Monday, February 26, 2007

Cameron versus Brown


Back after the half term break, and I notice that an opinion poll from last Tuesday has been causing a bit of a stir in several of the print media (notably the Sunday Telegraph and the Economist). ICM’s Guardian poll showed that, in a head to head, David Cameron would beat Gordon Brown by 13%. A lead the like of which the Tories haven’t dreamed of in over a decade!

Now polls are notoriously fickle. When they are not utterly misleading (as in the 1992 General Election) they are the political equivalent of a weather-vane, and just as capable of turning rapidly many more times. Nonetheless, they are also indicative, and this poll at least shows up the problem that is coming for New Labour. On the one hand, they seem ever keener to get rid of their once popular, now discredited election winning leader. On the other, the runaway favourite to succeed him still has serious problems with his profile and popularity amongst the British – and especially English – public. No surprise that while the Tories were relatively restrained in their response on the poll, the Blairites (there are still some left) were using it to once again cast around for a way to stop the Brown juggernaut.

Gordon Brown will not be stopped, and neither should he be underestimated. But he does carry the baggage of government over the past decade and, extraordinarily, his actual vision and policies are still little understood. On the defining point of the Blair administration, the Iraq war, we still have little idea of where Brown stands – he headed for cover every time the issue entered public prominence. Nevertheless, he has not secured the most significant control over domestic policy ever wielded by a non-Prime Minister without reason, and his ambiguity over Iraq may yet prove a saving grace. The Tories certainly shouldn’t be cheering, but Labour is in for an uncertain post-Blair future.

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