Friday, 19 December 2008

Gordon Brown; back down to earth with a bump in the New Year??

. I'd like to take-up a theme that Vince Cable spoke on earlier, UK Polling Report has an article which tackles the question head-on. It reports that the Tories are still odds-on favourites to win the next election despite the fact that recent polls have shown a narrowing gap. Anthony Well's says that this will be due to worsening conditions and the fact that those polled are 'very pessimistic':

"Asked if the economy is getting better or worse people are overwhelmingly negative - in MORI’s latest poll 66% expected the economy to get worse next year."

However, he points to contrasts in the prevailing pessimism. He says;

"there is a sharp contrast between people’s expectations of their own families finances and that of the country as a whole. The difference is sharpest in Populus’s questions - the net score for expections of the economy as a whole is minus 35, for “me and my family” it’s plus 7 (51% think they personally will do well in the next 12 months, 44% badly). In TNS’s regular surveys of consumer confidence for Nationwide the net score for the public’s expectation of the economy in 6 months is minus 23, but for people’s own household it is exactly neutral (16% think they’d be doing better, 16% worse)."

However, he also says that alot of those who feel they will buck the trend actually won't; the real question however, is will this 'reality check' lead to blame falling on the governments head?? Pinning the current crisis on Gordon Brown's head is something that neither opposition party has managed although thankfully we have avoided focusing too much on that strategy. The changes in Pre-Budget Report seem to me to have created this feeling that families can 'buck the trend' and it is not totally without grounding. When I was writing a blog on the Institute for Fiscal Studies report into the PBR it did strike me how much it's largess mostly fell upon families with children.

Contrast this with most polling that tells us most people didn't rate the PBR and you seem to have a confusing picture indeed. Well's throws something else into the mix;

"While all polls show people very pessimistic about the economy, almost all the trackers of public confidence in the economy show it heading upwards since the summer."

Well's definatly hits on what seems to explain this paradox well when he says;

"The recovery in economic confidence though tells the underlying truth; people may not be able to point at a specific policy and say it will solve things, but collectively the government’s actions have served to convince some people that things are getting better."

In times of crisis people want governments to govern and lead and reassure; it is a natural instinct and it makes Brown's 'do nothing' refrain against David Cameron look like a very astute piece of political positioning, which, in all fairness it is; he maybe flat-footed when it comes to anything but the economy but frankly right now the economy is all that matters to people. Well's say this is down to people looking for experience which it probably is but above all it is people looking for government.

He notes that this government has bucked the trend of people blaming the government. Why?? Why are they not turning like they did on Major after the crisis of the early 90's sunk his government without trace?? Quite simply because peoples preceptions of Brown are that he knows what he is talking about and is a safe pair of hands economically speaking where as Major was perceived, not without justification it has to be said, as a weak leader and a ditherer. Kinnock lost in 92 because he was perceived as not being trustworthy enough to hand the reins of the economy over too but neither was Major exactly trusted with it either and subsequent events confirmed the perceptions people had; the Tories were duly hammered at the polls in 1997.

Cameron faces a similar problem this time around only a little worse because there is a growing view that Brown is 'solid' where as Major was never viewed that way; however, that could all change. It is unlikely to change though just by a continuation of this crisis; Cameron has already lost that argument and would be wise to stop actively pursuing it. What it will take is a cataclysmic event, a 'crisis-within-a-crisis', to start the polls swinging back into Tory landslide territory.

Far more dangerous to the governments position is the possibility of 'burn-out' or fatigue where people just get sick and tierd of the whole show and turn ruthlessly on the government. However, this is a slow burning process and incidentally is a great reason from Brown's view not to wait until 2010 to go to the polls. What will happen?? We shall see...

No comments: