Brown bounce reverses Tory lead

The future looks bright for Gordon Brown
The future looks bright for Gordon Brown

A week into his premiership, Gordon Brown has closed the Tories' 15 month lead over Labour, leaving David Cameron trailing three points behind.

The results confirm predictions of a "Brown bounce" when he came into power, but also highlight the favourable reviews his first week in power have garnered from political commentators and the general public.

The indications are that Mr Brown's handling of the terror crisis, and that of his home secretary Jacqui Smith, has earned him valuable political capital.

Mr Brown won widespread applause for not rushing out "knee-jerk" legislation in the face of various attempted terrorist attacks. Observers noted the calm and reassuring manner he adopted throughout the crisis.

A "poll of polls" conducted by the Independent newspaper found Mr Cameron's lead had dwindled to nothing, with both parties on 36 per cent.

But opposition parties traditionally retain a substantial lead in between elections, and are expected to enjoy a substantial difference in the rating if they are to have any chance of winning the next general elections.

Neil Kinnock, for instance, frequently enjoyed double-figure leads during his tenure as Labour leader, but failed to win any elections.

If repeated at a general election, the Independent poll would result in Labour attaining an overall majority of 20 with 355 seats, while the Tories would get only 245. This is due to the vagaries of Britain's slightly eccentric "first-past-the-post" electoral system - a system which Mr Brown may well be about to reform.

A separate poll for the Times newspaper, gives Mr Brown a further boost.

The survey, conducted for the newspaper by Populus, put Labour on 37 per cent, three per cent ahead of the Tories.

Mr Brown's personal approval ratings were also impressive, with 77 per cent of respondents describing him as "strong," compared to 46 per cent for David Cameron.

Only 31 per cent said they would prefer Mr Cameron to Mr Brown as prime minister, with 52 per cent disagreeing.

The polls follow a particularly difficult period for Mr Cameron, whose project to modernise the Tory party seems to have run into difficulties.

The open criticism which erupted from his backbenches following David Willet's statement on grammar schools seems to have galvanised party traditionalists who until recently were content to voice their irritation at the party's new direction in private.

Veteran Tory MP Ann Winterton strongly criticised her leader in this month's edition of Parliamentary Monitor, saying Tory voters are "baffled" by many of his reforms.

Backbench MP Quentin Davies defected to the Labour party last week, saying the "Conservative party appears to me to have ceased collectively to believe in anything".

And today, senior Conservative party member Brij Mohan Gupta defected to the Lib Dems over the selection of a new Tory parliamentary candidate.

A survey, widely considered an accurate barometer of the views of traditional Tory supporters, revealed a haemorrhage of support for the young leader from "rank-and-file" Conservative activists.

It shows only half the membership believe they will win the next general election, compared to nearly three-quarters at the start of the year.


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