Where do the public stand on abortion?

Forty nine per cent of women support a reduced time limit, compared with 24% of men.

To the likely dismay of Downing Street, Jeremy Hunt's comments on abortion are leading the news this morning, with David Cameron's restatement of support for the NHS entirely overshadowed.

In response to Hunt's call for a halving of the abortion time limit, from 24 weeks to 12, the Guardian's Katharine Viner tweeted: "If men could get pregnant, what would be the time limit on abortion?" It's a good question, but what's interesting (and to many, surprising) is that women have more conservative views on the subject than men.

A YouGov poll published in January found that 49% of women favoured a lower limit, compared with 24% of men. Of that 49%, 11% want it reduced to 22 weeks, 14% to 20 weeks and 23% to "below 20 weeks". Thirty per cent of women would like the limit to remain at 24 weeks, compared with 39% of men. However, asked if abortion should be banned altogether, eight per cent of men said it should, compared with five per cent of women.

In total, just 17% of people shared Hunt's view that the legal limit should be reduced to "below 20 weeks". Thirty four per cent said that it should remain at 24 weeks, five per cent said it should be increased, eight per cent said it should be reduced to 22 weeks and 12 per cent said it should be reduced to 20 weeks.

The unrepresentative nature of Hunt's views is further evidence of why the Health Secretary has done his party no favours by promoting them so strongly.

Abortion rights campaigners demonstrate outside the House of Commons in 2008. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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What happened when a couple accidentally recorded two hours of their life

The cassette tape threw Dan and Fiona into a terrible panic.

If the Transformers series of movies (Transformers; Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen; Transformers: Dark of the Moon; Transformers: Age of Extinction; and Transformers: the Last Knight) teach us anything, it is that you think your life is going along just fine but in a moment, with a single mistake or incident, it can be derailed and you never know from what direction the threat will come. Shia LaBeouf, for example, thinks everything is completely OK in his world – then he discovers his car is a shape-shifting alien.

I once knew a couple called Dan and Fiona who, on an evening in the early 1980s, accidentally recorded two hours of their life. Fiona was an English teacher (in fact we’d met at teacher-training college) and she wished to make a recording of a play that was being broadcast on Radio 4 about an anorexic teenager living on a council estate in Belfast. A lot of the dramas at that time were about anorexic teenagers living on council estates in Belfast, or something very similar – sometimes they had cancer.

Fiona planned to get her class to listen to the play and then they would have a discussion about its themes. In that pre-internet age when there was no iPlayer, the only practical way to hear something after the time it had been transmitted was to record the programme onto a cassette tape.

So Fiona got out their boom box (a portable Sony stereo player), loaded in a C120 tape, switched on the radio part of the machine, tuned it to Radio 4, pushed the record button when the play began, and fastidiously turned the tape over after 60 minutes.

But instead of pushing the button that would have taped the play, she had actually pushed the button that activated the built-in microphone, and the machine captured, not the radio drama, but the sound of 120 minutes of her and Dan’s home life, which consisted solely of: “Want a cup of tea?” “No thanks.” And a muffled fart while she was out of the room. That was all. That was it.

The two of them had, until that moment, thought their life together was perfectly happy, but the tape proved them conclusively wrong. No couple who spent their evenings in such torpidity could possibly be happy. Theirs was clearly a life of grinding tedium.

The evidence of the cassette tape threw Dan and Fiona into a terrible panic: the idea of spending any more of their evenings in such bored silence was intolerable. They feared they might have to split up. Except they didn’t want to.

But what could they do to make their lives more exciting? Should they begin conducting sordid affairs in sleazy nightclubs? Maybe they could take up arcane hobbies such as musketry, baking terrible cakes and entering them in competitions, or building models of Victorian prisons out of balsa wood? Might they become active in some kind of extremist politics?

All that sounded like a tremendous amount of effort. In the end they got themselves a cat and talked about that instead. 

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder