Monday, July 02, 2007

Has Brown sold change?

The message the new prime minister has been hammering home is change, that he will be different to his predecessor is the perception he wants us all to possess of his style of leadership. This is a difficult task given his centrality to the Blair government over the last ten years, and doubled by the fact that the media has focused on the change narrative and taken many opportunities to suggest there is little evidence that Brown would be different to Blair. But none of that matters if the public do buy it.

An ICM poll suggests that to an extent they have. The baseline is that 13% think there will a big change for the better, 26% a small change for the better, 40% no real change, while only 15% suggest a change for the worse. More interesting is the distribution across groups. Brown seems to have won over slightly more women than men, a key voting group. But the magical middle England C1 C2 social classes are not as convinced, in fact it is the ABs and DEs that he seems to have convinced to the greatest degree. This may be reflected in the fact that most support comes from those who voted Labour in 2005, the figures suggest that he is in a good position to regain the support of the traditional Labour supporter and head off a Liberal Democrat challenge from the left, but Conservatives are unconvinced. Again looking at the regions, the North is more convinced that there will be change for the better than the South.

So has the hype had much effect? It is hard to tell. The poll seems to have asked a very narrow question, but looking at this and other polls it seems voters are giving Gordon the benefit of the doubt but with a healthy amount of scepticism. The news is peppered with evidence of change: his more moderate tone on security after the weekends' failed terrorist attacks, discussion of re-empowering MPs, so he could convince many more between now and the next election. I would suggest this will be the key predictor for when it is called, if his approval is maintained and he is perceived as quantitatively different then he will seek an early mandate but Douglas Alexander will be watching these polls with interest and assessing how to keep the momentum up.

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