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More cuts won’t help Labour in polls

By Sunny Hundal
February 2nd 2012

George Eaton at the New Statesman says that ‘Labour has reason to hope’ because ‘new data shows that 88 per cent of Osborne’s cuts are still to come.’

To be blunt, having looked at the polls over the last 18 months, I now think this is hopelessly optimistic.

I say this for several reasons.

For one, the public mostly blame Labour for the spending cuts. This hasn’t shifted much at all over the past year.

But that shouldn’t be surprising from a left-wing or right-wing perspective – the party presided over the crash and since most people don’t pay enough detail to public finances – they will carry on believing Labour must be responsible for this.

You may want more spending on public services but still believe there’s no money to spend on them for the time being (because we bailed out the banks), and therefore cuts have to be made.

At the next election it will be harder for the Conservatives to carry on cutting and blaming Labour, but in the run-up to the 2015 election I highly doubt enough of the public will see these cuts as ideologically driven in order to lift Labour.

Or to put it another way: even if all Labour supporters and half of Libdem supporters think the cuts are ideologically driven (which isn’t the case yet) – Conservatives could still be in power at the next election.

The other problem is that polls over the last 18 months show too many people still believe Labour spent too much money. Even polling and focus groups done by the unions (who are opposed to the cuts) show this. And that too from Labour voters!

This is partly a political disconnect – people see how their local NHS hospital and schools have improved but they didn’t equate this with national government spending. Even while they appreciate the improvement in public services, the narrative that Labour ‘wasted too much money’ is quite pervasive – especially when you take into account the countless stories of wasted money on gigantic IT projects.

Put simply – Labour cannot rely on more spending cuts, I think, to see an improvement in the polls. That doesn’t mean they should accept the cuts – I think they should oppose harmful cuts.

But it won’t help their polls, if the last 18 months are any guide. Even if the cuts continue, and public opinion moves against those cuts – that doesn’t mean a lift for Labour.

In other words, even if people think the cuts are harmful (as most do now) – it doesn’t mean they’ll see them as unnecessary or give Labour any credit for opposing them.

Originally published in liberal Conspiracy

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