Archive for June, 2012

Despite the Rio+20 silence, sustainability is still a priority

Posted in Climate Sock, International on June 24th, 2012 by Leo – 2 Comments

The Rio+20 conference on sustainable development has come and gone with barely a flicker of interest in most of the UK. Other than the seriously environmentally attentive, few people will have noticed anything going on. The Prime Minister certainly doesn’t look to have suffered for his decision to stay away to focus on the Eurozone crisis.

But though it was predictable, it wasn’t inevitable that Rio would be so ignored in the UK.

It’s of course the case that the environment is a lower immediate priority for most people than the economy is. The latest Mori issues index shows just 3% identifying green problems as among the main issues facing Britain – compared with 58% choosing the economy (worth remembering that that 42% didn’t choose that either).

So by choosing not to go to Rio, Cameron was probably playing it safe. Most people were never going to notice or particularly mind.

It’s a further step in the logic that had George Osborne say last year “we are not going to save the planet by shutting down our steel mills, aluminium smelters and paper manufacturers”. Barely more than half government MPs now think that the Coalition is living up to Cameron’s pledge that it would be the “the greenest government ever”:

But despite all that, public opinion was actually quite receptive to the UK playing a major part in the negotiations at Rio.

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Does anyone outside Westminster care about the Leveson Inquiry?

Posted in Media, Politics on June 17th, 2012 by Leo – Comments Off on Does anyone outside Westminster care about the Leveson Inquiry?

The Leveson Inquiry is increasingly being talked about as a Westminster soap opera, of no interest to the bulk of the country who have better things to do with their time than read (or write) political blogs.

And so Labour’s continued efforts to keep the news focus on Jeremy Hunt have frustrated those who think the party is missing much more valuable opportunities to attack the government on the economy. The former Labour general secretary, Peter Watt, argued that for the vast majority it’s “a hugely embarrassing waste of time and money”.

But public opinion data suggest a more mixed response to Leveson.

Starting with the evidence for the Peter Watt view, it’s clear that neither phone hacking nor more recent revelations from Leveson have ever been the most pressing issue for many people.

In August ’11, after the Milly Dowler story broke, MORI found that only 1% put phone hacking in their list of most important issues facing the country, and revelations about the relationship between the government and News Corp haven’t registered in the index at all. At the end of last year, only 4% said that phone hacking and the Leveson inquiry was the most important news event of 2011.

So the numbers suggest that despite repeated news coverage of the story, the public refuse to see it as a top issue. From this it could be argued that if politicians want to stop being out of touch they need to start talking about something that the country is really worried about.

And yet, I increasingly think it’s more complicated than that. Though not many people think phone hacking and Leveson is one of the biggest issues facing the country, it’s doesn’t seem to be an irrelevance either.

Exhibit A is Google’s search volume index. A comparison of searches for “economy” and “recession” with “phone hacking” and “Leveson” since June ’11 shows that it isn’t the case that the economy has always been of more interest than phone hacking and Leveson. “Leveson” and “phone hacking” have often been searched more than “recession”, and in three one-week periods were searched more than “economy”.

But just because people are interested doesn’t in itself mean that it’s bad for the government. We saw a couple of months ago that more people think that Hunt should resign than said the same for previous ministers who’ve been in trouble, but perhaps this was the product of a general anti-government and anti-politics mood rather than to do with anger about the Leveson findings.

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Opinion on the monarchy

Posted in Social on June 1st, 2012 by Leo – Comments Off on Opinion on the monarchy

There have already been two polls on opinion about the monarchy over the last week and I’m sure there’ll be more in the coming days.

The Guardian last Thursday found a ‘surge in royalism’ despite doubts about whether Charles should take the throne.  Another in today’s Independent apparently found similar lack of excitement about Charles.

I’m away for a bit, so won’t be going through any more monarchy polls as they’re published. But from these new polls the analysis I did a few months ago looks still to hold:

1) As the Guardian poll suggests, British opinion remains firmly committed to keeping a monarchy. Perhaps it’s become even stronger since the royal wedding and the jubilee, but the idea of a republic has never appealed in recent decades.

2) Yet, this is perhaps more about hostility to the idea of Britain becoming a republic, rather than love for the monarchy. Over the late ’80s and early ’90s there was a significant shift from people thinking Britain would be worse if it lost the monarchy to people thinking it would make no difference. The last polling I’ve seen on this is 10 years old, so perhaps things have changed, but it does suggest that people no longer buy the argument that the monarchy brings benefits to the UK.

3) As both recent polls suggest, there is indeed currently a problem with the succession. Of course this could well change when – if – it comes up and ceremonialism takes over, but at the moment there are very clear doubts about what should happen next.