Peter Hoskin

The shifting sands of public opinion on Libya

The shifting sands of public opinion on Libya
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All of the buccaneering rhetoric has been sucked from the Libyan conflict this week, replaced with words of concession, compromise and caution. A few days ago, it was the news that — contrary to what they might previously have said — the government is prepared to let Gaddafi remain in the country after all. Today, William Hague deploys the same line in an interview with the Times (£), in which he also warns that there are "a lot of problems and even convulsions" to come in northern Africa.

As it happens, the depressed mood of our foreign-policymakers reflects the tide of public opinion. Here, for CoffeeHousers' benefit, are a couple of graphs that we've made from YouGov's polling questions on Libya. They chart a distinct and growing pessimism about our involvement in the country:

Of course, it's no surprise that the public should turn against a protracted conflict that doesn't seem to be achieving the goals that the West initially had in mind. But the above graphs still capture the political risks attached to Libya for David Cameron. The Prime Minister was lauded for his role in securing a humanitarian intervention against Gaddafi. As the war effort meanders towards stalemate, he may find praise a little harder to come by.