The Conservative’s most powerful card at the next election will be “time for a change”. Put aside personalities, specific policies and so on – the four big messages that win or lose an election are “Let us finish what we started”, “Don’t let them ruin it”, “Their policies won’t work” and “Time for a change”. If the idea that it is time for a change takes hold in the publics’ minds, there will be precious little Labour can do to stop themselves being swept away.

In September last year ICM found that 70% of people thought it was time for a change. What Labour need to hope is that replacing Tony Blair with Gordon Brown is enough of a change to meet that public demand. Clearly they are doing their best to portray a message of change – Gordon Brown used the word ‘change’ eight times in his first statement as PM, the cabinet reshuffle changed all but one post. Will it be enough?

An ICM poll for the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, conducted on Thursday and Friday, so largely after the cabinet reshuffle, found that 13% thought the Brown government would be a big change for the better, 26% thought it would be a small change for the better. 15% thought it would be a change for the worse. 40% of people thought it would be “no real change at all”.

The YouGov poll in the Telegraph on Saturday asked a very similar question – 30% thought Brown would be a positive change, 17% a negative change, 41% no change at all.

Should those figures be taken as good news or bad news for Gordon Brown? Only somewhere between 30-40% of people think he will be a positive change, but at least a majority think he will be a change. The real test will be if the pollsters ask that “time for a change” question again in a couple of months time, and we see how much the demand for change has been sated.

Meanwhile, the first Scottish poll since the Scottish Parliament elections, carried out by YouGov for the SNP has shares of the constituency vote at CON 14%, LAB 31%, LDEM 12%, SNP 38%. At the regional level support stands at CON 14%, LAB 28%, LDEM 10%, SNP 33%, Greens 7%, SSP 5%, Solidarity 1%.

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