Brown hasn't benefited from TV interview

Poll finds that voters have more sympathy for Brown, but less respect.

In today's Independent, Steve Richards makes the argument that Gordon Brown's interview with Piers Morgan may yet change the political weather.

He writes:

A common view on the blogs and in the newspapers was that the exercise was pointless because voters have already made up their minds on Brown and will not change them now. I disagree. Voters have made up their minds about Brown more than once. Indeed, they change on a frequent basis that must be exhausting for them and for him.

The first poll on Brown's interview, carried out by PoliticsHome, has just been published, so how does the Richards prediction look?

First, as most observers expected, the majority of voters said the interview had made no difference to their opinion. Second, while voters now have more sympathy for Brown, they also have less respect.

It's worth pointing out that those surveyed were only shown clips of the interview in advance of the TV screening, so I expect we'll get a clearer impression from later polls. But there are some findings worth noting.

Thirty per cent of voters said they felt more sympathy for the Prime Minister following the interview, and 17 per cent said they had less. But 24 per cent of those surveyed said they had less respect for Brown after the interview, compared to 21 per cent who said they had more.

A rise in sympathy for Brown is unlikely to benefit Labour at the polls; voters want to be led by someone they admire and respect, not someone they pity. The electorate sympathised with John Major towards the end of his time in office, but that didn't stop the Tories going down to a landslide defeat in 1997.

Labour's best hope is still to present Brown as a figure of authority and intellect, in contrast to the "novice" Cameron. But the PM's dalliance with celebrity politics has made it that little bit harder to do so.

Follow the New Statesman team on Twitter.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Getty
Show Hide image

Rarely has it mattered so little if Manchester United won; rarely has it been so special they did

Team's Europa League victory offers chance for sorely needed celebration of a city's spirit.

Carlo Ancelotti, the Bayern Munich manager, memorably once said that football is “the most important of the least important things”, but he was only partly right. While it is absolutely the case that a bunch of people chasing around a field is insignificant, a bunch of people chasing around a field is not really what football is about.

At a football match can you set aside the strictures that govern real life and freely scream, shout and cuddle strangers. Football tracks life with such unfailing omnipresence, garnishing the mundane with regular doses of drama and suspense; football is amazing, and even when it isn’t there’s always the possibility that it’s about to be.

Football bestows primal paroxysms of intense, transcendent ecstasy, shared both with people who mean everything and people who mean nothing. Football carves out time for people it's important to see and delivers people it becomes important to see. Football is a structure with folklore, mythology, language and symbols; being part of football is being part of something big, special, and eternal. Football is the best thing in the world when things go well, and still the best thing in the world when they don’t. There is nothing remotely like it. Nothing.

Football is about community and identity, friends and family; football is about expression and abandon, laughter and song; football is about love and pride. Football is about all the beauty in the world.

And the world is a beautiful place, even though it doesn’t always seem that way – now especially. But in the horror of terror we’ve seen amazing kindness, uplifting unity and awesome dignity which is the absolute point of everything.

In Stockholm last night, 50,000 or so people gathered for a football match, trying to find a way of celebrating all of these things. Around town before the game the atmosphere was not as boisterous as usual, but in the ground the old conviction gradually returned. The PA played Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds, an Ajax staple with lyrics not entirely appropriate: there is plenty about which to worry, and for some every little thing is never going to be alright.

But somehow the sentiment felt right and the Mancunian contingent joined in with gusto, following it up with “We’ll never die,” – a song of defiance born from the ashes of the Munich air disaster and generally aired at the end of games, often when defeat is imminent. Last night it was needed from the outset, though this time its final line – “we’ll keep the red flag flying high, coz Man United will never die" – was not about a football team but a city, a spirit, and a way of life. 

Over the course of the night, every burst of song and even the minute's silence chorused with that theme: “Manchester, Manchester, Manchester”; “Manchester la la la”; “Oh Manchester is wonderful”. Sparse and simple words, layered and complex meanings.

The match itself was a curious affair. Rarely has it mattered so little whether or not United won; rarely has it been so special that they did. Manchester United do not represent or appeal to everyone in Manchester but they epitomise a similar brilliance to Manchester, brilliance which they take to the world. Brilliance like youthfulness, toughness, swagger and zest; brilliance which has been to the fore these last three days, despite it all.

Last night they drew upon their most prosaic aspects, outfighting and outrunning a willing but callow opponent to win the only trophy to have eluded them. They did not make things better, but they did bring happiness and positivity at a time when happiness and positivity needed to be brought; football is not “the most important of the least important things,” it is the least important of the most important things.

0800 7318496