Friday, 18 April 2008

More unpopular than Chamberlain?

There has been some discussion in recent days of the claim made by the Sun that Gordon Brown is more unpopular than Chamberlain. It is therefore interesting to read the contribution of the doyen of British polling, Sir Robert Worcester, taken from one of his books:

'The British Institution of Public Opinion (Gallup Poll) began its long series of questions to the British public in January 1937. Dr. Henry Durant was its founder, and in an interview published just before he died he told his story: “I had taken my degree at LSE. As usual in the early ‘30s no job. I lectured, was registered for a PhD, was writing, earning money any way I could. Harry Field, as associate of Gallup came from the USA in 1936, looking for somebody to start up part time Gallup work from home. He went to LSE Appointments Bureau, was given half-a-dozen names and he chose mine; just like that” (He was paid £150 a year.)'

'It wasn't until October 1938 when they asked their first question about the performance of the Prime Minster with the question "Are you satisfied with Mr Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister?" At that time 52% said yes they were satisfied with Neville Chamberlain as Prime Minister, while 39% said no, they were not, and 9% said they did not have an opinion. A majority and more were satisfied with his performance, hitting a high of 68% a year later, in October 1939, two months into the war.'

The Sun seems to be engaging in some hyperbole as part of the general Murdoch Press campaign against Brown. This may be motivated by nothing more than that they like to back winners rather than losers and Brown is certainly in political trouble, not least with his own backbenchers. This is not just coming from the 'usual suspects' on the left who made life difficult for Blair, or the new 'Exhume Blair' tendency, but from Labour loyalists.

One symptom of this was the threatened resignation of a PPS, the lowest (and unpaid) form of ministerial life, which had to be stopped by a phone call to Gordon Brown at the White House.

Following the death of the redoubtable Parliamentarian, Gwynneth Dunwoody, the longest-serving woman MP, there will be a by-election in the Crewe and Nantwich constituency. By the way, in 1966-70, Gwynneth Dunwoody was part of an unusual husband-and-wife team in the Commons: she represented Exeter, while her husband, Dr Dunwoody (they later separated) achieved the feat of winning a Cornish seat (Falmouth and Camborne) for Labour.

Her majority was 7,078 votes in 2005 which Dave should be able to overturn if the polls are to believed. However, the Conservative message seems to go down less well in northern seats which Crewe and Nantwich just about is, being in the less salubrious part of Cheshire. It is also thought that Gwynneth Dunwoody had something of a personal vote, although this is often exaggerated by commentators.


Justin Greaves said...

Despite doing relatively well in the opinion polls and by-elections the Conservatives seem to have a continuing inability to win by-elections. This one may be different but when was the last time they won a by election in a Labour held seat? This may be because the 'right' seats have not come up - like you say Dave still has a problem in the North.

Justin Greaves said...

Sorry - I meant doing well in local elections with a problem in by elections.

Wyn Grant said...

We haven't had a by-election since the Conservatives surged ahead in the polls so it will be an interesting test for them. I think that they have learnt lessons from the problems they encountered in Ealing (Southall). The Conservative candidate in 2005 was a woman in this constituency so it will be interesting to see if she stands again. I would expect a low turnout and quite high votes for populist candidates.