New poll reveals the consensus behind austerity is shattering

Politics and public opinion across Europe changed decisively in May; before then the austerians dominated - but now, the tide has turned, writes Steve Hart.

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Steve Hart is the chair of the Centre for Labour and Social Studies

Politics and public opinion across Europe changed decisively in May. Before then the austerians dominated. However compelling the intellectual arguments for growth strategies, the right prevailed. The Greek and French elections put paid to that.

In Britain, opinion polls steadily shifted towards opposition to government policies – May not only saw a strong Labour win in the elections, but also several polls which clarified the current position of the British people.

These include the 11th-12th May YouGov-Sunday Times poll where broadly 40% said the government should change its strategy to concentrate on growth even if this means the deficit stays longer, whereas only 32% wanted to stick to the government’s current strategy.

Now a new poll conducted by YouGov, commissioned by Class – the new trade-union backed think tank – shows strong support in this country for the anti-austerity policies championed by François Hollande.

When asked about policy measures to kick-start growth, including:

• Establishing a publicly owned bank to lend to SMEs;

• Reducing the pension age to 60 for people who have worked 41 or more years;

• Introducing a Financial Transactions Tax;

• A national programme of building 500,000 extra homes a year including 150,000 council houses;

• Providing more financial support for young people from low income families for college and university; and

• Introducing a 75% rate of income tax for those on more than £1m a year…

support ranged from 56% to 74% – a remarkable level of support for radical policies.


See also:

Unravelling the Centre for Policy Studies voodoo economics bigging up small government 25 May 2012

Oxfam: Austerians guilty of “bad economics, bad arithmetic and ignoring the lessons of history” 24 May 2012

Balls: “Complacent and out of touch” Cameron and Osborne to blame for deeper double-dip 26 May 2012

With Plan B, we can have a good economy for a good society 31 Oct 2011

There is an alternative 20 Oct 2010


Except on the income tax proposal – the Tories split 42-51% on that – all these policies were backed by supporters of all parties. The proposal for a publically owned bank to lend to small and medium business had the support of 74% of those polled. Even 72% of Tory voters supported it.

Labour’s tentative proposal for a British Investment Bank must surely now become a strong pledge.

Fully 70% agree that “redistributing wealth from the richest in society” is an important aim in settling economic policy – indeed 50% of those who voted Tory at the last election agree with this.

The left is on the same side as the majority of public opinion in the UK. These results show that an apparent consensus behind austerity-focussed economic policy has well and truly collapsed. Across Britain and Europe there is now an unmistakable and growing demand for a radical alternative to austerity.

We need to apply ourselves to three priorities.

We need creative thinking and debate to find the necessary solutions. CLASS will launch at a seminar Towards 2015 – Strategies for Jobs and Growth this Saturday; strongly supported by Unite, GMB, PCS and other unions, and working with a growing body of academics, we aim to contribute, alongside the good work already done, to develop the alternatives to austerity.

We aim to ensure ideas for the alternative to austerity are turned into bold, radical policies which can convince and capture the imagination of the British people. Labour, with its new found confidence, is well placed to succeed – if the party and Mr Miliband have the courage and confidence to take these messages on board.

We must campaign as vigorously as possible against the coalition’s dangerous policies – and make the TUC protest on October 20th an historic monster demonstration.

One, two or even three swallows don’t make summer, and it is important to recognise a few good polls and elections don’t signal fundamental changes in thinking. We do need to proceed cautiously – but equally it is no longer tenable to argue austerity policies are necessary because they are credible.

Very difficult times are ahead, economically and politically – but just maybe we are seeing the early signs of political spring. Growth not austerity is becoming real.


• All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,727 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st-22nd May 2012. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Full polling results are available in this xls spreadsheet.

• The Class launch seminar: Towards 2015 – Strategies for Jobs and Growth will be held in London tomorrow (Saturday). More information on the launch seminar can be found here.

• The Centre for Labour and Social Studies (Class) is a new think tank established by Unite the Union, GMB and the Institute of Employment Rights to act as a centre for left debate and discussion.

Originating in the labour movement, Class is working with a broad coalition of supporters, academics and experts to develop and advance alternative policies for today. For more information see here.


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  • Lord Blagger

    Just wait until they find out that you have given away all their pension money and spent it on yourselves, with your inflated expenses, and that people aren’t going to get what is in the contracts.

    Those who will lose the most are those in the public sector. Screwed over the state pension they will be screwed over their civil service pensions too. All for the public good according to Labour

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  • Anonymous

    As usual, you’re completely ignoring the fact that people will keep on paying. People won’t stop paying, in fact, unless as YOU want the pensions are abolished. That’s your crusade.

  • Anonymous

    Subtle point lost on you.

    People will be forced to carry on paying.

    Pensioners won’t get their pensions as promised.

    All the pain, none of the gain.

    For example, that median worker (not the same as average), has just lost 20 grand. 2 years increase on the state retirement age, 20 grand stolen. All done by your favourite, the state.

    Imagine the reaction if a private company took 20 grand off 30 million people. You however, think its a great idea.

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  • Anonymous

    It’s not subtle at all.

    You are trying to strip people of their pensions AND to force even the poorest to pay massive additional sums so your casino banker friends can have more cash to play with.

    Your idol, Thatcher, was the one who truly destroyed UK pensions of course.

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  • Anonymous

    Proveably false.

    1. Everyone keeps their accrued pensions.
    2. Going forward people have to save into a fund in their name. That means their pensions aren’t stolen by your mates, they get to keep them.

    For example, median worker, 26K a year. Raise the retirement age 2 years, and you charge them 9K extra, take away 11K in payouts. Total stolen by your mates, the state, 20 grand.

  • Anonymous


    1. It won’t be affordable without a wholesale default. So it won’t be paid in the end. That’s your plan.
    2. My mates are the very workers you’re trying to scam. 1.2k a year. You keep lying about this. The CPF in Singapore is an ideal example of what you’d do to people’s money – it growth averages HALF inflation.

    Over 200k in the average pension fund stolen by Thatcher, by the exact same plan – STOP PAYING IN. You can’t even come up with an original robbery plan.

    1%er, you’re the scammer.

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  • Lord Blagger

    Over 200k in the average pension fund stolen by Thatcher.


    In other news. Hitler blamed for failings in the NHS.

    Pontius Pilot rumored to be behind police failings

    200K – More than most private pension funds now, its going to be hard for Thatcher to be to blame for stealing more.

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