There is a killer phrase on one page of the BBC's various bits of election analysis, David Cowling comments that "It doesn't seem to be difficult to persuade people that your political opponents aren't up to the job. But it seems much harder these days to persuade them that you are". To an extent I agree but, when considering Brown's standing in the polls that have led to his party's spectacularly bad performance in the local election last night, perhaps also there is a little more to it. Yes it is very easy to kick and incumbent government when there is an economic crisis, and anyone can do so in the safe knowledge that they do not have to propose an alternative strategy and even if they do they will never have to. metaphorically, 'put their money where their mouth is".
But attacks only work when the public are ready to accept them (Social Judgement theory suggests our psychology is built around accepting or rejecting arguments based on established perceptions). Brown's problem is one of image. He does not appear competent or in control, nor does he appear approachable, in-touch or caring; this leads the public to perceive him as up to the job. Being a prime minister, president or any other sort of leader involves appearing to have the qualities of a leader; arguably Brown fails to project those. Hence he seems to be in a positin where opponents are offered an open goal, while his failure to keep answer critics (defend the goal) reinforces his lack of credibility and ehances that of his opponents. Can it be turned aroudn is a very big question, is the next general election there for the Conservatives to lose or can Brown establish himself as a prime minister in more than just name?