Sunday, May 14, 2006

Premature Exultation?

Last week's Populus Poll in the Times gave the Conservatives an 8-point lead: 38% to Labour’s 30% (with Brown as Leader it was 41% to 31%). The Poll also showed that 35% want Blair to go now and a further 15% by the end of this year; only 25% want him to stay until just before the next election (19% “don’t know” and 6% opt for next year). These findings are broadly borne out by the YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph which showed the Conservatives on 37% to Labour's 31%. Blair's approval rating was his worst ever: minus 40% (only 26% approve of him as PM). The YouGov poll also showed 41% want Blair to go this year and 13% next year (only 26% wanted him to serve a full term). A very ominous finding is that 83% see the Labour Party as divided.
Of course these polls come after a series of scandals and amid internal conflict over the leadership. They do however raise the question of how well Brown will do when pitted against Cameron (some of those who want Blair to go may be Tories who think Cameron can trounce Brown). The Conservative strategy is to depict Brown as an Old Labour “dinosaur” opposed to Blairite “reform” (If only it were true: Brown is no leftist – his manic commitment to “flexible labour markets” and PFI craziness are evidence enough of that). The Tories think that Gordon will lack Tony’s magic when it comes to appealing to Middle England (They will also exploit the fact that he is Scotttish: an ICM poll for the Daily Politics shows 52% think it wrong for there to be a Scottish PM now that Scotland has its own Parliament). There is probably a lot of truth in the claim that Brown will find it harder to woo Middle England than Blair. But although he is dour and Scottish Brown is a serious, substantial figure (a “heavyweight”) whereas Cameron is still mostly all spin and image-management (and the wheels could easily come off that bicycle). Cameron may also have trouble with he Tebbit wing of the party (already Liam Fox is cautiously distancing himself from Cameron, positioning himself for a leadership bid should it all go pear-shaped).Of course, Brown will have a difficult task: to win a fourth term for Labour. But after years of Phoney-Tony will the voters really want a Phoney-Tory-Tony-Clone? Without being complacent, I think Brown under Labour can win the next election, assuming Blair does not stay in his bunker until the party is in ruins around him. On the back of the Populus and YouGov polls the Tories current rejoicing may well be a case of “premature exultation”.


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