Was Blair doing the Chancellor a favour with his fighting imagery?
As often happens in politics the initial reaction to a development or a speech can change quite drastically within a few days. Last Wednesday Tony Blair’s farewell Commons performance in a Queen’s speech debate was well received by commentators particularly his “put down” of David Cameron by threatening him with a “big fist” – a move seen as an endorsement of Gordon Brown.
By yesterday there had been a sharp re-evaluation with the leading Labour-inclined writers Andrew Rawnsley in the Observer and John Rentoul in the Indy on Sunday both suggesting that Blair’s “big fist” imagery might have been helpful to the Tory leadership.
Rentoul’s column appeared under the heading “Cameron wants to portray Brown as a sociopath. Blair may have helped him”. It concluded: “…For some time, Cameron has been gingering up his team in private by quoting George Orwell’s words to them, saying that if they want a picture of a Brown government, “imagine a boot stamping on a human face – for ever”. Now, thanks to Blair, trying to be helpful, that image has been replaced by that of a big clunking fist punching a human face – for ever. Less of an endorsement; more of a gangster’s kiss.”
In hard political terms there are two groups of voters where Labour has to make inroads if it is to prevent a hung parliament, or even worse, a majority Tory government. These are the 3-5% of Labour supporters who the polls show appear to have switched to the Tories in the past year; and the 6-7% who moved moved from Labour to the Lib Dems between 2001 and 2005.
These voters are the battle-ground for the next election and Labour’s messages should be directed to what will bring some of them, at least, back.
The macho fist imagery might or might not have broad popular appeal but it is certainly not right for those who have already been attracted to Cameron or the former supporters who went Lib Dem in response to Tony’s Iraq adventure with George Bush
We should not have to wait too long to find out how voters are now seeing the parties. After nearly three weeks November which has only seen one national voting intention opinion poll we are likely to get two, and possibly up to four sets of results this week. The Guardian’s ICM poll for the month should be out within the next 1-2 days; Mori might appear any day; the Indy might have a Communicate Research survey and on Friday the November YouGov poll for the Daily Telegraph should appear.