What if this idea starts to take hold?
One of the great weapons that editors can use to influence events is in choosing the questions that go into the opinion polls that they commission. Then, when they have the numbers, they can highlight specific findings which might fit with what the paper wants to achieve.
So what are we to make of the Guardian’s splash this morning – leading on the numbers that are most damaging to Brown’s leadership? Is the paper trying to influence opinion within the party in the hope, maybe, of getting change at the top? It certainly appears that way.
Just consider how the paper’s polling expert, Julian Glover, leads off his front page lead report:“..Gordon Brown’s leadership is dragging Labour’s vote down, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. By a majority of more than two to one, voters say that the party would do better at the next election if it was led by someone else……It finds that only 28% of voters think Brown is the leader most likely to attract support to Labour on polling day. Meanwhile, 63%, think the party would do better with another leader. Even Labour supporters are not convinced. Among people who voted for the party in 2005, 45% pick Brown and 49% another leader.“
As a general rule I don’t like non-voting intention questions because they way that they are worded can sometimes influence the response. We have not seen the precise wording but it could be argued that it’s leading respondents to answer in a particular way.
But in the big scheme of things that’s irrelevant. It gives the paper the peg to highlight the Brown issue and you can see these numbers being used by the PM’s opponents within the party if at some stage it’s thought that getting him out might enhance Labour’s chances.
There is, perhaps, only one dangerous period left now for Brown between now and the general election and that’s the June 4th elections. On that day there’s voting for the European Parliament as well as in many places local elections. The latter are, in the main, for council seats last voted upon on the day of the last general election in May 2005 when turnout was boosted by the two ballots taking place at the same time. This, surely, flattered Labour and means that there’s a bigger chance of set-backs this time.
The combination of an appalling performance in the locals combined with a disastrous national vote share in the Euros might just provide the stimulus for a move against Brown – but he’s coped with terrible election results before.