A new ICM poll in Friday’s Guardian shows little change from ICM’s poll in the Sunday Mirror last week, with voting intentions of CON 36%(-1), LAB 32%(-1), LDEM 22%(+1). There is no substantial conference boost yet for the Liberal Democrats, but the poll was conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, so they may yet benefit from a smoothly run conference. The poll does suggest that the drop for the Conservatives in the ICM/Sunday Mirror poll was more than just a blip.

As usual the Conservative lead increased slightly when people were asked how they would vote with Gordon Brown as Labour leader (37% to 31%). Asked to compare Cameron and Brown on various criteria, Brown was more trusted to make the right decisions (by 32% to 25% for Cameron), but on eight other measures Cameron was preferred to Brown. Cameron was seen as more enthusiastic, more honest, more capable of working with colleagues, as having the more pleasant personality (even by Labour voters). Brown meanwhile was seen as more arrogant and more likely to stab colleague in the back. 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 – but overall Brown’s image obviously is damaging him. Asked who woul make the better Prime Minister, Cameron had a 3 point advantage over Brown (35% to 32%).

Attitudes towards the Labour government were also negative – 62% of people thought Labour was not working in the country’s best interests, 64% think it has run out of steam, 62% think it does not deserve to win the next election. What should be most worrying for Labour is that, as noted in the headline above, 70% think it is “time for a change”. In an article for the Times back in 2002, Nick Sparrow and Dennis Kavanagh wrote that only four messages, four narratives, really had an effect in general elections – “let us finish what we started”, “don’t let them ruin it”, “their policies won’t work” and “time for a change”. Simple though it might be, once a government looks old and tired, if the opposition looks new and fresh it’s a powerful message. Labour need to hope that Gordon Brown is enough of a change to satisfy the public’s desire.

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