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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week