Is Francis Maude right – the problem’s the party not the leader?
One of the most quoted pieces of research from the 2005 General Election was that the public public view of a particular policy dropped considerably when those interviewed were told that this is what the Tories wanted.
In an echo of that this morning in Guardian the Tory Chairman, Francis Maude says that the public are still unpersuaded by his party but asserts they they have taken to David Cameron.
He’s quoted as saying “…People really like David Cameron – I mean they really like him. They think he has got brains, courage, they think he gives his party strong leadership, which they want. They think he’s willing to take tough decisions, they think he has got flair and charisma: all the qualities, actually, that they want to see in a future prime minister, so that’s fantastic. They are not yet convinced that the party has changed, they are not yet convinced that what they are seeing is more than just David Cameron, and it is that that we need to persuade them of.”
The polling evidence of the past few months seems to support the Maude view.
In almost every survey since the Cameron’s election on December 6th the Tories have recorded a higher share when asked who they would vote for if it was a Cameron-led Tory party against Brown-led Labour.
Initially my thoughts on this were that it was bad for the Chancellor – that somehow the public were moving away from Labour’s leader-apparent. Now I think that this has got almost nothing to do with Brown at all.
These questions produce a Cameron bounce because of the way the poll is conducted. When you present the option of the Tory party alone people do not always link it with the new leader. But when you ask the Cameron-Brown voting intention question people are reminded who the Tory leader is and have a different view.
These are the uplifts Cameron got the last time this question was asked by the main pollsters:
This is a mixed blessing for unless the public view of the party changes then it could be that being Conservative is what will retard Cameron’s progress. On the other hand Tony Blair reached parts of the electorate that Labour could never hope to get to and this has continued.