The Conservatives’ moral panic isn’t working

Why is the Conservatives’ poll lead shrinking? One underlying reason not picked up clearly in the polls is that the worst fears projected by politicians and the popular media are not being experienced in people’s lives. However hard they try to duck it, opposition parties are fated to deepen gloom more than raise hopes. Take the core Tory theme of “fixing broken Britain.” In spite of all the fears of soaring crime, the magisteral Economist dispassionately walks through the statistical minefield and still finds a dramatic fall. Tax breaks for married couples? They would register no impact on the targeted poor. And if the aim is to blow a dog whistle to entice the moral right, the tax breaks would extend to gay partnerships. One argument for marriage they fail to stress is that the divorced partner normally has access to the children guaranteed, while a non married former partner hasn’t. But this point is evaded as it might be seen as encouraging divorce. Britain awash with booze? Not much change in 20 years. However much the politicians bang on about honesty in politics, the old rule stands firm – the closer to the election the less candour we get. From the Economist

Today, only half as many girls between 15 and 19 bear a child in their teens as when their grandmothers were that age

Parents have probably never been more worried about their offspring, but the truth is that children seem to be less at risk now than in the past. The number of killings of under-15s has “collapsed” since the 1970s, according to Colin Pritchard of Bournemouth University. Professor Pritchard calculates that in 1974 Britain was the third-biggest killer of children in the rich world. By his reckoning it is now 17th, following a 70% drop in child homicides

From the Independent

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that drinking levels have changed little since 1992, and have actually declined quite significantly in some groups in recent years. In 1992, 9 per cent of men aged 16-24 admitted drinking more than 50 units a week; in 2008, the figure was 7 per cent.
Binge-drinking levels also fail to show any clear trend. In 1998, 39 per cent of men said they had drunk more than eight units “on at least one day last week”; in 2008, it was 37 per cent. Among women, the trend is up, but the increase is entirely accounted for by a change in the way alcohol consumption is estimated.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London