Will summer 2007 prove to be his high-water mark?
It’s a moot point as to whether the honeymoon is finally over, but with the rash of recent polls showing Labour’s lead in the 0-3 point range, it’s generally accepted that the Brown bounce is fading at best (although the Times did note yesterday that Labour are still about 5 points higher than before his arrival). Certainly the polls showing Labour with solid leads of up to 10 points during the summer seem, for now at least, to have evaporated, and an autumn election looks less and less likely, unless there is sufficient improvement in Labour’s position during September such that Parliament could be dissolved by early October at the latest.
Ironic indeed that just as politics gets “back to normal” after August, and when an election could have been called if the polls remained favourable, that they have turned. Pundits such as pb’s Blue Moon have stated that the Conservative objective was to close off the option of Brown going to the country this autumn – and they may well have succeeded.
So, in terms of popularity at least, have we already seen the best from Labour under Brown’s leadership? Will it ever again secure the kind of poll leads that we saw this summer during the “bounce” that took many commentators by surprise? A possible scenario of how things might play out is as follows.
Labour’s leads relative to the Tories will continue to decline over time as the honeymoon disappears, and there is limited upside for Labour over the months and years ahead – it’s mainly potential downside risk, whether it be fallout from the market turmoil hitting the economy, problems over the EU Treaty issue, or just general increased feelings of “time for a change”. Labour will keep looking for the sustained 5-6+ poll leads that would allow an election to be called, but they may never come. This will mean that Brown will have to “go long”, hoping that something will turn up, and eventually being boxed in to a spring 2010 election when the position doesn’t significantly improve.
Backed by the Sun, the Conservatives win the 2010 election, with a small but working majority, and Brown joins Douglas-Home and Callaghan as a “fag-end” Prime Minister. Time will tell whether this scenario ends up becoming reality or joins the long list of political “counterfactuals”. Much will depend on whether the Conservatives can hold their nerve and look like a party ready to govern, while unless there should be a hung parliament, the Lib Dems under Campbell’s leadership may be something of a sideshow, their determination to “rattle the cage” notwithstanding.
Paul Maggs “Double Carpet”
Mike Smithson returns on 17th September
Paul Maggs runs The Election Game – click on the logo to submit a guest article for pb.com or to email for more information.