With Labour just a point behind the Tories in the latest daily YouGov poll (the lowest Conservative lead YouGov has shown since 2007) and the Lib Dems flatlining on 12 per cent, the coalition is beginning to get an idea of just how unpopular the cuts will make it. As Anthony Wells suggests, it’s surely not long before we see a poll that puts Labour in the lead. The prediction, by one Lib Dem cabinet minister, that his party’s ratings will fall to five per cent and the Conservatives’ to 25 per cent, may yet prove prescient.
So far this week the coalition has attracted the ire of the trade unions, the police and, today, the defence establishment, which must count as some achievement. TUC head Brendan Barber has called for “co-ordinated strike action”, the BBC walkout threatens to disrupt coverage of the Tory conference, the Police Superintendents Association has warned that the cuts will trigger “widespread disorder” and the defence select committee has attacked the strategic review as “money-driven, not threat-driven”. Welcome to the age of austerity, Mr. Osborne.
As the coalition first discovered during the schools fiasco earlier this year, Tory backbenchers will tolerate and even champion cuts until the point they start to hurt their constituents. The FT‘s Philip Stephens yesterday reported a cabinet minister echoing our own David Blanchflower and demanding: “where’s the plan B?”. If the coalition is to avoid fantastic unpopularity, Osborne had better come up with one.