POLITICS

Voters Don't Care If MPs Did Drugs Or Posed Nude, But Attending Eton Is A Problem

11/03/2014 09:32 GMT | Updated 11/03/2014 09:59 GMT
CARL COURT via Getty Images
British Prime Minister David Cameron outside 10 Downing Street in central London, on February 27, 2014. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

Voters find politicians who went to Eton to be more unsuited to power than those who were part of a far-right or communist party in their youth, did drugs, or posed for naked photographs.

The findings revealed in a poll conducted by YouGov for The Times found that 38% of those asked thought having attended the elite public school, as David Cameron did, meant the politician would not understand how normal people live and was therefore unsuited to office.

By contrast, only 15% of those asked were concerned about a politician had been a member of a far-right party and just 10% were worried about a politician having been a communist.

Only 13% cared whether a politician had taken cocaine or heroin in their youth and just 5% were bothered if the MP had posed in the nude for an adult magazine when they were young.

In a blog posted on The Huffington Post UK, YouGov president Peter Kellner explained: "For most people, what matters are those things that influence the capacity of senior politicians to understand normal people, empathise with their difficulties and tackle their problems.

"Other stories, especially to do with sex and anything that happened long ago, might excite news editors and amuse their readers and viewers, but don't really persuade voters to dump the targets of such disclosures."

Keller added: "The one issue on which there is a distinct regional pattern concerns the controversy that triggered this survey in the first place: the cluster of old Etonians around the Prime Minister. This offends Londoners least. Dislike of this phenomenon rises the further people live away from London, and his highest of all in Scotland."

Cameron has long had to fight off claims that his Eton education means he is unable to understand the lives of ordinary voters. The problem has been multiplied by his decision to surround himself with other old-Etonians.

One Tory MP recently complained: "There are six people writing the manifesto and five of them went to Eton; the other went to St Paul’s."

The YouGov survey found that the biggest worry for voters was MPs who had never had a "real" job outside of politics or those that had exploited loopholes to minimise their tax bill.

Q. Here are some characteristics that some people feel are unsuitable in leading politicians.

Which three or four of these, if any, do you think are most unsuitable in a leading politician?

%
BACKROUND
That they had never had a "real" job outside the worlds of national politics/think tanks/journalism/local government before becoming an MP  55 
That they went to Eton and don't understand how normal people live  38 
That one of their parents was an MP and so they had the right connections when they wanted to enter politics  20 
That they are interested only in politics and not in anything else (music, theatre, cinema, sport etc)  12 
MONEY
That they have a few million pounds and use legal methods to minimise their tax bill such as setting up trust funds for their children 41 
That they worked as an investment bank, earning more than a million pounds a year, before becoming an MP 24 
That before becoming an MP they went through a period of bankruptcy because their business failed  9 
SEX
That since becoming an MP, they had an affair with someone else's wife/husband  17 
That they campaigned to be an MP as a happily married heterosexual, only to admit later that they were gay  14 
YOUTHFUL INDISCRETIONS
That they belonged to a far-right party in their youth  15 
That they took cocaine or heroin when they were young  13 
That they belonged to the Communist Party in their youth  10 
That they posed in the nude for an adult magazine when they were young   5 
That they were caught shoplifting when they were a teenager   5