Labour/UKIP voters put Environment/Climate Change as 2nd top Choice for Spending Cuts

Poppy_wreath_stockwell

 

Amid all the flummery of Clarkson’s cold cuts, Shapps’ second job, and Champion’s poppy wreath claim, there was a youGov poll, which showed Labour and the Tories neck and neck in the race to the General Election. No news there then.

The pollsters also like to ask the public about other matters, and in this budget week they asked if public spending should be cut or increased: 44% said if any money was available to spend it should be spent on public expenditure, nearly twice as many as those who wanted tax cuts (25%) or spent on cutting the deficit (20%).

The pollsters went on to ask about where future cuts in public spending should fall. Asked to choose three sectors from a list, the polled chose the following:

  1. Overseas Aid 66
  2. Welfare benefits 36
  3. Environment and Climate Change 29
  4. Defence 19
  5. Local Government 11
  6. Transport 8

and a number of other sectors which added up to 16 points. Ignoring the don’t knows, the total was 192. If everyone had chosen three, then the total would have been 300 (less the don’t knows). So clearly not everyone chose 3, the average being just under 2.

There was cross-party support for cutting the overseas aid budget, although welfare benefits cuts were most popular with Tories. UKIP voters were equally enthusiastic about cutting welfare and environment/climate change budgets. Labour voters preferred to cut environment and climate change funding ahead of welfare. LibDems preferred to cut Welfare and Defence spending before environment/climate change, which tied for fourth place with transport.

Of course this is just a snapshot with 1400 voters and the usual caveats apply. It’s also to my mind unhelpful to lump the environment in with climate change, particularly as it is such a polarising policy area. A bit of context might have been useful. The Welfare budget is £120Bn, Overseas Aid is £11Bn. Defra’s budget is £2.2Bn while DECC spent £7.6Bn last year, most (over £5Bn) of which appears to have been spent decommissioning nuclear reactors. The NHS spends £100Bn a year and Schools £54Bn.

Given the relatively tiny amounts spent on the environment and climate change, it’s all the more extraordinary that these areas should be picked out by the public for further cuts – especially as Defra was the hardest hit Government department in this Parliament, taking a hit of over 30% in its funding.

It’s difficult to draw any other conclusion from these results, that, apart from the 9% who would protect spending on the environment and climate change above all else, the remainder of the public are either neutral, or have active animosity against spending on the environment/climate change. It may well be that the environment as a concept does not really have much meaning to the public, because it is so all encompassing; and if climate change is becoming a toxic issue for many (and there’s an interesting take on that by Mark Lynas here ) then “the environment” will be tainted by association.

What is clear though is that without the support of the general public, politicians of all flavours will not take these things seriously. And the environment movement has to take responsibility for the fact that, after 40 years of work, and regardless of millions of people belonging to and supporting environmental organisations, we have failed to persuade the general public that “the environment” is an important part of Government policy and spending.

photo: Poppy wreath By Caroline Ford (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in anti-environmental rhetoric, climate change, General Election, Labour, UKIP, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Labour/UKIP voters put Environment/Climate Change as 2nd top Choice for Spending Cuts

  1. David Dunlop says:

    I understand that the Brundtland Report “Our Common Future” suggested we act as we do because we can get away with it: future generations do not vote so they have no political or financial power and they cannot challenge our decisions. A sense of individual helplessness in the face of continual “bad news” has probably reinforced that over the intervening decades. What to do about it? Um, I’ll get back to you when I’ve the time… ‘Values Modes’ maybe offers some guidance, but I could just be following the latest fashion but two: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Values_Modes

  2. asouth says:

    Thanks for this post – it’s very interesting (and scary), particularly in the light of the research I did for a post on the climate change policies of the political parties.
    It makes sense that UKIP voters would go for a cut in spending on climate change – UKIP’s policy on climate change is terrifying. The disconnect between Labour’s policy and their supporters views is interesting.

  3. David Dunlop says:

    I wasn’t Miles. To be provocative:

    “It is absolutely undeniable that most of the left has not, in its history and in its practice, been green. The dominant left philosophies, both socialist and social democratic, have been productivist and modernist in form. They have celebrated the liberation from traditional forms of society – and traditional forms of poverty – which the industrial process, and the transformation of culture which accompanies it, have achieved. They have been deeply careless of the natural environment, equating progress with industrialisation, based on a rationalist and instrumental approach to our relationship to nature and often to one another. In their pursuit of greater material wellbeing for the poor, they have tended to ignore and under-value many of the non-material components of wellbeing. The left has largely identified with the capitalist notion that what makes us better off is consuming more.” (from http://www.michaeljacobs.org/resurgence-essay-nov-dec-2013.html – though, to be fair, this is the most negative quote in a blog advocating greater synthesis)

    or, as it’s more familiarly expressed here in northern England. “You cannot stand in the way o’ progress. It’s flowers and bunnies for you and your middle class friends before jobs and welfare for the poor” &c. (I paraphrase) Essentially, it’s a view that nature is a luxury we don’t need to and can’t afford the time to address seriously until we have built Jerusalem in England’s green and pleasant land.

  4. Miles King says:

    Thanks Dave.

    I have grown used to the Kippers paranoid invective against the conspiracies they see driving climate action and the broader environmental agenda. And to a certain extent I can see this reflected in the Left Behind that hasn’t left Labour ranks.

    But that’s not to say even the traditional Left has always denied the value of nature – far from it: after all the Kinder Scout trespass was all about the right to benefit from the value that nature provides us – the fight for “fresh air”, rather than bunnies and flowers – though again I think this is more about the language used than the principle.

    It’s no coincidence that young Communist Benny Rothman, who was jailed for 4 months at the Kinder Scout trespass, travelled to serve as an ambulance driver for the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. Attlee’s post-war Government did more to protect nature than any other 20th century British government; and was probably the most Socialist Government ever to govern the UK.

    • David Dunlop says:

      Indeed. Where did it all go wrong? And why? I guess the agricultural policy driven by the blockades of WW2 would be a place to start.

  5. nedhamson says:

    Reblogged this on Ned Hamson Second Line View of the News and commented:
    What is clear though is that without the support of the general public, politicians of all flavours will not take these things seriously. And the environment movement has to take responsibility for the fact that, after 40 years of work, and regardless of millions of people belonging to and supporting environmental organisations, we have failed to persuade the general public that “the environment” is an important part of Government policy and spending.

  6. Pingback: Our big green ally | Rootstock

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