An ICM News of The World poll found that 57% of people thought Gordon Brown was responsible for the current shortfallin pension funds, with 44% of people saying that Brown’s handling of pensions will harm Labour at the next election.

Meanwhile, a BPIX poll conducted last month for the Observer for a special on ten years of Blair as PM, shows the public recording a negative verdict on his premiership. Only 6% of people rated Blair’s record as very good, with 20% rating him as a good PM. 29% said average, 21% poor and 21% very poor.

27% of people think the UK is a more successful place now than in 1997, but 38% disagree. Only 10% think the UK is more pleasant, with 61% disagreeing. 69% think Britain is more dangerous, 58% disagree that Britain is happier. The only areas where people do think that Britain has improved in the last ten years is attitudes towards minorities – 35% think the UK is better for disabled people, with 21% disagreeing; 51% think it is better for people from ethnic minorities, with 16% disagreeing and 61% think it is a better place for gays and lesbians, with only 5% disagreeing, though of course, for some people with socially conservative views these may not necessarily be seen as positive ratings for Labour.

Asked how they have performed on specific policy areas the economy emerges as Labour’s only saving grace. 38% of people think they have handled it well, with only 27% thinking they have done poorly, a positive rating of 7. In every other area BPIX asked about they had a net negative rating, on education minus 27, the environment minus 22, public sector reform minus 42, NHS minus 43, crime minus 51, transport minus 53. The lowest net rating for for “cleaning up politics and sleaze” – only 5% thought Labour had done a good job, with 67% thinking they had done poorly.

Asked about Blair’s biggest achievement, 23% said the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland, suggesting that perhaps Blair may yet have a positive legacy in the public’s mind in at least one area (although the poll was conducted about a week after the Northern Ireland assembly elections, so it was having a huge amount of publicity at the time). Second was Bank of England independence and the stable economy, both on 11%. His biggest failure was, unsurprisingly, unambigiously seen as Iraq – named by 58% of people.

Asked to rate how much they liked or disliked Blair himself on a 0-10 scale, 66% said they disliked him, with 26% saying they liked him. 56% of people said their opinion of Blair had become more negative over the last 10 years. When asked what words they associated with Blair, 49% thought he was too associated with spin, 45% out of touch, 43% untrustworthy, 38% insincere. The highest positive associations were “his own man” on 17%, competent 14% and principled 12%.

57% of people think that Blair has already stayed in office for too long, with a further 22% thinking a Summer departure would be about right. Only 9% think he is going too soon. And the future? 25% of respondents thought that history would treat Blair kindly and that he reputation would improve with the passing of time…35% of respondents thought it would get even worse.


24 Responses to “Verdicts on Brown and Blair”

  1. “27% of people think the UK is a more successful place now than in 1997, but 38% disagree. Only 10% think the UK is more pleasant, with 61% disagreeing. 69% think Britain is more dangerous, 58% disagree that Britain is happier. ”

    I suppose it depends on what is termed “successful”. The economy has grown continuously for the last 10 years so economically the verdict is wrong if based on that. Education spending and Teachers salaries have grown; teacher numbers also; and so has teacher prosperity: so no apparent reason there.

    It is I think a feeling of fatigue: lack of control on numbers arriving, ASB and pollution plus increasing central bureaucracy. Amongst many other problems of course. Any other thoughts?

  2. It’s fatigue: any government in power for a decade will suffer from it; plus disaffection over Iraq and alleged sleaze permeating into perceptions of the overall competence of the government in other areas, which without those two drags on opinion, would be viewed probably much more favourably.

    Herein lies Brown’s critical problem: he is inseparable from the ten year record which is why people are as weary (if not more so) of him as they are of Blair. They are both the past. The choice facing Labour is either to renew itself in government (which means opting for someone not part of the leadership that dates back to 1994) or wait for the voters to force it upon them at the next election.

    That so many in Labour seem hell-bent on pursuing the latter course is deeply troubling.

  3. “Education spending and Teachers salaries have grown; teacher numbers also; and so has teacher prosperity: so no apparent reason there.”

    Spending is a means to an end, not an end in itself. We may be spending more on education, but success ought to be measured on whether that expenditure is working? Can all young people read, write and add up for starters? Do young adults leave education with the learning and life skills they require from it? How do we compare to other OECD nations?

    Based on those metrics, one can easily make a case that the country has not been “successful”. Any fool can spend more money, getting results is success.

    But I agree, the poll is biased by the public’s fatigue. Watching BBC2’s Daily Politics “Perception Panel” during PMQ’s is interesting: It doesn’t matter what Blair says, he goes to speak on anything and the graph plummets. He could talk about Christmas (or Easter) and people wouldn’t approve.

  4. “Herein lies Brown’s critical problem: he is inseparable from the ten year record which is why people are as weary (if not more so) of him as they are of Blair.”

    s it me or is Brown, instead of being an asset as a Scot, a problem in Scotland for the Labour Party?

  5. Since 1946, no government has come into office with more goodwill, or higher hopes, not only from those who voted for it, but also from those who voted for minor parties. That goodwill has been squandered on less than a dozen issues, of which most might, in isolation, have been forgiven.

    Third term governments lose their way. Leaders surround themselves with Yes-men. When Russia was preparing a new constitution, one of their legislators was adamant that, if there was one thing that they should copy from America was the two terms limit for the head of government. He had a surprisingly long list of examples, Stalin, Mugabe and Thatcher among them, whose worst excesses were in the third term.

    Are there exceptions? Yes. Tito.

    Who else? Not many, I think.

    The consequenses of New Labours failure are awesome. Not only will their arrogance and ineptitude put them out of office, they are now on course to cause the break up of the United Kingdom, and possibly even reduce the party to third party status in both Scotland and England.

    What a “legacy.”

  6. “Is it me or is Brown, instead of being an asset as a Scot, a problem in Scotland for the Labour Party?”

    Well, the poll in the Sunday Times two days ago showed that even Scots think he’ll be a poorer PM than Tony Blair; he didn’t prove any help in the Dunfermline by-election and he doesn’t seem to be making much impact on the Scottish campaign, at least to date – but I don’t think it’s anything to do with him being Scottish – it’s just that wherever you live you’ve probably had enough of him!

    John B Dick: could you just clarify precisely HOW Labour might become the third party in Scotland and England – do you mean come third in terms of votes, seats or both, and in which elections: UK parliamentary, council or Scottish parliamentary? With respect, that’s quite ridiculous speculation, depending on what you’re actually claiming.

  7. In response to the above…I’m sorry, but “Stalin, Mugabe, and Thatcher”, in one breath?? I can’t be sure, but I do not think Mrs. T achieved office through, er, political executions, mass murder and rigged ‘elections’. Yet I do know that on some of the Marxist hard left there is little differentiation between parliamentary democracy and….Mugabe/Stalin, apparently. And Tito’s ‘third term’? When, betwen 1943 and 1980, would you place his third term? 1963-1967?

    Apologies for clogging the airwaves with this, but somebody had to say something..

  8. And what exactly has third term Labour done to cause the break-up of the UK? Devolution, which has created the imbalance of the WLQ and made this possible, was done in the first term.

  9. Perhaps, just for once, we could patronise less. Those sampled were asked very specific questions, and they gave fairly clear replies. Perhaps, just perhaps, most of them are capable of forming simple judgments in reply to simple questions and feel very let down.

  10. In this years budget, Brown referred to 58 successful quarters leading to the UK’s growth.

    As Labour have been in power 10 years that takes care of 40 quarters therefore the previous government had obviously set him on the right track in the first place.

    He has, of course, done untold damage to the pensions in this country.

    Jay

  11. Why “just for once” John – because the findings chime with how you feel perhaps?

    The issue is not patronising voters: the purpose of polls is to try to make objective judgements from what are subjective and frequently emotive answers.

    That’s not to patronise, but respondents do not always tell the truth (reference the need to adjust polls to correct for incorrect political affiliation recall or the consistent numbers who said they’d happily pay more tax for better public services during the 1980s and 1990s and then voting for the tax cutting, arguably under-investing Conservatives).

    Equally, one or two things that people feel very strongly about can distort someone’s views of an entire record, so if someone thinks the government is utterly corrupt because of cash-for-honours, they’re less likely to give them any credit for something a more objective observer might regard as having improved, like their local NHS provision, or their local school.

    And finally, there is the well-documented phenomenon of people feeling that their own experience may have improved but refusing to believe that this could possibly be true nationwide: so my hospital’s got a nice new A&E, but overall the NHS is much worse; my MP’s alright, but otherwise they’re all in-it-for-themselves crooks; etc.

    Sorry if I’m patronising you by explaining these things…

  12. if a couple of sons inherit a business in good shape and spend,spend spend,that is fine as long as the balance sheet can sustain it.they can give the impression,with no underlying improvement,all is well.big car,big house.

    if to sustain the illusion,they cut staff salaries,cut back on r and d ect there is a problem.
    the comment on this page is depressing.however much you all hate the conservative party,labour have had their opportunity and it has come to little.teachers pay was handed over to an independent body by the tories,so the excessive amounts lavished on teachers and nurses was pure self indulgence.

    doctors have now switched their support to cameron.this must be a great shock to the mandarins in the labour party.they could not be bought.it just does not work like that.

    people have clocked,the money had to come from somewhere for the massive pay rises,with no reform.
    it has come from them.

    the family business is not in good shape.it is not fatigue! just watch the news.crime high,family budgets squeezed,travel costs up,education no better.
    the coin has flipped,i am afraid boys.

  13. John, you rail against Labour “bias” from contributors here, (presumably – and actually a little inaccurately – including me) and then come up with a litany of whines that I’m sure Conservative hacks embittered by three electoral drubbings feel are self-apparent to all but the most rabid Labour supporters in the country.

    Except that your interpretation of the political situation isn’t where the public are – there’s an element of what you’re complaining about reflected in the polls, but to nowhere near the extent you seem to believe it is. And the easiest way for you to tell that is by looking at what your own party is pledging.

    Because David Cameron isn’t promising a sweeping roll-back of the State, is he? One of the very few concrete commitments he’s actually made is to put protecting services ahead of tax cuts. Now either he’s wrong about the public mood (and I think he is, to an extent – he could certainly be bolder), or you are, but you need to face facts: without Iraq and sleaze, Labour would almost certainly still be ahead – probably not by much, but ahead nonetheless – in the opinion polls.

    And before you dismiss the “fatigue” point out of hand, just remember back to 1997 and the number of people irrespective of which party they voted for who’ve said how “relieved” they were just to have a change after 18 years of one-party rule. I suspect even if Labour were to win a fourth term then by the end of it, irrespective of their record, this fatigue issue – already a factor now – will be almost as overwhelming as it was in 1997.

  14. “I suspect even if Labour were to win a fourth term then by the end of it, irrespective of their record, this fatigue issue – already a factor now – will be almost as overwhelming as it was in 1997.”

    Even in 1990/1992 the advent of John Major (who personally did very well in his own constituency) did not prevent the drift that subsequently took place. If the Scottish elections start to change the face of politics within the UK (and perhaps subsequent UK representation within the EU) then perhaps a re-alignment will be necessary anyway.

    David Milliband seems to be quoted a lot these days but I do not find many, outside local Political circles here, who have heard of him or understand anything he has done. Also, how much stature does he have within Labour to command any respect?

  15. Yet again we see a poll with Lib Dem stagnating at 16 or 17%, surely this means they will lose several seats at the next GE (?) and make them less likely to influence things. Ironic that Iraq is still hurting Blair, but not but doesn’t seem to help the Lib Dems that much. One wonders what their poll ratings would be without it and still with Ming.

  16. I know I am sad as I read this site regularly but to be honest I am hard pushed to put a face on David Miliband, let alone a voice. Surely a leader has to have public visibility…

  17. Adam: Re-Cameron not being as bold as he could be, that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s mis-read the public’s mood but rather that he’s playing safe.

    He could be bolder, but he doesn’t need to. Tories who wish he was bolder will vote for him anyway, by not being excessively with a “sweeping rollback of the state” he won’t alienate mainstream voters he needs to win over. He doesn’t need to pledge that to win them over. Furthermore, the public mood may now be at a point to accept the right of where he’s putting himself, but the election isn’t now. No point making himself a hostage of fortune today, when the election need not be for more than 3 years from now.

    As for the idea Labour would still be ahead if it were not for Iraq and sleaze, 2 response. 1: We do have Iraq and sleaze so that’s moot (beside which all 10 year old governments will have hit something by now). 2: I see no reason to believe that claim is accurate, but we can never know anyway.

    Re: Milliband – if he becomes leader he will get public visibility. How many know Cameron now vs knew him before Howard lost the last election and then resigned?

  18. re fatigue, there are actually a number of examples of one party staying in power for decades, without suffering electoral ‘fatigue’. But this only works if the party itself manages to renew itself, which in my view includes a clear break with the previous government even though it is from the same party. It is my view that in the UK this actually worked for Major in 1992, certainly at the beginning he did try to emphasise that he was different from Thatcher. But it didn’t work for long because in fact the Tories were still obsessed with Thatcherism.

    Labour is facing the same problem now: They would need someone to knife Blair, declare Blairism over and then the whole party must move on and ignore all things Blairite. I guess then they would even have a chance to win the next eledction. But Brown won’t do it, so he’ll lose.

  19. “Labour is facing the same problem now: They would need someone to knife Blair, declare Blairism over and then the whole party must move on and ignore all things Blairite”

    Greenpousse, you and Adam may be pointing to the same thing: a change in Leadership that is different from the last 10 years is needed if Labourn is to win another term. It needs to change more than just the leadership – or does it? After reading this mornings newspapers I am getting slightly confused as I am not an expert in these matters.

    I suppose it all depends on whether or not we really want the Labour Party to stay in Power!

  20. Is it not due time yet ?
    What i refer to is in the last year of the pre 1979, Labour Government and the last year of the pre 1997 Conservative one. There were parliamentary defections croossing the floor of House of Commons.
    Is anyone prepared to stick their neck out and give an opinion of any likely candiates.
    Either Labour to Conservative or LibDem to Conservative., or even dare I say it Labour to LibDem.
    Well as i said, perhaps things will get worce before that starts. But start it will, like rats deserting the sinking ship.

  21. Churchill crossed the floor of the house twice, and nobody would criticise him nowadays.

    But for most who’ve crossed they’ve ended their careers soon after in obscurity. The old saying “never trust a double-crosser” still bears weight, making it increasingly unlikely I think that MPs will cross the floor. Especially serious ones.

    That said, there are a few names of people (Lib or Lab) I could imagine fitting well as “liberal Conservatives” and who could cross the floor.

    At the end of the day though, I don’t think its good for people’s careers – and that matters more than most are prepared to admit.

  22. If labour get a drubbing in Scotland I wonder if any “leftwing’ ( if there are any left) Labour MSP’s might be tempted by the SNP or LibDems.

    Peter.

    Anthony,

    As someone else was asking, any chance of a Scotland voting intentions page update.

  23. John, Greenpousse and I may be saying the same thing, but from totally different perspectives – Greenpousse seems to be arguing for Labour to commit electoral suicide by electing someone like John McDonnell as leader just so the party can say “hey look, we think the past ten years has all been a collosal mistake. On that, the far left and the far right are – as usual – united, but again it’s not where the public are.

    In terms of how substantial a change is needed, let’s again look at what Labour’s problem is: it’s essentially Iraq, sleaze and fatigue with Blair/Brown. It’s not the fundamental new Labour agenda: public sector reform, more investment in education and a sound economy. With the Tories in 1992 it was essentially the Poll Tax and fatigue with Thatcher. Major didn’t massively redirect the Conservative’s agenda – he just nullified poll tax as an issue and offered a different style of government to Thatcher.

    Miliband isn’t associated with Iraq, he’s not well known so there isn’t a fatigue issue and he offers a much calmer, more reasonable style than Brown can hope to.

    Philip Thompson – ok, you don’t buy my assertion that Labour would not still be ahead without Iraq and sleaze, but why not, other than wishful thinking that sooner or later they’re going to get buggin’s turn again? Oppositions don’t win elections – governments lose them.

    Do you really believe the last election would have been anywhere near as close without Iraq – and if you don’t wouldn’t that have made the electoral mountain the Tories have to climb even higher than it actually is? That matters, because part of the reason the Tories have been able to revive is that it’s not very hard to see Labour lose a majority (even though it’s very hard for the Tories to go from less than 200 seats to 325+ in one bound). In 2001 and 2005 it was beyond credulity to believe Labour with around 400 MPs could lose – and that created an aura of invincibility.

  24. i think that all this politic issu is full of irony
    and who is the loser in the end the poor people