Is it stupid to say “it’s the economy stupid”?

Is it stupid to say “it’s the economy stupid”?


Is John Curtice right about what moves the polls

The phrase “It’s the economy stupid” has been quoted time and time again since being first used by the Bill Clinton campaign in 1992 that it’s almost accepted as gospel by many who observe and comment on the political process.

Indeed the great hope that Gordon Brown and Labour are clinging onto is that by the time that the general election finally happens then the economy will have got past the worst and we could be seeing improvements.

But how realistic is that such a change would benefit the government? The leading political scientist, Professor John Curtice, expressed doubts in some perceptive comments he made to the Independent. Noting that “smeargate” affair had an instant impact in the polls, he argued that it was political rather than economic events moved the polls.

Curtice went on: “On this occasion it was Mr Brown’s failings that were on display – in particular the people from whom he takes advice and schemes on his behalf and his difficulty in acknowledging mistakes…These are very similar failings to those on display during the [2007] election that wasn’t and the 10p tax row. Even if the economy were to turn around by next year, as forecast by the Chancellor, it will profit Labour little if such political mistakes keep being repeated.”

To me this rings true. In the run-up to the 1997 Labour landslide there was a big improvement in the economy and indeed during the election campaign itself the Tories over-took Labour as the party most trusted on the economy. A fat lot of good it did them – for as we know John Major’s Tories saw a massive set-back from which it has taken them a long time to recover.

For however the economy performs in the next year Labour has to appear politically competent – something that it has failed to do time and time again over the past eighteen months.

If Gordon Brown is to stay leader, and he’s been proved to be extraordinarily resilient, then he has to get his and his party’s political act together to minimise the expected losses.

Mike Smithson

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