Saturday, September 23, 2006

Cameron: Where's The Beef?

The ICM poll in Friday’s Guardian shows the Conservatives retaining their lead. The Conservatives are on 36%, Labour on 32% and the Lib-Dems on 22%. The Conservative lead increases to 37%-31% when voters are asked how they would vote if Brown were Labour Leader. Cameron outpolls Brown on “honesty”, “enthusiasm”, “pleasant personality”, etc. However, as Polling Report (see Links) points out: “The choice of questions probably doesn’t flatter Brown - we know from previous polls that he outscores Cameron on things like competence and strong leadership…” Nevertheless: “overall Brown’s image obviously is damaging him”. Significantly, support for Cameron is stronger among women and younger voters. The Labour Government is also seen as having “run out of steam” by 64% and 70% think it is “time for a change”. Of course, these are mid-term polls and Brown is not PM (and it could be a different story were he to become PM). But:
(1) These polls are bound to damage Brown’s chances of becoming Leader. The theme of “change” is difficult for someone who has been Chancellor since 1997. He is hardly a fresh face. It is bound to lead to Alan Johnson’s chances of becoming Leader being talked-up; but I still think a Brown succession is what is most likely.
(2) The polls show how damaging the long-drawn out battle for the succession is to Labour (and to Brown). Yet there is no sign of the struggle abating. Thursday’s Cabinet apparently urged a cease-fire, and Ministers vowed a pledge of silence. But this morning I hear on Radio 4 that John Hutton has said that Brown should face a Leadership challenge (“we don’t do coronations”). So that cease-fire lasted all of two days. If it goes on like this until May/June next year the cumulative damage to Labour could cost them the election.
(3) The polls underline the threat Cameron poses. Presentation and packaging are very important in modern politics, and Cameron is clearly a very adept media operator. He is truly Blair’s heir in that respect. Yet the “Cameron bubble” could burst. The trouble is that Cameron is enjoying a free ride at the moment because Labour’s succession crisis is providing sufficient entertainment. Close to an election, with Labour’s new Leader in place, things could change.

But Brown should not try to out-Cameron Cameron by blubbing on television, talking about pop music, or kissing babies. Austere is OK if voters think it goes with competence and seriousness. That Cameron is an Old Etonian media-friendly “light-weight” is a theme Labour should emphasise. They should pose the “Where’s the Beef?” question. Politaholic would also like to see a change of direction under the new Leader: away from Blair’s foreign policy adventurism and determination to privatise everything in sight. Sadly, Brown is complicit in the former and an enthusiast for the latter.


Blogger SPL said...

Agree with all your points - I come to the same conclusion about Johnson in my post on the ICM poll.

4:21 pm  

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