The proportion of people satisfied with Paddy Ashdown’s performance as Lib-Dem leader has increased dramatically-since he announced his intention to resign. According to Mori’s latest monthly poll, his approval rating has jumped 12 points to plus 39. So while Tony Blair continues to enjoy the longest honeymoon effect in political history, Ashdown has demonstrated a different phenomenon-what could be called the “deathbed effect.”
Last month Tony Blair made clear that he regarded appealing to the expanding middle class and their aspirational values as the key to Labour’s future success. But matters may not be so simple. An ICM poll last year found that 55 per cent of people still describe themselves as working class (back in 1948 a Gallup poll found that only 45 per cent did so). John Prescott may regard himself as middle class, but it seems that others who climb the ladder prefer to identify themselves by their class of origin rather than destination.
If you worry that official statistics sometimes attempt an over-ambitious level of precision, you may be reassured by the latest volume of Social Trends. It estimates the total annual cost of criminal acts used to fund the purchase of heroin as between ?19m and-a figure 15 times greater-?288m. Now that’s a margin of error.
There is no direct correlation between the performance of the various police forces across the country and higher spending, according to the Audit Commission. Take the Durham Police: it has had the biggest increase in police numbers over the past three years, but it has also been one of the few forces not to achieve a significant improvement in the rate
of crime detection. All is not amiss with the Durham Constabulary-it has the best record for the prompt acknowledgement of correspondence from the public.
Compiled by Martin Rosenbaum, m.rosenbaum@MCR1.poptel.org.uk