Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Is the Brown bounce really over??

. Andrew Grice writing for The Independent thinks so; 'the second Brown bounce' is over he declares;

"Ministers will not be surprised by the results. They were shaken by the sharp rise in unemployment announced last week and know there is worse to come in January and February, since many firms have delayed job cuts until after Christmas. They know, too, that Brown could not defy the normal laws of political gravity for much longer. The ComRes poll will dampen the rather silly speculation about a general election early next year."

Looking at the headline figures you could be forgiven for thinking Grice was right; the Conservative lead has increased . However, further investigation makes the 'silly' speculation look slightly more sensible; questioned if the election were held 'during a recession' the Tory lead is slashed from 5% back down to 1%. If the election was held during a 'recovery' then the two parties are tied on 37%. So, better to wait until 2010 then surely?? Only if you think the economy will have actually recovered by then which is highly unlikely in my eyes.

One of the arguments that has not been addressed in the early election debate is that the government may well be left with little choice. As soon as Parliament returns it is facing at least two potentially embarrassing defeats over welfare reform and a third runway at Heathrow and another potentially numerically significant rebellion from it's own benches over the Royal Mail proposals. It's attitude will be determined by the early economic data about the Christmas/January retail performance.

The poll shows a clear margin in favour of lower taxes over public spending which makes waiting till 2010 even more risky for Brown because the planned 2011 hike in NIC's will be squarely in peoples minds at that point. However, I am kind-of tempted to put that down to the period of time we are actually in when people naturally want more money in their pockets. I also feel that the polling findings on such things have thus far been erratic which perhaps reflects a degree of uncertainty about how people feel it is best to go forward.

It being the Christmas period does make polling somewhat unpredictable as Anthony Wells points out and indeed some of the above figures don't make much sense. Our figure is static at 16%, loses 2% in the recession scenario and gains 2% back in the recovery one. Overall, the picture that we are left with as the year ends is one of a shrunk Conservative lead and a much tighter race between the two main parties with us stuck somewhere in the middle.

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