Tag Archives: YouGov

‘I didn’t censor Greens from report’ – Andrew Neil


Broadcaster Andrew Neil has protested his innocence after being accused of excluding the Green Party from BBC coverage of political opinion polls.

Blogger Tom Pride told us yesterday (Christmas Eve) that Andrew Neil had censored the Green Party – and demonstrated with a graphic showing the state of the major parties in the opinion polls.

This put UKIP in third on 15 per cent, and the Liberal Democrats fourth on seven per cent – missing out the Greens, who are currently enjoying eight per cent support.

But in a tweet today (Christmas Day), Andrew Neil told Vox Political and others that he had not tried to mislead anyone – the information had come from YouGov and had been used in good faith.

He wrote: “No censorship. Used YouGov graphic which didn’t inc. Greens. By mistake Won’t repeat mistake”.

In the spirit of the Season of Goodwill, let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and take him at his word. We can resume hostilities (or at least paranoid suspicions) later.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

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Does UKIP’s Euro election poll lead really reflect the people’s view?


Deception? – The controversial UKIP advert using an Irish actor, who plays a British worker replaced by cheap Labour from Europe.

YouGov research for the Sunday Times has put UKIP in the lead in the European election contest, with support from 31 per cent of those who were surveyed.

This put the Eurosceptic party three points ahead of Labour (28 per cent) and a massive 12 points ahead of the Conservatives (just 19 per cent).

But does this really mean the Party with its Foot in its Mouth has the people’s confidence? Take a look at these comments from the Vox Political Facebook page and form your own conclusions. I hasten to add that this is an unscientific survey, composed of comments from those who had the most to say.

We’ll start with those who support the party.

Most vocal is Denise Cottham. She writes: “Mr Farage has the guts to actually ‘SAY’ what many other people just ‘THINK!’ We respect him for this. He speaks the TRUTH & is not out to deceive the public like the major parties have done all these years, while growing fatter & richer at the country’s expense! And exactly where does the Green party stand regarding the EU? They make appealing promises, but will be unable to keep them without ASKING permission from the EU!!! UKIP priorities make sense, staying in the EU does not.”

Denise Morris adds: “I’ll be voting UKIP and so will many, many other concerned with EU policies that mean we can’t kick out radical hate preachers, without it costing the taxpayer millions and not only that we’ll pay their benefits, get them a nice big house and all while our human rights lawyers try to prevent their deportation, thanks to the EU. It’s no wonder people are looking for other alternatives. Currently our only serious hope is UKIP. We all know where the Cons, Lab and Libs stand, so voting for either of these parties won’t solve anything.

“They are the only party that can take on the other major parties and are gaining popularity. People are fed up with broken promises, lies, the open door policy. I don’t like all of UKIP’s policies, but I don’t like all the Cons’ or Lab either. Labour betrayed the working classes and the Cons have tackled the economy, but at a cost to who? The poor, the vulnerable, so I am totally with you on that one. I have to vote for what I think is best for the future of this country and my children and grandchildren and as I see it, that’s UKIP at the moment. If Labour gave us a referendum and promised to save the NHS, restrict immigration, tackled the economy, then I would seriously consider voting labour but that isn’t going to happen sadly. It’s like being between a rock and a hard place and we need a serious shake up of politics in this country. Something has to change and for the better and maybe the challenge from UKIP will do just that.”

She seems to have confused the European Union with the European Court of Human Rights… “The fact is the British people were conned big time on the EU. We thought we were entering a common market and now most of our laws are made in Europe. Their judges take precedence over our own judges. We were never given the referendum we should have got and UKIP are the only party guaranteeing one. If that happens then MPs can start voting with their conscience again, instead of voting for party policies.”

Regarding the controversial poster in which a foreign actor (from Ireland) was used to represent a British worker whose job had been taken away by evil immigrants, Craig Burnside writes: “UKIP arent against immigration, they just want to control it like countries like Australia and the USA do and outsource jobs.”

On the other side we have the following messages.

From Neil Wilson: “I honestly thought nobody could run a worse PR campaign than Bitter Together in Scotland re: the Independence Referendum, But I have to say UKIP are managing to do so in only a week. My particular favourite is the fact you can send their leaflets back to the Freepost address and they get charged for each one. So, they come to your border (door/letterbox) and you send them packing and make them pay for it. After all it’s what they would have wanted don’t you think? very apt. Although the Boarders typo is running a close second. I would vote for somebody to protect me from boarders, particularily old Etonians. But … best just to keep quiet and enjoy watching them make a monumental cock-up of a campaign all by themselves.”

From Kim Burns: “It’s the irony that’s amusing us. Of course we’re not going to vote UKIP! They don’t like women going out to work, they want to reduce maternity leave to 4 weeks, they want to reduce taxes for the rich and increase them for the poor! Read their manifesto, people!”

We would if we could find it! How about this, from John Elwyn Kimber: “Those who wish to register a Eurosceptic vote without empowering the odious UKIP might be lucky enough to have a candidate representing the late Bob Crow’s ‘No to EU, Yes to Democracy’ campaign – as in the Eastern counties. Or vote Green.”

From Bette Rogerson: “Why would you vote for a party that says it hates Europe, but at the same time takes lots and lots of money from the European parliament? Why vote for a party whose members advocate policies like less tax for the wealthiest, cutting of maternity leave and forcible sterilisation of the disabled? Why vote for a party who wants to take the vote away from the unemployed? Is your job really that secure? Lastly but not least, why vote for a party which claims it wants British jobs for the British and then hires an Irish actor to model as a poor Briton whose job has been taken away by a foreigner?”

Of course, I have also weighed into these discussions. Here’s my response to Denise C: “The facts are against you. Why is Farage now trying to block an inquiry into his MEP expenses? What does he have to hide? Why, if he’s so keen on preventing foreigners from taking British jobs, did his party hire an Irish actor to pretend to be a British worker in a poster? Why did he hire a German to be his PA (and, come to that, what about the nepotism inherent in the fact that this person is his wife)? Why did the UKIP poster showing an ‘ordinary’ British woman who was going to vote UKIP actually show a party member responsible for public relations? Put all these things together and it seems UKIP and the truth are a huge distance apart.

“Look at UKIP members and the appalling things they have been saying. Farage moves to shut them up and kick them out whenever they do, but a point has to be reached soon when he – and the rest of us – realises that this is the natural mindset of his party and, as such, it is unelectable.”

To Denise Morris’s comments about European judges, I pointed out: “The European Court is different from the European Union, Denise. If Britain withdrew from the EU, it would still be a part of the court. Also, UKIP is very clearly not the only party guaranteeing [a referendum] – it’s not even the only right-wing, reactionary and repressive party offering such a guarantee.”

I added: “The Cons have not tackled the economy. If you believe that, you’re not paying attention. I’m glad you agree that the poor and vulnerable have suffered in any case. Labour has promised to save the NHS and tackle the economy (in a more meaningful way than the Tories). Labour’s attitude to a referendum may seem less than wholehearted but my impression is that they think it would get a knee-jerk reaction that would show what people do not understand about our participation in the European Union, rather than what they do – your mistake about the European Court is an indication that they might have a point.

“Regarding immigration, my personal belief is that the EU – including the UK – made a big mistake in allowing free movement between countries including new member states whose economies were not yet up to par with the better-established industrial nation states. All they have done is de-stabilise both the states from which people are emigrating and those into which they immigrate… so I would like a tighter policy on this, not just here but in the Union as a whole.

“And those who complain that we voted ourselves into an economic community, not a political union, are correct too. All of these things can be remedied from inside the EU, and if we were to withdraw rather than try to tackle them as a member state, the result would be worse for all of Europe in the long run. UKIP does not see that and the Conservatives cannot see past their own greed and corruption – look at who funds them (bankers and private health firms) and you’ll see that this is the case. The Tory Democrats have sold their souls but Labour is just beginning to find its own soul again. That’s why I think Labour is the best hope for Britain next year.”

Responding to former Labour voter Brian Taylor, who said he wasn’t enthused with UKIP but they would get his vote until a viable alternative came along, I wrote: “Do you really want a flat-rate of 31 per cent income tax, that hugely benefits the extremely rich and enormously harms the poor? That’s UKIP policy.

“If not, you probably want the Green Party, which would also hold a referendum on Europe but is far less Tory in its outlook. I can’t imagine a former Labour voter would honestly want to vote for a party that was further on the right of the political spectrum than the Conservatives.”

So what’s the conclusion?

Well, from this snapshot we can see that, as Denise Cottham and Brian Taylor claimed, people think all three major parties have deceived the public and will do so again. Labour in particular is seen as having betrayed its core constituency – the working classes – in favour of Daily Mail readers and bankers who simply won’t vote for any party more left-wing than the Conservatives. Worse still, for Labour, is people’s belief that the party has been told – time and time again – what it needs to do, but has continually ignored this good advice. UKIP’s problem is that its new advertising campaign also deceives the public, and leader Nigel Farage’s eagerness to block an inquiry into his MEP expenses suggests further jiggery-pokery.

People in general also seem to be genuinely disgruntled with the EU’s ‘free movement’ policy which allows people from any member state to take up residence in any other member state. There is evidence to show that it was a mistake to allow less-developed countries, particularly in Eastern Europe, to take advantage of this policy as many of their citizens have immigrated into the more prosperous regions – leaving their own countries struggling to build their economies, and threatening the stability of the destination countries, whose infrastructure is left struggling to cope with the influx.

UKIP supporters are primarily interested in having an in-out referendum on membership of the European Union, but – as Denise Morris demonstrates – do not seem to understand clearly the issues on which they will be voting. Denise’s concern about the laws preventing us from deporting foreign-born ‘hate preachers’ would not be addressed by leaving the European Union as it comes under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights.

Their grasp of other UKIP policies seems catastrophically poor, though – policies including restricting work opportunities for women and cutting maternity leave, reducing taxes for the rich and raising them for the poor (to a flat rate of 31 per cent), sterilisation of the disabled (if Bette Rogerson’s research is correct), and ending universal suffrage by stopping the unemployed from voting.

They also seem to have a weak grasp of other parties’ policies regarding the EU – the Green Party wants a referendum but Denise C thinks they don’t.

My overall impression is that UKIP is still gaining support as a party of protest, rather than because people have any belief in its policies. The person on the street – whatever their belief – feels “utterly powerless… hopeless and increasingly disinterested”, a sentiment expressed by Karlie Marvel on the Facebook page today.

That’s why UKIP is ahead today.

It isn’t a good enough reason and the other party leaders can now see what they need to do about it – especially Labour.

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Sunny summer was good for the economy – shock! All YOU get is a tan


At risk of seeming to be ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’: Why, oh why, oh why is everybody making such a big fuss about the fact that the economy bounced back a little bit over the summer?

Did nobody think that, perhaps, the fact that it was more sunny than in recent years meant our tourism industry might get a much-needed shot in the arm – not least from run-down British people, desperate for relief from the constant, grinding monotony of the Conservative/Lib Dem Coa-lamity government’s austerity agenda?

Did they not recall that the holiday season is a traditional ‘lull’ period and that, therefore – unless unusual situations apply (as they have in previous years) – government spending should be less? What’s the relief to the public purse from not having any Olympic Games to stage this year? What’s the benefit of having no riots?

And, finally, for the vast majority of the British people, these figures are no reason to celebrate because they make no difference. The cost of living is going up while average real-terms earnings have plummetted. If we are seeing a recovery, it is a recovery for the rich alone.

As was always intended.

For the record, public sector borrowing for August was £13.2 billion – £1.2 billion lower than the amount recorded in August 2012. This puts the UK’s net national debt at £1.19 trillion – 74.6 per cent of Gross Domestic Product.

GDP itself grew by 0.7 per cent in the second quarter of 2013 (April-June), and tax revenues have been 2.8 per cent higher than in the same period of 2012. Total government spending has fallen by 2.2 per cent, led by a sharp drop in spending by individual departments.

You can read all this on the BBC News website and might find it pleasant enough, but then David Kern, chief economist at the British Chambers of Commerce had to ruin it by saying “Our ability to generate tax revenues will struggle to return to pre-recession levels, even when the pace of growth picks up. As a result, the government must continue to make cuts in current spending in order to reduce the deficit further.”

So he wants the madness to continue. I wonder… If his business was in trouble, would he cut investment in – say – advertising and then expect profits to improve? That would be madness. Every pound cut from public investment by the government results in a loss to the economy of £1.70-£2.20. It is the government’s own demand for austerity that is slowing the recovery!

And what does this mean for ordinary people?

It means that, after adjusting for inflation, average earnings are £1,350 per year lower than they were at the time of the 2010 General Election. The UK has suffered the biggest fall in income and living standards of any country in the G7. You are worse-off under the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats!

By 2015, average wages are forecast to be £1,520 lower than in 2010 (based on figures from the House of Commons Library). This means working people will have lost an average of £6,660 in real terms while David Cameron has been Prime Minister – enough to support the average family’s weekly shop for one and a half years, at 2012 prices!

Inflation has been higher than in other G7 countries throughout David Cameron’s period in office, meaning that George Osborne’s claim that “rising global prices” have forced the cost-of-living increase is nonsense.

Claims like that of then-Treasury Minister Chloe Smith at the start of 2012 that lower inflation meant “the cost of living is coming down a little for families” were also rubbish – it was still increasing; just not quite as fast.

In fact, price rises have outstripped wage growth in every single month of the Coalition government – except April this year, when David Cameron cut taxes for millionaires and bank bonuses skyrocketed. Who benefited? The rich. Who lost out? The middle classes, workers, and the poor.

A YouGov survey of ordinary people has shown that 70 per cent do not believe the much-touted recent improvements in the economy have helped middle- and lower-income families. Only 10 per cent thought they had.

And 81 per cent had seen prices grow faster than household incomes, with just three per cent (and only one per cent of women) seeing income grow faster than prices.

It doesn’t matter what they say the economy is doing. You will continue to lose money as long as you have a government of millionaires, ruling in their own interests rather than the interests of the country.

It’s as simple as that.

The benefit cap reveals the black centre of IDS’ mind


The long-feared roll-out of the benefit cap happened today. There has been a great deal of shouting about it from all sides, but it is possible to get a balanced view – by linking news articles from opposing sources such as, say, New Statesman, the BBC and the Daily Mail.

Yes, the Daily Mail. I’m serious.

The benefit cap is one of the Coalition’s most popular policies – not the ONLY popular policy; believe it or not, a sizeable proportion of the population think Cameron and Co are doing a good job. New Statesman quotes a YouGov poll in which 79 per cent of people, including 71 per cent of Labour voters, support the cap – with just 12 per cent opposed. The Mail quotes Ipsos Mori, whose poll states 74 per cent support the cap.

We’ll start with the Statesman, which gives us the facts that Iain Duncan Smith – architect of the policy – won’t want people to know:

“1. An out-of-work family is never better off than an in-work family

The claim on which the policy rests – that a non-working family can be better off than a working one – is a myth since it takes no account of the benefits that an in-work family can claim to increase their income. For instance, a couple with four children earning £26,000 after tax and with rent and council tax liabilities of £400 a week is entitled to around £15,000 a year in housing benefit and council tax support, £3,146 in child benefit and more than £4,000 in tax credits.

“Were the cap based on the average income (as opposed to average earnings) of a working family, it would be set at a significantly higher level of £31,500. The suggestion that the welfare system “rewards” worklessness isn’t true; families are already better off in employment. Thus, the two central arguments for the policy – that it will improve work incentives and end the “unfairness” of out-of-work families receiving more than their in-work equivalents – fall down.

“Contrary to ministers’ rhetoric, the cap will hit in-work as well as out-of-work families. A single person must be working at least 16 hours a week and a couple at least 24 hours a week (with one member working at least 16 hours) to avoid the cap.

“2. It will punish large families and increase child poverty

The cap applies regardless of family size, breaking the link between need and benefits. As a result, most out-of-work families with four children and all those with five or more will be pushed into poverty (defined as having an income below 60 per cent of the median income for families of a similar size). Duncan Smith has claimed that “at £26,000 a year it’s very difficult to believe that families will be plunged into poverty” but his own department’s figures show that the poverty threshold for a non-working family with four children, at least two of whom are over 14, is £26,566 – £566 above the cap. The government’s Impact Assessment found that 52 per cent of those families affected have four or more children.

By applying the policy retrospectively, the government has chosen to penalise families for having children on the reasonable assumption that existing levels of support would be maintained. While a childless couple who have never worked will be able to claim benefits as before (provided they do not exceed the cap), a large family that falls on hard times will now suffer a dramatic loss of income. It was this that led the House of Lords to vote in favour of an amendment by Church of England bishops to exclude child benefit from the cap (which would halve the number of families affected) but the defeat was subsequently overturned by the government in the Commons.

“The DWP has released no official estimate of the likely increase in child poverty but a leaked government analysis suggested around 100,000 would fall below the threshold once the cap is introduced.

“3. It will likely cost more than it saves

“For all the political attention devoted to it, the cap is expected to save just £110m a year, barely a rounding error in the £201bn benefits bill. But even these savings could be wiped out due to the cost to local authorities of homelessness and housing families in temporary accommodation. As a leaked letter from Eric Pickles’s office to David Cameron stated, the measure “does not take account of the additional costs to local authorities (through homelessness and temporary accommodation). In fact we think it is likely that the policy as it stands will generate a net cost. In addition Local Authorities will have to calculate and administer reduced Housing Benefit to keep within the cap and this will mean both demands on resource and difficult handling locally.”

“4. It will increase homelessness and do nothing to address the housing crisis

“Most of those who fall foul of the cap do so because of the amount they receive in housing benefit (or, more accurately, landlord subsidy) in order to pay their rent. At £23.8bn, the housing benefit bill, which now accounts for more than a tenth of the welfare budget, is far too high but rather than tackling the root of the problem by building more affordable housing, the government has chosen to punish families unable to afford reasonable accommodation without state support.

“The cap will increase homelessness by 40,000 and force councils to relocate families hundreds of miles away, disrupting their children’s education and reducing employment opportunities (by requiring them to live in an area where they have no history of working).

“5. It will encourage family break-up

Duncan Smith talks passionately of his desire to reduce family breakdown but the cap will serve to encourage it. As Simon Hughes has pointed out, the measure creates “a financial incentive to be apart” since parents who live separately and divide the residency of their children between them will be able to claim up to £1,000 a week in benefits, while a couple living together will only be able to claim £500.”

The BBC opened with a much sunnier perspective that has caused Vox Political to send a query to the UK Statistics Authority.

According to the report, “More than 12,000 people have moved into work after being told about the benefits cap, the government says.” Oh, really?

“The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said that 12,000 claimants have found jobs over the last year, after being contacted by job centres,” the BBC report went on. “The job centres warned them they might have their benefits capped if they did not find employment.”

Didn’t Iain Duncan Smith get into trouble only a few months ago, for reporting that 8,000 people had moved into work after being told about the cap?

Only last week, his own officials told the Work and Pensions committee he had ignored small print in their reports, stating clearly that he could not use the figures to claim that any “behavioural change” had taken place.

Vox‘s article last week quoted Dame Anne Begg, who asked: “So no-one checking the written articles from the Secretary of State – from the statisticians’ point of view – actually said ‘Secretary of State – if you look at the little footnote… It says that you cannot interpret that these people have gone into work as a result of these statistics’. Nobody pointed that out?“

John Shield, Director of Communications at the DWP, responded: “In this instance it did involve the press office. I’m just trying to be clear that not everything that comes out of the department will go through us – particularly when there are political ends.”

In other words, the Secretary of State ignored his advisors to make a political point that had no basis in fact. He lied to the public.

How do we know he isn’t doing it again?

A letter to Mr Dilnot is in order, I think.

Finally, to the Daily Mail, where it was reported that “Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith today accused the BBC of launching a ‘politically-motivated’ attack on government plans to cap benefits at £26,000.

“The Work and Pensions Secretary accused the Corporation of using ‘lots of little cases’ to claim that limiting welfare payments would not get people back to work.”

Unfortunately for Mr… Smith, his story unravelled further down the piece, when it was revealed that he told the nation that HIS evidence is right because it’s from people working in Jobcentres: “This is advisers, they talk to me… I talk to people actually in the Jobcentres.”

That’s anecdotal, and may not be used to suggest a national trend. He is using lots of little cases to claim that his cap will work.

So we go from the cold, hard facts, to the comforting fantasy, to the shattering of the Secretary-in-a-State’s temper on national radio when the flaws in his scheme were exposed.

Mail readers, in that paper’s ‘comment’ column, seem to have supported his viewpoint – despite the facts.

Will their opinions change when the horror stories start appearing – or will they stick their fingers in their ears and scream, “La la la I’m not listeniiiiiing!” – as Mr… Smith did (figuratively speaking) on the Today programme?

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Prepare to lose all credibility if you like Michael Gove

Spot the boob in this picture.

Spot the boob in this picture.

Among a cabinet of fools, the Education Secretary – Michael Gove – seems to be leading a charmed life.

His department has won praise for its “radical” policies, which have led to the creation of ‘free’ schools, plans to impose performance-related pay on teachers, the development of the EBacc exam, and the introduction of £9,000 university tuition fees.

Hang on a second!

‘Free’ schools are nothing of the kind! They cost a fortune, and suck desperately-needed money away from state-maintained schools!

Performance-related pay for teachers? How do you measure that? It isn’t a manufacturing job, you know! School pupils’ abilities vary, their temperaments vary, their concentration levels vary. They may have any number of other issues interfering with their learning experience and you can’t pin any of the above on teachers’ performance! How perverse!

The EBacc exam has been widely criticised ever since it was first suggested! Just do a quick web search for it – four out of the first five results are about reforming it! Many of the others are complaints: “EBacc has forced arts off curriculum”, “PE should be part of Ebacc exam system, experts warn”, “EBacc threatens creativity”.

And as for the introduction of university tuition fees… life is too short to discuss the dire threat to higher education in the UK that this represents.

Now we have confirmation of our worst fears about the Schools’ Dunce and his department – from teachers themselves, in a new YouGov poll.

You know there has to be something wrong when 77 per cent of teachers in the NUT – that’s the National Union of Teachers, the largest organisation representing the profession – say the current government is having a negative impact on education.

Morale has plummeted, with 55 per cent – more than half, saying their confidence in the future of their profession was either low or very low. Only 15 per cent said their morale was very high.

Taking this further, 69 per cent said their morale had declined since the 2010 general election and 71 per cent said they rarely or never felt trusted by the government.

Academy and ‘free’ school programmes were taking education in the wrong direction, according to 77 per cent of respondents.

Cuts and austerity measures were harming some or most children and their families, according to 76 per cent of those asked – and that’s before 2013’s toxic cocktail of cuts has even arrived!

And the performance-related pay argument suffered another hit when 74 per cent said children’s educational achievements were affected by their family’s income.

The EBacc was being rushed through without enough consultation, according to a staggering four-fifths of secondary school teachers (81 per cent).

Only five per cent – one-twentieth of those asked – thought the Coalition government was having a positive effect on schools.

The general opinion is that Mr Gove is rushing through changes according to an outdated philosophy, rather than taking the time to gather evidence on what might, in fact, work.

According to The Guardian, it’s called “new public management” and is a Neo-Liberal idea calling for public services to mimic the market in order to ensure high standards and accountability. The only problem is, it doesn’t work. Managers are brought in, to keep the ‘producer interests’ – teachers and academics – from controlling the system, but they then distort the system with league tables and performance targets; instead of providing a varied and engaging education, teachers are coerced into following government-imposed incentives. Education suffers as a result. And that is what we’re seeing here.

The Education Department’s response? Teaching is an “attractive” profession with vacancy rates “at their lowest since 2005”.

The changes will raise standards by giving more power to head teachers, attracting the best graduates and professionals, and helping those teaching now to do their jobs even better. How? They didn’t say. I don’t think they’ve got the evidence to back themselves up.

So teachers are the latest professionals to go on the state-starved sick list – along with the police, doctors and nurses, and anyone working in the public sector.

And Mr Gove? All things considered, if we were to tell him to modify his own surname into a word describing what he should do, he’d probably spell it “goe”.

Woolly mammoth to be new leader of Conservatives?

The police welcome David Cameron to the Conservative Party Conference in Birmingham. His austerity cuts are expected to cripple forces across the country, with part-privatisation already an unwanted reality for some.

So is everyone having fun atmaking fun of the Conservative Party Conference?

The event has been unfortunately-timed, as it turns out a mammoth has been found, frozen in Russia, after 30,000 years. Inevitably it will be the subject of much scientific study and debate, but really, if they wanted to look at a species of woolly monsters long overdue for extinction, they need only go to Birmingham.

Further evidence of unfortunate timing can be found in the International Monetary Fund’s latest report, which shows that the Conservative-led austerity policy has utterly failed to restore confidence and there is “considerable” risk of further deterioration in the economy. Its forecast for the UK in 2013, which stood at 0.2 per cent growth, has now been downgraded by 0.6 per cent to minus 0.4 per cent. That’s a lot, in economic terms.

UK Prime Minister – and Conservative leader – David Cameron, said the UK economy is “slowly healing”.

It is comments like this, along with the general direction of his – let’s try to call it – ‘leadership’ that probably prompted polling organisation YouGov to headline its latest press release ‘Cameron needs a miracle to win’. The poll of voting intentions shows that the Conservative share has slipped to 31 or 32 per cent – the same as in their “crushing” defeats of 1997 and 2001. Any question comparing Labour leader Ed Miliband with Mr Cameron shows significant advances for the Labour leader.

Other poll results are confirmed by comments on the Conservative conference (which I have lifted from Twitter. I don’t intend to give attributions – is yours among those below?).

Fewer than 30 per cent think [the Conservatives] have done a good job on health, education, transport or reforming welfare benefits: “‘We’ll end something for nothing culture’- Tory rich boys who inherited wealth and claimed disability benefits they didnt need”; “I could save 10bn by cutting MPs’ expenses, grace and favour housing, government contracts, offices that are never used etc etc”; “Labeling those on welfare as lazy layabouts is defamation of character and those responsible should face the full force of the law”.

71 per cent think the gap between the richest and poorest has widened since the Tories came to power; and by two-to-one, people think the north-south gap has also widened (Northerners themselves agree by three-to-one): “Misery to those without whilst ensuring prosperity for those who have. They don’t even try to hide it!”.

Just 13 per cent say the government has met their expectations that Britain would be governed well; far more – 34 per cent – say ‘I expected them to do well, but they have been a disappointment’.  Half of those who voted Conservative in 2010 share this sense of disappointment. Most people think they have made no progress at all to get Britain out of recession, reduce immigration, clean up politics, or fulfil their pledge to make theirs ‘the greenest government ever’: “This government should have come with a public health warning the size of a trillion fag packets.”

Let’s look at some of the speeches. I am grateful to the Tweeter who labelled his comments on the Chancellor’s speech ‘Osborne porkies’, pointing out some of the inconsistencies between Gideon’s words and the facts. So: “Attacks Ed M for not mentioning deficit when Labour leader mentioned the debt. ‘We were straight with voters before election’ – Except about NHS, VAT increase, child benefit. ‘Blair achieved nothing in a decade’ – Except minimum wage, devolution, academies, Northern Ireland agreement etc”.

Osborne’s big idea – the plan to offer employees shares in the company where they work, if they give up their rights to, for example unfair dismissal tribunals, came under bitter attack: “‘We’re all in it together’ – unless you’re an employee”; “Osborne’s shares for rights plan shows he’s never employed people. If first thing you say is ‘I want the right to sack you’, people will go”; ” So you get shares in a company… Lose your rights… get sacked with no comeback and paid pence for your shares”.

(This last comment is the nub of the matter. Osborne says the amount of shares on offer could be worth between £2,000 and £50,000, therefore it is possible that employers will try to get workers to barter away their benefits for what is, in the current economic climate, peanuts. Do these people really think we are monkeys?)

Today (Tuesday) Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, made a speech in which he tried to appear to be supporting Mr Cameron while in fact setting out his credentials as a possible future leader. His comments about the Conservatives being the tools to clean up the national mess drew scorn: “Boris the mop, Dave the broom, Osborne the dust pan, Gove the Jay cloth and Hague the sponge – the cabinet according to Boris!”

His self-congratulation about London’s bus conductors attracted this: “Doesn’t mention they will cost £38 million a year and won’t be able to collect fares”; and on his comments about Labour spending: “Yes, Boris, Labour was so excessive in its spending that your party pledged to back its […] plans right up until 2008”.

Final comment on the conference so far: “Tories laugh at Boris being an incompetent buffoon… Clearly the required skills to lead a country!”

Back in the 1980s, on the best radio panel show in the world (I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue), Tim Brooke-Taylor once defined ‘politician’ as “A liar, cheat, double-crossing two-timing scoundrel and lover of nude women. Oh, it’s also a snub-nosed toad.”

All I can say about that is, bring on the snub-nosed toad. I’ll let the nude women pass. They might be Theresa May and Nadine Dorries. Or Maria Miller (that would be REALLY grisly, wouldn’t it?)