John Curtice: This snapshot shows the scale of Brown's task

Share
Related Topics

Gordon Brown is proposing to fight the forthcoming election on some of his famous "dividing lines". He hopes to persuade the public that Labour will protect public services while the Conservatives would cut them. And he aims to contrast his party's support for those on "middle and modest incomes" with the Conservatives' concern for the privileged few.

But Mr Brown can only profit from such an approach if his side of the alleged dividing line is clearly the more popular. And the latest findings from NatCen's British Social Attitudes survey cast doubt on whether the public will be as receptive to the arguments that Mr Brown is hoping to deploy as they might have been a decade ago.

There have been two key changes in the public mood. First, voters have apparently come to the view that the increase in spending on public services under Labour should come to a halt. Just 39 per cent want more spending on services such as health and education and are willing to pay increased taxes to meet the resulting bill. This is well down on the 63 per cent that took that view in 1998, shortly after Labour came to power.

Indeed support for tax and spend is now at its lowest level since 1984, when Thatcherism was at its height. In such a climate, Tory claims that spending can be cut by cutting "waste" could well prove persuasive.

Second, in moving Labour on to the centre ground, the New Labour project has seemingly undermined public support for traditional Labour values – such as a more equal society. For example, only 38 per cent now agree that "the Government should redistribute income from the better off to the less well off", far below the 58 per cent who favoured that proposition in 1993, just before Tony Blair became Labour leader.

One of Mr Brown's favourite words, "fairness", may no longer have the resonance for voters he presumes it has.

Still, even if Mr Brown may no longer have particularly popular tunes, he might still hope to revive his party's fortunes by appealing to the loyalty and affection that some voters still have for his party. Alas, it seems that this is now in short supply too.

Just 27 per cent of voters now regard themselves as long-term Labour supporters. As recently as 2005 no less than 40 per cent were willing to say they were members of the Labour tribe. Indeed, at 32 per cent, those who consider themselves "a Conservative" outnumber those who say they are "Labour" for the first time since 1989.

It seems this spring Mr Brown will face a public that is both out of love with his party and out of love with its message. He has a tough task indeed.



John Curtice is a research consultant to NatCen and professor of politics at Strathclyde University

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Client Services Executive - Enfield, North London ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executive - Call Centre Jobs

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Carrie's son Jack on holiday in the Carribean  

As a parent of a child with autism, this is what I want you to know about my family

Carrie Cariello
 

i Editor's Letter: A royal serving the nation

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn