Has Gord’s caution saved the day?
Just two mornings ago, before David Cameron had made his big speech, I suggested that Brown could be “making a terrible mistake” over the build-up to a general election announcement.
This is what I wrote: “All the thinking, apparently, has been based on opinion polls that have been taken in the most exceptional of circumstances. As many poll-watchers were saying in May and June it was not going to be possible to get a clear view of public opinion until after the inevitable new leader honeymoon and the party conference season had come to an end and several more weeks had elapsed.”
I stick with that. We still have no real idea what the state of public opinion is and we’ll have to wait for several more weeks before we get a clear picture.
Ever since David Cameron was elected leader in December 2005 there has been a direct correlation between Tory party ratings and the amount of media coverage he personally was securing.
So when from May onwards all the focus was on the Labour succession and the Brown honeymoon Cameron and the Tories were almost blanked out of the news. There was a slight respite in late August when Cameron returned from his holiday a couple of weeks ahead of Brown. Labour’s YouGov lead dropped by a massive seven point in fifteen days and Com Res found the two parties level-pegging.
Then Brown got back and brilliantly took over the news agenda with moves like his Thatcher invitation in the run-up to the party conferences. It was all going fine until the Tories arrived in Blackpool and we had days of wall-to-wall coverage.
The question now is how far Brown can return to blanking the other parties out of the news? Governments have almost all the power here but things might be that bit harder because the Labour new leader media honeymoon is almost at an end and moves like his flight to Iraq this week easily attacked as a stunt. We might well look back at that and see it as the most siginficant event of the week.
In general election campaigns, of course, the opposition parties are guaranteed a fair share of coverage which is one reason why the Lib Dems almost always recover during campaigns – a factor which general election gamblers need to take into account.