Thursday, May 18, 2006

Blair: Has the Magic Gone?

There was an interesting article by Polly Toynbee in Tuesday's Guardian. She quotes from Professor John Curtis who in "reviewing the voting evidence" - she doesn't say where, if anyone knows I'd be grateful - casts doubt on the "Blair magic" vis-a-vis Middle England. Blair inherited a double digit lead from John Smith (MORI in a poll taken on April 21-25 just a few weeks before John Smith's death had Labour on 47% to the Conservatives 26%. MORI also had Labour consistently ahead of Labour from July 1992 onwards). Curtis apparently argues that "...Blair's luck has been a decade of Tory collapse and that his luck has just run out". In 2005 Labour polled only 1% more than Kinnock in 1992: 35.2% in 2005 compared to 34.4% in 1992. The difference was in the level of support for the Conservatives: 41.9% in 1992 compared to 32.2% in 2005. Custis also (apparently) argues that no one can know how well Brown will do as PM; he thinks "How would you vote if Brown were PM?" is a "rubbish" question. No one can know until it happens. In any case, Brown's task will be more difficult than Blair's. In 1997 it was a matter of removing a divided, exhausted, and discredited government from office. Brown will have to win a fourth term for a government which has had its own fair share of sleaze and failure. Toynbee raises the question of whether there will be "room" for Brown "to strike out progressively". She also makes the point that even if Blair "did inveigle middle England by encouraging individualism and consumer greed" that "nine years is a long time in office" and "times change". The only problem with this is that she seems to think there is more political distance between Blair and Brown than there actually is; I doubt if we will see the government launch itself in a radically new direction under Brown. Finally, Curtis makes the point that whatever "southern magic" Blair had has now gone: "They don't believe a word he says". Neither does Gordon.


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