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'Churchill effect' for Brown

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 22 October 2008

An exclusive poll shows Gordon Brown may be enjoying a bailout bounce - voters want him to get us out of a crisis, but don't want him after that.

Five weeks ago the Channel 4 News Facing the Crunch poll had Gordon Brown facing a landslide defeat and the debate was whether to ditch him as Labour leader.

Our research was based on the 60 key marginal constituencies the Tories have to win to form the next government.

But that of course was before the stock market collapse and banking rescue that part-nationalised four high street banks in a plan then praised and copied around the world.

Tonight a new poll in those same 60 key marginal seats reveals a dramatically different outlook.

The Tory lead slashed, could it now be David Cameron who is 'Facing the Crunch'?

Download the poll

Read the poll results for yourself.
Download the poll (.xls)

We have a reassembled our panel of political strategists who've been pouring over the findings.

David Hill was head of communications for Tony Blair, George Bridges was David Camerons campaign chief, Tim Razzall was campaigns director for the Liberal Democrats and Polly Toynbee - one of Britain's most influential political columnists.

Tory lead slashed

The Tory lead over Labour in key battleground seats has reduced from 13 to just five points since the recent economic troubles, according to an exclusive poll released today.

A Channel 4 News poll carried out by YouGov in early September predicted a Tory landslide, suggesting the Conservatives could win power with a 150-seat majority.

But today's poll of the same seats shows Labour's share of the vote increased from 32 to 38 per cent. Forty three per cent of voters would plump for the Conservatives, down from 45 per cent last month.

Just 12 per cent go for the Lib Dems, down from 13 per cent in the last poll.

These new results would, YouGov estimates, give the Tories a 50-60 seat majority if repeated at the next general election.

Forty one per cent of respondents thought Brown would make a better prime minister than David Cameron "right now in the middle of the economic crisis", while 27 per cent preferred Cameron over Brown.

But when asked who would make the better PM "after the next general election", 36 per cent opted for Cameron, while just 26 per cent plumped for Brown.

The Churchill effect

YouGov pollster Peter Kellner gives his analysis:

"Gordon Brown appears to be subject to a Churchill effect. When people are asked who would make the better prime minister in the present crisis, Brown leads David Cameron by 14 points.

"But when the same respondents are asked who would make the better PM after the next election, Cameron is 10 points ahead.

"During the Second World War, Winston Churchill scored very high ratings - but he was ejected from power in 1945 when the war ended.

"Brown's task is to avoid the same fate in 2010. The danger highlighted by YouGov's data is that he will win plaudits for steering Britain through the present financial 'war', but not be regarded as the right leader for the subsequent financial 'peace'".

The online poll of 2,123 adults was conducted between Monday 20 October and Wednesday 22 October 2008 - after the dust settled around the news that the government would bail out three major banks at a cost of £37bnn, and while the George Osborne donation row flared up.

Brown the leader

Half of those surveyed rated Brown's performance as prime minister as good, excellent, or fair, up from 37 per cent last time.

But among those who gave Brown a negative rating, 63 per cent thought he wouldn't accept responsibility for his mistakes, 58 per cent saw him as being out of touch, 54 per cent indecisive and 52 per cent as incompetent.

Thirty six per cent said he has been around too long and run out of fresh ideas and 28 per cent saw him as dishonest.

Brown's position against novices in his own party has strengthened. Sixty seven per cent want Brown to lead the party into the next election, with just 23 per cent saying they would like him to step aside now. The last poll put the figures at 53 per cent and 33 per cent respectively.

The Conservatives

It's a mixed picture for Cameron. Sixty five per cent gave Cameron's performance as party leader the thumbs up, and he leads the Brown by 10 points as the top choice to run the country after the next election.

But 59 per cent of those surveyed reckon he is a lightweight politician, a slight increase on the last poll.

Forty eight per cent of those surveyed said the Conservative party doesn't know how it would deal with the current economic crisis, and 54 per cent thought it was pretending to be tough on bankers in order to win votes.

Forty eight per cent also agreed with Brown's party conference boast that, in the current economic crisis, it was no time for a novice, although 40 per cent rated character and judgement over experience.

Whose fault?

Sixty one per cent of the sample blamed the current economic problems on irresponsible lending by banks in the US and elsewhere, with only 21 per cent saying the government's tax and spending policies were to blame.

Still, 58 per cent agreed with the statement that, as a former chancellor, Gordon Brown bears a lot of responsibility for the current banking crisis.

Although more than twice as many people thought the government's recent actions would have a good effect on the economy rather than bad, 41 per cent thought they would make little difference either way.

The government is still seen as being out of touch, with 70 per cent saying ministers don't understand the problems of ordinary people.

The battleground seats

The seats surveyed by Channel 4 News, which are currently held by Labour with a majority of 6-14 per cent, will prove crucial in the run-up to the next election.

They are not the most marginal, but whether Labour loses them to the Tories will determine which will be the largest party, and whether the Conservatives would gain a working majority.

The poll suggests the Tory lead in these battleground seats is being hit harder than in the rest of the country.

A Guardian ICM poll released this week gave the Conservatives a 12-point national lead, with a 42 per cent share of the vote compared to Labour's 30 per cent.

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