Broken-down Britain is sunk in gloom, says poll

By Benedict Brogan, Political Correspondent
(Filed: 25/11/2002)

People are growing increasingly pessimistic, with a majority believing that Britain is "grinding to a halt", a YouGov poll for The Daily Telegraph has found.

The survey shows a country depressed by the prospect of falling pension values, failing hospitals, pot-holed roads, unspoken fears of terrorism and a possible war against Iraq.

Eighty five per cent of people worry that they can no longer rely on public services, while 53 per cent agree with foreign media reports that "nothing in Britain works".

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The findings will make grim reading for Tony Blair. The poll suggests that voters are becoming increasingly disillusioned by the Prime Minister's failure to deliver the improvements he promised before the last general election.

They will also worry Gordon Brown, who is preparing to deliver his annual pre-Budget report to the Commons on Wednesday. He is expected to admit that he is struggling to keep the economy on an even keel.

With the Treasury relying on consumer spending to maintain economic growth, a quarter of those surveyed said they expected to spend less this Christmas.

The Chancellor appeared to concede that the public mood was volatile when he admitted yesterday that the impact of tax rises planned for next year were "unfortunate" for those affected.

Speaking on GMTV's Sunday programme, he said that improvements in the National Health Service would be paid for by an increase in National Insurance contributions "that perhaps unfortunately we have got to ask people to pay".

YouGov found that almost half the population - 47 per cent - take a pessimistic view of the country's future. More than half - 53 per cent - said that the state of the nation coupled with the weather have made them contemplate emigrating.

With the firemen's strike entering its fourth day, the poll shows that the public expects industrial disputes to become a regular feature of British life.

Seventy seven per cent of those polled believe that the number of strikes will rise over the next year. The survey finds that 63 per cent of its respondents hold share-based investments, either as PEPs and ISAs or linked to their mortgage.

Three quarters of those - 77 per cent - believe that the value of their savings has fallen. Most say that they have dropped by more than 10 per cent.

Ministers debating proposals to allow universities to charge top-up fees will be concerned that 75 per cent of those surveyed who have children under 20 think they will have to pay more than planned for their offspring's education.

Mr Brown will seek to restore a measure of confidence in a speech to the annual conference of the Confederation of British Industry today in which he will promise not to take risks with Britain's economic stability.

He will say: "Just as households need stability with low inflation and low interest rates to plan for their future, so too 95 per cent of CBI members say that macro-economic stability is the most important factor in business decision-making and I assure you that we will not take any risks with it."

24 November 2002: Prescott tells unions: Don't force us to fight a war
22 November 2002: Eight-day fire strike goes ahead
19 November 2002: All students 'should pay tuition fees'
14 November 2002: Bin Laden alive and threatening attack on Britain in terror tape
10 November 2002: Brown signals increase in public borrowing
31 October 2002: Bugs and blunders 'harm one in 10 patients'
21 October 2002: Ministers 'face crisis' over plan to cut pension tax relief
20 October 2002: Brown plans fresh tax raid on middle class pensions
7 October 2002: 25 new ideas to improve the quality of life in Britain
26 September 2002: Push-button Britain becomes call centre capital of Europe
26 August 2002: Why more people are thinking of quitting UK
21 April 2002: Will more cash really make the NHS better

Related reports  

External links  
Pre-Budget Report - HM Treasury
10 Downing Street
Confederation of British Industry Conference 2002