Is this the Achilles heel of the Chancellor’s leadership ambitions?
FACT: Since December 6th 2005, the date of Cameron’s election, there has not been a single poll where the Chancellor was doing better than his party when the question of “Who would you vote for if Gordon Brown was Labour leader?” was asked.
Similarly I cannot find a single poll in three years before Cameron became Tory leader where the Chancellor was doing worse than his party when the same question was put.
So today’s Populus poll finding in the Times which has the Tories 10% ahead if Cameron was up against Brown compared with the 8% to the main General Election voting intention question is not a surprise. It’s a continuation of a polling phenomena that has been seen time and time again over the past six months.
Of course it will be said that we should be highly sceptical of hypothetical poll questions like this. Correct. We should be highly sceptical of ALL poll findings. But when the same effect is seen repeatedly across a range of pollsters over a significant period of time then it become much harder to dismiss.
The hard fact is – and this will be picked up and used by Lucky Tony and his team – is that Brown is not the vote winner that he might have appeared before Cameron came along.
And if you were a Labour MP in a marginal seat would you back a leadership change that the polls show would extend the Tory margin? That appears to be a no-brainer.
I have a theory about what’s happening in these surveys and this has little to do with Gordon Brown. For these questions involve linking the names of the leaders or prospective leaders with their party and when Cameron is attached to Conservative his party gets a boost.
Brand “Cameron’s Conservatives” is much stronger than the “Conservatives” alone. This was why I argued a couple of weeks ago that the “Dave the Chameleon” PPBs were pretty dumb. For in a small way they helped the Tories improve their tarnished identity by linking their new leader to it.
It has been reported that this approach was the brain-child of Gordon Brown. If that was the case I would be worried if I was a Labour activist.
Meanwhile claims in parts of the media – including the Times and the BBC – this morning that this is Labour lowest poll rating since 1992 are wrong. A Populus Poll for the News of the World on September 24th 2004 had the party on 28% behind the Lib Dems on 29% and the Tories on 32%.
This came out on the Sunday before Blair’s famous annoucement the following Thursday that he would stand down before the end of his third term.
In the Labour leadership betting Brown is now at 0.37/1.