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Could PM Johnson deny Cameron his majority?

June 29th, 2009

Would a change give Labour more hope?

There’s a sentence in John Rentoul’s weekend piece that is worth examining. For in assessing prospect for the election Rentoul notes “I assume that the Labour Party will recover from its current trough of unpopularity, by which I mean that it replaces Brown with Alan Johnson..”

Rentoul, of course, is a Blair biographer and is no fan of Brown Central. He’s also been tipping an Alan Johnson switch-over ahead of the election for longer than almost any other pundit.

But could he be right? Could a new leader who is so different in so many ways than the incumbent make such a difference to Labour’s fortune’s. Would the act of Brown going create a mood of change that would be strong enough to impede the Tory surge?

There has been a little bit of polling that suggests that a Johnson-led Labour might do better but it’s not very convincing. A problem with surveys like this is that Johnson has a lower public profile – which is partly the product of Brown’s desire to make the big announcements – thus blocking publicity opportunities for others.

If Brown is to get his “dignified pre-general election exit” then whoever comes in will have one mighty big asset – he/she will not be Gordon Brown. The new leader would be the big story for weeks and even months.

To my mind this is how Brown got his honeymoon in July – September 2007. He was a totally different figure from Tony Blair and his high profile during that period managed to block out coverage of the Tories. Brown was the story and not Cameron. A lot of non-election campaign polling is determined by the level of news coverage. Couldn’t the same thing happen with PM Johnson who has a “back-story” that the media will love.

I also think that Johnson has a good sense of what will resonate with the public and what will not. Back in February I highlighted the then health secretary’s plan for dealing with Cameron. Accept that the Tory leader is sincere but put the focus on the rest of his party.

A two-three month Johnson new leader honeymoon before the election would be very challenging for the Tories – and remember Labour only needs to get the polling gap back into single figures and we are into hung parliament territory.

As I’ve noted on previous threads I’m not betting for or against Labour at the moment.

Mike Smithson