New poll shows Osborne harms the Tories and Balls helps Labour

Support for Tory economic policy falls when Osborne's name is mentioned and support for Labour policy rises when Balls is mentioned.

After the 2005 election, Lord Ashcroft famously published polling (Smell The Coffee) showing that voters often supported a particular policy until they were told that it had been proposed by the Tories (the psephological basis for "detoxification"). It seems that George Osborne now has a similarly toxic effect. A new poll by Ipsos MORI for the Evening Standard shows that voters back Osborne's deficit reduction plan - but only if the Chancellor's name isn't mentioned. 

Asked whether "tackling the deficit and keeping interest rates low should be our top priority" (the Osborne position) or whether "we need more government spending on investment to kick-start our economy and a temporary cut in taxes to support growth" (the Balls position), 52 per cent said the former and 41 per cent the latter. But when the policies are associated with their respective authors, the coalition's 11-point lead becomes a Labour lead of 16 points. Only 37 per cent say they support Osborne's approach, compared to 53 per cent who support Balls's. 

The poll will embolden those Conservative MPs who have long argued that Osborne is acting as a drag on Tory support and who are preparing to demand the removal of the Chancellor if the economy fails to improve. It's also evidence that, far from being a "toxic" figure (as Anthony Seldon claimed in the New Statesman last month), the shadow chancellor is an asset to his party.

Chancellor George Osborne is pictured at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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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