Economic troubles

I’m not an economist so won’t pretend to understand the possible implications of the credit crunch that forced the Northern Rock to go cap in hand to the Bank of England yesterday. If the economy does hit troubled times, is it likely to help or hinder Gordon Brown?

Populus’s party conference poll for the Times will, as usual, be released in dribs and drabs over the conference season. Today has the results of a question that asked whether people “If Britain’s economy were to face problems in the months or years ahead, who would you most trust to deal with it in the best interests of Britain?” Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling were overwhelmingly chosen over David Cameron and George Osborne, by a ratio of 61% to 27%. This should hardly come as a shock given the perceptions of Brown and Cameron that are consistently revealed by polls – Brown is seen as strong, competent and experienced while Cameron is seen as caring, likeable and modern. It shouldn’t be a surprise that people would prefer a strong and experienced hand at the tiller in an economic crisis.

The converse of this is that, were there to be economic downturn it may itself damage Brown’s reputation for economic competence. In 1991 the Conservatives enjoyed healthy leads when asked which party people most trusted to manage the economy, but it was rapidly reversed after Black Wednesday. The present troubles in the credit market are nothing to do with Labour’s handling of the economy, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t reflect very badly on Brown if the economy soured on his watch. We’ve seen with the hypothetical polls from before Brown became Prime Minister that people aren’t actually very good at predicting how they would react to events in the future. In reality we cannot tell if, faced with economic troubles, people would turn to Gordon Brown…or blame him.

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