James Forsyth

Brown no longer gets the benefit of the doubt

Brown no longer gets the benefit of the doubt
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If you had told most people in the Westminster Village a year ago that the economy would hit choppy waters, then most people would have thought that this would actually strengthen Gordon Brown’s electoral position. The logic behind this was that Labour’s advantage on the economic competence question was so deep set  that the public would prefer Brown’s experienced hand at the tiller rather than the untested Cameron and Osborne combination.

This is what played out after the run on Northern Rock. Populus recorded that Labour’s lead over the Tories on who was trusted to deal with economic problems actually rose, climbing from 31 points to 38. The voter’s reaction appears to have been similar to that of the American public’s during the 2004 campaign when a worsening national security situation actually played to the Bush administration’s strength as the electorate trusted the Republicans more than the Democrats on the issue. 

But now thanks to the general incompetence of the Brown ministry—notably the loss of child benefit data—the voters have turned on Labour. Straight after the data debacle, the Tories took a six point lead on the economic question and now every piece of bad economic news damages Brown’s reputation.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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