (Corbyn had asked whether it was "legal").

After several factual questions, the Labour leader rose to his political argument. To cries of "shame on you!" from Tory MPs, he warned that local authority cuts of 40 per cent meant "we all pay a price in public safety". Corbyn added: “What the tragedy of Grenfell Tower has exposed is the disastrous effects of austerity. The disregard for working-class communities, the terrible consequences of deregulation and cutting corners." Corbyn noted that 11,000 firefighters had been cut and that the public sector pay cap (which Labour has tabled a Queen's Speech amendment against) was hindering recruitment. "This disaster must be a wake-up call," he concluded.

But May, who fared better than many expected, had a ready retort. "The cladding of tower blocks did not start under this government, it did not start under the previous coalition governments, the cladding of tower blocks began under the Blair government," she said. “In 2005 it was a Labour government that introduced the regulatory reform fire safety order which changed the requirements to inspect a building on fire safety from the local fire authority to a 'responsible person'." In this regard, however, Corbyn's lack of frontbench experience is a virtue – no action by the last Labour government can be pinned on him. 

Whether or not the Conservatives accept the link between Grenfell and austerity, their reluctance to defend continued cuts shows an awareness of how politically vulnerable they have become (No10 has announced that the public sector pay cap is under review).

Though Tory MP Philip Davies accused May of having an "aversion" to policies "that might be popular with the public" (he demanded the abolition of the 0.7 per cent foreign aid target), there was little dissent from the backbenches – reflecting the new consensus that the Prime Minister is safe (in the absence of an attractive alternative).

And May, whose jokes sometimes fall painfully flat, was able to accuse Corbyn of saying "one thing to the many and another thing to the few" in reference to his alleged Trident comments to Glastonbury festival founder Michael Eavis. But the Labour leader, no longer looking fearfully over his shoulder, displayed his increased authority today. Though the Conservatives may jeer him, the lingering fear in Tory minds is that they and the country are on divergent paths. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

0800 7318496