Is survival from this position nigh on impossible?
One of my best Christmas presents was a personal copy of the invaluable reference source – David Butler’s Twentieth-century British Political Facts, 1900-2000. This contains polling data going back every month to February 1945 – and until now I’ve had to go to the library to look this up.
As well as the outcomes of voting intention question the book also lists the PM and opposition leaders’ approval ratings which have been asked in a broadly standard way for all that time.
And looking back through the pages of detailed tables there is simply no precedent for a Prime Minister who has sunk to the position that Mr. Brown is now in going on to hold on to power at the following general election.
Of those PMs who lost ensuing general elections in 1964 the lowest Gallup approval rating that Alec Douglas-Home slumped to was 40%.
Six years later the Tories came to power with Harold Wilson on a 51% approval rating. Ahead of the February 1974 election the low point for Edward Heath was 34%. During 1978/78 “the winter of discontent” Jim Callaghan’s numbers slipped to 33% but had recovered to 43% by polling day. He still lost to Maggie Thatcher.
And we all know what happened to John Major in 1997.
Is it any wonder, then, that this morning the Mail on Sunday is reporting that Jack Straw is leading a group of five cabinet ministers who want Brown ousted before the election. It’s hard to argue with their analysis – with Mr. Brown remaining Labour is almost certainly doomed.
UPDATE: There’s a good article by Dr Roger Mortimore, head of political research at Ipsos-MORI, on this broad point putting the focus on leader approval ratings from the last time that the Tories won back power in 1979. The firm has also published online for the first time polling data from the 1976 – 79 period.