Friday, 22 August 2014

POLLWATCH: Boris Johnson the most favoured politician.

Difficult decisions unavoidable for Cameron in Iraq and Syria
Politicians claim they pay little attention to polls and focus groups; yet their parties are all about to spend small fortunes on research to find those vital extra votes in May 2015. At this stage of the electoral cycle, every party leader will be acutely aware of public opinion in key marginal constituencies.
Only a negligent politician would ignore public attitudes towards hospitals, schools, roads, public transport, or policing. But when it comes to more esoteric issues like trade agreements, the legislative process, and the internal mechanics of government, public attitudes are soft and easily influenced by events. In these areas, the shrewd politician knows how to make a decision that takes public opinion into account without being dictated by it.
The Middle East conflict falls somewhere between these two categories of problem: on one hand, circumstances are far too murky for the public to have an informed perspective on the right course of action; on the other, past experience of bloody and expensive Middle East adventures qualifies the public to make broad judgments about the kinds of risk they are willing to take – particularly if they may have domestic consequences.
Conservative strategist Lynton Crosby wants to focus on core domestic policy issues: the economy, welfare and immigration. Wooing Muslim voters, by adopting a harder stance on Israel, is not a priority, and the electorate has tired of distant military campaigns. Foreign policy adventures are seen as high risk for low return.
Mr Cameron thus seeks quiet, “under the radar” efficiency in those departments which are not central to his election strategy. Michael Gove found to his cost that loudly taking his education reforms to the airwaves did not fit with this approach.  Andrew Lansley suffered a similar fate at Health. The Government’s big achievements are to be announced by the Treasury, with occasional flourishes from the Home Office and Work & Pensions. Anything else is a distraction.
In that spirit, Mr Cameron had left the Foreign Office in the hands of William Hague, an experienced politician and student of government who knew how to avoid scandal, and popular with civil servants. He was also one of the few frontbench politicians known outside Westminster, and relatively popular:
% favourable
NET (fav. minus unfav.)
Boris Johnson
William Hague
David Cameron
Nigel Farage
Theresa May
George Osborne
Ed Miliband
Michael Gove
Nick Clegg

ComRes asked, “Please indicate whether you have a favourable or unfavourable view of each of the following.” Base: All GB adults (11-12 June 2014; n = 2,034)
Under Hague’s authority were figures such as Baroness Warsi, a rare ethnic minority woman in the government ranks; Hugh Robertson, a former soldier whose ministerial brief encompassed the Middle East, North Africa, and Counter Terrorism; and Mark Simmonds, Africa Minister. All four have now gone.
Hague’s big miscalculation was over the proposed military intervention in Syria in September 2013. Having successfully pressured the EU to lift its arms embargo on Syrian rebels earlier that year, and with the situation further deteriorating, he convinced David Cameron to press ahead with a parliamentary vote for military action in Syria – against the wishes of backbench Conservative MPs. In a move that must have scarred Mr Cameron, Ed Miliband then embarrassed the government at the last minute by aligning with Tory backbenchers to block the vote.
The FCO under Philip Hammond will be seeking an unshowy, cost-effective approach to the unfolding crisis in northern Iraq, avoiding the need for another parliamentary vote. Supporting Kurdish forces and lobbying the governments of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iran, and Jordan behind the scenes will be part of this process.
But for Mr Cameron the temptation will remain – especially now a British jihadi has been blamed for the beheading of US journalist James Foley – to take public charge of the situation.  Nearly half (46%) of the British public, and most (56%) of those aged 65+, think that given the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Britain and America have “a moral responsibility to do something to save Iraq from the brink of collapse”.
Q. Do you agree or disagree with each of the following statements?
Given the invasion of Iraq in 2003, Britain and America have a moral responsibility to do something to save Iraq from the brink of total collapse
The British Government should provide arms to Kurdish forces fighting Islamic State in Northern Iraq
Base: All GB adults (15-17 August 2014; n=2,042).
So this week the PM announced that he was returning from his Cornish holiday to lead Britain’s response from the front. There is little agreement among the public, though, about what he should actually do. Only a fifth (20%) think we should seek to defeat the Islamic State in its entirety, and only 36% of people think we should provide arms to Kurdish forces. Support for a policy of inaction is equally weak – less than a third (30%) think Britain should leave the situation to run its course. A further fifth (21%) “don’t know” how the British Government should respond.
Q: How do you think the British Government should respond to Islamic State, the militant group currently operating in Iraq and Syria (formerly known as ISIS)? In your answer, please take into account the level of military action needed to achieve each (i.e. using forces on the ground, airstrikes etc.)
Should seek to defeat Islamic State in its entirety
Should seek to stop Islamic State making any further gains in Iraq, Syria or elsewhere
Should not get involved and leave the situation to run its course
Don’t know
Base: All GB adults (15-17 August 2014; n=2,042).
In these situations, polls provide an important snapshot of opinion, but usually pose more questions than they answer. Prime ministers must be able to lead and shape public opinion, as well as follow it. Indeed, Ed Miliband’s perceived lack of statesmanship is seen by many political observers as the biggest obstacle blocking his path to Number 10:
Q: Please select which of the following words or phrases apply to each party leader.
David Cameron
Ed Miliband
Nick Clegg
Nigel Farage
Boris Johnson
Is statesmanlike
Can get things done
Base:  All GB adults (8-11 August 2014; n=2,031)

Cameron’s natural advantage in this area as the incumbent depends on his avoiding any major foreign policy mistakes. Unfortunately for him, he cannot put foreign policy in a box until May 2015. Nor are events within his control.

If he intervenes too cautiously he will look weak, but if he goes in too hard he will be thought reckless.  It will require adept leadership to achieve a measured, successful and politically productive outcome.

Follow ComRes on Twitter for the latest polls and analysis:@ComResPolls
Andy White, Senior Consultant
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1 comment:

  1. The Political system in the UK is diseased, and decaying at an alarming rate.This has been mainly brought about by the constant abuse of the electorates trust. The existing 3 parties have now merged in to what might be called the Establishment Party for Spin.Manifesto promises are much like pie crusts, repeatedly broken, and count for nothing to the voter. As with the USA the political system has to change, we have begun that change, America, I am sure will soon follow suit.


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