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No suprises with the poll. I would have guessed most of those answers. Personally I'd like to see Cameron's poll rating reflect what I precieve as his move towards the centre away from the previous right-wing image the party has had since post-1997.

I think left and right are still useful terms - the public generally seem to understand them. Persoanlly, as someone who takes an interest in politics (and has studied it) I struggle to understand the terms

Hawks versus doves...
Idealism versus managerialism...

I'm suprised Ed that you haven't plugged your 'And Theory'. I would consider that I can have traditional values AND be social liberal!

Absolutely, Rob C. You beat me to it. I hold dear to traditional values and yet feel keenly defensive of social liberty.

I would suggest that the public see authoritarianism as being right wing. There is a challenge there to make localism a value of the right.

"Hawks versus doves..."

These are simply too black and white.

I'd say I am in the middle, a "Goose"; will avoid attack unless provoked.

Why have Tory MPs been perceived as moving to the right? In the You Gov and MORI conference polls, the Conservatives as a whole were seen as being around thirty points to the right (where Cameron is), while Michael Howard was a whopping thirty points or so even further to the right. What's changed?

This is one of the significant types of polls that we have to get right if we are to measure our success.

It is a testament to Blair that after 12 years of being Labour leader he is still seen as only slightly removed from where the public percieve themselves to be on the political spectrum.

It also shows how far Cameron has to go in aligning himself with the electorate.

Traditional values versus social liberalism...?

RobC and Edward...

I suppose I'm thinking of those (like me... and David Cameron!) who would say that government should support a socially-useful institution like marriage and those who think supporting marriage is no business of government.

Supporting marriage may or may not be the role of government, but the current policy of supporting anything but, does seem a little stupid.

I'll be interested to see where the new Lib Dem leader fits into the equation. Originally Charlie Kennedy was rated -30.

"... so that people can see that the modern compassionate Conservative Party is in it for everybody - not just the rich."

I saw this quote from David Cameron on the BBC site.

Sorry to keep banging on about Lakoff framing, but it is essential to stop telling people what your are NOT. Drop the 'nots'. Simply say what you are, and ignore what you are not.

James H,

Suggest that the only MPs public has perceived recently have been the Widdy media fodder types plus they read about MPs discomfort at Camerons changes. Public look at DC and see him as more centrist than the party as a whole - therefore MPs must be more right wing. Whereas with Howard the right wing perception was so ingrained that MPs looked less right wing. Well thats my guess.

James - you're not thinking of the questions in the Populus conference polls are you? They aren't comparable at all - Populus use a numerical scale while YouGov actually use a verbal scale but then convert it into a numerical scale to get average values.

The only time YouGov have published results for this question before (that I can find on our system!) is the party conference in 2004. Back then the equivalent average for Conservative MPs was +52, so basically public perception of Tory MPs is unchanged.

I wonder if this poll isn't more encouraging for Cameron than it looks. Those on the left answering the poll probably won't have any quibbles about suggesting Conservative MPs are as far-right as possible, whereas even the most anti-Blair Conservative can't claim that he is a product of the hard-left...

Only a few months ago we were being told that a members' ballot was too expensive for a leadership election (it actually made profit). We supposedly lacked the knowledge to make an informed choice, i.e. we could not be trusted after picking IDS over Clarke.

Now we are to balloted on a vision and aims document. Chairman Maude now thinks that MPs cannot be trusted to decide on such an important strategic matter. How times change!

Be interesting to see more detailed stats on the above, particularly the distributions. You can imagine old Labour-ites putting Blair as +30 or something :-)

Anyway, as others have pointed out, it's a bit meaningless in any genuine definition of political beliefs, although in terms of voter affinity it's important. Personally I'd like to see a similar poll done splitting the scale into two: economic and social. With that at least you'd get comparable opinions - at present some will be judging entirely on one or the other, and thus throoughly unbalancing it.

I do think that the right left distinction is still valid up to a point, after all, whenever you try to put things into a simple dichotomy it ends up making things a little distorted - for example the social liberal/social conservative distinction. I am pro-marriage, anti-drugs, strict on crime and immigration, but also anti-discrimination (of any kind), pro-choice, pro-gay marriage.

But by and large you can make out trends...

Andrew - the detailled distributions are here. The numbers are worked out by assigning "slightly left-of-centre" a score of -33, "fairly left-wing" a score of -67 and "very left-wing" a score of -100, and vice-versa for the right wing options. Very few Labour voters did dismiss Blair as very right wing - though 5% of Lib Dem voters did.

The British Election Survey asked questions that can be taken as indictative of the two scale approach. Here numerical scales were used and they were the other way round (i.e. low numbers are right wing, high numbers are left wing).

For the tax and spend scale they used the question "Using the 0-10 scale on this card, where the end marked 0 means that government should cut taxes and spend much less on health and social services, and the end marked 10 means that government should raise taxes and spend much more on health and social services, where would you place
yourself on this scale?"

People's average rating of themselves was 6.05 - so slightly to the left. The Lib Dems and Labour were seen as almost identical to people themselves (6.06 and 6.07 respectively). The Conservatives were seen as further to the right with an average of 5.00.

For the authoritarian/liberal scale they used the question "Some people think that reducing crime is more important than
protecting the rights of people accused of committing crimes. Other people think
that protecting the rights of accused people is more important than reducing crime. On the 0-10 scale, where would you place yourself on this scale?"

People saw themselves as towards the authoritarian end of the scale on 3.65, with the Conservatives on 4.10, the Lib Dems on 4.98 and Labour on 5.14.

In other words, the Conservatives were seen as too right wing economically, but (along with all the other parties) were seen as too left-wing on crime issues. (Also, perhaps surprisingly, despite ID cards, 90 day detention and so on, on crime Labour are still seen as most the most liberal party.)

It says a lot about the left-right scale that both authoritarian Conservatives and libertarians can be seen as right-wing. Is free trade a right-wing or left-wing position? Traditionally it was seen as on the Left, now it is accepted as being on the Right.

That said, I think Left-Right distinctions still have a purpose. Most people tend to know what they mean, if only vaguely.

Surely what matters is the difference between where the public see themselves and where they see the parties and individual politicians, rather than what they mean by Left and Right.

The civil rights crime question it nicely worded isn't it - accused people sounds like guilty people to many and theres a built in assumption reducing civil liberties helps reduce crime.

Interesting if it had been personalised "some people believe you should no longer be protected by presumption of innocence or against being held without charge as they believe this inhibits reducing crime while others think you should continue to enjoy the civil rights you have to protect the innocent and prevent police arresting you without due process of law"

Also as "some people" who want to reduce civil liberties are the Labour Govt how come they are the ones furthest away from the authoritarian side? Michael Howard's legacy v Roy Jenkin's one?

James - you're not thinking of the questions in the Populus conference polls are you?

Looking back through your blog, it transpires that the Populus poll is what I'm thinking about.

Reading Cameron's latest blathering, it would seem that the fractured wording of this Blog's title might very well be indicative of the future within the Conservative Party.

"National sovereignty versus multilateralism..."

These two things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive - the United Nations has enshrined the principle of national sovereignty to the point where practical considerations have to be disregarded because 'national sovereignty cannot be violated', effectively turning a blind eye to the despicable actions of murderous dictatorships.

"These two things aren't necessarily mutually exclusive"

There was an "Any Questions" programme recently which featured a little debate between Lord Tebbit and Chris Huhne. Tebbit argued that the Iraq War was not illegal because our parliament voted for it and we are a sovereign nation; Chris Huhne argued that we are subject to the law of the United Nations and so the war was illegal.

I really do think that's the divide. Do you think gaining the approval of China, France and Russia gives an action moral authority? If so, then you are a "multilaterist".

John, the Iraq War wasn't an issue of our national sovereignty though. If anything, the multilateralists you deride were defending the national sovereignty of Iraq.

As for whether I think gaining the approval of Jintao Hu, Jacques Chirac and Vladimir Putin gives an action moral authority, the answer is no, of course not.

"John, the Iraq War wasn't an issue of our national sovereignty though. If anything, the multilateralists you deride were defending the national sovereignty of Iraq."

No, the multilaterists I deride defend the sovereignty of the United Nations, not Iraq. As Lord Tebbit said, accepting the legality of the Iraq War doesn't mean you have to agree with it. There's alot that our parliament passes that I disagree with immensely. But the point is: do you believe our parliament is sovereign or do you think it is subject to an international government? If you do, this in effect means that you believe that the legitimacy of a war is to be decided by the likes of China, Russia and France.

You can be against the war and accept its legality at the same time. But those who claim the war was "illegal" (not just wrong) are not just opposing the war, they are actually denying our national sovereignty.

John, you're failing to make the distinction between national and international law. I accept that the decision to go to war was legal according to national law, but that's not the point - the Iraq War was clearly an international issue, in which case questions about the legality of the war according to international law have to be asked.

In which case you are put in the position of believing that the approval of China, Russia and France would've made a substantive difference in terms of legitimacy, since that's what "international law" means.

Perhaps the ideological divide would be better put:

Those who believe in the supremacy of the nation state, and those who believe in the supremacy of supra-national institutions (such as the UN and the EU).

"In which case you are put in the position of believing that the approval of China, Russia and France would've made a substantive difference in terms of legitimacy, since that's what "international law" means."

Which is a different issue to the 'national sovereignty versus multilateralism' point with which I quibbled.

Capital punishment are you on the right if you support it? Did Attlee support it, he certainly didn't use his time as PM to ban it. Enoch Powell, I believe was a staunch opponent of capital punishment. A person can be thought of as right on some issues, left on others. Opposition to the EU, is now though of as a being on the right issue, yet it was the Bennite left that led the strongest campaign against our membership. So what does left or right mean: nothing!

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