Things that are better than going to Eton: Having an affair, being a fascist, taking hard drugs

Eton: Worse than drugs or fascism
Eton: Worse than drugs or fascism
Ian Dunt By

Voters are much more sympathetic to politicians who have had affairs, belonged to fascist parties or taken hard drugs than they are to those who went to Eton.

The only characteristic more likely to make someone unsuitable to be a leading politician than going to Eton was never having had "a real job", according to the YouGov poll.

Seventy-three per cent of Ukip voters said someone never having had "a real job" is a negative quality when it comes to political leaders, compared to 60% of Conservatives, 55% of Labour and 51% of Liberal Democrats.

Interestingly, Ukip voters seemed just as outraged by a candidates having come from Eton as Labour voters, with 54% of Ukip voters objecting to it and 53% of Labour voters. Fifty-two per cent of Liberal Democrats agreed but just 19% of Tory supporters thought having gone to Eton was a problem.


A similar pattern emerged on whether it was desirable for a political leader to have made millions as a banker. Just 14% of Tories thought it was a problem, but 30% of Liberal Democats objected, as did 31% of Labour and Ukip supporters.

That was in marked contrast to voters' views of politicians' sex life. Compared to the high levels of outrage over income earned by tax dodging or through the banking sector, most voters seemed unconcerned by what MPs and ministers got up to in their personal life.

Twenty-five per cent of Tory voters said they thought that having an affair while an MP made someone unsuitable to be a leading politician, compared to 24% of Ukip supporters, 17% of Liberal Democrat supporters and 13% of Labour supporters.

Coming out as gay despite campaigning as happily married was considered unsuitable by 20% of Ukip voters, 19% of Conservative voters, 12% of Labour voters and just 11% of Liberal Democrat voters.

Sixteen per cent of Conservatives thought that taking hard drugs when young should rule someone out of becoming a leading politician, compared to 13% of Lib Dems, 11% of Labour and – surprisingly – just 11% of Ukip supporters.

A similar trend was visible when asked if posing nude in an adult magazine should rule someone out of political leadership. Again Conservative voters were the most concerned, with six per cent saying it made the candidate unsuitable. Labour concern was at an identical level but just three per cent of Liberal Democrats and two per cent of Ukip supporters agreed.

Membership of a far-right party during their youth was considered to make a politician unsuitable for a leading position by 25% of Lib Dems, 18% of Labour and 13% of Conservatives, but just six per cent of Ukip supporters.

When it came to membership of a Communist party, 20% of Conservatives voters and ten per cent of Ukip voters thought it made the individual unsuitable. Just nine per cent of Lib Dems and six per cent of Labour supporters agreed.

The survey shows that an old divide still remains among party supporters, with Conservative voters more concerned by the personal morality of politicians than Labour or Liberal Democrat voters, who tend to be more moved by a politician's financial arrangements or privileged upbringing.

But the low scores for concerns around affairs or drug taking even among Tory supporters suggests a cultural change in British politics, with fewer and fewer voters showing an interest in politicians' personal failings, especially when they occurred in the past.

That trend has been visible for some time, not least when David Cameron was able to secure the Tory leadership while sidestepping questions about whether he took recreational drugs when he was younger.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the poll is the unpredictable reaction of Ukip voters to many of the questions.

The party seemed just as outraged by a politician having gone to Eton as Labour voters – a result which speaks to Michael Ashcroft's contention that Ukip is capitalising on the feeling among some low-and-middle-income Conservative voters who feel the party is elitist.

Ukip voters were highly judgemental about politicians who had had an affair or who came out as gay despite campaigning as if they were happily married, but they were much more sympathetic when it came to posing naked in an adult magazine or taking hard drugs.

Comments

Load in comments
Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.

Newsletter update
wa