The Labour lead in tonight's poll of 40 Tory-Labour marginals was 8 per cent; Ashcroft has showed an average 9.8 per cent lead in 37 of these seats. Photo: Getty.
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ComRes suggest Labour’s summer leads in the key marginals are intact

We can compare tonight’s poll with Ashcroft’s seat-by-seat polls of Tory-Labour marginals.

For daily news, analysis and polling, explore May2015.com.

 

Tonight’s poll from ComRes for ITV is more interesting than most. It gives us an insight into one of, if not the, key election questions: what will the swing be between the Tories and Labour in May? More specifically, how many Tory-held seats will Labour win?

The news is encouraging for Labour – far more than the potentially temporary national poll spike three pollsters handed them on Monday. ComRes have grouped voters across the 40 most marginal Tory-Lab seats: 25 are those the Tories won by the narrowest majorities in 2010 (the most “marginal” seats), and 15 are the closest marginals won by Labour. It has then worked out the popularity of the parties across those 40 seats.

This doesn’t give us any insight into how the parties are doing in these individual seats, as Ashcroft’s seat-by-seat polls do, but we can compare ComRes’ vote shares with the collective vote shares given by Ashcroft’s polls.

This gives us an idea of whether the critical poll leads Ashcroft handed Labour earlier in the summer are still in tact. The data, in so far as it goes, suggests they are.

Ashcroft has polled those 25 Tory-held seats (and 18 others), as well as 12 of the 15 Labour seats ComRes polled. The average lead he handed Labour in those 37 seats was 9.8 points. ComRes tonight gave Labour a very similar 8 point lead across those 37 (and three more Labour-held seats Ashcroft hasn’t polled, because they will likely show strong Labour leads).

This is interesting because Labour have fallen slightly in the national polls since many of these Ashcroft polls. His 12 polls of Labour-held polls came out in May, his first 12 Tory-held seat polls were released in July, the next 8 came out in August, and 12 more (5 of which we are interested in for this comparison) were published in October.

This is how Labour has fared in the national polls since late July.

If that slight national dip hasn’t affected Labour in the marginals that matter, the party could still be on course to win many of the seats Ashcroft’s polls have handed them leads in.

Explore May2015.com.

Harry Lambert was the editor of May2015, the New Statesman's election website.

Photo: Getty
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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.