James Forsyth

Brown’s poll position

Brown's poll position
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Jackie Ashley’s column this morning makes the good point that by this time next week the commentariat could be praising Gordon Brown’s resilience and fighting qualities. The silver lining to the current spate of bad news stories for the Prime Minister is that expectations for Labour’s performance in the elections this week are now so low that if Labour just holds the London Mayoralty and the Tories fail to cross the 40 percent threshold, Brown will be boosted. Like Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, mere survival will be enough to win Brown good headlines.  He will be able to reassure Labour backbenchers that the polls are not all knowing and that they should not pay too much attention to the shifts in metropolitan opinion. By contrast, if Labour lose London and the Tories poll comfortably more than 40 percent it is hard to see how Brown would come back.

What Brown, though, should pay most heed to in Ashley’s column is her lament that

“He has retreated again to his personal comfort zone of macho, tribal men who love to tussle and hate to listen. This is suicidal. He spoke once of a more open, collegial cabinet, bringing in a bigger range of voices. This means really listening to backbenchers, encouraging ministers to talk freely in your presence, and forgetting the whole dysfunctional history of who was a Blairite and who was a Brownite. Even the Hillary effect did not happen without some brutal self-assessment, including the firing of a much loved and trusted adviser.”

This is what prompts some to think that ultimately the worst result for Brown could be to do just well enough on May1st and be persuaded that all is well when it is not. They think that only a drubbing can make Brown actually confront his problems.

Written byJames Forsyth

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

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