Healing the brand

Whatever the results of tomorrow's local elections in England, not much can be read into them for the next general election.

In the mid term elections since Labour came to power in 1997, the Conservatives have generally taken first place. Labour has usually been second - slipping to third place on I think just one occasion. The LibDems have usually been third, grabbing a second in the local elections of 2004 and fourth in the Euro-elections of the same day. All this had no bearing whatsoever on the general election the following year.

What seems to be clear is that time has not - or at least not yet - healed the damage to the Conservative brand. Despite Labour's meltdown, there is no guarantee the Conservatives will win in 2009/10.

This early in the Parliament, taking the lead might not even be in the Party's interest. Being popular mid-term is no great achievement: Neil Kinnock, William Hague and Iain Duncan Smith all managed it. Where David Cameron is plainly different from Hague or Duncan Smith is in his personal popularity. The Party made major gains in local and European elections in each of the last two Parliaments, but the Party Leader was always less popular than the Party. That did nothing to repair the damage to the brand.

Cameron is much more popular than his party. That has not yet rubbed off on the Conservative brand, but it may. It is certainly a much mor hopeful situation than a leader who is a drag on the party's popularity.

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