I belatedly came across this interesting piece on UK Polling Report, which analyses the ‘boost’ that a party gets when a new leader takes over mid-term. I won’t repeat it all here, but it looks at past examples – such as Callaghan succeeding Wilson or Major succeeding Thatcher. In those, and other cases, the incumbent enjoyed a poll boost which led to their parties’ languishing fortunes being reversed. Recent polls suggest that Labour have received a healthy boost from the long-overdue departure of Tony Blair.
If Gordon Brown is smart, he will have not failed to notice the ‘but’ here. The ‘new leader bounce’ is a time-limited phenomena. The graphics seem to suggest, for example, that if Jim Callaghan had gone to the country shortly after taking over he might have won his own five year mandate. The whole course of history might have been different! But Callaghan dithered for too long, and his bounce ebbed away.
So if I were Gordon Brown, and I were smart (and I think parts of Gordon’s make-up are quite smart), I might be circling dates in the autumn. Of course, the by election performances might encourage me to jump or dither!