Saturday, 26 September 2009

The Conference Context

Interviewed this morning on BBC Radio about this week's Labour Party conference, and specifically whether this could be used by Gordon Brown to regain the political initiative.

It's not looking good, as the Prescott headline in The Indpenendent will likely convince more voters that Labour is disunited. One of the golden rules of British electoral politics is that disunited parties don't win elections. The latest Times/Populus survey carried out this month reveals just 22% of the public thinks that Labour is united - compared with 55% saying this of the Conservatives.

It is unlikely that even a good conference will dramatically shift Labour's fortunes - rarely do they change the political weather. Although there's a convincing argument that in 2007 the Conservative conference did.

One of the problems for Labour is that its poll ratings have stayed pretty stable over the past few months, similar to the level the party was recoding in June when the Prime Minister nearly lost his job. And the latest polling further shows the problems facing the government. In the Populus survey, on every single measure Cameron is better regarded - often considerably better regarded - than Brown. These include which party leader is seen as strong and decisive: two attributes many people in the Labour Party think ought to "belong" to the Prime Minister.

Elections are won and lost not only on how the public rate the party leaders, but also on their appraisal of the parties' policies on the issues people care most about. Again the Populus survey is bad news for Labour, with the Tories leading on every single measure, including the NHS (albeit only by three points).

Labour will try to use the next few days to set out its plan for the country; to demonstrate to the public that it has the desire and ideas to govern for another five years. We'll know how successful this has been in a few days... ...before the Tories get their chance to respond

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