Four in ten think worse of Cameron after phone-hacking

However, polls show a mixed picture, as Tories suffer only a small negative effect.

Two polls today show contradictory results for the two main parties in the aftermath of the phone-hacking crisis.

An ICM/Guardian poll shows Labour down since before the scandal broke, at 36 points to the Conservatives' 37. This is the first time the Tories have had the lead in an ICM poll in months, although Labour's three-point drop is due to a rise in Lib Dem support, not Tory. By contrast, a Populus poll for the Times (£) shows the Conservatives sharply down, with 34 points to Labour's 39. This is down five points on last month, and the lowest in a Populus poll since the coalition was formed. Despite this drop, however, Labour did not appear to have benefitted, and at 39 were a point down on last month.

The Populus poll found that four out of ten members of the public (39 per cent) said they thought worse of David Cameron as a result of the last fortnight's revelations, while 55 per cent said their view of him was unchanged.

Just 14 per cent said their view of Ed Miliband had improved as a result of the phone-hacking scandal, while 20 per cent said it had gone down, and 61 per cent were unchanged. Westminster and media circles have lauded Miliband's handling of the crisis and say that it has reinvigorated his leadership of the party. This result may indicate that this has not filtered through to the public as much as Labour had hoped.

The ICM poll is similarly disheartening for Miliband. The group phrased its question on the leaders differently; UK Polling Report explains that questions of the type asked by Populus "tend to give misleading results -- people who never liked a politician to start with say it's made their view worse and vice-versa."

Instead, ICM asked people for approval ratings before and after the event, and found that Cameron remains more popular than either his government or other leading politicians, although more people think he is doing a bad job than a good one. 43 per cent of voters say he is doing a good job, while 48 per cent say bad job, both up one point from last month. This gives him a net negative rating of -5.

By contrast, just 31 per cent say Miliband is doing a good job -- although this is up three points on last month -- while 47 per cent say he is doing a bad job, down two. This means his net rating is -16, up from -21 last month. It's a significant improvement, but there is a long way to go yet. The positive reaction to Miliband's handling of the crisis is stronger among Labour supporterss, 58 per cent now think he is doing a good job, compared with 45 per cent last month.

While the picture from these polls is mixed, we can draw the following conclusions: the Tories have, so far at least, suffered only a small negative effect in the polls because of the crisis. While a majority of the public thinks that Cameron has handled the crisis badly, his broader approval ratings are holding up and -- crucially -- are still substantially ahead of both Miliband and Nick Clegg. Miliband has certainly seen a boost in how the public perceive him, but he still has a long way to go to catch up with Cameron, and this bounce has not been reflected in greater support for Labour. It remains to be seen whether Miliband can capitalise on these modest gains when the news agenda moves on.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Why is it called Storm Doris? The psychological impact of naming a storm

“Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person.”

“Oh, piss off Doris,” cried the nation in unison this morning. No, it wasn't that everyone's local cantankerous old lady had thwacked our ankles with her stick. This is a different, more aggressive Doris. Less Werther’s, more extreme weathers. Less bridge club, more bridge collapse.

This is Storm Doris.

A storm that has brought snow, rain, and furious winds up to 94mph to parts of the UK. There are severe weather warnings of wind, snow and ice across the entire country.

But the real question here is: why is it called that? And what impact does the new Met Office policy of naming storms have on us?

Why do we name storms?

Storm Doris is the latest protagonist in the Met Office’s decision to name storms, a pilot scheme introduced in winter 2015/16 now in its second year.

The scheme was introduced to draw attention to severe weather conditions in Britain, and raise awareness of how to prepare for them.

How do we name storms?

The Name our Storms initiative invites the public to suggest names for storms. You can do this by tweeting the @metoffice using the #nameourstorms hashtag and your suggestion, through its Facebook page, or by emailing them.

These names are collated along with suggestions from Met Éireann and compiled into a list. These are whittled down into 21 names, according to which were most suggested – in alphabetical order and alternating between male and female names. This is done according to the US National Hurricane Naming convention, which excludes the letters Q, U, X, Y and Z because there are thought to be too few common names beginning with these letters.

They have to be human names, which is why suggestions in this list revealed by Wired – including Apocalypse, Gnasher, Megatron, In A Teacup (or Ena Tee Cup) – were rejected. The Met Office received 10,000 submissions for the 2016/17 season. According to a spokesperson, a lot of people submit their own names.

Only storms that could have a “medium” or “high” wind impact in the UK and Ireland are named. If there are more than 21 storms in a year, then the naming system starts from Alpha and goes through the Greek alphabet.

The names for this year are: Angus (19-20 Nov ’16), Barbara (23-24 Dec 2016), Conor (25-26 Dec 2016), Doris (now), Ewan, Fleur, Gabriel, Holly, Ivor, Jacqui, Kamil, Louise, Malcolm, Natalie, Oisín, Penelope, Robert, Susan, Thomas, Valerie and Wilbert.

Why does this violent storm have the name of an elderly lady?

Doris is an incongruous name for this storm, so why was it chosen? A Met Office spokesperson says they were just at that stage in their list of names, and there’s no link between the nature of the storm and its name.

But do people send cosy names for violent weather conditions on purpose? “There’s all sorts in there,” a spokesperson tells me. “People don’t try and use cosy names as such.”

What psychological impact does naming storms have on us?

We know that giving names to objects and animals immediately gives us a human connection with them. That’s why we name things we feel close to: a pet owner names their cat, a sailor names their boat, a bore names their car. We even name our virtual assistants –from Microsoft’s Clippy to Amazon’s Alexa.

This gives us a connection beyond practicality with the thing we’ve named.

Remember the response of Walter Palmer, the guy who killed Cecil the Lion? “If I had known this lion had a name and was important to the country or a study, obviously I wouldn’t have taken it,” he said. “Nobody in our hunting party knew before or after the name of this lion.”

So how does giving a storm a name change our attitude towards it?

Evidence suggests that we take it more seriously – or at least pay closer attention. A YouGov survey following the first seven named storms in the Met Office’s scheme shows that 55 per cent of the people polled took measures to prepare for wild weather after hearing that the oncoming storm had been named.

“There was an immediate acceptance of the storm names through all media,” said Gerald Fleming, Head of Forecasting at Met Éireann, the Irish metereological service. “The severe weather messages were more clearly communicated.”

But personalising a storm can backfire. A controversial US study in 2014 by PNAC (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) claimed that hurricanes with female names lead to higher death tolls – the more “feminine” the name, like Belle or Cindy, the higher the death toll. This is not because female names are attached to more severe storms; it is reportedly because people take fewer steps to prepare for storms with names they perceive to be unintimidating or weak.

“In judging the intensity of a storm, people appear to be applying their beliefs about how men and women behave,” Sharon Shavitt, a co-author of the study, told the FT at the time. “This makes a female-named hurricane . . . seem gentler and less violent.”

Names have social connotations, and affect our subconscious. Naming a storm can raise awareness of it, but it can also affect our behaviour towards it.

What’s it like sharing a name with a deadly storm?

We should also spare a thought for the impact sharing a name with a notorious weather event can have on a person. Katrina Nicholson, a nurse who lives in Glasgow, says it was “horrible” when the 2005 hurricane – one of the fifth deadliest ever in the US – was given her name.

“It was horrible having something so destructive associated with my name. Homes being destroyed and lives being lost shouldn’t be named after any person,” she tells me over email. “I actually remember at the time meeting an American tourist on a boat trip in Skye and when he heard my name he immediately linked it to the storm – although he quickly felt guilty and then said it was a lovely name! I think to this day there will be many Americans who hate my name because of it.”

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.