One of the most curious cabinet statements issued in support of Gordon Brown during the coup attempt was that of Jack Straw.
The polls are better now than they were immediately before Gordon Brown took over. Our fortunes are linked to the fortunes of the country and indeed the economy . . . I do not think there is an issue about the direction that Gordon Brown and the cabinet and the government as a whole are trying to lead this country.
Straw is renowned as the cabinet's top poll-watcher, but I've dug out the figures from UK Polling Report and he's wrong. The final poll before Brown took office on 27 June 2007 put Labour on 32 per cent, 5 points behind the Conservatives. That's a better result than the Observer poll late last year which put Labour 6 points behind the Tories and provoked such euphoria among Labour activists.
Another poll, carried out by Ipsos-MORI a week before Brown took over, actually put Labour 3 points ahead of the Tories. Throughout May and June the party regularly polled only 2 or 3 points behind the Tories, enough to make Labour the largest single party in a hung parliament.
By comparison, the most recent polls on the day Straw spoke gave the Conservatives a lead of 9 to 10 points.
The casual belief that Labour became fantastically unpopular under Tony Blair is not supported by the evidence. It was Blair's unpopularity with Labour MPs that ensured his political death.
Here are the full figures from June:
Communicate/Independent: Con (37%) Lab (32%) Lib Dems (18%)
Ipsos-MORI/Observer: Lab (39%) Con (36%) Lib Dems (15%)
YouGov/Sunday Times: Con (37%) Lab (35%) Lib Dems (14%)
Populus/Times: Con (36%) Lab (33%) Lib Dems (17%)