Happy new year! This is the first of three round up posts to begin the year, starting, appropriately enough, with how the Labour party performed in the 2007 polls.

Looking back at 2007 the first half of the year was Tony Blair’s long goodbye. Labour started the year behind the Tories and fell back further, beset by cash for honours. In March 2007 they sunk into the 20s in a couple of polls, over ten points behind the Tories. There seemed to be a public appetite for change, a tide that can easily sweep a government from office. Labour’s hope was that Brown would be that change, he would draw a line under Blair and be a new beginning, a government of solid, reliable competence compared to his predecessor’s spin.

When Gordon Brown took over he got a bigger boost than most expected, the media lavished adoration upon him and the pressure was suddenly on David Cameron (though we’ll look at the Tories in another post). For a short while it seemed as though what Labour had hoped, that the change in leadership would be the change that the public wanted, would indeed happen. The temporary boost became the foundation for election fever – I think what made the speculation really serious was the Northern Rock crisis. Far from damaging Labour’s reputation for economic competence or denting their lead, it suggested that it could stand up to events. What would have happened if Brown had gone to the country will be one of those great political counterfactuals in the future, I expect we’ll have some fun with it at some point. Of course it didn’t, and since then everything has been bad for Labour.

The media seemed to turn against Brown during the Conservative conference, from treating him almost as the second coming during the summer, they have since been unremittingly hostile. The decision not to have an election was seen as a humiliation, Northern Rock has refused to have a neat and tidy ending, a new party funding row erupted, the government lost large amounts of confidential data. In the polls Labour have fallen to the low thirties – roughly comparable to the sort of level they were before the handover to Brown, figures for PM approval, government approval, best party on the economy, forced choice and so on are all as they were at the tail end of Blair.

We’ve started to see commentators ask whether Brown is dead in the water. There are even occasional bits of press speculation about challenges to his leadership, I don’t personally find them convincing, but is Brown’s position hopeless? We’ll come back to the actual electoral maths when we look at the Tories, the question here is can Brown turn things around, or is he doomed to trail behind the Tories in levels of support?

First lets look at what actually happened to Labour’s support in 2007. There are three possibilities: either Labour has actually improved from their position under Blair and at least some of the “Brown bounce” was genuine, but that underlying recovery is currently being masked by temporary damage from events; or, Labour did genuinely recover with a new leader, but the problems they’ve faced have highlighted Brown’s weaknesses as leader and undermined their competence, permanently damaging them; or, they never actually recovered in the slightest, Brown failed to be the change and the current standings are a return to underlying pre-Brown position now the publicity boost has gone.

Looking carefully at the polls from the time it was a Brown boost, not a Labour one. Questions that referred to Gordon Brown by name saw very positive ratings, but questions asking about Labour or ‘the government’ without mentioning Brown were less positive. While Brown had positive approval ratings, the government’s approval ratings remained strongly negative. Perhaps if things had panned out differently, Brown would have been able to transfer some of his own popularity onto the government, but it never happened. That’s not to say that it was entirely a temporary boost and the problems that have beset Labour over the last couple of months had nothing to do with it, I suspect that had Labour not suffered things like the embarrassment of the uncalled election, the funding and data loss crisis Brown would have been able to transform some of his temporary popularity into more substantial improvements in his party’s reputation.

In the event he didn’t have the chance, or didn’t use the chance when he had it. When Brown had the opportunity, he used it instead to make life difficult for the Conservatives, shoot their foxes, box them into positions, and embarrass them with defections or “semi-defections”… but not to renew Labour or set out a vision that would have differentiated his Labour government from what had gone before. When the honeymoon came to an abrupt end with “chicken Saturday”, that too was a self-inflicted wound, though the nails were banged into the opportunity’s coffin by things like the funding scandal and the data loss which probably can’t be laid directly at Gordon Brown’s door. In my opinion what happened to Labour is that Brown squandered his chance to change a temporary boost into a permanent one and Labour are now back where they were in April 2007. The difference is that then they had the hope of renewal under Brown, now there is now no ace left up their sleeve to play.

So is Brown dead in the water? I don’t normally make predictions on the blog that can’t be based on polls alone, though I guess I didn’t do that badly with Brown. Back in December 2006 I predicted that despite the big Conservative leads all the hypothetical “Brown as leader” polls showed, in practice Brown would get a big boost as leader, giving Labour a healthy lead in the polls, but that in the longer term the hypothetical polls would be a pretty accurate picture, with the Conservatives having large leads. The reasoning I gave then was that the only explanation for the negative polls was that Brown was disliked, because they certainly weren’t because people thought Brown would be incompetent or ineffective. If they had Brown would have been able to prove people wrong, but he’s never going to be able to change his personality. I wrote then that people tend to ascribe positive qualities to likeable people, irrespective of how competent they actually are, and vice-versa with dislikeable people. Malcolm Gladwell calls this the Warren Harding error, after the inept US President who looked and sounded Presidential and therefore won despite being a klutz.

I think Brown’s character, specifically the lack of charisma or warmth will prevent him being able to bring it back. When problems hit Brown will never be able get away with a winning smile and a “I’m a pretty straight sort of guy” or “well, John is John”, he can’t charm he was out of problems, can’t convince people that, whatever has gone wrong, he is fundamentally a decent chap doing his best. Neither has he yet shown any ability to project a vision or purpose for his government that the public can relate to, perhaps in other circumstances that wouldn’t matter, competence would be enough, but to differentiate himself from Blair he needs to. He also doesn’t seem to have the knack of keeping the press onside – from having Fleet Street at his feet he seems to have alienated them rapidly, without a turnaround in press attitude it will be difficult for Brown to turnaround the government’s position.

So putting my cards on the table, I think Brown is finished. I don’t mean that expect Labour to attempt to get rid of him, but that I doubt Labour under him have the ability to regain a lead in the polls. It wouldn’t surprise me if they recovered slightly as they get away from the negative news stories of the last few months, but I think the underlying position is now a Conservative lead. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Labour will lose the next election, they have an advantage in the electoral arithmetic, there is always the potential for “events” to change the whole world around and while I think governments lose elections, rather than oppositions winning them, it is still possible for an opposition to lose one. I’ll come to that in the next post.


32 Responses to “New Year round-up: Labour”

  1. I agree with this analysis. I think Brown had a great chance, and squandered by obsessing over how best to undermine his rivals. He ended up appearing too partisan a figure, and lost statesman like image he seemed to be building up. I think Cameron managed to drag him down to party games- onto territory where the likeable more nimble man with less gravitas – held the advantage.

    I think the reason why the prediction that Brown is finished is fair, is because the government, as I’ve said before, had no cards left, no ability to renew itself through the passing of legislation. Things like ID cards and road pricing are certainly courageous and deep reforms, but they are not likely to be at all popular. What Brown needs is for Cameron to slip up- for some damaging revalation about his private life to come out, or something like that. In particular, what would look great was some kind of crisis, which could show Brown as safe and competent, and Cameron as shallow and opportunistic. That is what Labour has been trying to do for some months. It’s a good strategy, but I think they need some events to fall in their favour to carry this branding through and make it appear convincing.

    I also think we are left with the conclusion that style beats substance virtually every time. I have to say, I always thought that this obsession with substance and solidness was just a romantic idea that such things actually matter in politics at all any more, and was based on an optimistic evaluation of the political sophistication of the public. The fact is that dourness, competent adminsitration, pedantic correctness and shrewd judgement is no match for a nice smile and a bit of charm. That is the way modern politics is, and I don’t see that ever changing. We are left with the inescapable conclusion that the public were sick of Tony Blair, but still as enamored as ever with Blairite style.

  2. It’s hard to disagree with anything here, but I’m troubled by the idea that it’s Brown’s personality that is the problem for Labour.

    Cameron’s policy change on the NHS (Free at the point of need was the theme of his first speech as leader) was a turning point for me, making the Tories less of a threat to my own sense of what is good for us. Just as we in 1997 were no longer looking forward to re-nationalisation of industry and unilateral disarmament, we are similarly no longer looking forward to at least one plank of “old-Tory” ideology (NHS privatisation).

    Personally, I’m driven to distraction by the constant measurement of performance in the public services, and the suspicion that far too great a proportion of spending goes on the measurement of the spending, and far too little on that which is being bought.

    The next turning point was the irresistible proposition to charge non-doms £20k a year for the privilege of their non-dom tax status. Whether that money goes to valuable estates, or not, it caught the imagination of the public, who are looking for more of the same.

    Together, my humble opinion is that these three aspects (protect the NHS and spend less on measurement, and raise tax from foreigners) have done more to turn things around than Brown’s lack of personal charm.

    Conversely, Brown’s potential to turn things back around depend not on a personal impact course (heaven protect us from a baseball cap!), but on new policies which catch the public’s imagination and re-assure weary taxpayers that we’re getting value for money.

    And luck in buckets full!

  3. John tt – I won’t answer the specifics, since exactly what drove the Tory recovery in October makes up a lot of the second post.

    Generally speaking though, the idea that things as superficial and silly as what the party leaders look like, or whether they are a nice chap we’d have a beer with matter more than solid policy is one we recoil from. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true – I bang on about it a lot in the post from 2006 about Brown linked to from the article above, so I won’t repeat it all here.

    There was a study conducted in 1976 by Efran and Patterson, quoted in Robert Cialdini’s Influence, where they looked at the performance of federal candidates in Canadian elections: candidates that were thought attractive got 2 and a half times more votes than those who weren’t. Unsurprisingly if you asked people whether the attractiveness of candidates had an effect on their vote only 14% entertained the possibility and 74% said definitely not. People don’t consciously vote for the chap with the nice hair, we all think we are acting on a rational, logical basis (well, most of us. My wife insists she just votes for the best looking candidate, but I think she says it just to annoy me), but actually all those rational decisions are riven through by our unconscious prejudices.

    Most people don’t have a clue about what party policies are (from polls we know that support or opposition to a specific policy is often heavily influenced by which party suggested it). I would argue that it’s all down to party image and the party leader embodies that and makes up a fair chunk of that. Policies can also affect it of course: people like a party that stands for something, that has ideas and so on and that requires policies, policies are a tool for showing a party cares about this issue or that…but in terms of winning support they are a means of changing party image, not an end in themselves.

    If you follow politics at all then you want to believe that people pay attention, and we all want to believe that people make careful rational decisions about which party is best, which has the most practical and workable policies and so on before casting their vote. I think that is wishful thinking.

  4. Luke W, and Anthony, your comments are both pretty depressing if correct (as I’m sure they are).

  5. Yes, they are somewhat dpressing. I think what Anthony says about superficial factors subconciously affecting us is where the answer truely lies. Very few people would ever literally think ‘I’ll vote for that nice Tony’ or ‘I like that smiley Cameron more than miserable Brown’ but it does affect perceptions, in ways we don’t conciously notice. They affect us, even if we assume we are rational actors. It’s true in life as much as in politics. People like good looking, charming people and think them better at things.

    The rise of style over subtance politics is, I think, dates back some way, but has only become really dominant in the last 15 years or so.

  6. I’m sure history proves that strong and charming personalities prevail – the efficacy of voice lessons for politicians in the last century have ameliorated worse “personalities” than Brown’s. Nothing can change the “per sona” more effectively than a tweak in the sound dept.

    Of course people deny that they base opinions on looks, but that’s a problem with the question (ie “Are you shallow?”) rather than the honesty of the person being asked. Sorry to dismiss Efran and co, but it sounds like an experiment whose results could accurately have been written without research.

    My point is that personalities are linked with policies far more intrinsically than you make out. The “free at the point of need” speech would not have had such an impact if delivered by, say, Michael Howard (the policy simply wouldn’t match the persona, and the message would not have had the same impact) and nor would a “let’s sweep away bureaucracy” speech have sounded as good from John Major’s voice as it does from some-one with a more “exciting” sound. The policies he has espoused so far work because they match the persona.

    I had thought Cameron’s best bet was to keep quiet on policy matters and allow Brown to lose rather than trying to win, but I’ve changed my mind.

    It’s not the policies alone that will prevail, nor is it solely the person, but a combination of both that produces something appealing – even if it is just a nebulous “je ne sais quoi”.

    Brown does have some scope to come up with policies that combine with his personality to produce that effect, but he’ll need a lot of luck to find them and be able to enunciate them.

  7. A very fair analysis I think, very interesting to read. I generally agree with everything you comment on about the current political climate – there is in air of ‘stagnantism’ which further more is made more apparent since I think its widely thought that Brown alone doesn’t have the ability to disperse it. I’m 18 and having spent most of my life under Labour, I feel distinctly disappointed by a squandered period of prosperity which has for the most part been managed poorly. I think this is reflected by the low regard that many people that I talk to hold against politicians, I think that is the legacy of Labour.

    Although many people my age I talk to who are politically minded are distinctly anti-Labour, Brown has never been liked as a public figure and this is reduced simply to the fact that he appears entirely ‘not’ the sort of person to pin ideas of progressive ideology or aspiration to. From my point of view, that is his fundamental flaw. That, and him being in political terms too ‘left’ but thats not a general comment. The mood of people that I come across is one which conveys the sense that Labour’s long reign of governance is coming to an end. That said, the Tories are filling the void out of default, not out of genuine popularity I think. It’s the conversion of temporary advantage to relative permanent stability which Brown has failed to achieve, as you have said, and I hope that Cameron doesn’t make the same mistake (although I fear he is).

  8. Quite obviously, looks and charm and PR have always been important, but in the past, I think, one had to have a bit of substance.

  9. If Brown’s only problem was “likeability” then I think this would be serious, and probably terminal, but in a way it would be unfair. Friends who have met him (I never have) say he is in fact quite charming in friendly company. However he has some very fundamental problems:
    1. He finds it very difficult to make decisions
    2. He finds it very difficult to trust people unless they are in his inner circle.
    3. He finds it very difficult to delegate
    4. He cannot communicate an inspiring vision.
    5. He does seem to believe in State Control, provided he is in control of the state.
    6. He un-necessarily alienates people.

    I don’t think anyone who knows him, however much they like him, would deny that he has these problems (though I have prudently refrained from asking the closer friends of his that I know). Any 2 of these problems would be very serious for a PM – all 6 are probably terminal, with or without the likeability factor.

  10. Terrific analysis Anthony-I agreed with it all -but for two caveats:-

    Your last paragraph is a bold one.The onset of the New Year clearly prompts a conclusion of some sort-but I will feel more certain about prospects for Brown after the Local Elections and six months distant from the frenetics of Nov/Dec. 2007

    I think you make a telling point about the average punter’s lack of understanding ( I would say interest in) of Policies-and reliance on gut impressions of personality. However I do think there is a ” what affects me” factor at work as well.Obviously this varies across regions communities , social groups and individuals-but it is there and sometimes it coalesces into a nationwide feeling-either positive or negative. I think GB has a couple of these growing just now-both negative.

    Can’t wait for your Cameron analysis !

  11. Anthony,

    As you are pretty close to what I put in my last post on labour closing the gap, you won’t be surprised that i tend to agree with you.

    What it does question is the methodology and rational of the YouGov panel, in that it is based on a group that on the basis of your assessment probably doesn’t reflect the general population at all.

    Maybe that’s the reason despite my repeated requests YouGov hasn’t done a megapoll… because it can’t. Even with 40,000 people in the panel the majority are so politicised that at the most you can put together 3-4,000.

    Those 2,500 sized polls are balanced and accurate but beyond that larger and with a self selecting panel you wouldn’t get any better results.

    As to GB and Labour, I think you are right as far as it goes. That’s not a criticism but rather that i think the regional differences and differences issue by issue are as important as party by party.

    So I’d for obvious reasons prefer it to focus on areas or issues rather than party.

    Having said that a fourth one on Scotland or the SNP wouldn’t go amiss.

    Peter.

  12. Anthony Wells

    I totally agree with your conclusions. Although you certainly don’t need to be a rocket scientist to come to them.

    My problem is whether David Cameron will do what needs to be done to sort this country out for the benefit of freedom prosperity and individual liberty. Firstly because I am not at all certain he wants or is designed to do such an almost impossible thing. Secondly because the British media and the big money corporate interests that control them, will not allow him to.

    The establishment even including the royal family did not like Thatcher or Thatcherism, to say the least. As Thatchers ideology was anti-establishment and far to close to the true wises of the British people, then they will ever allow again. How or why the establishment did put up with her for any amount of time at all, is still a mystery to me.

    The best I can come up with is that they never thought for one moment a women would win in the first place either by the party or the electorate.

    The Falklands war was devised and organized to destroy her, but unfortunately for them, the plan backfired big-time. Also they underestimated Thatchers ‘pig headedness’ or in other words her personal one track determination to do what she believed was right.

    Give Cameron half a term and I think we might all know the answers to these questions.

  13. “Brown is finished” – that could be one to drag back from the archives nearer to an election.

  14. NBeale – how likeable he is in person doesn’t really matter, since most people will never meet him in the flesh it’s how he comes across on telly. Tony Blair could have been an utter swine in private, what mattered was that he came across as a likeable, normal sort of guy in public.

    I’ve never met Brown, but I’ve always found Michael Howard to be immensely charming and kind in person. It didn’t matter squat, since on the telly he did indeed come across as sinister and unpleasant. People I know who know Brown say he is likeable enough in person, but I don’t think they’d deny that it doesn’t come across on the telly.

  15. Peter – “Maybe that’s the reason despite my repeated requests YouGov hasn’t done a megapoll”

    The YouGov panel is mostly recruited pro-actively based on what groups are needed at that moment, very few are people who sign up themselves through the website (who would probably be too politically aware). So if the panel had too many political aware people then people would be recruited using targeting at other groups, focusing on sports, celebrities, tv or something.

    We do quite a lot of playing about using split samples testing different wordings and so on, seeing if ascribing policies to a party or a leader make a difference and so on, I don’t think the panel are any more sophisicated than the general public.

    (The reason they’ve ignored your requests for a megapoll is you haven’t offered to pay the tens of thousands of pounds it would cost ;) )

  16. I don’t think there’s anyone interested in British politics who hasn’t heard the problems NBeale has listed, whether they’re true or not may be debatable though. Nrown’s personality isn’t liked, but the problems are now deeper as he lacks the substance required due to those flaws . . . if you believe those accusations are correct.

    The danger for Brown is that he has it seems at the moment neither substance nor charisma. The potential good news is that if he can somehow regain that substance appeal then he might not be “finished”. I doubt it though. I think Anthony’s logic is sound.

    Contrary to received wisdom I suspect Brown’s sole chance of re-election is for the opposition to lose the election.

  17. Anthony.I agree with all your comments.One factor you do not mention, which has always been recognised as crucial- the extent to which a party is seen to be divided on one or more crucial issues. Is it not true that no party has been elected to power when a division has been generally obvious? For the Cons, it was Europe in 1997.For NuLab, it is the conflict with the Left and the Unions over aspects of policy. This can be papered over by a clever politician, given the determination in the party to win and stay in power. GB is not capable of doing this, so that the Left/Right conflict is now much more likely to tear the party apart-in public.

  18. Things can only get worse for Labour from now on. There is certain to be an economic downturn and Gordon Brown’s philosophy of strength-through-spending will die a death now that easy credit has dried up. What facinates me is how much longer Labour is prepared to keep its full-employment line going. The Labour party website proclaims ‘full employment in a global economy’ yet with experts forecasting mainstream unemployment of 1.8 million over the next 12 months it can’t be long before the full employment lie must surely die.

  19. [b]” think Brown’s character, specifically the lack of charisma or warmth will prevent him being able to bring it back. When problems hit Brown will never be able get away with a winning smile and a “I’m a pretty straight sort of guy” or “well, John is John”, he can’t charm he was out of problems, can’t convince people that, whatever has gone wrong, he is fundamentally a decent chap doing his best. Neither has he yet shown any ability to project a vision or purpose for his government that the public can relate to, perhaps in other circumstances that wouldn’t matter, competence would be enough, but to differentiate himself from Blair he needs to. He also doesn’t seem to have the knack of keeping the press onside – from having Fleet Street at his feet he seems to have alienated them rapidly, without a turnaround in press attitude it will be difficult for Brown to turnaround the government’s position.

    So putting my cards on the table, I think Brown is finished. I don’t mean that expect Labour to attempt to get rid of him, but that I doubt Labour under him have the ability to regain a lead in the polls. It wouldn’t surprise me if they recovered slightly as they get away from the negative news stories of the last few months, but I think the underlying position is now a Conservative lead. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Labour will lose the next election, they have an advantage in the electoral arithmetic, there is always the potential for “events” to change the whole world around and while I think governments lose elections, rather than oppositions winning them, it is still possible for an opposition to lose one. I’ll come to that in the next post.”[/b]

    Ouch!!!!!!!! Thats a pretty devastating critique of Brown’s many character flaws, but I think your right Anthony. In time Gordon Brown will see as one of the greatest tragic figures in British history.

  20. “One of the greatest tragic figures in British history?”-rather an overstatement, don’t you think? In future history books of the period, he will be lucky to figure as a footnote.

  21. I don’t know. Here you have a guy thats spent his whole like plotting and scheming to get the top job. Here is a guy that spent ten years sulking and building up his power base and trying to undermine his much more glamerous and likeable boss. He has worked ever day of his life for that moment when he stood and the steps of 10 Downing St. anf promised to do his upmost.

    And what happened?

    He was completely unsuited to the job. He looked and sounded bad. He was psychologically flawed in a way that means he was destined to be a disaster from day one. The public found him unlikeable and a freak.

    It is rather tragic, when you think about it.

  22. Just an aside – to those saying that the way a politician is perceived on television is a recent phenomenon – I can remember the Tories’ appointment of Alec Douglas-Home in about 1963 being criticised for that very reason.

    (for those who don’t remember, he was very old and looked like an animated skeleton, with skin stretched tight over his skull. Gerald Scarfe did some devastating cartoons)

  23. Really interesting dicussion Anthony. Nice to see someone bold enough to stick their neck out. Expect you are about to do the same on your next post [before all Tories get too carried away – electoral maths and all that].

    As for Gordon Brown, I agree with much of what has been said. I was in the audience on Question Time before Michael Howard was leader. On he bowled in to polite but insistent booing. I was surprised at the charm and good natured friendliness with which he greeted it. So was most of the audience, who softened. Didn’t come across on TV.

    If Brown’s character flaws are as painted in the media [and clearly articulated by NBEALE] he is in real trouble. There is too much talk of a paralysis at the heart of government/nothing gets done without 30 seconds with Gordon/Frank Field’s comments etc.. for it all to be a figment of a collective hysterical imagination.
    The key is the difference between being a leader and a deputy. A leader has to have confidence in their OWN judgement….to choose people to make decisions. Brown doesn’t have that confidence. There will be an ever increasing group of collegues who become increasingly frustrated.
    COMPTETANCE. That was Gordon. Didn’t even bother with the other stuff. That card is no longer ace high. Labour can’t draw another from the deck. They are a busted flush in terms of popularity. Sorry, that metaphor went on too long…which leads me to my next point…so will Labour. The trouble for them is that if the electoral maths allows them to hang on they will only get more and more unpopular [all other things being equal and the opposition not shooting itself in the foot]. The more you are resented when you leave, the longer it takes for the public to be willing to give you another chance. If Kinnock had been more public/media acceptable, I believe the Tories would have lost, but not as badly. The Tories were deeply resented because their was a perception public HAD to keep them in, almost by default. If they CAN’T get rid of the Gov. even if they vote to… now that will be resented.

  24. “(The reason they’ve ignored your requests for a megapoll is you haven’t offered to pay the tens of thousands of pounds it would cost)”

    And I am not going to even if it confirms people worst stereotype about Scots. Although it would only cost thousands of pounds if you paid people and you could always say it was a one off and they need only reply if they wanted, or just give a token prize.

    Besides,

    http://www.advfn.com/p.php?pid=ukfinancials&symbol=LSE%3AYOU

    It’s not as if you can’t afford it.

    Peter.

  25. One way Brown could save his bacon would be to call an election or referendum. What motivates the man to cling to power when it is not what the majority want and is arguably not in the nation’s interest?

    Brown call an election. If you lose at least history will see you as a man of honour. The longer you cling to power, the lower your legacy will fall.

  26. Atlas,

    “The Falklands war was devised and organized to destroy her, but unfortunately for them, the plan backfired big-time.”

    Even for you this idea is looney tunes…..

    Peter

  27. P Banks – re. Alec Douglas Home
    Those of us whose memories do go back to that period will also remember that, even with an obviously unsuitable leader, at the fag-end of a long period in government, with a very strong feeling of “time for a change”, the Tories very nearly clung on – Wilson’s majority was only 3.
    And, another historical aside, Wilson was not widely liked or trusted before becoming Prime Minister (in fact he was accused of many of the same “faults” as Brown) – but he gradually “grew on” people during his time in office, even if he was never greatly loved.

  28. Anthony – I agree with your comments that Brown is finished and that Labour can’t win another election with him at the helm. This throws up a number of other questions.

    Will Brown actually survive as Labour leader till the next election ?

    How long will it be before there are murmurings abot the leadership within the Labour party?

    And how long can Brown stand the regular pastings he has to endure from Cameron at PMQs every Wednesday?

  29. I think the real issue for Brown is that he is tainted by Blair, in that he is not ‘new’. Cameron is new. All other events being equal that means Brown is always behind as voters get bored with the old (and dislike old policies – Iraq). Cameron is clean. This, of course, means Conservatives should not recycle old policies…

  30. I could not better the analysis presented by Anthony when taken together with NBeale’s succint sumimg up of Brown’s defects.It is possible to feel some sympathy for the Prime Minister until one recalls his appalling behaviour towards Tony Blair over the previous 10 years. He should have at the very least have been moved from the Treasury after 4 or 5 years to a department where his aspirations and capabilities to succeed to the top job could have been better assessed by party and public alike. He would never have passed that test. Labour are stuck with Gordon Brown until the next election whether they like it or not and the longer he hangs on the worse it is going to get-for him and for them. As a result by 2010 the desire for a change is bound to be greater than it is today-it could overwhelm all other factors.

  31. Very interesting piece by Anthony, and the replies.

    I think a Tory lead in votes is the underlying position (although Labour could achieve a lead at certain moments including an election squeak in 1992 style, although it wouldn’t be on as impressive a share of the vote as Major’s then, and they will win some 2005 LD votes).

    The lack of scandals and gaffs might narrow the gap in the polls – for a few weeks or months anyway. We had a couple of polls over xmas which indicate that may have started, although we’ll need to see more on that, because we also had a C 45% mid December.