The voters are finally turning against the Tories

Lib Dem “human shields” are no longer protecting the Tories from the cuts backlash.

A

Latest poll (YouGov/Sun) Labour majority of 98.

Until recently it was common to hear Labour MPs warn that the Tories' use of the Lib Dems as "human shields" would insulate them from anger over the cuts. Their fears were supported by polls showing that support for the Conservatives had risen since the general election while support for the Lib Dems had fallen as low as 7 per cent. But this week, that began to change.

The latest daily YouGov survey puts Labour on 44 per cent, with the Tories on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 10 per cent. Conservative support is now at its lowest level since the election and what was a 3-5 point Labour lead has become a 7-9 point lead. Five of the last eight YouGov polls have put the Tories on less than 37 per cent.

New Statesman Poll of Polls

A

Labour majority of 80 (uniform swing)

The VAT rise, combined with the stalled economic recovery, has turned public opinion decisively against the party for the first time since May. The boos that greeted Francis Maude's comments on Labour and the deficit on last night's Question Time were a sign of how the mood has changed.

In truth, they merely confirmed what polls have shown for some time: the majority of voters oppose the speed and scale of the coalition's fiscal retrenchment and largely blame the banks and the global recession for the deficit, not Labour.

The political result of the Tories' plummeting support will be a growing demand for what Tim Montgomerie calls "mainstream Conservative" policies and an impatience with perceived concessions to the Lib Dems. For months, Tory cabinet ministers have been more focused on the Lib Dems' poll ratings than their own but, after this week, that should begin to change.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: André Spicer
Show Hide image

“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.