a centre-left nation needs what kind of government?

One outcome of all the MySociety work for this election was the survey administered by DemocracyClub volunteers to all candidates. The results by party are graphed here, with standard deviations and error bars.

Some immediate conclusions: Surprising egalitarianism. Look at question 1, which asks if the budget deficit should be reduced by taxing the rich. Only the very edge of the error bar for the Conservatives touches the 50% mark; the only parties who have any candidates who don’t agree are the BNP and UKIP. Also, question 4 (“It would be a big problem if Britain became more economically unequal over the next 5 years” – agree/disagree) shows that there is a remarkable degree of consensus here. The three main parties of the Left – the Greens, Lib Dems, and Labour – overlap perfectly, and even the lower bound on the Tory percentage is over 50%. Only the ‘kippers and the fash even skim the 50% mark at the bottom end of their distributions. This may actually not be a statement about far-right thinking, because of…

Extremist internal chaos. On every question except the one about immigration for the BNP and the one about the EU for UKIP, these two parties have huge error bars for every question. As soon as they get off that particular topic, the error bars gap out like the bid-offer spread in a crashing market. Clearly, they agree about very little other than their own particular hate-kink. So the result in my first point could just be because they always have the widest standard error and deviation.

Immigration, or a field guide to identifying British politics. If you’re a Liberal, Labour, or a Green, you’ve got no problem with immigrants. Even the upper bounds only just stroke the 50% line. All the parties of the Right, however, overlap around the 80% line. Need to identify someone’s partisan affiliation quickly? Wave an immigrant at them. The other culture-wars question about marriage is similar, although the gap is smaller and the error bars bigger.

The consensus on civil liberties. Everyone, but everyone, thinks there are far too many CCTV cameras about. All parties overlap at between 68-78%…except for Labour. Labour is the only party that supports CCTV and it supports it strongly. There is just the faintest touch of overlap between the top (i.e. least supportive) end of the Labour error range and the bottom (i.e. most supportive) of the Tories’.

Trust and honesty. Liberals, Labour, and Conservatives all think politicians are honest. No doubt this is because the respondents are themselves politicians. Interestingly, the exceptions are the BNP and UKIP. Very interestingly, the BNP is united in cynicism, whereas the UKIP error range gaps-out dramatically on this question. The Greens’ error range converges dramatically on exactly 46% agreement – they are almost perfectly in agreement that they don’t agree.

Art and culture; only ‘kippers, BNPers, and a very few extreme Tories don’t support state funding of the arts.

Britain is a European country and is committed to the European Union. You can’t argue with the data; the Tories and Greens average between 20-30% support for withdrawal, zero for the Liberals and Labour, and even the upper bound for the Tories is well under the 50% line. Obviously, the BNP and UKIP want out, which is obvious and after the election result, arguably trivial.

Pacifist fascists; bellicose conservatives; divided lefties and ‘kippers. OK, so which parties are least keen on military action against Iran, even if they are caught red-handed building a nuke? The Greens are unsurprisingly 86% against with minimal error – perhaps the only occasion they would turn up a chance to oppose nuclear power! The other is the BNP – 82% against. Who knew we would find a scenario in which the BNP would turn up a chance to kill brown people? Labour, the Liberals, and UKIP would split down the middle – they overlap perfectly around the 50% mark. The Tories, however, are the war party – 39% against, with the lower bound well clear of the other parties. The UKIP result is strange – you’d expect them to be basically like Tories or like the BNP, but they are most like Labour on this issue, although they have a tail of happy warriors. The BNP is also the party most opposed to continuing British involvement in Afghanistan – even more than the Greens. Labour, the Liberals, the Tories, and UKIP overlap heavily around being narrowly in favour, although UKIP as usual gaps out when it’s not discussing how much it hates the EU.

Even the Toriest Tories say they support UK Aid. This one’s fairly clear – even the upper bound for the Tories is well below 50% and everyone else serious is much lower. UKIP and the BNP are strongly against, but their error bars are quite wide – clearly, they’re not sure whether they hate foreigners enough that paying them not to be immigrants is a good idea.

Summary: We’re a broadly social democratic European nation, with a few nutters for comic relief. And Chris Lightfoot’s Political Survey results (the primary axis in British politics is liberty-vs-authority, strongly correlated with internationalism-vs-isolationism, and the secondary axis is egalitarianism-vs-libertarianism, but there is surprisingly little variance along it) from 2005 appear to be confirmed.

14 thoughts on “a centre-left nation needs what kind of government?

  1. “We’re a broadly social democratic European nation, with a few nutters for comic relief.”

    If I’ve understood right, this survey polled candidates, no?

    So it may not be the case that we’re a broadly social democratic European nation, just that the politicians who we elected are broadly social democratic.

    If you didn’t know the BNP want out of Afghanistan, you haven’t noticed that they allege it’s a war in favour of zionist and US imperialist interests. Go figure.

  2. It is interesting to get a local persons view of England. I have always been an extreme Anglophile, or at least what I imagined England to be.
    The more I read about England as it is, the less interest I have in ever visiting (this was always one of my dreams, to see the places I had read so much about and seen in so many films).
    England appears to be moving toward a post-national phase were no one believes in anything other than that everyone should be made equally comfortable and no one should never care about anything enough to do anything to defend it. From being the nation with the longest history of individual freedoms, protected by legal tradition, rather than a formal constitution, England has descended into an extreme Nanny state where even defending one’s own life or family is illegal and anti-social. Personally, I see England as on the verge of collapse not from outside assault, maybe influence is a better word (although this influence is placing tremendous pressure on your society) but simply because no one really cares if England survives as a society that can be distinguished from Turkey, Greece, Russia, or Poland by anything other than weather and a few old buildings.
    To me that is an indication that England does not deserve to survive, since if your own people don’t care enough about their own families to insist on being able to effectively defend them, their own legal system to demand that everyone in their boundaries be subject to the same laws, their own values to insist that, at least in the public sphere, that these must be honored, England is nothing but a name on a map for a large, green island.
    The US is moving in the same direction as England, but is much further behind. My hope is that Americans will realize that we are not just losing our Constitutional rights, losing the values that made us successful and envied (and hated) by less fortunate lands, but we also are losing our identity as citizens of one of histories great nations and cultures. If we don’t care enough to fight to preserve America, as distinct from Mexico, Jamica, Haiti, etc. we will be living in a country with the same level of opportunity and prosperity as these neighbors.
    The England in my mind may have never been quite like what I imagined, certainly I knew it was not a perfect place (as it could not be while inhabited by imperfect mortals), but to see the England of my heart, home of Shackleford, Shakespeare and Churchill, the country of fair play and great institutions of learning, the culture responsible for a world-wide empire about which was said, “never has the world had such gentle, boyish masters” descend to the level it currently inhabits leaves me more sad than I can express.
    I would willingly give my wealth, my comfort and my life to prevent such a degrading fate for America. Would that Englishmen loved their country as much.

  3. Actions speak loader than words. We already know the no tax for the rich reality. The tactics are getting old: Silence, huge tax loopholes for the rich and neoliberal scare taxticks, fatalist excuses about globalication.

    “We would really love to tax them, but they would just go away to another country then with lower taxes in this global world, theres nothign we can do!”

  4. Isn’t the more important question, what the UK can afford, not what it wants?

    “but they would just go away to another country then with lower taxes in this global world, theres nothign we can do”

    They would go away, if you don’t hinder that. Of course capital controls do clash with a pro-European policy.

  5. the England of my heart, home of Shackleford, Shakespeare and Churchill


  6. GaryP, please do not visit Britain. Neither you nor we are likely to enjoy the experience.

    The England of your heart is as spurious and absurd as the present England of your imagination. Both of which seem to be constructed from fairy tales and grounded in gross ignorance.

  7. What would it take to entice you to our shores, Gary? You appear to be rather more fixated on self-defence than most people I know, but we’ve all got our kinks. Right now in Britainland, though I can beat up a burglar in my house with anything that comes to hand (or indeed shoot him, if that thing is a gun)until he’s on the floor, it’s illegal for me to
    1) Keep hitting/shooting him a lot when he’s down and out,
    2) Chase him down the street, still hitting/shooting him, and
    3) Have a handgun in the house in the first place.
    Is your minimum visa package 1, 2 and 3, or will you be prepared to take a punt on visiting the land of Shackleford if we only move on 3?

  8. I lost my post in response when I hit a back button. Here is a less lenghty (and less eloquent) reply.
    1) Should have been “Shackleton.” Memory is failing as are all the institutions and ideals I hold dear. However, noted many references on Internet to “Shackleford”–what causes that?
    2) I think Yeats said, roughly: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This is how I see England (and America) going. Englands surrender of long held traditions (such as common law to Sharia) is a sign of a society in decline. Our focus on excusing mass murder, especially in US, (What did we do to make this person want to kill us?–rather than how can we best prevent this from happening again).
    3) It is easy to talk about physically confronting attackers without weapons if you aren’t confined to a wheelchair (as I am). Allowing possession of (and defense) with a gun is ultimately a desire to ensure protection of the physically weak from strong predators. The police provide no defense, only clean up after the fact. England seems to want to take away the traditional right of self-defense and replace it with some sort of collective security that cannot distinguish between the innocent and the guilty and wants everyone to let the police be the Nanny (who isn’t there when you need her).
    Sorry, to say it, but England looks doomed to collapse (America may follow) because you have lost your belief that England is a force for good in the world and must be protected and cherished (i.e. her traditions, her history, her borders, and her “Englishness.”)

  9. GregP, the UK’s law on self-defence hasn’t changed in a hundred years. The ability to get a handgun ticket for self-defence vanished (in an underhand and unlegislated manner, I will grant you. I’m annoyed too.) in the 1950s. Doubtless things were lovely up to then, but it’s before my time. Perhaps yours too?

    This I like: “Englands surrender of long held traditions (such as common law to Sharia)”
    Um, what on earth are you talking about? Some evidence would be nice.

    PS I’ve got to break this to you about Shackleton/ford. He was born in County Kildare. That’s not in England.

    PPS But apart from all that, WELL DONE!

  10. ChrisWIlliams,

    Maybe your newspapers can’t be trusted but its all us Yanks can judge by. I know (think?) the Telegraph is considered Conservative but is it making all its news stories up (see below)?

    By the way, when I grew up in 50’s small town South, we locked our doors once a year (when we left on the annual July 4th week of vacation. Now, I can’t leave my garage door up during the day (in a gated community in a suburb of Atlanta). My old home town is a pit of crime and drugs and is not a decent place to live.

    As to the English right of self defense: The Telegraph article below notes that if “someone breaks into your home in the middle of night” that they have the “freedom of the premises” and that homeowners are instructed not to “keep any weapons for self-protection or confront the intruder.” Now confronting the intruder if you are unarmed makes sense but why would any have to unarmed in their own homes.


    As to Sharia law replacing Common Law: The Telegraph seems to think that Sharia is operating in England (see article that says Sharia courts have been operating since 2007 and their rulings are enforced by the British legal system).

    You guys need to start paying attention to what is happening to your country. (Also, Shackleton is described as Anglo-Irish in Wikipedia so I think England can (and should be proud to) claim him.

    No malice in my comments (even if pointed). I wish England and America would wake up to what is going on in our country under the “diversity” tyranny. I wish for a America that respects other cultures and values but also demands respect for our culture and values. If we believe in equality for women and blacks, how can we allow a parallel legal system that enslaves both groups (do a quick search on Slavery and Islam–Slavery was legal in Saudi Arabia until 1962–and is still very accepted by its clerics and rulers. Is this the legal system you wish to compete or replace Common law? Wake up to what is England is becoming or live with the consequences.

  11. The man’s right. And it was bleeding obvious he meant “Shackleton”.

  12. No suprises there. No susprises also about the result of that consensus. The steady, sustained destruction of England.

  13. (Gary, google ‘shoot in the face AND burglar’ and you get a heart-warming tale of an Essex gent who did just that to a would-be burglar, with a legally-held shotgun, and walked free. Also, google ‘arbitration act’ and you can find a long list of bodies, (including, but not limited to Beth Din courts) which act and have acted for decades as sites for binding arbitration. Most of it is tedious nonsense connected with the building trade, but I can live with religious nutcases of all stripes signing up to that stuff if they want to – it’s a free country, or it ought to be.)

    For the rest, I’m warming to ‘Land of Shackleford’ as a useful concept for the England of the mind which appears to exist in some circles in the US. It’s got more than a little in common with Marcus Rowland’s role-playing game ‘Diana – Warrior Princess’.

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