Gordon grooves and Dave dips

June 9, 2007

Gordon Brown sticks to the same speech and his poll ratings climb. David Cameron continues to seek reforms in his party, and his ratings drop. We revisit the recent leadership tales and poll ratings

Gordon’s gigs

This week there were reports on Gordon’s gigs. It seems he’s been making a nation-wide tour. BBC journalist Robin Brant has become his most loyal groupie.

Gordon Brown has been on the road for three weeks now, hitting major cities across the country, meeting Labour supporters and trying to persuade them to support him as he prepares for leadership .. The stump speech, with which he starts every event, has remained virtually unchanged and impressively consistent

So Gordon is not so much groovie in the antiquated sense of the word as well-grooved.

The Bill Davies Approach to Hustings

It is hardly a surprise that Brown recycles a much-practiced formula in public speaking. Many years ago, I was taught the same method by a much-loved local politician Bill Davies. At election times, Bill, a life-time Labour activist, would find himself in a succession of village halls. At local elections he would be canvassing for himself, fighting to remain the sole Labour representative on the Knutsford Council.

Bill would have his handful of key points to convey. These were wrapped up in a formula so that he could deliver them long after battle-fatigue had kicked in. The formula left him only to customize it for each locality.

‘As I arrived in your beautiful main square today I noticed … [mention local tourist trap]

‘I could help thinking [link it with this week’s local paper headline]’

But you are lucky, you’ve got [mention local character and claim to fame ]

Now the conservatives ….’

And so on. To include the customized joke about the village grocer (‘my mum says we don’t want the toilet roll now, the visitors didn’t come after all’).

Bill was on all counts a richly imaginative speaker. But his creativity was far more formulaic than most listeners suspected. Some of his corridor-friends were regularly dragooned as practice audiences, as Bill tried out his latest bit of fine-tuning to the formula.

Don’t think that would work for Gordon.

Meanwhile Dave’s makeover hits a snag

Yes, the high-profile makeover of the Conservative family home has hit a snag. There is serious dispute over the reconstruction of one of the rooms. Several members of the family have been very angry. Dave remains firm, insisting it will all look fine when the refurbishments have been completed. But viewers don’t like all that fighting.

Or, as last week’s Sunday Telegraph reported:

David Cameron’s competence and credibility as a potential prime minister have been severely damaged by his party’s bitter infighting over grammar schools …The Conservative leader is seen as less capable and a weaker leader than Gordon Brown, an ICM poll shows today. He is also behind on “hard” issues such as the economy, tax and the fight against terrorism .. In the poll pitting Mr Cameron against Mr Brown, 45 per cent said they thought the Chancellor would make the better prime minister, as opposed to 43 per cent for Mr Cameron. The Chancellor also had a clear lead on foreign policy, tax and terrorism.

Leadership insights?

The opinion polls have shown the Conservatives with a lead over Labour which has persisted under David Cameron, but not by enough to suggest a clear win at the next election. The marginal blips in the poll have been rather simplistically explained by the political story of the week. This week, the story is around the Conservative’s plans (or lack of plans) around Grammar Schools. I’m not as convinced as the opinion-shapers that they have found the cause of the slight dip in the Polls.

Whenever results from a wider set of poll questions are examined over time, we see how variation is a lot of noise out of which statisticians detect some weak signals.

This week, you might just as well argue (as some pundits have) that the polls indicate that David Cameron’s honeymoon period is coming to an end.

One source of uncertainty is beginning to weaken, as Gordon’s appointment as next leader of the (New?) Labour Party and as Prime Minister is confirmed (Coronation date later this month).