In a political sense, it is increasingly looking like the global financial crisis has been just what the doctor ordered for British Labour and in particular Prime Minister Gordon Brown. As The Guardian reports today, a Mori poll has Labour trailing the Tories by only three points now, an amazing seventeen point improvement on what polls were suggesting a few months back before the worst of the crisis hit. For someone like myself, who lived through an extended period whereby it seemed that David Cameron and the Tories were interminably ahead of the Prime Minister by ten points or more, it’s really all quite astonishing.
So why the shift? There is surely a multitude of reasons, but I am going to offer some observations about the comparative public images of Gordon Brown and David Cameron. Brown comes across in the media as a dour, boring, wonkish man. I dare say that a majority of Britons descend into a microsleep the very moment that he appears in front of them on the television, the very second that his voice starts droning across the airwaves in earshot. While the going was good economically, twelve months or so ago, it is probably fair to say that Brown was not really in tune with the entrepreneurial energy of the times. The British people wanted boldness; they wanted action. They were not adverse to a little risk taking by their government. This is of course where the poll success of David Cameron comes in; a young business type actually willing to embrace new age concerns like global warming. He represented a fresh change and a clean break from the past. Sure, he was probably a little wet behind the ears compared to his rival, but he promised to deliver the energy that the Prime Minister seemed to lack.
Now, the tables have turned. We have entered troubling economic times, when suddenly ordinary people are interested in what dour, boring wonks have to say. They are concerned for their future. They are worried about their employment prospects. They are no longer in the mood to take financial risks, or to take a punt on an unknown quantity like David Cameron. They want surety and certainty, and someone who has a lot of experience behind them and the intellectualism required to fortify the nation against the chaos of the global financial situation.
It would be an interesting exercise to plot the poll ratings of Gordon Brown against the FTSE over the last twelve months. And it will be interesting to see if Gordon Brown manages to surge to a lead in the polls over the next six months, on the back of his superior credentials with respect to the financial crisis that seems to currently have observers the world over in a bit of a tizz.