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Olympic success doesn't override economic and political distress

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In a YouGov poll on Friday the public revealed that the main issues that they believe should be facing parliament as they return from summer recess are the economy, the British Honour’s System and an additional runway at Heathrow airport.Houses of Parliament

Facing discontent within his party and from the wider public, David Cameron is tipped to undertake a cabinet reshuffle within the next few days. The main reason for this reshuffle seems to be to show the public that the stagnant situation of British politics will change. However, the issues on the chalkboard are as unchanging as America and China’s position at the top of the Olympic medal table.

The most important problem the public wants to see resolved remains the economy. After last summer’s riots, which saw Cameron return home early from his family holiday in Tuscany, economic and social problems were at the front of the parliamentary agenda when it reconvened in September. The Conservative party’s approval rating was down at 38% with Labour support above them at 39%. This summer has been a very different affair. The whole country has celebrated both the Queen’s Jubilee and the London 2012 Olympic games together with not so much as a whisper of trouble. Cameron was able to successfully complete his family holiday in Spain before returning to England to watch the Paralympic opening ceremony last week.

And yet, as parliament reconvenes this year the situation is almost identical, if not worse than the same time last year. The Conservative party’s YouGov approval rating is down to 35%, with Labour up to 41%. Meanwhile, an extra 3% are unhappy with the state of the economy on last year’s figures. This bad news for the government comes at the end of a joyful, celebratory summer which saw a great boost to British national pride and team spirit. 

When parliament rose on July 17th for their summer recess 69% of people said the most worrying issue facing them and their family was the failing economy. As the summer ends, a major 80% of people think the state of the economy is bad, with only 2% regarding it positively. A further 50% think their financial situation will get worse over the next six months and 56% think that the government’s economic policy needs to change for the economic situation to see improvement.

The Olympics was set to generate more than £10 billion for the British economy and create over 100,000 jobs for the British people. In spite of millions of British people regularly tuning in to watch the Olympics, the success of the Games does not seem to have bolstered the public’s confidence in this government.

Rather, along with their continued scepticism about the government’s ability to effectively deal with the economy, a new question about the British Honour’s System has come to the forefront of debate. Olympic fervour seems to have died down as 74% against 14% think only British gold medallists who have made an additional contribution to their country should receive an honour’s award. This comes alongside continued discontent over the amount of awards given to those working in public services, such as schools and hospitals. 66% think these workers do not receive enough recognition, while figures from entertainment, senior civil servants and politicians have been condemned for receiving too many awards.

Furthermore, 62% of people think that unfair discrimination still exists towards disabled people.

High up on YouGov’s list of interests is what people think about an additional runway at Heathrow airport. However, it seems public opinion is split on this issue with 35% in support of the project and 32% opposing it. The results for whether Cameron should renege on his election promise not to expand Heathrow are identical to its support, which indicates that there is not much pressure on Cameron from the public over this issue. In any case the public’s opinion probably won’t hold all that much score. This time last year 40% opposed Free Schools and 64% said they would not be interested in helping create and run them. Yet announced today was that 55 new Free Schools are set to open across the country this month.

On a more positive note though, the Olympic summer did allow the government’s House of Lords reform bill to be successfully swept under the carpet, with Nick Clegg’s brief statement at the end of this afternoon’s session.

The word on everyone’s lips remains the economy for this parliamentary session. Will Cameron’s reshuffle really help bolster some change in that department? We can only wait and see, but the sceptic may be inclined to agree with YouGov’s 51% who think the government isn’t capable of getting the economic situation in order.




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