Are the Tories onto something by branding Brown as “unpleasant”?
I very much doubt if the following statement will receive universal acclaim on PB.C – but with the single exception of three-times election winner Tony Blair I rate the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne, as the top political strategist in British politics today.
He’s very much the brains behind the Cameron team and there can be little doubt that his attack this week on “Brown’s unpleasantness” was pre-meditated and designed to damage.
The polling evidence suggests that Osborne’s might approach might be in line with the public mood.
Tuesday’s Populus poll showed Labour and the Tories level-pegging but with Cameron’s party six points ahead if he was facing Gordon Brown. Yet the same survey had Brown being rated 49-39 over Cameron as having “the qualities needed to be a good Prime Minister“. How can you square these apparently contradictory findings?
From the detailed dataset on the “how people would vote with Brown/Cameron/Campbell as party leaders” we see that the Chancellor is having problems with those saying they are Labour supporters.
Those who had told Populus in the previous question that they were voting Labour split this way when considering a Brown-led party: LAB 76%: LD 3%: CON 4%: Wouldn’t vote 6%: Don’t know 11%.
Tory voters split: LAB 1%: LD 1%: CON 92%: Wouldn’t vote 2%: Don’t know 3%.
Lib Dem voters split LAB 7%: LD 78%: CON 6%: Wouldn’t vote 3%: Don’t know 6%.
The suggestion that Brown is only winning the support of 3 out of 4 Labour supporters could be dismissed as just a quirk in one poll if it had not been for the December Populus survey which produced very similar findings.
A key element might be that the Chancellor is not seen as being charismatic. The same poll gave ratings on this count of Blair 56%: Cameron 44%: Brown 29%. But Brown wins amongst all three on being “strong” and “straight-talking“.
Given the voting intention deficit that Labour has with Brown it starts to appear that a key element in winning a General Election is being seen to have a pleasant character.
Maybe this explains the huge Labour effort into improving Brown’s image. It also explains the the George Osborne attacks. If the Populus numbers are right then the Shadow Chancellor’s strategy of attacking Brown’s personality might work.