Which cabinet ministers do voters want to sack?

Andrew Lansley, Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May are top of the voters' hit list.

With David Cameron's first full cabinet reshuffle now expected shortly after MPs return from the summer recess on 3 September, the latest Times/Populus poll (£) asked the striking question, which cabinet ministers "should be sacked"? Top of the voters' hit list, with 53 per cent of voters saying he should lose his job, was Andrew Lansley, a reminder that the government's NHS reforms remain one of the biggest obstacles to a Tory victory at the next election. Next was Jeremy Hunt on 48 per cent, followed by Theresa May on 46 per cent, and George Osborne on 45 per cent. Conversely, just 36 per cent want Ken Clarke to be removed, and only 20 per cent think William Hague should be (though the Foreign Office is always a safe haven for ministers).

Hague, increasingly spoken of as the "under the bus" candidate to succeed Cameron, will also be cheered by the finding that 49 per cent of voters believe he's doing a "good job". By contrast, just 18 per cent believe Osborne is, which, given the recent economic data, is no surprise. The poll will likely embolden the growing band of conservative commentators (and even the odd Tory MP) publicly calling for the Chancellor's head. There is much evidence to suggest that Osborne is the biggest drag on the government's ratings. Before his kamikaze Budget, 46 per cent of voters thought the Tories were "competent and capable", now just 34 per cent do, giving Labour a two-point lead on this measure.

The absence of a growth strategy was the key to the Tories' decline; the formation of one is now the key to their revival. But the double-dip means that Osborne's room for manoeuvre is shrinking all the time. Yesterday's IMF growth forecasts (premised on a successful resolution of the eurozone crisis) suggest that he will almost certainly be forced to choose between ripping up his deficit plan (Osborne is still - just - on track to meet his "fiscal mandate" to eliminate the structural deficit over a rolling five-year period and to ensure that net debt is falling as percentage of GDP by the end of this parliament), destroying his reputation as a fiscal hawk, or cutting spending even harder and further strangling growth. This year's autumn statement should already be giving the Chancellor sleepless nights.

Fifty three per cent of voters want David Cameron to remove Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: André Spicer
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“It’s scary to do it again”: the five-year-old fined £150 for running a lemonade stand

Enforcement officers penalised a child selling home-made lemonade in the street. Her father tells the full story. 

It was a lively Saturday afternoon in east London’s Mile End. Groups of people streamed through residential streets on their way to a music festival in the local park; booming bass could be heard from the surrounding houses.

One five-year-old girl who lived in the area had an idea. She had been to her school’s summer fête recently and looked longingly at the stalls. She loved the idea of setting up her own stall, and today was a good day for it.

“She eventually came round to the idea of selling lemonade,” her father André Spicer tells me. So he and his daughter went to their local shop to buy some lemons. They mixed a few jugs of lemonade, the girl made a fetching A4 sign with some lemons drawn on it – 50p for a small cup, £1 for a large – and they carried a table from home to the end of their road. 

“People suddenly started coming up and buying stuff, pretty quickly, and they were very happy,” Spicer recalls. “People looked overjoyed at this cute little girl on the side of the road – community feel and all that sort of stuff.”

But the heart-warming scene was soon interrupted. After about half an hour of what Spicer describes as “brisk” trade – his daughter’s recipe secret was some mint and a little bit of cucumber, for a “bit of a British touch” – four enforcement officers came striding up to the stand.

Three were in uniform, and one was in plain clothes. One uniformed officer turned the camera on his vest on, and began reciting a legal script at the weeping five-year-old.

“You’re trading without a licence, pursuant to x, y, z act and blah dah dah dah, really going through a script,” Spicer tells me, saying they showed no compassion for his daughter. “This is my job, I’m doing it and that’s it, basically.”

The girl burst into tears the moment they arrived.

“Officials have some degree of intimidation. I’m a grown adult, so I wasn’t super intimidated, but I was a bit shocked,” says Spicer. “But my daughter was intimidated. She started crying straight away.”

As they continued to recite their legalese, her father picked her up to try to comfort her – but that didn’t stop the officers giving her stall a £150 fine and handing them a penalty notice. “TRADING WITHOUT LICENCE,” it screamed.


Picture: André Spicer

“She was crying and repeating, ‘I’ve done a bad thing’,” says Spicer. “As we walked home, I had to try and convince her that it wasn’t her, it wasn’t her fault. It wasn’t her who had done something bad.”

She cried all the way home, and it wasn’t until she watched her favourite film, Brave, that she calmed down. It was then that Spicer suggested next time they would “do it all correctly”, get a permit, and set up another stand.

“No, I don’t want to, it’s a bit scary to do it again,” she replied. Her father hopes that “she’ll be able to get over it”, and that her enterprising spirit will return.

The Council has since apologised and cancelled the fine, and called on its officials to “show common sense and to use their powers sensibly”.

But Spicer felt “there’s a bigger principle here”, and wrote a piece for the Telegraph arguing that children in modern Britain are too restricted.

He would “absolutely” encourage his daughter to set up another stall, and “I’d encourage other people to go and do it as well. It’s a great way to spend a bit of time with the kids in the holidays, and they might learn something.”

A fitting reminder of the great life lesson: when life gives you a fixed penalty notice, make lemonade.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.