As I noted below, Israeli prime minister Tzipi Livni’s standing among voters has dropped significantly due, it is assumed, to Israel’s recent economic woes. More generally, one would expect ruling parties to take the fall for the economic downturn throughout the world of what we used to call “the industrial democracies.” Certainly, that was the case in the U.S.
In England, however, the story is different. Gordon Brown, the current minister and long-time “steward” of the British economy, has gained significantly in the polls since England fell into an economic crisis — one that I understand is more severe than our own. In fact, though Brown has trailed Tory leader David Cameron for some time, the polls suggest that Brown now leads his rival.
Several factors may help explain this counter-intuitive turn of events. First, as noted, Brown has vast experience with the economy and, unlike Livni for example, has seen it through some very good times. Second, major elements of Brown’s program for dealing with the financial meltdown were subsequently adopted by other nations, including the U.S. This made it seem that Brown was ahead of the curve.
But the news isn’t all good for Brown. The same polls that show him surging also reveal that Britains believe Cameron will be the better leader once the economic crisis wanes. Moreover, most Britains now expect that the worst is over.
This creates a potential lose-lose for Brown. If the economy does not recover soon, Brown will no longer be viewed as the man who helped save it. And if the economy does recover, the Brits may conclude that it is now time to vote in the “change” that Cameron is view as representing.
The election is still a year and a half away.
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