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