The UK General Election of May 6th, 2010 – Section 4 – The General Election of 2010: Data

Russell Haggar

Site Owner

 

The UK General Election of May 6th, 2010 Sections List:

Section 1: Introductory Links - Click Here

 

Section 2: Parties, Poll Data, Events and Debates - Click Here

Introduction: Aspects of British Party Politics 2005-2010

Opinion Poll Data and Some Major Political Events 2005-2010

The Leadership Debates

 

Section 3: The General Election of 2010: Data - Click Here

The Result of the UK General Election of 2010

Tactical Voting [External links only at present]

Social Influences on Voting Behaviour

Social Influences on Turnout [Added April 2012]

The Mass Media and Voting Behaviour [External links only at present]

 

Section 4: The General Election of 2010: Data

Party Identification and Voting Behaviour

The Influence of Salient Issues and Party Policies

Party Images and Voting Behaviour

Valence Issues: The Importance of Political Leadership

The Parliamentary Expenses Scandal

 

Section 5: Summary: The UK General Election of May 6th, 2010 - Click Here

 

Section 4: The General Election of 2010: Analysis

Although Party Identification is a weaker now than in the 1945-1970 era it nevertheless still influences the voting behaviour of many individuals. From the above data it is clear that in some General Elections parties poll above their core levels  of support as measured by the Party Identification data and that in other general elections they poll below their core levels of support . Thus in 1997 the Labour Party polled significantly above its core level of support and in 2001 and 2005 the Conservative Party  polled significantly above its core level of support which was, however, very low especially in 2005 when around the time of the 2005 General Election only 16% of respondents actually identified with the Conservative Party.

Turning to the 2010 General Election we may note the following points

  1. Identification with the Conservative Party increased from 16% to 30 % between 2005 and 2010 which can perhaps be taken as evidence of partial success for David Cameron's overall political strategy.
  2. Furthermore Conservative electoral support at 36.1% was 6.1% higher than its core support  as measured by the party identification data.
  3. However Labour identification was actually higher than Conservative identification and Conservative identification was only marginally greater than in 1997 when the Conservatives were heavily defeated.
  4. Labour might take a little comfort from the possibility that it may be able to win back some of the 6% of Conservative voters who did not actually identify with the Conservative Party although nobody is suggesting that this will necessarily be easy.
  5.  Between the May 2010 General Election and December 2011 Labour has often led the Conservatives slightly in the opinion polls but it might be argued that , given the scale of unemployment and economic uncertainty , their opinion poll ratings have been disappointing , and, even worse from  Labour's perspective, in the course of December 2011 the Conservatives have actually opened up a small opinion poll lead over Labour. David Cameron will be hoping that more voters are actually beginning to identify with the Conservatives..

Click here for recent data comparing  Party Identification in 1984 and 2012 from the British Social Attitudes Survey Link added March 2014

 

Issues, Party Policies and the 2010 General Election

Click here for the BBC on Parties and Issues

On the basis of the Ipsos Mori  "Political Triangle"  in which respondents are asked to allocate marks out of 10 for political issues, political leadership and political parties as influences on their General Election voting decision political leadership and political issues were seen as of equal importance as influences on voting decisions and both were seen as more significant than political parties themselves. Click here  IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slide 11.

From the 1970s it has been argued by proponents of issue voting models of voting behaviour that for increasing numbers of voters the key determinants of voting behaviour are the party policies on issues that the voters consider to be most salient and in Issue Voting Models it has been argued that General Elections were likely to be won by the Party which had the preferred policies on the most salient political issues. It is , however, important to remember that survey respondents may state preferences for a the policies of a particular party on a particular issue because of a prior allegiance to [or identification with] that particular party rather than because they genuinely favour that party's policies all of which means that the impact of issues and policies on voting behaviour does remain uncertain.

Major opinion poll research companies collect data on issue salience and on political parties' ratings on individual issues  and there are very important similarities between the findings of different surveys of different companies which enable analysts to draw some important general conclusions about voting trends. However there are also some important variations in survey results deriving from the statistical point that random samples of about 1000 are subject to a margin of error of plus or minus three percent, from slight differences in some of the questions asked, in different polls, from differences of timing of different polls and from other technical details relating to different polls Disregarding for the time being the variations in survey finding we may draw the following general conclusions in relation to issue salience and political parties ratings on particular issues.

  1. All major surveys indicated that in broad terms the Conservatives' overall policies  were preferred to Labour's policies. Click here  IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slide 23.
  2. All major surveys indicate that voters believed the most salient issue of the 2010 General Election was the state of the economy.
  3. All major surveys indicated that at the time of the 2010 General Election the Conservatives were narrowly preferred to Labour as the Party best able to manage the UK economy effectively. Click here  for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slides 32-36.
  4. All Major surveys indicate that Health, Education, Immigration/Asylum/Race Relations and Crime/Law and Order were among the other most salient issues in the 2010 General Election.
  5. Longer term data , for example from the Ipsos Mori Monthly Issues Index suggest that the salience of Immigration/Asylum and Crime/Law and Order increased between 2001 and 2005 and between 2005 and 2010. Other things equal one would expect such trends to have improved the electoral prospects of the Conservative Party.
  6. Longer  term data suggest that Labour continued to be preferred to the Conservatives on Health but that its lead on this issue was declining between 2001 and 2005 and between 2005 and 2010. Labour's ratings on Education were also declining : by 2010 in some polls Labour still enjoyed a narrow lead but in others the Conservatives were actually the preferred party on education.
  7. All major surveys indicate that the MPs [and peers] Expenses Scandal had only a very limited impact on voting intentions in 2010 .  Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slide 8 on the Expenses Scandal.

For purposes of Advanced Level Examinations students should emphasise the above seven points but I include further information below on some of the technicalities  involved in the collection of these data along with additional more detailed information on Issue Saliency and respondents' preferred party on key issues. Different polling organisations use different samples and may phrase their questions about issue saliency differently and all poll findings in any case are subject to a small margin of error.

Consequently although there are substantial agreements in the poll findings of different polling organisations there are also some variations in the relative saliency of different issues and in the parties' ratings on particular issues. However Advanced Level students  should take advice from their teachers as to the depth of knowledge of these matters which is actually required for Advanced Level examination purposes

Issues and Policies : Some Technicalities

As a result of differences in the nature of different surveys themselves  there are also important variations in the findings of different surveys some of which are outlined in the following table adapted from Ipsos Mori and You Gov Poll data.

  • In their monthly Issues Index Ipsos Mori collect monthly poll data from respondents answers to two questions related to salient political issues; [1] What would you say is the most important issue facing Britain today? and [2] What do you see as other important issues facing Britain today?  . You may click as appropriate to access the commentary and data in the Ipsos Mori  April 2010 Issues Index. The data indicate the most salient issues in April 2010 and trends in the relative saliency of different issues over time. In April 2010 the economy is shown to be the most salient issue and the salience of both race relations and immigration and immigration and law and order have increased in recent years while the salience of Health and Education have declined recently although they were  still considered to be the fourth and fifth most salient issues respectively in April 2010.
  • However Ipsos Mori argue that it is important also to conduct surveys in which respondents are asked specifically which issues are very important or important  in influencing respondents' actual voting decisions and in the  Ipsos Mori Political Monitor  reported below respondents are asked to assess the importance  for their voting decision of  a range of listed issues and I shall concentrate on these Political Monitor data rather than the Issue Index data which give abetter guide to the  electoral salience of particular issues  and you may Click here for the  March 2010 Political Monitor .
  • Ipsos Mori also collect data on the Best Party on Key Political Issues  and present two series of data:  the answers of respondents who have already mentioned specific issues as salient and also the answers of all respondents to the survey whether or not respondents have mentioned particular issues as salient. For some issues and policies the differences between these two sets of data are small but in the case of Crime/Law and Order and Immigration/Race relations/asylum respondents who stated these issues to be important were especially likely to support Conservative policies on these issues. Ipsos Mori argue that the data from respondents believing particular issues to be salient are likely to be a better guide to voting intention than the data from all respondents.  Click here and scroll to charts 23-27 for for data on issue salience and the voters' perceptions of the best party on key issues.
  • Click here  and scroll down for Ipsos Mori April 2015 Issues Index and Election Special. The latter has good information on Best Party on Key Issues at the time of 2015 General Election and previous General Elections including the 2010 General Election
  • You Gov collect similar information but there are various technical differences as between the Ipsos Mori surveys and the You Gov surveys which unsurprisingly result in slight differences in the findings of the different surveys although in several respects the Ipsos Mori and You Gov results are broadly similar. You may Click here for YouGov  May 2010 Issue Saliency data[ From a YouGov Poll for the Sun Newspaper : fieldwork  4th-5th May] a and  Click here for YouGov May  2010 for  Best party on Issues data. [From You Gov Poll for the Sun Newspaper: Fieldwork 2nd-3rd May]
  • In the following table  I attempt to summarise some of the main findings for the above mentioned Ipsos Mori and You Gov sources. Students should of course consult the original sources for further details.

The Influence of Salient issues and Party Policies

Issue Saliency and Party Political Ratings 2010 [with some comparisons with 2001 and 2005] [I have made a few minor clarifications to the column headings in this table  on February 6th 2012. Also this table may originally not have worked in some browsers. Hopefully it does now!

In relation to this table we may note the following points.

  1. The Ipsos Mori Political Monitor and the You Gov survey invites respondents to choose issues from a given list  issues which will have an important influence on voting decision. The Ipsos Mori and You Gov lists are not identical and respondents may choose as many issues as they wish in the Ipsos Mori surveys but a maximum of three issues in the You Gov surveys. Consequently we should expect some variation as between the Ipsos Mori and You Gov survey results
  2. The Economy is shown to be the most important/salient issue in both  surveys
  3. There is some variation in issue saliency rankings as between these different surveys. Race relations/ Asylum/Immigration, Crime/Law and Order, Health and Education are all seen as salient issues in Ipsos Mori and You Gov surveys  but whereas Health and Education outrank Asylum/immigration in the Ipsos Mori Political Monitor data the reverse is the case in the  You Gov Survey. Crime/ Law and violence are seen as the 7th most salient Ipsos Mori data and the 6th most salient issue in the You Gov data and so there is considerable agreement here.
  4. In column 2 the Ipsos Mori BPOKI data indicate that in 2010 the Conservatives were preferred to Labour on the Economy, Education [very narrowly and there were tied rankings among respondents mentioning the issue as important], Asylum /Immigration, Taxation, Crime and Anti-social behaviour, Defence and MPs' Expenses [although the Liberal Democrats were preferred to the Conservatives and to Labour on this issue.] Labour were preferred to the Conservatives on Health, Unemployment and Benefits.
  5. In column 5 we see that respondents in the You Gov Survey expressed similar preferences although there were some differences. Labour was narrowly preferred to the Conservatives on Education and the Conservatives were preferred to Labour on Unemployment ... perhaps a little surprisingly.
  6. As is indicated by the Ipsos Mori data in column three there was also a deterioration in  Labour's ratings between 2001 and 2005 and between 2005 and 2010 on all of the most important issues as is indicated by the Ipsos Mori data in column three.

On the basis of these data we see that the combined effects of changes in issue salience and improvements in respondents' ratings of Conservative policies on the most salient issues of the General election could be expected to result in improvements in the Conservatives' overall poll ratings. However the Conservatives would still fail to achieve outright victory.

The Economy and the General Election

For much of 2008 and 2009 the Conservatives were preferred to Labour as the party best able to manage the economy but their lead on this issue tended to narrow in late 2009 and early 2010.tDuring the Campaign the Conservatives'  lead over the Labour Party on the economy was generally small and, indeed , there were some polls at some times during the Campaign which gave Labour a small lead over the Conservatives on the economy. In answer to  the IPSOS MORI Survey question "Which Party has the best policies on the economy? " respondents replied Conservative  29%: Labour 26% , Liberal Democrats 12%: Other/None/Don't Know 36%. A small Conservative lead over Labour . Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election. and scroll to  slides 32-36 for Ipsos Mori data on attitudes to parties and the economy.

The  economy  was considered to be the most salient issue of the campaign which is hardly surprising given the onset of the Credit Crunch, the depth of the economic recession from 2008 to 2009 , the possibly precarious economic recovery in 2010, the parlous state of the public finances and the likelihood of  public expenditure reductions and tax increases once the General Election was over.  George Osborne had promised in 2007 that, if elected the Conservatives would match Labour's Public Expenditure plans up to 2010-2011  but with the onset of the credit crunch and the economic recession the Conservatives developed a much more critical analysis of Labour's economic policies.

  1. They claimed that  the onset of the credit crunch and subsequent economic recession revealed clearly  that Gordon Brown's much vaunted claim to have "abolished boom and bust" via effective management of the economy amounted to a gross distortion of the economic realities.
  2. According to the Conservatives the financial crisis which enveloped first Northern Rock and then major UK banks such as RBS and HBOS arose to a considerable extent because of the failure of the inefficient system of financial regulation which had been introduced by Gordon Brown.
  3. The UK's relatively high rate of economic growth high had been fuelled by excessive growth of personal and private corporate debt which  were unsustainable in the long term.
  4. Labour's high rates of public expenditure in the boom years meant that  Labour had failed to build up the budget surpluses which could be used to offset the budget deficits which would inevitably occur as a result of Government attempts to deal with the effects of the credit crunch combined with the effects of economic recession. Consequently both the public sector borrowing requirement and the size of the national debt were increasing alarmingly.
  5. The increases in the PSBR and the National Debt  carried the threat that international credit rating agencies would downgrade the UK's AAA credit rating which would result in higher interest rates and increased borrowing costs which  would further undermine the Government's finances and  discourage both private investment and consumption which would restrict the possibilities of economic recovery.
  6. Keynesian- inspired attempts to generate economic recovery via the continuation of high levels of government spending and borrowing would inevitably fail and deeper cuts to public spending than were eventually proposed by Labour would be necessary if economic recovery was to be secured. During the General Election Campaign the Conservatives focused upon the need for immediate reductions of government expenditure of £6B over and above those proposed by the Labour Party
  7. The Conservatives recognised that these public spending cuts would lead to increased public sector unemployment but they promised that the burdens of public spending cuts would be evenly shared because "We are all in this together" and promised that they would introduce measures which would promote private sector employment thereby offsetting the effects of declining employment in the public sector.
  8. The Conservatives also attacked Labour's record on poverty and inequality. Thus they claimed that under Labour even if overall poverty levels had declined extreme poverty had actually increased; that income inequality as measured by trends in the value of the Gini Coefficient had actually increased between 19997 and 2010 and that rates of social mobility had fallen indicating a reduction in equality of opportunity.  David Cameron stated on several occasions that a future Conservative Government should be judged on the  effectiveness of its policies in improving the living standards and the life chances of the most disadvantaged members of UK society. We shall see .

Of course Labour rejected these arguments

  1. According  to Labour the financial crisis derived primarily from external causes, most importantly from the implications of the  excessive growth of sub prime mortgages in the USA.
  2. The Economic recession in the UK and elsewhere was itself caused primarily by the international financial crisis for which Labour were not responsible.
  3. Labour's taxation and spending policies prior to 2007 had been entirely sensible and responsible . Neither the budget deficit [PSBR] nor the national debt had been especially high prior to the financial crisis and the economic recession but it was the financial crisis and the economic recession which caused the subsequently  rapidly growing imbalances in the public finances.
  4. Labour had responded effectively to the financial crisis and the economic recession and recognised that tax increases and government spending reductions would be necessary in the longer term. but claimed that Conservative proposals would result in too rapid tax increase and public expenditure reductions which would put at risk the economic recovery which was apparently now underway.
  5. Labour rejected the Conservatives' claims in relation to poverty, income inequality and social mobility. Thus they emphasised that they had reduced overall poverty and that the data suggesting that extreme poverty had increased are recognised by statistical experts to be unreliable; that even if income inequality had increased Labour's taxation and social benefits policies had significantly reduced income inequality in comparison with the inequality levels which would have occurred if Conservative policies had remained in place; and that insofar as social mobility rates were declining this could be explained to a considerable extant as a consequence of the increased economic inequality which occurred during the years of previous Conservative governments , especially those of Mrs Thatcher.

During the General Election Campaign the Conservatives focused upon the need for immediate reductions of government expenditure of £6B over and above those proposed by the Labour Party while both Labour and the Liberal Democrats argued that these additional public expenditure reductions  were likely to undermine the current potentially fragile economic recovery [although once in coalition the Liberal Democrats  acquiesced in the Conservative programme of public expenditure cuts on the grounds that Greek economic problems pointed  to the possibility of a growing crisis of confidence in the British economy leading to increased interests rates if the international bond markets lost confidence in the viability of the incoming Coalition Government's debt reduction programme.]

Click here for BBC data on recent economic trends charting the extent of recession.

Click here for Guardian comparisons of Labour and previous Conservative economic records

Some of the disagreements among professional economists around these issues of economic policy are outlined in an Observer article published about one month after the General Election.

Click here for a page of links on analysis of state of UK economy .

 

 

Party Images and the 2010 General Election

Ipsos Mori publish very detailed trends upon a range of topics relating to the public images of the political parties. I have extracted and rearranged the information in the following table from this original Ipsos Mori table.XXX

Although Labour's image as measured by several criteria deteriorated between 1997 and2001 and between 2001 and 2005 Labour's image was nevertheless still more favourable than the Conservatives' image by 2005. However note that on several criteria the image ratings of the Labour and Conservative Parties narrowed very substantially. Note also that on some important criteria , especially criterion 1 , all parties gained consistently poor ratings .

Percentages of the Electorate believing that the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties are......

In general terms between 1997 and 2010 Conservative party ratings have tended to improve and Labour's have tended to deteriorate on the basis of the criteria Used by Ipsos Mori. Between 2005 and 2010 Conservative ratings improved especially according to the following criteria: : they are now seen as more likely than Labour to understand the problems ; as having a better team of leaders than Labour; as having more sensible policies than Labour; and as more professional in their approach than Labour. The Conservatives in 2010 were also less likely than in 2005 to be seen as divided; less extreme ; less out of touch with ordinary people and less likely to promise anything to get elected. However it is important to note that even though the Conservative Party image has improved according to a range of criteria   its ratings remain lower  on several criteria than were those of the Blair Governments especially in 1997 and 2001.

 

 

Spatial Issues, Valence Issues and Party Leadership and the 2010 General Election

  • As has been pointed out elsewhere it has become increasingly important in the analysis of voting behaviour to between Spatial Issues and Valence Issues. Spatial issues are those on which political parties  adopt different political positions: [for or against privatisation; for or against increased taxation; for or against increased government spending; for or against greater economic equality; for or against industrial relations legislation sympathetic to the trade unions  and so on]  whereas valence issues are those on which there is a general consensus among political parties and voters in that for example all political parties and all voters are in favour of increased economic efficiency , improved living standards, better health care and reduced crime and on these issues voters are assumed to choose between the political parties on the basis of their assessments of the likely competence of the political parties to achieve these objectives.
  • Especially important are the voters assessments of the economic competence of the political parties but it is also possible that even if voters approve of a particular party's policies on particular issues they may still doubt the competence of that party to implement its stated policies effectively thereby undermining that party's electoral prospects. It has been argued also that the increased importance of valence issues has increased the importance of political leadership as a determinant of voting behaviour as voters' perceptions of overall party political competence are nowadays said to depend heavily of their relative perceptions of the competence of different party leaders.
  • In the era of strong party identification prior to the 1970s it was usually argued that leadership effects on voting behaviour were much weaker than the effects of  party identification. There were very strong correlations between party identification and leadership preferences and where there was no such correlation it was clear that voting decisions were influenced more strongly by voters' party identification than by their leadership preferences.
  • It has been argued more recently that in the era of declining party identification and increasing mass media focus on the political leaders that political leadership is an increasingly important influence on voting behaviour. This may arise especially if party policy differences on spatial salient issues are  relatively small because in these circumstances perceptions of overall governing competence to deliver on valence issues [such as improved living standards, better health care and reduced crime] are  likely to be more significant determinants of voting behaviour and it is the perceived abilities [or otherwise] of the  party leaders [and other significant members of the leadership team] which are crucial to the creation of an image of governing competence.
  • Using this line of argument voters relative preference for John Major over Neil Kinnock in 1992 helped to improve the Conservatives' overall ratings for economic competence and thereby helped them to win the 1992 General Election while voters' preferences for Tony Blair over John Major [1997], William Hague [2001 ] and Michael Howard [2205] are considered by many to have been important influences on the General Election results of 1997, 29001 and 2005 although it has also been argued that Blair's declining popularity did cost Labour votes in 2005 although he was at least still more popular than Michael Howard. Nevertheless some controversy still exists: some famous analysts such as Ivor Crewe argued for example that in 2001 the Conservatives lost more because William Hague was unable to offset  the unpopular policies and image of the Conservative Party than because he actually added to Conservative unpopularity.
  • In the General Elections of 1997, 2001 and 2005 Tony Blair was rated more highly as the best potential Prime Minister than any of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat leaders contesting these General Elections although his opinion poll lead over Michael Howard in 2005 was lower than his lead of John Major in 1997 and William Hague in 2001.

 

Gordon Brown did experience a short honeymoon in the early stages of his Premiership when both the Labour Party and Mr. Brown personally achieved higher opinion poll ratings than the Conservative Party and Mr. Cameron personally. However following the postponement of an expected General Election the poll ratings of Mr Brown and of the Labour Party declined, recovered slightly in the early stages of the "credit crunch" but then declined mainly as a result of the combined effects of the economic recession, the MPs expenses scandal and the perceived relatively poor performance of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister. However Gordon Brown's ratings did improve slightly in 2010.

Click here for the IPSOS MORI Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election and scroll to slides 13-19 for Information on Party Leadership

  1. On May 5th, the day before the General Election in answer to the IPSOS MORI question "Who do you think would make the most capable Prime Minister best Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, David Cameron or Nick Clegg  respondents answered: 33% David Cameron, 29% Gordon Brown, 19% Nick Clegg, 19% Non/Don't Know. We may note that David Cameron achieved significantly higher poll ratings  than previous Conservative leaders [except John Major in 1992] but that his ratings were lower than those of Tony Blair in 2005 and not much higher than those of Gordon Brown in 2010.
  2. The Conservatives were seen as having the best team of leaders and the best senior leaders but in each case their leads over Labour were small [5% and 3% respectively.
  3. On some criteria Gordon Brown was preferred to both David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

Click here for the BES Slide Presentation on the 2010 General Election. You might like especially to compare the IPSOS MORI and BES Poll ratings of the Party leaders.

Click here for UK Polling Report data on Party leadership ratings 2005-2010 which indicate that  David Cameron often held a double figure lead over Gordon Brown in 2008 and 2009  but his lead did narrow considerably in 2010 as did the Conservatives' lead over Labour. Thus in 2010 David Cameron's lead over Gordon Brown was usually in single figures although one May 2010 poll did give David Cameron a 12% lead.

 

 

 

The Parliamentary Expenses Scandal

For several years there have been obvious signs of increasing dissatisfaction with and disengagement from the institutions of the UK political system as indicated by the growth of partisan dealignment, the decline in party membership, the low levels of electoral turnout and the low levels of trust in politicians reported in opinion polls. Voters have been alienated by what they perceived as the "sleaze " of previous Conservative Governments[1979-1997] and the "spin" and alleged financial malpractice in the era of Labour governments [1997-2010] . It has been suggested that the origins of the 2009 MPs' Expenses Scandal lay in decisions of successive governments since the early 1980s not to fund [for fear of antagonising public opinion] the substantial increases in MPs' pay recommended by independent inquiries  but instead to acquiesce quietly in an increasingly generous and loosely regulated MPs' expenses which was to compensate "subtly" for the limited increases in MPs' salaries.

Increasingly , however, the MPs' Expenses system itself attracted criticism which MPs sought to deflect but in 2008 the  High Court  ruled in 2008 that Parliament had no legal right to disregard demands for full disclosure of MPS expenses and when Harriet Harman's efforts to prevent full disclosure failed and evidence of MPs questionable expenses claims [ such as those of Home Secretary Jacqui Smith] began to leak out it was agreed that the  office of Registrar of Members Interests would copy all relevant MPS. expenses data onto disc with a view to eventual publication. However it came as no real surprise when a government official leaked this information to a national newspaper , the Daily Telegraph, reportedly in exchange for payment of £150,000, and the Daily Telegraph began daily publication of MPs and Ministers' expenses claims on May 8th 2009.

Many Peers and MPs were shown to have behaved entirely honestly and reasonably in relation to their expenses claims and only four MPs [all Labour] and two Conservative Peers were actually found guilty of illegal behaviour and imprisoned. However a substantial number of MPs and Peers Expenses claims involved questionable interpretation of the rules governing expenses claims while the rules themselves soon came to be regarded widely as inappropriate. Attention focussed especially on  the questionable designation of second homes, the "flipping " of homes for financial gain and claims for  expenses not remotely connected with MPs' and Peers' political duties:  gardening expenses, house repair, expensive furniture, duck houses and moat cleaning involved claims of hundreds and in some cases thousands of pounds while in other cases there were claims for "adult" CDs, newspapers, toilet seats and even Remembrance Day wreaths which, although not financially comparable to the huge salaries  and bonuses currently being earned in the financial sector ,were seen by many as pointing to the penny- pinching small mindedness of some Honourable Members.

Opinion Poll data suggested initially that the MPs' Expenses Scandal had intensified already existing high levels of dissatisfaction with the political system and it was also widely believed that the  scandal was especially likely to harm Labour partly because Labour was after all the governing party and partly also because David Cameron's handling of the crisis was widely seen as more effective than Gordon Brown's. Brown's ill-judged  and poorly executed response in a You Tube video attracted widespread derision  which was if anything intensified  by dismissive references to it by Hazel Blears [who was herself attracting considerable criticism as a result of her own dubious interpretation of the rules surrounding the designation of here second home which obliged her to repay several thousand pounds of claimed expenses. Brandishing a cheque for several thousand pounds while many were now increasingly suffering the effects of recession did little to enhance her or Labour's popularity.]

However it has also been argued that the Expenses Scandal may also have harmed the Conservatives who were to some extent deflected temporarily from reinforcing the issue agenda which they hoped would ultimately win  the General Election. In the event although the scandal certainly contributed to the reduced electoral support for all three main political parties and to the increased support for minor parties , especially for UKIP, in the 2009 European Parliament Elections it is likely that its impact on the General Election result was much weaker.

  • Overall support for the political system recovered to its pre-Scandal levels.
  • A particularly large number of MPs  decided not to seek re-election which could be expected to reduce the impact of the scandal
  • Electoral Turnout increased by 3.9%
  • Support for non-mainstream political parties increased only slightly by 1.5%.
  • Few voters now mentioned the Expenses Scandal as a salient factor influencing their voting behaviour

[Students who require more detailed information on the Parliamentary Expenses Scandal may consult this Wikipedia link and these  BBC links one and two . Click here for BBC coverage of the career of Speaker Martin and here for the events surrounding his resignation. Click here for BBC information on imprisoned Labour MPs and Conservative Peers and Click here for BBC information on Labour Peer Baroness Uddin and click here for the factors leading to the resignation of Labour MP Ian Gibson.  Click here for a Guardian Editorial suggesting that Ian Gibson had been an effective MP and that he will be missed.]

 

For Section 5: Summary: The UK General Election of May 6th, 2010 - Click Here