How long can the Tories continue to blame Labour for the country's ills?

If the polls are accurate, the British people are already turning against them.

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The question of how support for the coalition and its economic policies is holding up is important right now, three weeks before the so-called growth Budget. The latest survey results from YouGov over the past few days suggest that it is not strong and is starting to deteriorate fairly rapidly. The changes may not be statistically significant but they are certainly politically significant.

Below, I report a number of balances from two surveys conducted on successive days last week. In the latest poll, taken on 3-4 March, the Labour Party had 43 per cent of the vote, with the Tories on 35 per cent and the Lib Dems on 10 per cent. The remaining parties were on 12 per cent.

First, it appears that David Cameron's support is low and may even be slipping, although his support is still higher than that of Nick Clegg (25 per cent well and 67 per cent badly) or Ed Miliband (33 per cent well and 47 per cent badly). Even before his speech in Cardiff today, where he declared public-sector workers to be "enemies", the majority of voters thought that Cameron was doing a bad job.

1. Do you think David Cameron is doing well or badly as prime minister?

2-3 March - well = 44 per cent; badly = 50 per cent; don't know = 6 per cent

3-4 March - well = 41 per cent; badly = 52 per cent; don't know = 6 per cent

Second, the majority of respondents also think the coalition is handling the economy badly.


2. Do you think the coalition government is managing the economy well or badly?

2-3 March - well = 36 per cent; badly = 54 per cent; don't know = 10 per cent

3-4 March - well = 35 per cent; badly = 56 per cent; don't know = 9 per cent

Finally, the majority of respondents expect their financial situations to worsen.


3. How do you think the financial situation of your household will change over the next 12 months?

2-3 March - better = 9 per cent; worse = 61 per cent; don't know = 5 per cent

3-4 March - better = 9 per cent; worse = 64 per cent; don't know = 4 per cent

This finding is consistent with recent survey conducted by the EU in February, which also found that people expect their financial situation to worsen over the next 12 months. Worryingly, that survey has collapsed since the coalition took power in May 2010, whereas it improved under Labour. Here, a negative number is worse. The score is approaching the numbers last seen in the depths of the recession.


It doesn't appear that blaming the previous Labour government for everything that is wrong with the economy is working. The time has come for this government to start taking responsibility for its actions before the British people really start to turn against it. Based on this evidence, it appears they already have.

David Blanchflower is professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, and a former member of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee 

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