Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Luntz Puts Reid in the Frame

I was quite astonished by the onscreen focus group of Labour voters conducted by Frank Luntz, the US pollster last night. He assembled the chief likely candidates for the Labour leadership for consideration, finding Gordon with the most voter recognition; while Alan Johnson did not register on that count; John Reid, did, quite well. Then he fed his group written accounts of candidates' lives and careers from which Johnson emerged with some distinction. Then he played them recordings of speeches/interviews and Reid again came out of it surprisingly well with Johnson now nowhere. Afterall these influences were put topgether Luntz called for an overall assessment.

I thought Gordon would anyway emerge as the obvious choice- who, after all has done more for this government over the past nine years?- but Frank was first met with no arms for Brown whatsoever. After some remonstrating a couple of arms went up; a few for Johnson, none for Miliband but the majority came storming out for the ex heavy drinker, smoker and communist with an even more recognisable Scottish accent than Brown: John Reid. As I remerked during the August 'planes' crisis Reid clearly enjoys being in charge and thinks he can do the top job.

How much does all this mean? Well, it might mean that the moment has passed for Gordon. It's maybe eight months before a vote is likely and much can happen in the meantime, but Reid appears to be the best placed candidate to dash Brown's dreams. Given their history of mutual dislike, the toughguy Reid, won't mind that. What is even clearer is that Gordon desperately needs the imprimatur of a Blair endorsement. I just wonder if Tony will make him crawl a bit for that...?

Luntz is a polling heavyweight - but how effective/accurate do you think his focus groups are? From what I've seen on various Newsnight programmes, his style of questioning tends to facilitate a sort of group mentality. If one person mentions Iraq, for instance, everyone nods in agreement. Similarly, if a few enthusiasts show support for (say) Reid, the rest tend to follow.
I really do agree; there was a touch of the herd mentality about the process- even the virtual 'no show' for Gordon at the end.
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