Back in June when Labour’s rating in polls first began to shoot upwards on the back of Gordon Brown’s approaching premiership I wrote that there were four questions we needed to ponder about the Brown boost. Two months later let’s see if we’re closer to any answers:

How high will Labour support peak? For most pollsters it looks as though Gordon Brown’s accession changed a Conservative lead into a Labour lead of about 5 or 6 points, putting Labour in the environs of 39%. YouGov alone reported higher Labour leads, reaching 42% and 10 points ahead of the Conservatives in one poll.

How long will the honeymoon last? In terms of how long before it peaks and begins to decline again, the answer seems to be about eight weeks. Of course it’s still early in Brown’s premiership and many people out there will still be giving Gordon Brown the benefit of the doubt for months to come. While the initial phase of his honeymoon appears to be over it should still be a while until things stabilise.

When the boost from Brown’s accession subsidies, whether that be next week, next month or next year, where will it settle? This is the vital question, in the last week or so the Brown boost has begun to recede. Where will the polls stabilise again – neck and neck? With a Labour lead above where we are now? Back where we were before Brown became PM, or perhaps even worse? We still don’t know much here – at the moment the tide seems to be flowing away from Labour again, but that could be a temporary reverse as the result of good publicity for Cameron last week. It could be a brief reverse, or this could be the start of a larger trend back towards Tory leads. Equally, we still don’t know how long until the polls stabilise, though one would be foolish to draw any conclusions until at least after party conference season.

Will the Conservatives and the Lib Dems keep their nerve? No matter how predictable a Brown boost was, it doesn’t mean that people in the opposition parties wouldn’t take the polls as a cue to panic and turn on themselves. Did they? Well, the Liberal Democrats seem to have kept their nerve, no public shirt-tearing or Ming-attacking there. With the Conservatives it’s more difficult to say, in one sense obviously no, there have been Conservatives preductably sounding off left, right and centre about how they are all doomed and it’s all Dave’s fault for not being beastly enough to Europeans/ immigrants/ gays/ pollsters/ the general public* (*delete as applicable). On the other hand it could have been infinitely worse, a lot of the actual criticisms and more mild in reality than when viewed through the media narrative of Conservative infighting. In general the right’s criticisms have remained in the vein that Cameron is the only game in town, but if he could just do this a little differently.

In addition to those questions, I should perhaps have added one more…

Will it be enough for a snap election? I didn’t include this because I personally never expected there to be anything but the remotest chance of one, but the summer has been full of speculation and some straws in the wind have suggested its a real possibility, such as the first signs in the Guardian recruitment pages of the Labour party recruiting short time election staff on fixed contracts. Perhaps Brown would have called an early election this autumn had polls shown a steady substantial lead, but that time has now passed. Even if Labour go back up again, this week has demonstrated that the lead isn’t stable enough to gamble upon.


Comments are closed.