How it went wrong

I have a long post up on PoliticsHome looking at how Labour got into the position of being 20 points behind, based on the daily data produced by their Phi5000 panel.

It’s very clear that the point when their reputation really crumbled was during the 10p tax row, when approval of the government collapsed, they were seen as increasingly divided and the last few shreds of Gordon Brown’s reputation for competence fell away. In contrast, the Conservative increase then is still mostly just a result of them looking good when compared to Labour – their negatives have reduced, but there is no obvious positive boost for them. The exception is Cameron himself, whose reputation has improved significantly since the local elections and mayoral elections, particularly in terms of competence and effeciency.

Still, that is how we got here. If you look at the graphs over on the post you can also see a couple of wobbles in the Conservative ratings over the last week or so, look particularly at the way the percentage of panellists who think the Conservatives are united has dropped, and those who aren’t clear what they stand for has increased since David Davis’s resignation.

9 Responses to “How it went wrong”

  1. Anthony, was it the 10p or the combination of that with the Budget? I was in India when the Budget was happening, returning just after and the press and blog posts showed a very different mood from before I left.
    0p row then started, and I agree this set the ongoing course of collapse, perhaps the budget would have been recoverable.

  2. Anthony. I think you will agree that it’s not that simple. The 10p tax fiasco was a disaster waiting to happen, what made it worse was Browns insane denial that it was a problem. Frankly the astonishing things about the current polls are:
    a. That there are still 25%+ of the population who say they’d vote Labour. Though many of these are in Scotland, the only part of the UK where Brown apparently doesn’t seem really odd.
    b. Cameron has managed to defeat Brown without having to disclose much in the way of policy. He is an incredible political operator!

  3. Clearly the current Tory surge is mostly anti-Brown/Labour than pro-Tory/Cameron. A friend of mine who lives in London has told me that the mood among people he knows is one of “Get the b******* out!” rather than people thinking the Tories will make things better. To my mind that raises the question of what would happen if as in 1979, the Tories come up with a raft of policies that catch the public mood. Would this just entrench the current position or could it push the Tories een higher?

  4. Ted & NBeale – yes, when I say 10p tax rate, I mean the whole affair: the initial policy, the denials that it would impact on people, the Labour rebellion, the special budget to try and cancel out the damage – the whole shebang.

  5. The 10p tax debacle was clearly the single most significant problem for Brown’s Labour, but not the only one.

    I find it strange that little notice has been paid to the ongoing story of knife crime and how this has hit Brown’s standing regarding Law & Order, particularly as this demonstrates how he is failing at all levels.

    The State Of London debate focus on this issue shows how Conservatives in the capital are pushing this angle, but I don’t think it resonates across all their target areas, so maybe they are whistling to their hounds to avoid pointing out the bird because they know it wasn’t their shot.

    Secondly, Brown’s tactic for concentrating on wedge issues to substitute controversy and real debate for a political agenda provides the background for uncertainty and division which leaves him with the image of a ditherer.

    I think it is also important to recognise the combination effect of a succession of supposedly unrelated (procedural or systemic) problems (dataloss, redtape etc) which has left Brown punchdrunk and the media in a state of fevered anticipation neither knowing where the next attack will come or when the next problem will crop up.

    Partly the polls have been influenced by the tendency of rolling news to give any real news sufficient legs to charge ahead, but also because it makes any gaps in the agenda of government that much more glaring.

    The comparison can be drawn much more starkly in reverse by asking what exactly has driven the rise in Conservative fortunes (well, the LDs have gone nowhere). Is there any one thing which can be claimed in the Tories credit, or are they at least not winning the race to the bottom having brought Cameron to their front?

  6. Looking at the 10p issue, assuming that it was first noticed among the population after it came into effect on 1st April, the tail-off in Labour support shows a clear drop under 30% about three weeks later.

    So is three weeks a good estimate of the time lag between policy implementation and poll effect (as distinct from event influence)?

  7. If we’re looking at things that influence voting behaviour we have to look at those directly affecting people in their daily lives. Thus the 10p Tax change was seen as directly affecting people – they saw in their wage package the difference. Similarly price increases – fuel, food, etc. – are real and impact on people who don’t usually pay much attention to the fantasy world of Westminster.

    When people get affected the ylook at politics again and listen to the noises for a while – this time lots of people decided they’d had enough of labour and switched to Conservative. Many of these are not looking at politics now which makes it very difficult for Labour to recover.

    If Gordon wants a tip as to how to get their attention – cut fuel taxes now and suggest that an income tax cut is on its way in April. But he won’t do that will he…

  8. thomas said:

    “I think it is also important to recognise the combination effect of a succession of supposedly unrelated (procedural or systemic) problems…”

    Perhaps it the expectation that tomorrows newspaper will bring a new one that has most effect not only on the public, but on party morale as well.

  9. The 10p tax row is just part of the overall problem of taxation and the economic ‘feel bad factor’ currently envelping the nation.

    The fundamental problem is that Brown is a high-tax socialist, as I explain in my article here:

    It is not at all clear whether Brown can reverse his policies, and his beliefs, in order to win back public support. My guess is that he is too wedded to tax and spend policies to be willing to do so.